Olympic preparations in full flow

 

Team Edin Perth Masters
THUMBS UP: Perth Masters winners Team Edin. Photo: facebook.com/perthmasters

 

With the Winter Olympics beginning on February 9 (that’s just four weeks away), Teams Muirhead and Smith’s preparations to represent Great Britain are almost complete.

Last weekend Team Smith made the quarter-finals of the Perth Masters, which was chock-full of Olympians; this weekend Team Muirhead are in International Bernese Ladies Cup action.

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Once again the Dewars Centre welcomed a high-class field of 32 teams (from Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as 10 from the home nation) for the Perth Masters.

Teams Edin (Sweden) and De Cruz (Switzerland) showed their international pedigree by qualifying directly from the A-Road, while there was a surprisingly early exit for Scotland’s Team Mouat.

The first Scottish rink to make the playoffs were Team Bryce, winning their B-Road final against Van Dorp, and they were joined by Baumann of Germany.

That left the remaining teams on the C-Road to battle for the last four quarter-final spots, and Team Smith managed to overcome Retornaz to book their place, but Team Brewster succumbed to Ulsrud of Norway, with Teams Simmons (Canada) and Stjerne (Denmark) also making it through.

Both Scottish rinks exited at the last eight stage, though, as Bryce went out to Ulsrud 5-3 (crucially giving up a steal of two in end six), and Smith lost 6-3 to De Cruz in a rematch of their European Championship semi-final (the Swiss stealing three in the sixth end).

Ulsrud then lost 7-2 to Edin in the semi-finals, and the Swedish rink would meet De Cruz in the final after the Swiss team saw off Baumann 7-3.

And ultimately it was Edin showing the hottest form going into the Olympics, winning 7-4 to take the title.

***

This weekend it’s the women who take centre stage, with Team Muirhead joined by compatriots Fleming, Hamilton and Jackson at the International Bernese Ladies Cup.

It’s another good field, with Teams Jentsch, Moiseeva and Paetz among the Scots’ opponents, and you can follow the scores here.

Also this weekend, we have the CCT Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles, which features Judith and Lee McCleary, and Jayne Stirling and Fraser Kingan, from Scotland.

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Team Muirhead rule Europe again as Scotland secure medal double

 

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GOLDEN GIRLS: Team Muirhead (Pic: British Curling/WCF/Richard Gray)

 

The good news just keeps coming for Scottish curling. Not bad timing with the Winter Olympics round the corner.

Having opened the National Curling Academy this year, Scottish rinks have made their impact at the World Mixed Curling Championships (gold for Team Hardie), the Grand Slam of Curling (National men’s title for Team Mouat)… and now the daddy of the lot.

Team Smith and Team Muirhead, Great Britain’s chosen ones for the Olympics, have returned from the European Championships with gold and silver medals after quite brilliant campaigns in St Gallen, Switzerland.

Team Muirhead party like it’s 2013

Four years ago, with just months to go until the Sochi Olympics, Team Muirhead won European Championship gold by beating Sweden in the final… and now they’ve done it again!

The 2017 vintage (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate), Glenn Howard (coach)) began their campaign with a defeat – to Sweden, 5-2 – but then rattled off six straight wins to qualify for the playoffs.

They saw off Russia (8-7), Denmark (6-1), Italy (8-1), Germany (8-5), Turkey (8-3) and the Czech Republic (8-4), before finishing the round robin with a loss to Switzerland (9-7 after an extra end) and victory against Hungary (9-3).

Coming third in the women’s standings meant a semi-final with second-placed Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni), and after stealing two in the third end, the Scots gave up three in the fourth.

A steal in end six moved the Swiss 4-2 ahead, but after exchanging singles Muirhead hit back with three in the ninth end, and then a steal in the 10th to win 7-5 and make the final.

They faced Team Hasselborg for the gold, with the Swedes looking to win their 11th straight match in St Gallen to take the title.

The rinks exchanged singles, with Sweden leading 2-1 at halfway, but an open hit for two in the sixth end put the Scots ahead, and steals in ends nine and 10 saw them win the match 6-3 – giving them their golden moment.

Medal breakthrough for Team Smith

On the men’s side, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead (alternate), Viktor Kjäll (coach)) were back at the Europeans, after previously representing Scotland in 2015.

