‘Another week, another final’: Team Muirhead runners-up in Saskatoon

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Team Muirhead: Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray (photo: British Curling/Tom J Brydone)

Team Muirhead reached their second consecutive final in Canada, battling their way along the C-Road at the Colonial Square Ladies Classic, before falling at the last to Bingyu Wang’s Chinese rink.

Also in Canada, Team Brewster were the top performing Scottish rink at the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic, going out in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Team Koe.

And in Scotland, the first leg of the Asham U21 Slam took place – the Greenacres Junior Masters titles being won by Team Bryce and Team Jackson.

***

Team G Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) and Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) were the two Scottish rinks competing at the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In what was a triple knockout event, with A, B and C-Roads, Team Aitken won their first match by defeating Team Englot 5-4 after an extra end, having picked up twos in ends two and six.

They lost their next match, 6-4 against Team Fujisawa of Japan, and then dropped to the C-Road after being beaten 9-2 by Team Eberle.

There they routed Team Rocque, who are seventh on the World Curling Tour Order of Merit, by a 10-0 scoreline (steal of five in end two, three in end three), before being eliminated by Team Silvernagle, 6-5 after an extra end – but this was a positive experience for the young Scots rink.

As for Team Muirhead, they opened with a 5-4 victory over Team Lawton (scoring two in end seven and stealing two in end eight) and then overcame Team Pätz of Switzerland 5-3, again with a steal of two in the eighth.

However, they lost 8-4 to Team Hasselborg of Sweden in the A-Road final (giving up a four in end one), and then suffered a second successive defeat to Swedish opposition, Team Sigfridsson winning 6-4 to knock the Scots onto the C-Road.

Two wins needed to make the quarter-finals: two wins achieved. First they beat Team Martin 6-5, and then defeated Team Campbell 8-4, and that set up a quarter-final rematch with Sigfridsson.

This time the Scottish-Swedish clash had a different outcome, as Muirhead scored two in end three, one in end five and stole two in end six to win 5-3.

In the semi-finals they faced Team Jones (with Cheryl Bernard skipping in place of Jennifer Jones, who’s on maternity leave) and began well, with threes in ends two and four, before scoring two in end six and stealing one in end seven to win 9-5.

So that meant a second successive final for the new-look Muirhead foursome, this time facing Team Wang of China, the 2009 world champions having lost their first match in Saskatoon but reeling off six subsequent wins to make the title decider.

Wang scored two in end four to lead 3-1 at halfway; Muirhead replied with a two of their own, but three for Wang in end six proved decisive – the Chinese rink winning 7-4.

No dwelling on defeat for Muirhead and their new tactical coach Glenn Howard, though – two second places from two season-opening events with two new players is not to be sniffed at.

And skip Eve Muirhead told British Curling: “Another week, another final… from last week in Edmonton we continued to build on our performance, having some great games but also lots of learning curves.

“There of course is still room for improvement but this early in the season we as a team feel we are in a great place, and are aiming to continue to show the benefit of the work we have done on ice and off during the summer months.”

***

Meanwhile, there were three Scottish teams competing in the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic in Cornwall, Ontario.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Alice Spence) were one of 15 rinks in the women’s section, with the top six qualifying for the playoffs.

Fleming opened with a 6-5 extra end win over Team Morrissey, but then lost 8-3 to Team Homan.

A 6-4 defeat to Team MacPhee followed, which meant that a 5-4 victory over Team Inglis (thanks to a decisive two in end six) was not quite enough to make the knockout stages.

The competition was won by powerhouse Homan, who topped Team Flaxey 7-1 in the final.

In the men’s event, Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) also fell narrowly short of the playoffs on a W3 L2 record.

After a 7-6 loss to Team Bailey, they achieved three successive wins – 6-5 against Team Shuster, 11-1 over Team McCrady (including a steal of six in end four!) and 5-4 versus Team Brown after an extra end.

But with four wins required to make the last eight, an 8-2 defeat to Team Koe proved to be the killer blow for Murdoch.

That left Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) as the sole Scottish representation in the quarter-finals, having posted a W4 L1 record in the round robin.

They overcame Team De Cruz of Switzerland 6-3, Team Kean 8-5, Team Carruthers 7-4 (scoring three in end one and four in end three) and Team Hemmings 7-6 (after a steal in the extra end), with their only loss coming against Team Epping (7-6 after an extra).

