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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Teams Brewster and Smith end 2016 on a high

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Dumfries Challenger Series champions Team Smith (photo: facebook.com/DumfriesCurling)

Teams Brewster and Smith finished the year as champions, winning titles at the Karuizawa International and Dumfries Challenger Series.

They weren’t the only ones to enjoy success, with Teams Fleming, Muirhead and Murdoch also enjoying success in China and Japan.

There was a strong showing from the Scottish rinks in Dumfries, too, while Team Whyte took the plaudits at the Lockerbie Junior International.

***

Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) and Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) ventured out to Japan to contest the Karuizawa International men’s title, which was won by Murdoch last season.

Brewster progressed straight to the semi-finals thanks to a W4 L0 round robin performance, having recorded victories against Teams Natsuizaka (5-3), Ogihara (6-4), SooHyuk Kim (8-5) and Takigahira (4-3 after an extra end).

Murdoch, though, had it a little tougher, as despite wins over Teams Komoda (10-2), Hirata (8-3) and Suzuki (6-2), a defeat to Team Morozumi (6-5 after extra end) placed them second in their pool and required them to play a quarter-final.

For that match they faced SooHyuk Kim, and threes in ends one and six propelled them to an 8-2 victory.

In the semi-finals, Brewster edged past Team Morris 7-6 (scoring two in ends one and four, and three in end six), while Murdoch won their rematch with Morozumi – three in end three and twos in ends five and six pointing the way to a 7-2 outcome.

The all-Scottish final was a tight affair, Brewster and Murdoch tied at 1-1 after four ends, before Brewster scored one in end five and Murdoch two in the sixth end.

Brewster blanked end seven, then made full use of hammer in the eighth by scoring two to win the match 4-3 and secure the title.

Skip Tom Brewster said: “We have had a great time here in Japan and the result just tops it off. The team has played great all week.

“Since the Europeans we have been working on a number of things and it’s great to see all that effort has paid off.”

In the women’s competition, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) emulated Brewster by proceeding straight to the semi-finals – beating Teams Ji Suk Kim (7-6), Matsumura (5-4 after extra end), Sigfridsson (9-3) and Fujisawa (9-2).

The last four threw up a Muirhead-Sigfridsson repeat, this time with a different outcome, as the Swedes scored two in the extra end to win it 7-5.

Muirhead still had the chance to finish third, though, and took it by defeating Team Sidorova 5-3, with a two in end seven and steal of one in end eight.

Team Un-Chi Gim claimed the women’s title by overcoming Sigfridsson 7-4.

***

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), meanwhile, were in China for the inaugural Qinghai China International (‘Redmagic Cup’).

They got off to a losing start, beaten 6-5 by Team Kubeskova after an extra end, but recovered to defeat Team Kauste 10-6 and local favourites Team Wang (by a remarkable 11-10 scoreline).

But they were then beaten 10-7 by Team Brown of Canada, before a 7-5 victory over Team Witschonke had them on W3 L2.

That was improved with a 4-3 win versus Team Jentsch (stealing one in the extra end), but a 10-8 loss to Team Roth (after another extra end) pushed them into a tiebreaker for the playoffs.

There, two in end one, three in end six and a stolen two in end seven saw off Wang 8-2.

In the semi-finals they faced Roth of the USA, and frittered away a 4-3 lead after six ends to trail 6-4 after nine having given up consecutive steals – but a three in end 10 won it for the Scots 7-6, and booked a spot in the final.

Fleming had to settle for runners-up spot, though, as Brown grabbed four in end five and three in the seventh end as they won out 9-4.

Coming after a second-placed finish at the Red Deer Curling Classic at the end of last month, it’s been a very fruitful finale to the year for Fleming.

The men’s competition was won by Team Ulsrud of Norway, who beat Canadians Team Lyburn 8-5 in that final.

***

In Scotland, the Dumfries Challenger Series drew in teams from the home nation and across Europe.

Section A of the men’s competition was topped by Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon, Alasdair Schreiber), who took wins over Teams Thune (8-3), Haubjerg (7-1), Gallacher (8-3) and Jamieson (conceded) – while Thune also made the playoffs.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) edged fellow Scots Team Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Duncan Menzies) for top spot in Section B, Bryce winning the head-to-head 5-1 and also beating Teams Grzelka (7-1), Brunner (7-3) and Hamilton (6-0) – Brunner joined Bryce and Hardie in making the last eight.

And in Section C it was Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) who came out in first spot, with victories over Teams Fraser (6-3), Jungen (10-3), De Mollinedo (7-4) and Telfer (6-1) – Fraser and De Mollinedo also reaching the quarters.

The last eight matches saw wins for Bryce (7-3 versus Fraser), Hardie (5-3 over Thune), Smith (7-4 against Brunner) – and, pulling off a shock, the Spaniards De Mollinedo, four in end seven and two in end eight giving them an 8-4 triumph versus Mouat.

Come the semi-finals, Bryce scored four in end three and three in the sixth to outgun De Mollinedo 8-3, while Smith scored two in end one, stole in ends two and three, before adding more singles in ends five and six, then a two in the eighth as they saw off Hardie 8-4.

The final was a suitably close encounter, with the rinks exchanging singles throughout.

But it was Smith who ultimately took the match and the title, scoring ones in ends one and three, blanking end five, and adding ones in ends six and eight to win it 4-3.