It’s not been a vintage season so far for the rink, but they got off to a great start here, winning their first three round robin games – against Italy (7-3), Austria (7-3) and Russia (5-3).

That run came to a halt against Germany, as they lost 6-4, and then it was a case of ‘win one, lose one’ for the rest of the round robin, as defeats to Sweden (5-4) and Switzerland (9-4) were balanced out by victories over Slovakia (8-1), Ulsrud (8-7) and the Netherlands (5-2), as the Scots finished third in the standings on W6 L3.

That meant a semi-final with second-placed Switzerland, and what a yo-yo encounter it was, with the Scots stealing three in the second end but being pegged back to 5-5 at the fifth-end break.

The teams exchanged twos, before the Swiss stole in the eighth end to lead for the first time, 8-7, only for Smith to blank the ninth and score two in end 10 to make the final.

There they faced their near-constant nemesis, Team Edin of Sweden, who were looking for a fourth straight European title.

Early on, it looked like business as usual, with Sweden moving 3-0 ahead, but two in end four and a steal in the fifth drew the Scots level.

Two in the eighth end put them ahead, but the Swedes responded with two of their own in the ninth and then claimed a massive steal of four in the 10th to win 10-5 – a scoreline which did not reflect the closeness of the game.

Although it was not the colour of medal Team Smith wanted, it is still a first senior medal for the rink – and an ideal confidence boost ahead of the Olympics.

Bronze for Jackson

Away from the European Championships, but still in Switzerland, Team Jackson completed the set of medals for Scotland with bronze at the EJCT event in Thun.

Wins against Teams Ramsfjell, Tanner, Witschonke, Lo Deserto and Wuest sent them straight into the semi-finals, where they suffered their first defeat – against Team Danshina.

That meant a 3v4 match with Witschonke to finish, which they won to clinch the bronze medal.

 

Drummond make Champery Masters final

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Team Drummond. Photo: British Curling/Perthshire Picture Agency (Graeme Hart)

Team Drummond were the star performers from a Scottish point of view this week, making the final of the Champery Masters, where they lost out to Team Edin.

Teams Brewster and Mouat also did well in Switzerland, while Team Kinnear won the EJCT Oslo junior men’s title.

Over in Canada, Teams Muirhead and Smith warmed up for the next Grand Slam tournament of the season – the National – by competing in a couple of World Curling Tour events.

***

There were three Scottish rinks at the Champery Masters in Switzerland, and all three made the playoffs.

Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Duncan Menzies, Scott Andrews, Alasdair Schreiber) cruised through the round robin stage with a W5 L0 record – beating Teams Edin, Hess, Mancini, Retornaz and Schwaller.

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) also topped their pool, thanks to wins over Teams Kauste, Snitil, Stjerne and Van Dorp, plus a loss to Smilga of Latvia.

And Team Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) topped Pool D, also with a W4 L1 record – overcoming Teams Baumann, Lottenbach, Pfister and Sik, and losing to Team Attinger.

Three became one following the quarter-finals, however, as Drummond beat Mouat 4-3, while Brewster exited at the hands of Van Dorp.

Drummond saw off the Dutch rink in the last four though, scoring four in end six in a 6-5 triumph.

That put them into a final against former world champions Edin, and it was the Swedes who moved ahead early on, scoring two in the second end and stealing one in the third.

Another two in end five gave the Scots too much to do, Edin winning 6-3 to claim the title.

This is, nonetheless, the most impressive performance so far this season from Drummond, after a slow start to the season, and one they’ll be looking to push on from.

Skip Drummond said: “The event was a great learning curve for our team.

“We were able to utilise Misha Botting’s sports psychology services over the course of the event and his input has provided a good base for us going forward.

“Playing Niklas Edin in the final was always going to be tough but it was a good test for our team at this stage in the season.

“We were just disappointed that we weren’t able to execute our game plan.”

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith), meanwhile, were in Quebec for the ARENA Challenge de Curling de Gatineau.

As a warm-up for the GSOC Masters (October 24-29 in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, with Smith facing Gushue, Ulsrud, Shuster and McEwen), it was a short-lived one – only lasting four games.

Defeats to Chandler and Allen tipped Smith onto the C-Road, where they beat Homan but then lost to Murphy to depart the competition – which saw the title go to Rui Liu of China, thanks to an 8-2 victory over Team De Cruz in the final.