In the quarter-finals they faced Team Koe, the reigning world champions, and exchanged twos in the first couple of ends.

Koe, though, scored two in end four and three in end six, and two for Brewster in end seven was not enough to avert an 8-5 defeat.

No shame in that, of course, especially as Koe went on to win the competition, bashing Team Gushue (with Charley Thomas filling in for Brad Gushue and Mark Nichols playing skip) 9-3 in the final.

Skip Tom Brewster reflected: “It’s been a good two weeks for us. We feel like we’ve improved over the two spiels we’ve played in.

“Shorty has been excellent, a really well organised event with a very strong field. We’re happy with how we’ve performed over the weekend and we had a good performance against the world champions in the quarter-final.”

***

The Greenacres Junior Masters kicked off the Asham U21 Slam for the 2016-17 season, with 12 men’s and nine women’s teams taking part at Howwood.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) topped men’s section A, courtesy of wins over Teams Hair (18-0), Craik (5-3), Carson (12-3), Baird (5-2) and Joiner (9-3).

Men’s section B was headed up by Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean), who defeated Teams McNay (8-3), Moodie (14-2), Lockhart (8-1), Cormack (10-3) and McLean (5-1).

As for the women, it was Team K Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) who were first in section A, having beaten Teams Blair (17-0), Dakers (5-3) and Dandie (8-4).

And Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) qualified first from section B, victors over Teams Hunter (11-0), Davie (10-4) and Keen (13-0), and drawing 4-4 with Team MacDonald.

In the men’s semi-finals, Bryce took a 5-0 lead after two ends and ultimately defeated Cormack 7-1, while Whyte beat Carson by the same scoreline, having taken threes in ends one and two.

In the last four on the women’s side, Aitken scored twos in ends six and seven to overcome MacDonald 7-5, while Jackson edged out Dakers 4-3, having been 3-0 up after three.

Bryce claimed the men’s title courtesy of a 7-2 win over Whyte in the final, with little to separate the teams until a four for Bryce in end six blew it open.

In the women’s final, Jackson scored two in end one, stole one in end two and added another two in end six to overcome Aitken 6-3.

That meant two titles in three weeks for Bryce and Jackson, who had also triumphed at the EJCT Braehead Junior International at the start of the month.

Carson beat Cormack 10-3 to take third on the men’s side, while MacDonald won 8-6 versus Dakers for women’s third spot.

Scots fall just short in Oakville and Edmonton

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Viking conquest – Team Edin in Oakville (photo: facebook.com/CurlingChampionsTour)

Scottish rinks Team Smith and Team Muirhead had great runs at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard and HDF Insurance Shoot-Out respectively, only to be denied glory at the last.

Smith had their magnificent winning run in Canada ended at 12 games by Team Edin at the semi-final stage in Oakville, the Swedes going on to win the competition.

The new-look Muirhead rink, meanwhile, were beaten in the Shoot-Out final in Edmonton by Team Scheidegger, who pulled off a remarkable comeback win.

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) had won the Oakville OCT Fall Classic last weekend, so had form going into the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, one of 20 teams in the men’s tier 1 event (triple knockout format).

Smith began with a 7-0 win over Team Kean, scoring three in end one and stealing their way to victory in just four ends, before beating Team Epping 5-2, with two in end six and a pair of steals in ends seven and eight.

That set up an all-Scottish clash with Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), who’d scored threes in ends two and four to beat Team Shuster of the USA 7-1 – but here it was Smith who triumphed, a two in end four crucial in their 4-2 win.

So now Smith faced Team Edin of Sweden for a place in the quarter-finals – and they got off to a brilliant start, scoring four in end one, winning the game 5-2 in five ends.

As for Brewster, they were beaten 5-4 by Team Carruthers to drop to the C-Road, where they defeated Epping 5-2 but then lost 8-3 to recent Baden Masters winners Team De Cruz, the damage done in the first end as the Swiss scored five.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) were undone 6-1 by De Cruz in their first match, but won on the B-Road against Team Retchless 6-3, with a three in end one.

But further defeats to Team Balsdon (6-5, having given up four in end two) and Team Dunstone (7-3, after going 5-1 down after three ends) saw them exit the competition.

As for the women’s competition, Team Fleming’s (Hannah Fleming, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Alice Spence) first competition of the season saw them start against Team Sinclair of the USA – who won 5-2.

On the B-Road, a four in end three (after having given up a four in end two!) helped them on their way to a 7-6 victory over Team Perron, following that with a 5-3 win over Team Auld.