Coach Viktor Kjall told British Curling: “Coming in as very heavy favourites for the weekend it was good that they executed their plans so well and got through the tournament undefeated.

“It’s been a terrific first half of the season. They have [made] a final at a Grand Slam and won two tour tournament victories – all this puts us in the top 15 in the world.

“Now we get a few days off over Christmas, then back to camp in Braehead just before New Year’s Eve, then we start the second half of the season with the Canadian Open in North Battleford (January 3-8).”

In the women’s section, Teams Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) and Mathis (Switzerland) secured direct progress to the semi-finals, Jackson beating Teams Lander (7-4), Hazel Smith (5-2), Gina Aitken (10-2) and Barbezat (6-4).

The quarter-finals were then contested between Teams Aitken, Barbezat, Gisler and Smith, with Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) and Barbezat making the semis, both by 6-5 scorelines and both stealing in the eighth end to clinch it.

Jackson won the dramatic last-four tie with Barbezat, stealing one in end eight to win 4-3, but Aitken could not make it an all-Scottish final, beaten 5-4 by Mathis after giving up a three in end six.

That final was also very tight, with Mathis taking a 3-0 lead after two ends but Jackson battling back with a steal of two in end seven for 6-6, only for the Swiss rink to take one in the eighth for the victory.

***

Finally, we come to the Lockerbie Junior International, a part of the Asham U21 Slam series.

Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) were looking to take advantage of U21 Slam nemesis Team Bryce competing in Dumfries instead of Lockerbie, and they topped their section with four wins from four.

In the semi-finals they edged out Team McNay 5-4, scoring two in end eight, before facing Team Baird in the final.

Two in end two, three in end four and two in end six gave Whyte a 7-2 triumph.

Team Bremane of Latvia saw off all the Scottish opposition to take the women’s title, defeating Team McDonald 8-3 in the final.

Team Carson secured men’s third place ahead of McNay, while women’s third went to Team Farmer ahead of Team Keen.

Aitken/Mouat win in Bern, Fleming second in Red Deer

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Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken won the first ever Bern Mixed Doubles title (photo: facebook.com/TeamAitkenMouat)

While European Championship curling has come home to Scotland this week, it has been overseas where Scottish teams have excelled.

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat won the inaugural Bern Mixed Doubles title in Switzerland, where Judith and Lee McCleary also claimed the Consolation competition prize.

And over in Canada, the three Scottish teams involved in the Red Deer Curling Classic all made the playoffs, with Team Fleming finishing as runners-up in the women’s section.

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There will be 2016 European Championship round-robin and playoff summaries to come, but for now here’s a quick rundown of how the British teams are getting on after three days’ play in Braehead.

At time of writing, in the men’s A-Division, Scotland (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Duncan Menzies (alternate)) have a won three, lost three record.

Oddly enough, they’ve beaten Norway, Sweden and Switzerland – and lost to Denmark, Austria and Finland – which shows that the men’s competition is really up for grabs.

As for the women’s A-Division, Scotland (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate)) are the sole women’s side yet to lose.

They have beaten Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Switzerland to lead the pack early on.

You can follow the Scottish teams’ progress throughout the week with live games shown on BBC Sport and Eurosport/World Curling TV, with match reviews and interviews via the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and British Curling, plus David Murdoch’s daily column for Herald Sport.

In the B-Division, England men sit on a W2 L3 record, Wales men on W3 L2 and England women on W4 L2. Follow scores from their remaining games here.

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Moving outwards from Scotland, our next stop is Bern in Switzerland, where an inaugural mixed doubles competition took place this weekend.

There were two Scottish teams involved – Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat, and Judith and Lee McCleary – among 32 participants from across Europe, from Spain to Russia.

In the triple knockout format, Aitken/Mouat won their first match against Iseli/Iseli of Switzerland 10-2, and remained on the A-Road by thumping French pair Morand/Borani 14-4 (stealing five in end two).

They set up an A final by overcoming Jaeggi/Freiberger of Switzerland 7-0, but were defeated 6-4 by Hajkova/Paul from the Czech Republic.

On the B-Road they overcame Hungarian pair Szekeres/Nagy 7-2 but lost out 9-3 in the B final against Turmann/Lill of Estonia, before making the playoffs at the third time of asking by defeating Huembelin/Gubler (Switzerland) in emphatic fashion, 13-2.

McCleary/McCleary also won their first three matches, 8-6 against Swiss duo Wild/Wild, then 7-3 versus Noreen/Noreen of Sweden, and 9-2 over Grunder/Hartmann from Switzerland.

But like Aitken/Mouat they too lost their A final, 10-4 against Perret/Rios (Switzerland), and they were then knocked down to the C-Road by another Swiss pair, Michel/Michel, after a 9-6 defeat.

And a third successive loss to Swiss opposition, Jaeggi/Freiberger (6-5 after an extra end), tore up their playoff hopes – though they would still contest the Consolation event.

Aitken/Mouat faced Russian pair (and mixed doubles powerhouse) Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky in the quarter-finals, and despite a four in end four they went into the eighth end 6-5 behind – but they had hammer, and scored two to win the match 7-6.

In the last four the Scottish team had a rematch with Hajkova/Paul and this time it had the opposite outcome – Aitken/Mouat scored twos in ends one and four and stole three in end five for an 8-1 victory.

The final pitted them against Tamara and Sven Michel, and the Scots had the perfect start, with four in end one, then a steal of two in end two for a rapid 6-0 lead.