One to forget about from a Smith perspective.

***

Also in Canada, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) were in action in the Canad Inns Women’s Classic in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

Wins over Holland and McCarville put them within touching distance of the playoffs, only for Englot to beat them in the A-Road final.

Defeat to Carey put them on the C-Road, where the Scots got back to winning ways against Meilleur and Tirinzoni, but Einarson proved too strong in the C-Road final, winning 9-6 (despite threes from Muirhead in ends four and seven).

The competition was won by Team Roth of the USA, who beat Team Hasselborg 5-4 after an extra end in the final.

Muirhead, like Smith, are taking part in the Grand Slam in Lloydminster – they take on Sidorova, Flaxey, Sinclair and Hasselborg.

***

Back in Europe, there were three Scottish rinks at the EJCT Oslo event in Norway – with quite a contrast between the men’s and women’s outcomes.

Neither Team Bryce (Amy Bryce, Molly Keen, Layla Al-Saffar, Jane Barr) nor Team Morrison (Rebecca Morrison, Amy MacDonald, Hailey Duff, Leeanne McKenzie) were able to make it out of the group stage.

Bryce finished with a W1 L4 record, having beaten Moberg but lost to Dami (11-10, Bryce scoring six in the fourth end!), Tanner, Ramsfjell and Hoehne, while Morrison won two – against Mesloe and Norrlander – but lost three – to Halse, Loertscher and Keiser (the eventual winner of the event).

On the men’s side, however, Team Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Duncan McFadzean, Ryan McCormack, Matthew McKenzie) got out of their section on W4 L1 – as they lost their opening game to Heinimann but then claimed victories over Nygren, Bjoernstad, Hermansson and Kringlebotn to make the playoffs.

There the wins just kept on coming, with Lochmann seen off 5-1 in the quarter-finals, and Ramsfjell 5-2 in the semis.

That means a rematch with Heinimann in the final, but there were no problems for Kinnear this time, as steals in ends three and five, then three in end seven, won them the match 6-1 and thereby the title.

The Kinnear rink were unfortunate not to make the playoffs at last season’s Scottish Championships, and here is more evidence of their exciting potential.

***

Finally, the Stirling Wheelchair International Invitational, at The Peak, saw eight of the world’s best wheelchair curling teams gather to compete.

Russia defeated Scotland 5-4 in the final, with Switzerland in third place.

Players’ playoff pain for Muirhead and Smith

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HAT-TRICK: Team Edin won their third Grand Slam title of the season at the Players’ Championship. Pic: twitter.com/grandslamcurl (Anil Mungal)

Both Team Muirhead and Team Smith put in strong performances at the Grand Slam of Curling Players’ Championship, exiting at the playoff stages – both to the eventual winners in Toronto.

The Muirhead rink squeezed into the last eight in the women’s competition – at an event they have won three times – but on this occasion they were beaten in the quarter-finals by Team Jones, who ultimately took victory in the final.

Kyle Smith’s quartet went one better – making it to the men’s semi-finals – but there they were undone by Team Edin, who went on to become champions.

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) began their run in emphatic style, scoring two in end three and four in end seven for an 8-2 victory over Team Epping.

But they were on the wrong side of that scoreline in their next match, giving up threes in ends one and five in defeat to Team Edin of Sweden.

Undeterred, they came back with an 8-3 win over Team Laycock – scoring three in end one, two in end three and two in end seven – before edging past Team Jacobs, as they took a two in the first end and then traded singles, claiming the one point needed in the eighth for a 5-4 triumph.

An 8-6 loss to Team De Cruz in their final round robin match could not deny them a spot in the quarter-finals, where they once again met Jacobs.

Smith scored three in end two and one in end four to lead 4-3 at halfway, staying in control with two in end six and one in the eighth to clinch it 7-6.

In the final four they were pitted against Edin, and again it was the Swedes who came out on top – thanks to a steal of two in end five and another two in end seven, for a 6-2 victory.

That doesn’t take away from a super run at their first Players’ Championship by the Smith rink, who have enjoyed a real breakthrough season in Grand Slam competition – and are the focus of the below video feature.

Edin went on to claim their third Grand Slam title of the season, defeating Team McEwen 5-3 in the men’s final with steals in ends seven and eight.