But a four in end two propelled Team Tirinzoni to an 8-5 victory over the Scots, who were then knocked out by Team Harrison 7-6, Fleming hauling themselves from 6-2 down to level but being denied another steal in end eight thanks to Jacqueline Harrison’s superbly-judged tap.

And in men’s tier 2 of the Tankard, Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon) went out in the pool stage on a W1 L3 record.

They lost 7-2 to Team Brunner of Switzerland and 6-5 to Team Maus, before overcoming Team Duhaime 6-3, only to be beaten 8-2 by Team Sakrete to have their fate sealed.

That left Smith as the last Scottish team standing in Oakville. They faced De Cruz in the quarter-finals, the Swiss looking for a hat-trick of wins against Scottish teams in Oakville.

It wasn’t to be this time, though – Smith scored two in end two and stole ones in ends five and six to triumph 5-1 and move into the last four.

There they had a rematch with Edin, but this time there was a different outcome. Smith started with two, and after the Swedes replied with three, they notched another two to lead 4-3.

But Edin posted two in end four (video above), Smith was forced to one in five, and Edin blanked the next two ends to take their one in end eight and win the match 6-5 and end Smith’s brilliant run.

The Swedes went on to win the Tankard title, defeating Team Morris 6-3 in the final.

Team Tirinzoni won the women’s title (defeating Team Flaxey 8-5 in the final), while Team Van Dorp of the Netherlands beat Team Horgan 4-2 to triumph in men’s tier 2.

***

Teams Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) were placed in the same pool at the HDF Insurance Classic in Edmonton, Alberta.

Aitken – in their first competition since their new line-up came together – struggled, losing to Team Schmiemann 5-4 after an extra end, Team Fujisawa of Japan 8-1, Team Eberle 11-2 (7-0 down after just three ends) and Team Driendl of Germany 6-3.

But Muirhead, with Gray in at lead and Schafer covering for Anna Sloan, rolled off the wins – 5-4 against Fujisawa, 8-3 against Eberle (a textbook game – two with hammer, force to one without), 7-3 over Driendl (threes in ends six and seven) and 7-1 against Schmiemann.

Their final pool match pitted them against each other, with Aitken stealing their way to a 5-2 lead after six ends. Muirhead, though, scored two in end seven and stole singles in end eight and the extra to snatch it 6-5.

Muirhead’s quarter-final match against last season’s Scotties winners Team Carey was more routine, as they stole two in end two on their way to a 4-1 lead at halfway, before a two in end seven finished the Canadians off at 7-2.

Team Rocque were their opponents in the last four – twos in ends two, six and seven ensured Muirhead’s progress against the hometown rink by a score of 6-3.

The final saw Muirhead face Team Scheidegger – who had surprisingly knocked out Team Sweeting in the quarter-finals – and things started well for the Scots as they scored two in end one and three in end three, leading 5-2 after four ends.

But from there the Canadians reeled off four successive steals of one to win the match 6-5 – an opportunity missed for Muirhead, as the plucky Scheidegger rink won the day, but a fine run in their first competition of the season with two new players.

***

Elsewhere in the curling world this weekend, the World Curling Federation’s Annual General Assembly took place in Stockholm, Sweden.

The 54 member associations approved the WCF’s proposed resolutions for sweeping and brushes in elite level curling, allowing the world governing body to “set rules, specifications and policies for sweeping techniques and brush technology” for the first time – see the full news story here.

In short, these rules define the accepted sweeping motion (can be in any direction), approved sweeping devices for each player (no brush/brush head changes), and the penalties for breaching the standards (player/team disqualification).

Brushes will be made from a single fabric, from a single source, made widely available for purchase – and to be used from next month’s World Mixed Curling Championships.

And it seems the new rules in response to #broomgate have gone down well with the elite curlers they have been designed for – Niklas Edin and Glenn Howard for sure.

In addition to the sweeping rulings, other announcements were made, including that the Andorra Curling Association will host its first championship (the European Curling Championships C-Division 2017) and Champery in Switzerland will be the setting for the World Mixed Curling Championship 2017.

September 2016 curling preview

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Oakville Curling Club (photo: facebook.com/teammouat)

The Baden Masters kicked 2016-17 off as far as Scottish curling is concerned; September sees things go up a notch with a dozen competitions during the month.

Here’s a quick rundown of what the next four weeks have in store.