The Swiss scored two in the third end, but two for Aitken/Mouat in end four and a steal of one in end five saw the match finish 9-2 to them – meaning they had taken the title!

The Scottish success did not end there either. McCleary/McCleary had battled into the Consolation competition final with wins over Swiss teams Iseli/Iseli (9-5, with five in end six) and Clostre/Panzera (7-4).

In the Consolation final they were up against Camilla/Per Noreen – the Scottish pair stole one in end three but at halfway the Swedes led 3-2. Twos in ends five and seven, however, gave McCleary/McCleary the win 6-4.

With the Scottish Mixed Doubles Championship taking place on December 8-11, these two teams have picked a fine time to hit form as they prepare to battle each other (and six other pairs) in Braehead.

***

And now onto Canada, where three Scottish rinks competed at the Red Deer Curling Classic in Alberta.

In the men’s competition, Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) made it straight through to the A-Road final by defeating Teams Powell (5-2), Yablonski (5-2) and Park (4-2).

 

But there they suffered their first defeat – 6-4 against Team Geall. Though that was soon made up for, as they saw off Teams Lizmore 6-5 and Hanson 5-0 to make the last eight.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Bobby Lammie (subbing for Thomas Muirhead), Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith), meanwhile, continued their recent good form – having made their first Grand Slam final last weekend – by joining Murdoch in making the playoffs.

Smith began with a 7-1 win over Team Heidt, then progressed to the A final with victories over Teams Hansen (5-2) and Appelman (7-3).

There they were edged 7-6 by Team Bottcher, but – after a rip-roaring 7-2 win over Team Koe – they secured a spot in the playoffs by beating Appelman again, 5-4 this time.

In the quarter-finals, Smith snuck past Team (Jamie) Koe, scoring two in end eight to win 6-5, but Murdoch exited the competition, beaten 6-3 by Appelman.

The last four pitted Smith against Koe again – Kevin this time – and this time the reigning world champions claimed the win, with two in end eight to take it 5-4.

Koe went on to secure the title, beating Appelman 6-5 after an extra end in the final.

Over on the women’s side, Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) made it to the knockout stage at the earliest opportunity.

Fleming powered into the playoffs with wins over Teams Min Ji Kim of Korea (4-3), Ogasawara of Japan (8-0, stealing three in end three and four in end five) and Ramsay (8-1, stealing four in end seven).

In the last eight Fleming defeated Team Kleibrink 6-4 thanks to three in end four and a steal of two in end six, and they booked their spot in the final with a fine 5-3 victory over Team Rocque, stealing two in end two and adding the decisive deuce in end seven.

But they fell short at the last against the in-form Team Chyz, giving up steals of one, three and one in the first three ends, meaning twos in ends four and six could not save them from an 8-4 defeat.

Still, though, it was an impressive run to the final in a strong field and a sign of the rink’s real progression this season.

Brewster and Muirhead to represent Scotland in Braehead

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Team Brewster, men’s winners in Perth (photo: twitter.com/Team_Brewster/status/787670325081305089)

Teams Brewster and Muirhead did it again – overcoming their compatriots to represent Scotland on the international stage.

Last season’s Scottish Championships winners (and subsequent World Championships participants) will be the home teams at next month’s European Championships in Braehead.

Speaking of Worlds, four Scots are taking part in the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia, and so far have won two from two.

***

Perth hosted the Playdowns to decide who would represent Scotland at the upcoming home European Championships – involving three men’s teams and two women’s.

Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) played a double round robin before a best-of-three final.

It was Murdoch who made the fast start, with two wins. First they overcame Brewster 7-5 (scoring twos in ends two, five and eight, and stealing one in end nine) and then they defeated Smith 8-5, with three in end two, two in end five and a steal of two in end 10.

 

However, Brewster got their first win on the board by edging Smith 6-5 (two in end two, steal of one in eight and using hammer for one in end 1o) and then drew level at the top of the standings on W2 L1 courtesy of a 6-3 victory over Murdoch, scoring two in end three and stealing three in end four.

Smith, who have had an impressive start to the season but found themselves W0 L2 here, had to beat Murdoch to keep their hopes of making the final alive. But again they suffered a 6-5 defeat, giving up a three in end six having been 4-1 up after five ends.

Already qualified Brewster then won 9-7 against Smith in the final round robin match, last season’s European qualifiers departing with no wins and four defeats.

The first of the final matches saw Brewster storm into a 4-0 lead through a steal of one in end two and two in end three, though Murdoch narrowed the gap to 4-2 at halfway.

Brewster, undeterred, scored two in end six and stole one in end seven to win the match 7-2.

Murdoch therefore had to win the next game, but were struck a heavy blow when Brewster scored three in end three, then stole one in end five, leading 5-1 at the halfway mark.

The rinks then exchanged twos up to end nine, where Brewster’s takeout for a deuce prompted handshakes at 9-5 – and European qualification for his team.

 

As for the women, Teams Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) went head-to-head in a best-of-five series.

Muirhead laid down an early statement of intent with a 9-3 win in the opener, scoring three in end five and twos in ends seven and nine.

The second match was tighter, Fleming scoring two in end four but Muirhead leading 3-2 at halfway… then taking a steal of three in end six. Two in end seven and a steal of one in end eight couldn’t pull it back for Fleming, Muirhead winning 7-5.