***

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Kelly Schafer (filling in for Lauren Gray at lead)) have some history with the Players’ Championship, having won the women’s title three times in Toronto.

They were off to a losing start this time though, as Team Sweeting scored twos in ends three and six, then took their one with hammer in the eighth, to beat the Scots 6-5.

Muirhead got back on track against Team Jones – stealing in ends one, two and three to lead 4-0, then adding three more points in ends six and seven for a 7-3 win – but that was followed by a 5-2 loss to Team Hasselborg.

They then lost 6-4 to Team Fleury – giving up critical steals in ends five and six – but eked out a quarter-final spot courtesy of victory over Team Englot, as they stole their way to a 5-0 lead after two ends and held on to take it 8-6.

The last eight brought a rematch with Jennifer Jones’ rink, and this time the Canadians nicked it 6-5.

Muirhead stole in end one but Jones claimed three in the second, only for the Scots to answer with two and a steal of one to lead 4-3 after four.

Jones, though, scored singles in ends five, six and seven – and Muirhead could only manage one in end eight, handing their opponents the win.

The Jones rink went on to win the title – their sixth! – by overcoming Sweeting 8-4 in the final.

***

There is plenty more curling coming up this week, starting with the European Masters in St Gallen (April 19-22) – with Teams Brewster, Murdoch (the holders) and Smith in the men’s competition, and Team Fleming in the women’s.

Then from April 22-29 we have the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship and World Senior Curling Championship, both in Lethbridge, Canada.

Scotland are represented by Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat at the World Mixed, and by Team Drysdale (men’s) and Team Lockhart (women’s) for the World Seniors.

2016-17 curling half season review

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Braehead bronze: Team Muirhead with their European Championship medals (photo: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

As 2017 looms large, it’s time for The Roaring Game Blog to look back on the first half of the curling season.

There was plenty going on – although thankfully #Broomgate controversy has vanished from the spotlight, following the World Curling Federation’s sweeping summit and new regulations.

That means the focus has been on the ice, with Scottish teams more than holding their own as non-Canadian teams draw closer to the likes of Gushue, Homan and Koe.

Here are some of the highlights…

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BRAEHEAD: Curling came home, as Braehead hosted the 2016 European Championships… which ended up being pretty similar to the 2015 Championships.

Just as in Esbjerg 12 months previously, Sweden won men’s gold (more on Team Edin later), Russia won women’s gold, Scotland men fell short of the playoffs, and Scotland women medalled again.

Team Brewster defeated all of the eventual men’s medallists (Sweden, Norway and Switzerland) in the round robin but finished in sixth place – missing the playoffs but qualifying Scotland for the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championships.

Team Muirhead cruised through the round robin, winning nine from nine, but had one bad game – against eventual winners Team Moiseeva of Russia – and had to settle for bronze… skip Eve Muirhead’s seventh consecutive European medal, a remarkable run of consistency.

In the B-Division, England’s men and women, and Wales men, all won more than they lost – but none made the playoffs, the English women particularly unlucky, with three of their defeats coming after an extra end.

***

KINGS OF SWEDEN: Team Edin have been the outstanding team in the world this year, the Swedes winning their third consecutive European gold, as well as claiming victory at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, Swiss Cup Basel, Champery Masters and the first two Grand Slam of Curling events of the season – the Masters and Tour Challenge.

No team has perfected the art of starting a tournament slowly and finishing it like a steam train quite like Niklas Edin’s rink, and they look more than capable of continuing their amazing title-winning form into 2017.

***

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GREAT SCOTS: Team Smith (photo: Tom J Brydone/British Curling)

THE RIVALS PART I: Team Smith have enjoyed an outstanding first half of the season, despite being beaten to European qualification by Team Brewster, and it could have been even better had they not repeatedly run into the red-hot Team Edin.

Kyle Smith’s quartet won the Oakville OCT Fall Classic to kick-start their season, before making the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard semi-finals (beaten by Edin) and Swiss Cup Basel semis (beaten by Edin).

They then reached their first ever Grand Slam final, at the Tour Challenge in Cranbrook, where they finished as runners-up… to Edin.

So far, so Djokovic v Murray in tennis slam finals – but Smith’s form shows they’re a match for anyone in the world, which they continued to demonstrate by taking the Dumfries Challenger title just before Christmas to sit 13th in the World Curling Tour Order of Merit rankings.