***

Braehead Junior International (European Junior Curling Tour)
Dates: September 2-4
Number of teams: 20 (12 boys’; 8 girls’)
Scottish teams: Team Bryce, Team Carson, Team Haswell, Team Whyte; Team K Aitken, Team Davie, Team Jackson, Team MacDonald
Prize money: £2,000
Last year’s winners: Team Hess (Switzerland); Team Jackson (Scotland)
Website: http://www.curlbraehead.co.uk/ejct-2016.html

It’s a big season for Braehead, with the European Championships coming to town, and it kicks off with this international juniors competition. Teams play round robin games on Friday and Saturday, followed by semi-finals and finals on Sunday. The new-look Scottish rinks of Cameron Bryce and Ross Whyte will certainly look to challenge on the boys’ side, while Teams K Aitken and Jackson lead the Scottish girls’ title tilt.

***

Oakville OCT Fall Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 2-4
Number of teams: 43 (25 men’s; 18 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Mouat, Team Smith
Prize money: $13,000 men’s; $10,000 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Maus (Canada); Team Harrison (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4300

Scottish men’s teams Mouat and Smith have travelled across to Canada to take on a strong field in a competition comprising of pools then knockouts. Mouat face Teams Brown, Stewart, Krell and McCormick; Smith, meanwhile, are up against Teams Birr, Ferris, Balsdon and Murphy. Other teams to look out for include Brady Clark and John Epping’s rinks. There are no Scottish teams in the women’s competition, but Fleury, Hasselborg and Roth are among those that are.

***

HDF Insurance Shoot-Out (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 8-11
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team G Aitken, Team Muirhead
Prize money: $32,000
Last year’s winners: Team Sweeting (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4304

Gina Aitken and Eve Muirhead’s rinks kick off their season in Edmonton, Alberta. This competition is made up of a round robin pool stage then knockouts. Reigning champions Team Sweeting return, as do previous winners Team Carey and Team Lawton, alongside other dangerous opponents in Teams Driendl, Fujisawa, Rocque and more.

***

Stu Sells Oakville Tankard (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 8-11
Number of teams: 64 (20 men’s tier 1, 20 men’s tier 2; 24 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Murdoch, Team Mouat, Team Smith; Team Fleming
Prize money: $27,000 men’s tier 1, $16,000 men’s tier 2; $24,000 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada) tier 1, N/A tier 2; Team Homan (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4364

Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith are in tier 1 of the men’s competition in Ontario, which has a triple knockout format and also contains Teams Bottcher, Edin, Gushue, Laycock and Morris. In men’s tier 2, Team Mouat are contention alongside the likes of Team Clark and Team Van Dorp. As for the women’s competition, it’s here where Team Fleming kick off their season, potentially facing big names such as Sherry Middaugh, Margaretha Sigfridsson and the Swiss trio of Feltscher, Pätz and Tirinzoni across a triple knockout format.

***

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Team Gushue won last season’s Shorty Jenkins Classic (photo: facebook.com/TeamGushue)

AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 15-18
Number of teams: 39 (24 men’s; 15 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Murdoch; Team Fleming
Prize money: $59,000 men’s; $29,500 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada); Team EunJung Kim (Korea)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4313

Cornwall in Ontario hosts some of the sport’s greatest rinks for a round robin pool stage then knockouts. Teams Brewster and Murdoch are pitted against the likes of Carruthers, De Cruz (Baden Masters winners last weekend), Edin, Gushue (defending champions), Jacobs, Koe and McEwen. In other words, the very best of Canadian men’s curling. The potential games facing Team Fleming on the women’s side are just as challenging – Homan, Middaugh and Tirinzoni to name but three.

***

Greenacres Junior Masters (U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 16-18
Last year’s winners: Team Whyte (Scotland); Team K Aitken (Scotland)
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-greenacres-junior-masters-3/

The opening leg in the four-part U21 Slam series sees teams compete to win this competition, and to gain points which go towards the overall Asham U21 Slam male and female titles. Last year’s overall winners were Teams Whyte and Murray.

***

Colonial Square Ladies Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 16-19
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Team Muirhead
Prize money: $50,000
Last year’s winners: Team McCarville
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4305

Saskatoon hosts this long-running major women’s event. With Stefanie Lawton, Jennifer Jones, Sherry Middaugh and Eve Muirhead among the previous skips to have won the title, and generous prize money on offer, you can expect a quality field.