 

Fleming needed victory in the third match to stay in contention, and started it with a steal of two in end one. Muirhead, though, scored twos in ends two and four, the game level at 4-4 after five.

Muirhead took two in end six, but Fleming replied with two in end eight – the rinks then exchanging ones to set up an extra end at 7-7. Crucially for Muirhead, they held hammer in the extra, and scored two for a 9-7 victory – and qualification for Braehead.

***

Also this weekend, the World Mixed Curling Championships began in Kazan, Russia, with Scotland in Pool A alongside Belarus, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway (the defending champions) and Romania.

Scotland’s team is the same as in 2015 – Cameron Bryce, Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson – and they have made a positive start this year, with three wins.

Those have come against Italy (8-3), Norway (8-1) – albeit an entirely new Norwegian team to last year’s champions – and Japan (7-4).

Scotland’s next match is against Romania tomorrow, 2pm UK time.

Follow their progress in the remaining games here, or via the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages.

Teams Bryce and Muirhead conquer the continent

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Team Muirhead, Women’s Masters Basel winners (photo: facebook.com/wmbcurling)

Teams Bryce and Muirhead won titles on the European curling circuit, while Team Hardie continued their impressive start to the season at the Dumfries Open.

Muirhead came out on top at the Women’s Masters Basel, having knocked out Team Fleming in the semi-finals, while Bryce were dominant at the EJCT Livechannel Cup in Sweden.

Other results saw Team Wilson win the Scottish Senior Mixed Championship, and Team Gallacher claim the Forfar U14 Slam.

***

The candidates to represent Scotland on the women’s side of the European Championships in November were both involved at the Women’s Masters Basel.

After Team Fleming’s (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) superior performance at the Stockholm Ladies Cup, this time it was Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) who had the edge.

In the triple knockout format, Fleming lost their first match to Team Schöpp of Germany, 6-5 after an extra end, and looked like losing again when 6-2 down to Team Barbezat (Switzerland) after six ends, only to score three in end seven and steal singles in end eight and the extra to win it 7-6.

They then overcame two more Swiss rinks, Team Stern and Team Mani (both 6-4), and secured playoff qualification by beating Team Sigfridsson of Sweden 5-2, with twos in ends one and six.

As for Muirhead, they began with routine wins over Team Maillard (Switzerland), 4-1, and Team Matsumura of Japan, 6-2, to move one victory away from a playoff spot.

But against Team Kim of Korea they were 4-0 down after two ends and couldn’t bring that back, beaten 7-4 to drop to the B-Road – where they suffered a second successive loss, 5-2 against Team Sidorova of Russia.

Two wins required on the C-Road, then, and two wins secured. First they beat Matsumura again, 5-4 this time, and then Barbezat 6-5 with twos in the first and sixth ends.

So after a qualification stage full of shocks – Teams Kim, Kubeskova and Schöpp going through as the A-Road qualifiers, and Teams Feltscher, Hasselborg and Tirinzoni making early exits – it was time for the quarter-finals.

Fleming, facing Sidorova, got off to a dream start with a four in end one and steal of one in end two. The Russians fought back hard but Fleming held on to win 7-5.

Muirhead faced Kubeskova of the Czech Republic, and scored two in end four and four in end six to win 7-5, setting up an all-Scottish semi-final against Fleming.

The match started with Muirhead holding Fleming in a vice-like grip, stealing one in end one. In the second end, Hannah Fleming was forced to draw against four and came up short, meaning Muirhead led 5-0 after two.

The teams then exchanged singles, before another steal of two for Muirhead in end five. Fleming took two in end six, and shook hands to concede the game at 8-3.

In the final Muirhead faced Sigfridsson, who had also qualified via the C-Road and had beaten Schöpp 12-5 and Kim 6-0 to give themselves this shot at glory.

The Swedes began with two in end one, but Muirhead hit back with two in end three – at the halfway mark it was 3-2 to Sigfridsson.

End five was the decisive one, as Sigfridsson suffered a nightmare end, missing several takeouts, and Muirhead successfully drew to score five and lead 7-3.

The Swedes battled back, scoring two in end six and stealing one in end seven. And in the eighth end skip Muirhead was forced to make a clutch draw to win the match. She did – 8-6 the final score.

After two runner-up finishes in Canada, it was third time lucky for Muirhead in coming out on top in this final for their first title of the season.

Eve Muirhead said: “This weekend in Basel especially showed our grit and determination as a team to keep going and not give up.

“We battled through the C road with lots of games and really brought our A game to the playoffs, which is crucial.

“Delighted to win this event – first Scottish team to do so – and it brings us great confidence moving in to next weekend.”

***

team-bryce-kinross
Team Bryce, EJCT Livechannel Cup winners (photo: facebook.com/brydoneimages)

Team Bryce, who have had a superb start to the season especially given their line-up changes, were in Harnosand, Sweden, for the EJCT Livechannel Cup.

Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) won their opening group stage match 8-1 against Team Foss of Norway, scoring four in end three and stealing two in end six.

They followed that with two more wins, both against Swedish rinks – 12-1 over Team Kohn (four in end one, threes in ends three and six) and 9-1 against Team Engqvist (four in end four and two in end five).

That put them directly into the semi-finals, where they beat Team Nygren (Sweden) 6-1 with a steal of one in end two and twos in ends five and six.

Team Lottenbach of Switzerland were Bryce’s opponents in the final (video here), and they took one with hammer in the first end – only for the Scots to take two in end two, then steal two more in end three.