***

FLEMING TAKE FLIGHT: Just like their 2013 World University Games comrades Team Smith, this half season has been a real breakthrough for Team Fleming.

Hannah Fleming’s rink, having added Jen Dodds and Vicky Wright to the line-up, have pulled off some remarkable victories over top teams and posted a series of runners-up finishes.

The Women’s Masters Basel saw them reach the semi-finals, and they upped that result by reaching finals at the Stockholm Ladies Cup, Red Deer Curling Classic and Qinghai China International, only to fall short of the top prize each time.

A first title of the season may still elude them, but there’s no doubt they’re on the up – to 27th in the women’s Order of Merit.

***

DIFFERENT NAMES, SAME RESULTS: Team Fleming are still chasing the top Scots though – Team Muirhead have added Lauren Gray at lead and Glenn Howard as coach, while fielding Kelly Schafer at third for the first few months of the season while Anna Sloan recovered from injury, but they have looked no less impressive.

They were the best women’s team in Braehead (and so were unlucky to ‘only’ win bronze), while also coming in as runners-up at the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out and Colonial Square Ladies Classic.

After those second-placed finishes, they finally got to the top spot of the podium by winning the Women’s Masters Basel – and ended 2016 by coming third at the Karuizawa International.

The 2018 Winter Olympics remain the ultimate goal for these ladies, and the indications are that they’re gelling with plenty of time to spare.

***

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ON THE UP: Team Bryce (photo: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce)

NICE TO SEE YOU, TO SEE YOU BRYCE: Team Murdoch were runners-up at the Swiss Cup Basel and Karuizawa International, Team Brewster won the latter, but the most successful Scottish men’s side aside from Team Smith have been Team Bryce.

With a rejigged line-up of their own, they’ve had a fantastic first half to the season – winning the EJCT Braehead Junior International, Greenacres Junior Masters (U21 Slam), Kinross Junior Classic (U21 Slam) and EJCT Livechannel Cup.

Add to that third place at the EJCT Thun event and second at the Dumfries Challenger (pushing Smith all the way in the final), and it’s no surprise to see them ranked as Europe’s second best junior team.

They’re also favourites to win next year’s Scottish Juniors to qualify for Worlds.

***

THE RIVALS PART II: Team Bryce’s superb form has irked one team more than most: Team Whyte, who just haven’t quite managed to get the best of them yet.

Bryce won their head-to-heads in the Braehead Junior International final, Greenacres Junior Masters final, Kinross Junior Classic final and EJCT Thun third-place playoff.

Ross Whyte’s boys have had a fine season themselves, mind you – runners-up at the Dumfries Open and winners of the Inverness Junior International and Lockerbie Junior International U21 Slams.

And 3/4 of their line-up, skipped by Callum Kinnear, have been tearing it up in the U17 Slams – victors at the Stevenson Trophy, Lanarkshire Slam and Baljaffray Trophy.

***

EUROPE’S BEST: Team Jackson are first in the EJCT women’s rankings after enjoying their own excellent half season.

It’s been a very busy one for Sophie Jackson and co, but their highlights include winning the women’s titles at the EJCT Braehead Junior International, Greenacres Junior Masters and EJCT Prague Junior Cup, as well as placing second in the Braehead Open and Dumfries Challenger events.

They also saw off Team Karina Aitken to qualify for next week’s World Junior-B Championships, where their aim is clear: get Scotland back up to the top table after relegation last year.

***

QUEENS OF SWEDEN: Outside of Scottish curling, it’s been an intriguing season so far, perhaps most marked by the emergence of Team Hasselborg of Sweden.

Shooting past Team Sigfridsson (so long Sweden’s dominant rink, who haven’t had a bad half season themselves to be fair), Hasselborg have won the Stockholm Ladies Cup, reached the semi-finals of two Grand Slams, and won silver at Europeans in Braehead.

We’ve also seen the impressive return of Bingyu Wang of China, the 2009 world champion, while Team Homan have struggled to find the consistency of their steamroller-style start to 2015-16 – Grand Slam titles instead going to Teams Einarson, Flaxey and Sweeting.