***

Tallinn Mixed Doubles International (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 22-25
Number of teams: 18
Prize money: €400
Last year’s winners: N/A
Website: http://softpeelr.com/en/tournaments/348

We’re all very excited about mixed doubles making its Olympic bow in 2018. The opening competition in the discipline takes place in Estonia, with group matches, quarter-finals, semis then final. No Scots have entered this event, but organisers Harri Lill and Marie Turmann (who are themselves competing) have still attracted a fine field for this inaugural event. Names to look out for include Oona Kauste/Tomi Rantamäki (Finland), Ildiko Szekeres/Gyorgy Nagy (Hungary) and Jenny Perret/Martin Rios (Switzerland).

***

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Team Hardie, 2015 Braehead Open winners (photo:facebook.com/TeamHardie)

Braehead Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: September 23-25
Number of teams: 24 (space for 32)
Scottish teams (so far): Team Adam, Team Barr, Team Bryce, Team Hardie, Team Horton, Team Jamieson, Team McCall, Team Mouat, Team Taylor, Team Telfer; Team G Aitken, Team Jackson, Team McDougall, Team H Smith, Team Wilson
Prize money: £2,000
Last year’s winner: Team Hardie (Scotland)
Website: http://scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk/

Reigning champions Team Hardie headline the opening Scottish Curling Tour event of the season, alongside other strong Scottish contenders including Teams Bryce, Mouat, G Aitken and Jackson. Team Hazel Smith (including ex-Team Muirhead leads Claire Hamilton and Sarah Reid) will also compete, in addition to rinks from England, Ireland, Wales and the Czech Republic.

***

Stevenson Trophy (U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 24-25
Last year’s winner: Team Kinnear (Scotland)
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-the-stevenson-trophy-2/

There are five U17 Slam events (each lasting two days), with each team’s best three results accumulated to determine the overall winners. Teams can be male, female or mixed for these events, which are made up of games of six ends. Prizes include guaranteed selection for the WCF Junior Curling Camp in Fussen, Germany, in 2017.

***

Swiss Cup Basel (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 29-October 2
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Mouat, Team Murdoch, Team Smith
Prize money: CHF 40,500
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada)
Website: http://swisscupbasel.ch/index.php?lang=en

There’s strong Scottish representation at the Swiss Cup Basel, with Teams Brewster, Murdoch, Mouat and Smith all involved in this triple knockout competition. Brewster won this event in 2014, and Smith came joint third last year as Team Gushue of Canada picked up the title. Gushue returns to Switzerland again this time around, part of a strong field that also includes Teams De Cruz, Edin, Stjerne and Ulsrud.

***

Kinross Junior Classic (U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 30-October 2
Last year’s winners: Team Bryce; Team Murray
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-kinross-junior-classic-4/

The second leg of the Asham U21 Slam brings the competition to Kinross. Team Bryce could be in the running to retain their title, but there’ll certainly be a new champion on the women’s side, with Team Murray having broken up over the summer.

***

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Stockholm Ladies champions 2015, Team Homan (photo: facebook.com/stockholmladies)

Stockholm Ladies Cup (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 30-October 2
Number of teams: 20
Scottish teams: Team Fleming, Team Muirhead
Prize money: SEK270,000
Last year’s winner: Team Homan
Website: http://slcc.se/

Teams Fleming and Muirhead carry the flag for Scotland in this pool stage then knockout competition. Last year’s winners Team Homan are not returning to defend their title, but it’s still a top field. Fleming are in a pool with Teams Feltscher, Lundman, Matsamura and Sidorova, while Muirhead face Teams Hasselborg, Kim, Mani and Nielsen.

***

Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Classic (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 30-October 3
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat
Prize money: $25,000
Last year’s winners: Rachel Homan/John Morris
Website: https://www.canadinns.com/about-us/in-the-community/canad-inns-in-classic/canad-inns-mixed-doubles-classic/

More mixed doubles, this time in Canada – Portage, in Manitoba, to be exact. World Mixed Doubles Championship semi-finalists Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat are one of 32 teams to compete, along with star names Rachel Homan/John Morris, Jennifer Jones/Brent Laing and Kalynn Park/Charley Thomas.

***

As well as following linescores and, occasionally, YouTube coverage from these events, you can keep up to date with Scottish teams’ progress throughout September via the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages.