Another steal put Bryce 5-1 up, the match ending 6-2, which made Bryce the men’s champions, Team Sundberg of Sweden taking the women’s title.

***

In what was a very busy weekend for Scottish curling, we also had the Dumfries Open, the second event on the Scottish Curling Tour, with 18 teams split into three pools.

Section 1 was headed up by Teams Jamieson and Mouat, Section 2 by Teams Hardie, Aitken and Taylor, and Section 3 by Teams Whyte, Pougher and Ward.

In the quarter-finals, defending champions Hardie saw off Taylor 6-1, while Whyte overcame Pougher’s Welsh men 8-4.

The other quarter-finals were particularly close. Mixed doubles partners Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat went toe-to-toe before Mouat eventually prevailed 6-4, while senior rink Jamieson scored three in end eight to take victory against Ward’s English women after a see-saw affair.

In the last four, Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Duncan Menzies, David Reid) scored a narrow 4-3 victory over Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Alasdair Schreiber), courtesy of a two in end two and taking one with hammer in end eight.

In the other semi, Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) stole their way to a 2-0 lead after three versus Jamieson (Willie Jamieson, Tom Pendreigh, Gary McFarlane, Jean Lesperance) before taking two in end six en route to a 5-3 win.

Aitken and Ward, meanwhile, faced off in the women’s final, Aitken taking the victory against their English opponents 8-6.

And so the Dumfries Open title would go to Hardie or Whyte – and what a final it would be.

Hardie scored two in end one and three in end three to lead 5-1, but Whyte hit back with twos in ends four and six, before stealing two in end seven to lead 7-6 after a sensational comeback.

It was Hardie holding hammer in end eight, though, and skip Grant Hardie drew the four-foot to score two and win the game 8-7.

It’s a repeat performance by Hardie, claiming both the Braehead Open and Dumfries Open titles, just as they did last season!

For Whyte, it’s a fourth appearance in a final so far this season… and a fourth runner-up finish. Such consistency will find its reward sooner rather than later.

For more photos from the weekend, see the Facebook album here.

***

Finally, two Royal Caledonian Curling Club events took place at the weekend – the Scottish Senior Mixed Championship, and the Asham U14 Slam at Forfar.

Stranraer hosted the Senior Mixed, with 15 teams divided into three groups.

The qualifiers from Section A were Teams Horton and Hardie, Teams Wilson and Kenny progressed from Section B and Team Prentice made it out of Section C – all finishing their pool matches on six points.

In the semi-finals, Horton edged Prentice 7-6, while Wilson defeated Hardie 8-5.

Wilson (Philip Wilson, Kate Adams, William Johnston, Elspeth Johnston) came out on top in the final, scoring twos in ends one and three, then a four in end five, as they won out 8-3 – Horton finishing second just as they did last season.

In Forfar, there were 14 U14 teams placed in three sections, with qualifiers going onto the high or low road following best of four end matches.

In the high road semi-finals, Team Gallacher scored an impressive 10-2 win over Team Hill, while Team Ryder beat Team Carson 3-2.

Gallacher (Hamish Gallacher, Scott Hyslop, Jack Strawhorn, Jack Carrick) then scored four in end one, one in end two and two in end three to win the final 7-0 against Ryder and claim the title.

In the high road 3v4 match, Carson beat Hill 5-4, while Team Gow won the low road final with a 5-4 victory over Team Maguire.

October 2016 curling preview

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Team McEwen, last season’s GSOC Masters men’s winners (photo: Grand Slam of Curling/Anil Mungal (anilmungal.com))

The 2016-17 season has already seen success for the likes of Team Bryce, Team Hardie, Team Jackson and Team Smith in Scotland and overseas, while last weekend Teams Fleming and Murdoch reached the final of Curling Champions Tour events.

October sees plenty more events, including the first Grand Slam of the season and those all-important European Championship Playdowns…

***

Dumfries Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 18
Prize money: £2,050
Last year’s winners: Team Hardie (Scotland)
Website: http://scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk

Team Hardie look to defend their title, and indeed repeat last season’s exploits, where they won both the Braehead Open and Dumfries Open to kick off their curling year in style. Other Scottish teams vying for the title include Team Mouat and Team Taylor, while there is a strong women’s representation through Teams G Aitken and Smith, as well as mixed teams and challengers from England and Wales.

***

Livechannel Cup (European Junior Curling Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 19 (14 boys’; 5 girls’)
Scottish team: Team Bryce
Prize money: SEK 40,000
Last year’s winners: Team Eremin (Russia); Team Panthera (Sweden)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/EJCTLivechannelCup

Team Bryce fly the flag for Scotland at this European Junior Curling Tour event in Härnösand, Sweden. They’ve had an impressive start to their season, what with wins at the EJCT Braehead International and two Asham U21 Slams. Should Bryce emerge from their pool, the likes of Team Lottenbach (Switzerland) and Team Ramsfjell (Norway) pose threats.

***

Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 15
Last year’s winners: Team Dodds
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/scottish-curling-senior-mixed-championship-4

The first RCCC national competition of the season returns to Stranraer, as 15 teams over over-50s (two males and two females in alternate positions) challenge for the honours in a social atmosphere. Trevor Dodds’ rink return to defend their title, as do last season’s runners-up Team Horton, and Team Craig, the winners the year before that.