On the men’s side, Teams Carruthers and Jacobs have looked the most impressive aside from Team Edin, while Team Gushue have performed admirably during skip Brad’s recuperation – and ‘Team Pants’ (Thomas Ulsrud’s delightfully wacky Norwegian rink) have been far from pants in coming second at the Baden Masters and Europeans, before winning the Qinghai China International men’s title this month.

***

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CHAMPIONS: Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken, Scottish Mixed Doubles winners (photo: facebook.com/TeamAitkenMouat)

MIX IT UP: Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat continue to make waves in the mixed doubles discipline, winning their fourth Scottish Mixed Doubles title to qualify for Worlds, while excelling on the continent.

They claimed the CCT Bern Mixed Doubles title, as well as coming in as runners-up at the CCT Austrian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup.

Judith and Lee McCleary were second at the Scottish Championships, and also won the Consolation Cup at the Bern Mixed Doubles, so proved they’re very capable of keeping Aitken and Mouat on their toes as Pyeongchang 2018 draws closer.

At the 2016 World Mixed Curling Championship (four players per team as opposed to two), Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson played brilliantly as they secured bronze medals for Scotland.

***

SUPER SILVER: Speaking of medals, the Scottish wheelchair curlers Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson and Angie Malone (alternate) won silver at the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championship.

In doing so, they also qualified for the 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championship – and the 2018 Winter Olympics as Great Britain.

***

Curling in 2017 kicks off with the World Junior-B Championships in Sweden (January 3-9) and the Mercure Perth Masters (Jan 5-8). Enjoy!

European Championships round-up: Scotland women medal again!

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SAY CHEESE: Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer, Glenn Howard (photo: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

The Braehead-hosted 2016 European Championships carried on many of the same themes from Esbjerg 12 months ago.

Sweden won men’s gold and Russia women’s gold, Scotland men fell narrowly short of the playoffs, Scotland women were disappointed not to take top spot but did medal again.

Could it have been better from a Scottish performance and attendance point of view? Yes. But there are many positives to take too, not least the BBC coverage of several matches.

***

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate)) went W9 L0 through the round robin, demonstrating a superb consistency and that they were the best women’s team in Renfrewshire.

They opened with a 6-5 win over Italy, before coming through victorious by the same scoreline against Sweden – Anna Hasselborg’s rink being tipped as a medal contender prior to the competition.

Norway were seen off 10-5, Finland 10-4, Switzerland 4-3 (stealing one in end 10), Germany 8-6, the Czech Republic 10-5 and Denmark 7-3.

Russia stood between them and a perfect round robin, and although Victoria Moiseeva’s rink had overcome reigning European champion Anna Sidorova to get to Braehead, they could not stop the Muirhead juggernaut here, the Scots winning 8-4.

But the semi-finals pitted them against each other again, and this time the match was very different.

Scotland fought gamely but there were too many mistakes, and the Russians too potent, as Moiseeva scored threes in ends three, six and eight to win 11-6.

Scotland were naturally disappointed having won nine straight ahead of the playoffs – with players and onlookers both asking whether there should be a page playoff system – but they had to pick themselves up for the bronze medal match with the Czech Republic.

That they did, stealing one in end two, scoring two in end four and stealing another single in end nine to beat the Czechs 6-2.

Bronze meant a seventh European medal for skip Muirhead, and although the rink were clearly disappointed not to make another final, they are making strides under coach Glenn Howard and you’d be foolish to bet against them taking top spot at many of the competitions still to come this season – and beyond.

Eve Muirhead said: “It is good that after the week we have had we are not going away without a medal.

“This is my seventh consecutive medal and I am glad that I have quite a lot in my collection from this tournament, albeit I would have liked another colour.

“Obviously I want to win every game I play, however you have to look at the bigger picture and we are building towards the Olympics in February 2018 so that is our focus and we are always preparing for that.”

As for the final, Moiseeva repeated the trick by shocking Hasselborg’s Swedes, stealing two in end 10 for a 6-4 victory – Russia taking women’s gold once again.

***

Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Duncan Menzies (alternate)) found the round robin much tougher going than their female counterparts, eventually going out with a W4 L5 record.

An 8-3 defeat to Denmark was a far from ideal opening to their tournament, but they then went on to beat Team Ulsrud of Norway 8-7 after an extra end.

Niklas Edin’s Swedes – the reigning champions – were up next, but Scotland were unfazed and took threes in ends eight and nine to win 8-4.