#scc2016 day six: Final reckoning

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Anna Sloan of Team Muirhead, the defending champions reaching another women’s final (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

Teams Brewster and Muirhead kept up their impressive form by storming into tomorrow’s men’s and women’s finals at the Scottish Curling Championships, later joined by Teams Murdoch and Gray.

Brewster defeated Team Bryce in the men’s 1v2 game, while Muirhead eased past Team Fleming in the 1v2 on the women’s side.

Then, in the evening’s semi-finals, Murdoch outplayed Bryce to set up a big match-up with Brewster, while Gray defeated Fleming after an extra end to make the women’s final.

***

There were no great shocks in the lunchtime page playoffs, as Teams Muirhead, Brewster and Murdoch came out winners.

Muirhead played Team Fleming in the women’s 1v2 game – they had beaten Fleming 8-2 in the round robin stage, and won this game just as convincingly.

The defending champions got off to the best possible start with a three in end one, before stealing two in end four.

Fleming scored two in end five to give themselves hope, but Muirhead stole two in end seven and one in end eight for a 9-2 final score.

Afterwards, Eve Muirhead said: “We came out the blocks sharp and the three [in end one] gave us a bit of a jump.

“It was a long time to defend a lead but we had composure and good shot-making, making our peels when we had to.

“We’ll maybe watch some of the semi-finals tonight, but for us now it’s about keeping our composure, chilling out and getting ready for our next game.”

Team Brewster had won their last six games in the men’s round robin, and kept their run going by beating Team Bryce 7-3 in the men’s 1v2 to make it into the final.

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Glen Muirhead throws for Team Brewster (photo: Tom Brydone)

Brewster scored two in end one, and although Bryce hit back with two in end three, the response was immediate: another two in end four, and a 4-2 lead.

The teams exchanged ones in ends five and six, before a steal of two in end nine finished the job for Brewster, 7-3 winners.

Skip Tom Brewster said: “We’re quite confident, technically we’re throwing really well and drawing well.

“Bryce are a good team but we have a lot more experience and that maybe showed in the game – we felt in control from the two in the first end, and were never overly troubled.”

In the men’s 3v4 game, Team Murdoch overcame Team Mouat 8-3, setting up a semi-final with Bryce and knocking Mouat out of the competition.

The first five ends were very tight, Murdoch leading 2-1, but a steal of two in end six made that 4-1.

Mouat struck back with two in end seven, but Murdoch scored three in end eight and stole one in end nine to bring matters to a close.

***

Teams Bryce and Fleming, beaten in the 1v2 games, had second chances to make the men’s and women’s finals respectively – playing semi-finals in the evening.

But neither could take those chances, with Bryce getting off to the worst possible start against a team of Murdoch’s experience, giving up a steal of three in end one.

From there Murdoch remained in charge, exchanging ones and stealing two in end five on their way to a 7-2 win – since their loss in the last game of the round robin, they have really had the bit between their teeth, and it should be a cracking final against Brewster.

In the women’s semi, a tight opening half of the game was broken by a two for Fleming in end six that saw them go 4-2 up.

Team Gray, however, fought back with a two in end eight and a steal of two in end nine – and it took a superb hit for two from Hannah Fleming in end 10 to take the game to an extra end.

There, Gray’s rink kept it clean and, after Fleming’s last stone picked, Gray made an open draw to win 7-6.

Afterwards, Lauren Gray said: “We’ve got a record between us [Teams Fleming and Gray] – we beat them, they beat us. So we knew we had a chance; in practice we just focused on playing good shots.

“Eve’s rink has so much experience; this is our second year together. We can take confidence from our semi-tight game in the round robin.

“If we can keep it close down ends eight, nine, 10… curling’s curling and anything can happen.”

***

Tomorrow is finals day. Muirhead play Gray in the women’s final from 11am.

Then, from 4pm, Brewster play Murdoch in the men’s final.

Both finals have sold out (information for ticket holders here), and there will not be live streaming, so if you’re not going to be in Perth, you can follow both finals live, shot-by-shot on CurlingGeek.

And once again there will be updates throughout the day on the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter.

#scc2016 day two: Muirhead and Murdoch lead the way

Team Brewster
Team Brewster take a time out; coach Mike Harris advises (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

The first women’s games at the Scottish Curling Championships took place, with Team Muirhead winning twice.

Teams Gray and Jackson also won both of their matches, but the biggest test of their credentials comes tomorrow – both play Muirhead.