***

Women’s Masters Basel (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team Fleming, Team Muirhead
Prize money: CHF 32,000
Last year’s winners: Team Sidorova (Russia)
Website: http://www.womensmasters.ch/english/home

Last season Team Fleming made the quarter-finals at this event in Switzerland, Team Muirhead the semis. Fleming performed superbly last weekend in making the Stockholm Ladies Cup final, while Muirhead made two finals out in Canada in the weeks before that. In this triple knockout competition, Fleming start against Team Schöpp, Muirhead versus Team Maillard. Other rinks to watch out for include those of Silvana Tirinzoni and the on-song Anna Hasselborg. Selected games will be livestreamed here.

***

Forfar (U14 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Date: October 9
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Team Bryce
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-14-slam-fofar

Reigning champions Angus Bryce’s rink do not return, so there will be a new winner for the one-day U14 Slam. Teams, divided into four sections, will play four-end matches in their groups, before high and low road deciders.

***

European Playdowns (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 12-16
Number of teams: 5
Last year’s winners: Team Smith; Team Muirhead
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/european-playdowns-4

Who will represent Scotland as the nation hosts the European Curling Championships in Braehead in November? In Perth, Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith will challenge for the men’s spot, while Teams Fleming and Muirhead contest the women’s. Fleming will be looking to pull off an upset over their best-of-five-match series, while the men’s teams play each other twice before a best-of-three final – Smith have started the season very well, Murdoch reached the Swiss Cup Basel final last weekend, and Brewster have pedigree aplenty.

***

Service Experts Mixed Doubles Classic (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 14-16
Number of teams: 17
Prize money: $12,500
Last year’s winners: N/A
Website: http://sherwoodparkcurling.com/mixed-doubles-classic

Mixed doubles is catching on like wildfire and here we have another event, in Alberta, Canada. No Scottish teams are taking part in this one, but there are rinks representing China, Hungary, Russia and the USA, as well as 10 Canadian teams including Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant, 2016 Canadian Mixed Doubles champions.

***

World Mixed Curling Championship 2016 (World Curling Federation)
Dates: October 14-22
Number of teams: 37
Scottish team: Team Bryce
Last year’s winners: Team Walstad (Norway)
Website: http://www.worldcurling.org/wmxcc2016

Kazan, Russia, hosts the second installment of the World Mixed Curling Championship, the first won by Norway last season. Scotland is represented by Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray (a one-event detour back into the sport after stepping back this season), Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson. They face Belarus, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Romania in Group A. England, Wales and Ireland also have teams involved.

***

Austrian Mixed Doubles Cup (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 20-23
Number of teams: 12
Scottish team
: Team Aitken/Mouat
Prize money: €2,800
Last year’s winners: Team Toth/Wunderer (Austria)
Website: http://www.curling-austria.at/events.html

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat made the quarter-finals at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles last weekend, and they will be back in action in the new Olympic format in Kitzbühel, Austria. The likes of Oona Kauste/Tomi Rantamäki (Finland) and Ildikó Szekeres/György Nagy (Hungary) will provide stiff competition.

***

Curling Masters Champery (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 20-23
Number of teams: 24
Prize money: CHF 40,000
Last year’s winners: Team Grattan (Canada)
Website: http://www.curling-masters.ch

Teams Brewster and Smith participated in this event last season, but no Scots are taking part this time around (it is hot on the heels of the European Playdowns). There’s no lack of quality in the field in Switzerland though, with Teams De Cruz, Edin, Kauste and Ulsrud among the 24 involved.

***

Canad Inns Women’s Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: October 21-24
Number of teams: 32
Scottish team: Team Smith
Prize money: $60,000
Last year’s winners: Team Kim (Korea)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?task=Event&eventid=4239

Hazel Smith’s new rink (her team-mates being Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie and Claire Hamilton) face a quality field in this cashspiel in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Teams Einarson, Fleury, Homan, Jones and McCarville are some of the Canadian sides involved in the triple knockout competition, while Teams Hasselborg, Kim (reigning champions), Tirinzoni and Wang lead the international challenge.

***

Stranraer (U14 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Date: October 23
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Team Craik
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-14-slam-stranraer

The next stage of the one-day U14 Slam events, following the one in Forfar earlier in the month. Last season’s winners Team Craik have aged out, so once again the contest is well and truly up for grabs among Scotland’s very young curlers.

***

Masters (Grand Slam of Curling)
Dates: October 25-30
Number of teams: 30 (15 men’s; 15 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith; Team Muirhead
Prize money: $100,000; $100,000
Last year’s winners: Team McEwen (Canada); Team Homan (Canada)
Website: http://www.thegrandslamofcurling.com/curling/masters

The season’s opening Grand Slam takes place in Okotoks in Alberta, with three Scottish teams part of a world-class field based on the Order of Merit rankings up to 2016-17 week four. In the opening round-robin stage, Teams Murdoch and Smith (making their top Slam debut after competing in Tour Challenge tier 2 last season) face each other first up, before playing Teams Carruthers, McEwen and Morris. Team Muirhead are up against Teams Kim, Pätz, Rocque and – last but certainly not least! – Homan.

***

Riga International Curling Challenge (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 28-30
Number of teams: 12
Prize money: €3,000
Last year’s winners: Team Demkina (Russia)
Website: http://kerlingahalle.lv/ricc

This women’s competition held in Riga, Latvia, returns for a second year. No Scots on board, but Teams Barbezat (Switzerland), Driendl (Germany), Kauste (Finland), Lundman (Sweden) and Maillard (Switzerland) are Curling Champions Tour regulars.