But from those high points, things got decidedly patchy for the Scots. Austria beat them 7-6 (after extra end), only for Brewster to rebound with a 6-5 victory over another pedigree side, Peter De Cruz’s Switzerland, but they were to carry no momentum for that, instead giving up a steal in end 10 to lose 6-5 to Finland.

Defeat to Germany, 4-2, was another blow to their playoff hopes, though a 6-4 win over Italy set up a winner-takes-all clash with Russia.

Alexey Timofeev’s rink, however, ended their journey by stealing two in end 10 to beat the Scots 8-6 and make the playoffs themselves.

Brewster, by overcoming De Cruz, Edin and Ulsrud, showed that they can compete with the best on the big stage. But inconsistency ultimately let them down, as they failed to string together any successive victories after the win over the Swedes.

Their sixth-placed finish did at least ensure Scottish qualification for the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championship, an achievement not to be sniffed at in a competitive field.

Skip Tom Brewster told British Curling: “We can take a lot from this, but that is for the debrief and another day. Right now we are not into the play-offs so I am feeling pretty gutted.”

The men’s final was contested by Norway and Sweden, and again the Swedes came out on top at the crucial moment, winning 6-5 after an extra end to hand Niklas Edin his third successive European title.

Switzerland defeated Russia 8-6 for men’s bronze.

***

The European Championships B-Division involved men’s and women’s teams from England, and a men’s team from Wales.

England women (Hetty Garnier, Anna Fowler, Angharad Ward, Lauren Pearce, Naomi Robinson (alternate)) came closest of the three to making the playoffs to contest for A-Division promotion and/or a World Championship spot.

Victories against Slovakia (12-4), Poland (7-6), Latvia (12-6), Turkey (5-3) and Lithuania (7-6 after an extra end), and defeats to Belarus (7-4), the Netherlands (7-6 after extra end), Estonia (6-5 after extra end) and Hungary (9-8 after extra end – notice a theme here?) saw them enter a tiebreaker with the Netherlands.

So fine are the margins between victory and defeat – as the England ladies found last year, and again with all those extra end matches this time round – and they fought all the way through to end 10 where the sides were level at 7-7, only for the Dutch to steal one and take it 8-7.

The English men (Alan MacDougall, Andrew Reed, Andrew Woolston, Thomas Jaeggi, Ben Fowler (alternate)) finished on a W4 L3 record, having beaten Belgium (15-6), Slovenia (7-3), the Netherlands (6-4) and Estonia (7-5), and lost to Latvia (10-2), Hungary (9-8) and Poland (8-3).

That win-loss record was the same as Hungary and Poland’s, but LSD saw them edged out.

Wales men (Adrien Meikle, James Pougher, Rhys Phillips, Gary Coombs, Simon Pougher (alternate)) also ended up on four wins and three losses, having defeated France (7-6 after extra end), Spain (9-6), Lithuania (8-2) and Israel (7-2), and gone down to the Czech Republic (7-3), Turkey (6-3)and Slovakia (7-4).

They needed five wins for a playoff spot, but this was a step forward for the team after they’d been forced to fight off relegation to the C-Division this time last year.

The Netherlands and Slovakia won promotion to the men’s A-Division for 2017 (replacing Denmark and Finland), while Jaap van Dorp’s Dutchmen also defeated Austria for the eighth European spot at the next World Men’s Curling Championship.

Hungary and Turkey will be in the women’s A-Division next season (taking the places of Finland and Norway), though Hungary could not overcome Italy in the World Women’s Curling Championship playoff.

France men, Spain men, Poland women and Slovakia women were relegated to the C-Division for next year.

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Away from Braehead, four young Scottish teams took part in the European Junior Curling Tour event in Thun, Switzerland.

Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) exited at the group stage following defeats to Teams Stritt (8-4), Witschonke (5-1), Constantini (5-3) and Gauchat (4-3), and one win against Team Forbregd (6-2).

The same fate befell Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair), who lost to Teams Keiser (8-2), Ramsfjell (5-2), Wuest (8-5) and Beer (5-4), plus a victory over Team Loertscher (8-5).

The male teams in Thun had more success – Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) qualified directly for the semi-finals thanks to an unbeaten round robin campaign, which saw them defeat Teams Pimpini (7-2), Hoesli (6-1), Schnider (8-5), Ramsfjell (8-2) and Myran (5-2).