In the men’s competition, Team Murdoch continue to lead the way on four wins, but there are four teams – Brewster, Bryce, Hardie and Mouat – sitting on W3 L1.

***

The first women’s draw saw a few nervous moments for Team Muirhead as they let a 3-0 lead slip, Team Young stealing in ends four and five to lead 4-3.

But a steal for Muirhead in end seven tied it up at 5-5 and they scored three in end nine, before running Young out of stones to win 8-5.

Last year’s runners-up Team Fleming scored three in end one and four in end four to race into a 7-1 lead against Team K Aitken.

A steal of two in end seven effectively killed the game off, Aitken shaking hands after eight ends at 10-5.

Scottish Junior champions Team Jackson also scored 10, scoring three in end two then reeling off the steals – one in end three, four in end four, one in end five and one in end six as they beat Team G Aitken 10-2 in seven.

Team Gray, meanwhile, faced Team Murray, this season’s Asham U21 Slam winners. Gray scored three in end one but found themselves dragged back to 4-4 after five.

But from there it was Gray who kicked on, stealing two in end seven and one in end eight on their way to winning 8-5.

Skip Lauren Gray said: “The main thing is getting to grips with the ice and getting wins on the board.

“It’s great to have more teams this year, and those that have come up are very good junior teams.”

***

The third men’s draw saw both Team Bryce and Team Murdoch keep up their winning starts.

Bryce stole ones in ends four and seven in a game against Team Macleod that saw no more than one scored in any end, running out victors 5-2.

Murdoch, meanwhile, won the rematch of the 2015 championships final, beating Team MacDonald 7-3 courtesy of threes in ends one and eight – and handed MacDonald their third consecutive defeat.

Brewster & Smith
Brewster v Smith (photo: Tom Brydone)

Team Smith, however, couldn’t take their third win – beaten 6-3 by Team Brewster in a tight game that was blown open by a four for Brewster in end eight.

Tom Brewster said afterwards: “We just have to make sure we’re in the playoffs at the end of the week – that’s what it’s all about.

“We’ll probably lose some more, and win some more, so we just need to win more than we lose.”

In the other games, Team Mouat gained their second win by beating Team Brydone 7-2 courtesy of twos in ends three, four and six, while Team Hardie also picked up win number two after defeating Combe 10-4 with threes in ends one and two and two in end five.

***

In the second women’s draw, Muirhead were on fire against Fleming, the two teams who contested last year’s final.

They scored two in end two, stole one in end three, scored a huge four in end five and stole another one in end six to win 8-2.

Afterwards Eve Muirhead said: “We played OK today – in the second game we were right on with our line and weight.

“The ice is great – we just need to adapt to the speed, curl and temperature faster than our opponents this week.”

Joining Muirhead on two wins were Gray – who finished strongly with a five in end eight and steal of two in nine to beat G Aitken 8-4 – and Jackson.

Jackson roared into an 8-2 lead in end four only to see it cut to 8-7 by end seven… then scoring four in end eight to kill off a topsy-turvy encounter.

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “We had to pick it up after a couple of slack ends and come back. We used our coping strategies and stuck together.

“I’m pleased with the team performances, building on our success from Juniors.”

In the fourth match, K Aitken and Young went to an extra end tied at 7-7 – Young used hammer to win the game, hitting and sticking to take the game 8-7.

***

The fourth men’s draw saw Murdoch continue their relentless start to the competition, their steal of two in end seven proving the difference in an otherwise tight match with Smith – won 6-4.

But there are now four teams on W3 L1 records – Brewster took their third win and handed Bryce their first loss with a four in end three and three in end six as they took it 8-3.

Also on three wins are Mouat, who meted out another defeat to MacDonald, 10-6, courtesy of twos in ends two, four and five and three in end eight.

And Hardie are quietly going about their business, notching a third victory with three in end three and two in eight en route to beating Macleod 7-3.

In the fifth match of the night, Brydone picked up their first win of the competition, letting slip a 5-2 lead but scoring one in end 10 to see off Combe 6-5.

***

Tomorrow sees four more draws – the women at 8am (inc. Jackson v Muirhead), men at noon (inc. Brewster v Mouat), women at 4pm (inc. Gray v Muirhead) and men at 8pm (inc. Bryce v Mouat).

If you’re not in Perth, you can follow the action via the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages, and there will be another liveblog like this one.

There will be more games covered shot-by-shot on CurlingGeek, and you can find linescores and other competition information on the RCCC page here.