***

Scottish Province Championship (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 28-30
Number of teams: 30
Last year’s winners: Loch Leven
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/scottish-province-championship-4

Thirty teams, covering provinces across Scotland, are divided into six groups for this competition at Greenacres. Those sections then lead to quarter-finals, high and low road semi-finals and high and low road finals. The club teams competing have all won their provincial qualifier to get here.

***

Lanarkshire (U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 29-30
Number of teams: 24
Last year’s winners: Team Kinnear
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-lanarkshire-3

As with the Province Championship, this competition features sections and knockouts heading towards high and low road finals – matches being up to six ends. Last year’s high road winners and runners-up, Teams Kinnear and Craik, are back – while Lisa Davie’s women’s rink, fourth at the Kinross Junior Classic U21 Slam last weekend, are also contenders.

Teams Fleming and Murdoch secure second spots

flem-stockh
Team Fleming, runners-up in Stockholm (photo: twitter.com/Team_Fleming1)

Teams Fleming and Murdoch both reached finals in Curling Champions Tour events this weekend, only to be pipped at the last by Swedish opposition.

Fleming went unbeaten in making the Stockholm Ladies Cup final, before losing to Team Hasselborg, while Murdoch did the same but were denied the Swiss Cup Basel title by Team Edin.

Elsewhere, Teams Aitken and Bryce were the winners at the Kinross Junior Classic – and the pairing of Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat have made the playoffs at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Championship.

***

Two Scottish rinks were involved in the Stockholm Ladies Cup – Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) and Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray).

Fleming had it tough in Pool B, but got off to the perfect start by defeating the reigning world champions Team Feltscher 6-4, and then the reigning European champions and world bronze medallists Team Sidorova 5-3.

Further wins against Teams Lundman (6-4) and Matsumura (9-4, with threes in ends two and seven) secured them a spot in the quarter-finals.

Muirhead began their Pool D challenge with a straightforward 6-3 victory against Team Hegner, but they came unstuck against Team Hasselborg, the Swedes taking three in end four and winning 7-5.

They then gave up a four in end five to lose 6-4 versus Team Kim, and so a 5-3 win over Team Mani was not enough to earn passage to the quarter-finals.

Disappointment, yes, but these are early days for Project Muirhead, what with the line-up and coaching changes, and new tactical guru Glenn Howard – present in Stockholm – will have seen plenty of ‘teachable moments’ (to borrow Ian Tetley’s phrase) to use for future competitions.

Fleming, though, were only getting started. They faced Team Ogasawara in the last eight, and scored twos in ends one, three and six – then took their one with hammer in end eight to beat the Japanese rink 7-6.

In the semi-finals they met Kim, and the Koreans led 3-1 after four ends. Fleming scored twos in ends five and seven though, and when the match went to an extra end they again took their one with hammer to win it, 6-5 this time.

That put them into the final against Hasselborg, who like Fleming had won six straight games to get there.

The match proved to be one too far for Fleming, conceding two in end one and steals in ends two and three, finding themselves 4-1 down after four ends after getting bunged up too often in the middle of the sheet.

Fleming stole one in end six, but a two for Hasselborg in end seven prompted handshakes at 6-2 – an impressive win for the in-form Swedes, who barely put a foot wrong in the final.

That shouldn’t take away from Fleming’s achievement though – they had a superb run, beating top teams along the way, and will benefit from ranking points aplenty. And if they can carry forward these performances… that would bode very well for the rest of the season.

Skip Hannah Fleming said: “We are very pleased with the result, we gained in confidence with every game we played and it showed to us that we can compete with the best teams.

“We worked really hard to get to the final and it was the first ladies final at a CCT event for all of us and it will hopefully be the first of many.

“We have the European Playdowns to look forward to against Team Muirhead – Eve is world class and in any event she is always going to be there or thereabouts, so we are not going to get ahead of ourselves, but this weekend has given us the reassurance of what we can achieve.”

***

There was also a Scottish finalist at the Swiss Cup Basel, with all four Scots rinks who made the trip performing strongly in the triple knockout format competition.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) have started the season pretty slowly, but they were in no mood to mess about here – qualifying for the playoffs directly via the A-Road.

Wins over Team Jan Hess (8-4, with a four in end four), Team Pfister (6-2) and Team Stjerne (7-6) set up an A-Road final against Team Ulsrud – and the Scots triumphed, scoring three in end six and taking one with hammer in the extra end to edge it 7-6.

Compatriots Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), meanwhile, kicked off with a 7-3 defeat of Team Bangerter and then saw off Team Wunderlin 6-3, only to then be pipped 4-3 by Ulsrud – and then drop to the C-Road after being beaten 8-7 by another Norwegian rink, Team Walstad.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) have been the outstanding Scottish rink so far this season, and they started with a 6-4 win over Team Jungen – but were knocked down to the B-Road after losing 7-5 to Team Gushue (skipped by Mark Nichols, with Pat Simmons at skip).

As for Team Mouat, they were without their skip and so they welcomed back their team-mate from last season Duncan Menzies to join Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon and Alasdair Schreiber.

They began with a 6-3 victory over Team Lottenbach, but lost 8-4 to Team Edin in their next match.