Joining them in the playoffs were Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean), who battled into the quarter-finals courtesy of wins over Teams Hess (6-2), Muskatewitz (5-4) and Mancini (4-3), with their reverses coming against Teams Foss (4-3) and Lottenbach (7-1).

In the quarters, Whyte staged an incredible comeback after being 8-2 down after three ends, scoring two in end four then stealing one in end five, one in six, two in seven and another two in end eight for a 10-8 triumph.

But the final proved just out of reach for both Scottish teams – Whyte edged out 3-2 by Hess and Bryce giving up a steal of two in the extra end to lose 5-3 to Lottenbach.

While Lottenbach won the men’s final (and Witschonke the women’s), Bryce claimed an 8-5 victory over Whyte in the men’s 3/4 match, scoring twos in ends three, seven and eight.

World Men’s Curling Championship preview

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Team Scotland (Brewster) – photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages)

Scottish champions Team Brewster are in Basel, Switzerland, this week for the 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship.

At World Women’s, Team Muirhead discovered just how difficult it is to make the playoffs at these top level events, and their male compatriots face a quality field too.

So what are their chances of remaining in contention for medals at the end of the week?

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Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Scott Andrews (alternate)) have had something of an up and down season.

Their highlights include being runners-up at the Baden Masters (August) and Dumfries’ Lely Challenge (December), as well as winning the men’s title at the Curling Night in America event, also in December.

In February they dominated the Scottish Championships, losing their second round robin game but winning every match after that, including the final against Team Murdoch, 5-4.

They lost to Murdoch in the final of last weekend’s Aberdeen International, but to make it to that point they had to overcome Team Ulsrud of Norway in the semi-final – one of their real rivals for medals in Basel.

The Brewster rink may not be hugely experienced as a unit at this very highest level, but their skip certainly is – Tom Brewster won World silvers in 2011 and 2012, plus bronze in 2002 and 2013.

Alternate Scott Andrews was on board for those 2011, 2012 and 2013 championships, so can certainly help the greener members of the team, while inexperienced is certainly not a tag you can apply to their coach, Mike Harris.

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Team Brewster with coach Mike Harris at the Scottish Championships (photo: Tom J Brydone)

The Canadian is an Olympic silver medallist (1998), and has since worked in curling commentary for CBC/Rogers/Sportsnet – he knows the world game and how to outplay/out-think the top teams.

If Brewster can show the consistency of performance they did in Perth in February – with a tendency towards playing a sensible game, keeping it tight until an opportunity to score big presented itself – then there’s no reason they can’t be challenging the teams at the head of the standings.

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And there will be some very capable teams for them to challenge, not least the defending champions – Team Edin of Sweden.

Niklas Edin’s young rink have stayed together from last year, spending much of this season in Canada, banking experience against the strongest fields world curling has to offer – and taking a couple of weeks out in November to win gold at the European Championships!

Perennial challengers, and custodians of the fanciest pants in curling, Ulsrud’s Norwegians should also be in contention, and the same goes for Kevin Koe and his Canadian rink.

Having overcome what was widely considered the strongest Brier line-up in history, Koe are gunning for gold and it will take a fine performance from another rink to deny them, given their experience and quality.

Team Kauste of Finland will look to make that leap onto the podium after fourth-place finishes at the 2015 Worlds and then the Europeans in November, while Teams Michel and Shuster of Switzerland and the USA respectively will be no pushovers.

The Japanese women delighted fans with their smiles on the way to silver in Swift Current, and their counterparts Team Morozumi – and fellow Pacific-Asia qualifiers Team Kim of Korea – will also look to make an impression as the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang draw ever closer.

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The 57th edition of the World Men’s Curling Championship takes place in the St Jakobshalle in Basel, the same venue where this event was held in 2012.

The round robin runs from Saturday, April 2 (with Scotland facing Korea and then Norway on the opening day) through to Thursday, April 7 – followed by page playoffs, culminating in the medal games on Sunday, April 10.

You can follow live scores through the event page, as well as updates from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s site – and, of course, the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Selected matches (including Scotland v Canada) will be shown online through World Curling TV, while Eurosport also has some coverage through the week.

And look out for an interview with Scotland skip Tom Brewster on this site tomorrow!