Wins for Mouat (6-5 versus Team Daniel, stealing four in end five) and Smith (8-2 against Team Kauste, scoring threes in ends one and two) set up a clash between the two – and it went to an extra end, where Mouat stole one to win 6-5.

But Mouat faced Edin again in their next B-Road match, and again the Swedes won – 6-2 – to send the Scots onto the C-Road, where Brewster had beaten Team Meister 4-3 and Smith overcame Jan Hess 6-2.

One defeat away from going home, all three Scottish rinks won their next matches – Brewster 9-3 against Team Attinger, Mouat 4-3 versus Team Van Dorp (after an extra end) and Smith 5-3 over Team Retornaz.

Mouat secured their quarter-final place by beating Team Sik 6-4, while Brewster and Smith met in a winner-takes-all match.

Brewster started well, with three in end three, but Smith scored two in end four and stole one in end five to tip the balance their way – then took one with hammer in end eight for a 5-4 victory.

Come the quarter-finals, Mouat and Murdoch met head-on. It was a tight affair initially, 2-2 after five ends, but Murdoch scored three in end six and Mouat couldn’t recover, going down 5-3.

Smith, meanwhile, faced Ulsrud and were in trouble when the Norwegians scored three in end four to lead 5-3. But Smith responded with three in end five, from where the teams exchanged ones into an extra end – Smith, holding hammer, scored one to win it 8-7.

Murdoch then sealed their spot in the final by scoring twos in ends four and six as they saw off Team De Cruz 5-3.

But Smith couldn’t join them, as they fell just short against Edin, who’d beaten Gushue in the quarters. A tight semi-final match turned on the Swedes’ steal of two in end six, the Scots being edged out 5-4.

Edin, who had battled into the playoffs via the C-Road, draw first blood in the final with three in end three, leading 3-2 at halfway. They went 5-2 up with two in end six, and although Murdoch claimed two of their own in end seven, it was Edin’s match, 5-4.

“We felt coming into Basel this weekend that we had all practised well and that showed in the confidence we had all weekend,” said skip David Murdoch.

“With the Euro Playdowns in just over a week it’s a good time to be hitting form. We had consistency and to be undefeated heading into the final in a strong field is the level we are looking to maintain. We can’t wait to get started in Perth.”

A strong competition from the Scottish rinks, then – especially for Murdoch in their best run of 2016-17 so far. To have three teams flying the Saltire in the last eight, against a quality field, is very encouraging with the season hotting up, and Europeans and Grand Slams fast approaching.

***

The latest leg of the Asham Under-21 Slam, the Kinross Junior Classic, involved 12 men’s teams and eight women’s.

Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) finished first in men’s section A, having beaten Drummond 16-4, Joiner 7-2 and Carson 6-5.

Section B was topped by Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) who defeated Cormack 10-6, Lockhart 8-3 and Barr 8-4; Team Barr (Grant Barr, Zack Stewart, Kerr Sands, Alistair Middleston) also made it into the semi-finals by overcoming Lockhart 10-3 and Cormack 10-7.

And it was Team McNay (Cameron McNay, Fin Campbell, James Baird, Angus Bryce) who qualified from section C, winning against Baird (5-3), Moodie (9-5) and Craik (6-3).

On the women’s side, Team Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Annabel Skuse, Emma Barr) were first in section A after defeating Keen 11-3, Jackson 9-4 and Dakers 13-3; Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) also got into the last four with wins against Dakers (16-3) and Keen (8-4).

In women’s section B, Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) came out on top, beating Farmer 7-5, MacDonald 6-3 and Hunter 12-3; they were joined in making it through by Team MacDonald (Amy MacDonald, Ellie Hamilton, Amy Bryce, Layla Al-Saffar), victors against Hunter (16-4) and Farmer (7-5).

Come the semi-finals, Bryce scored three in end one and beat McNay 6-3, while Whyte notched twos in ends one, three and seven in defeating Barr 7-4.

As for the women, Aitken gained revenge over Jackson (having lost to them at Greenacres), stealing two in end eight to win 5-2, and in the other semi MacDonald stole six points in the first three ends in seeing off Davie 8-2.

Whyte were looking to turn the tables on Bryce in the men’s final, being beaten by them in finals in Braehead and Greenacres, but again Bryce triumphed – a steal of one in end three and two in end eight underpinning their 4-1 victory.

Aitken took the spoils in the women’s final, scoring three in end six to lead 5-3 but being taken to an extra end by MacDonald – Aitken taking one with hammer for a 6-5 win.

In the 3v4 matches, Barr beat McNay 11-6 and Jackson had a 7-3 win over Davie.

***

Finally, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat have battled their way into the playoffs at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Championship in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba – hence why Mouat wasn’t with his team in Basel!

From 9-5 down in their opener, they scored three in end seven and stole three in end eight to beat Kimberly Tuck/Wayne Tuck Jr 11-9, but were knocked onto the B-Road by a 5-4 loss against Julia Portunova/Sergei Glukhov of Russia.

There they scored four in end eight in beating Katie Cottrill/Shawn Cottrill 9-5, before seeing off Julia Hunter/Alex Robichaud 7-2 and then Rui Wang/De Xin Ba of China 7-5.

That set up a B-Road final with Donda-Lee Deis/Ryan Deis, the Scots scoring four in end three on their way to a 9-6 victory.

Follow Aitken/Mouat’s playoffs progress today from 3pm UK time here.