 

Weekend round-up: Perth Masters and Bernese Ladies Cup

Curling was back with a vengeance after the festive break, with Scotland hosting a top class line-up of men’s teams at the Perth Masters, while the International Bernese Ladies Cup took place in Switzerland.

The 40th edition of the Perth Masters attracted rinks from across the world (Canada, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and the USA among the countries represented), and there was live coverage on BBC Alba as well as the Curling Champions Tour YouTube channel.

There were also eight Scottish teams involved – Teams Brewster, Brydone, MacDonald, Mouat, Murdoch, Shaw, Smith and Taylor.

In a triple knock-out format (A, B and C-Roads, with teams needing to win enough matches to make the playoffs before they’d lost three), it was the high class duo of Team Koe (Canada) and Team Ulsrud (Norway) who qualified directly via the A-Road.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) carried on their good form from the end of 2015 to qualify via the B-Road, beating Teams Ramsfjell 5-3, Brown 5-4 and Schwaller 6-5, losing 6-1 to Koe, then defeating Brown again 6-1 and Attinger 4-1.

Teams Brydone, MacDonald, Shaw, Smith and Taylor recorded some good wins between them, but by the time of the C-Road finals it was just Teams Brewster and Mouat left standing.

Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) had lost 7-4 to Rantamaki, beaten Stukalskiy 7-3 and lost 5-2 to Attinger in the first five draws, so needed to reel off four straight wins – and they did, against Baumann (6-5), Hoiberg (4-3), Rantamaki (5-3) and De Cruz (3-2).

Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Gregor Cannon, Bobby Lammie, Duncan Fraser) also lost twice early on – 7-3 to Hoiberg and 7-4 to Wrana – but like Brewster they produced four consecutive victories – over Sik (9-3), Taylor (5-4), Van Dorp (7-4) and Heidt (6-2).

In the quarter finals, there was an all-Scottish clash between Brewster and Murdoch – the latter coming out on top 6-1, with a two in end one and four in end six.

Mouat faced Norwegian powerhouse Ulsrud and initally held their own – it was 2-2 after four ends – but the former world champion then pulled away with a four in end five and steal of two in end six to win 8-2.

Ulsrud also dispatched Murdoch, their semi final opening with a two in end one for the Norwegians. They stole a single in end five and ran Murdoch out of stones in end eight for a 4-2 victory.

The final was played between the two A-Road qualifiers – Koe and Ulsrud – and it was 4-4 after four ends, Koe picking up a three in end three and Ulsrud a couple of twos.

It was the Canadians who clinched the title though, scoring two in end six and stealing one in end seven to win the game 7-4 and with it £6,500.

The event was a notable success, with great facilities and atmosphere, and high class curling.

The coverage on the BBC was a massive boost and although it would have been good to see more Scottish teams featured in live games – MacDonald, Mouat and Smith missed out, for example – those that were shown reflected the truly international flavour of the event, and it will hopefully be a precedent for curling coverage in Scotland.

All the commentators brought extra enjoyment to the event – personally I found David Hay to be particularly excellent, both engaging and insightful.

***

Four Scottish rinks took part in the International Bernese Ladies Cup – Teams G. Aitken, Fleming, Gray and Muirhead.

Like the Perth Masters, this was a triple knock-out competition, and Team Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Laura Ritchie, Heather Morton) lost their opening three games to drop into the Consolation Cup – there they beat Regza 7-4 but then lost their next match 6-3 to Hegner.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Lorna Vevers, Alice Spence, Abi Brown) won their first couple of matches, 8-1 against Schöpp and 8-6 against Sigfridsson, but dropped to the B-Road after a 6-3 loss to Sidorova.

There – after beating Nielsen 6-5 – they met Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird), who had previously lost 5-2 to Jäggi but then beaten Regza 4-1, Fujisawa 7-4 and Barbezat 6-4.

Fleming came out on top of the all-Scottish tie, stealing at the last to win 6-5 – and Gray were then eliminated after a 5-3 loss to Feltscher. That meant the Consolation Cup, where they beat Maillard 9-7 but lost 8-1 to Hasselborg.

Meanwhile Fleming were beaten 6-5 by Ogasawara to fall again onto the C-Road and looked to be heading out when they went 6-2 down to Östlund, only for a remarkable comeback which saw them steal three in end eight to win 8-6 and make the quarter finals.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) suffered a surprising loss to Stern in their opening game, 9-4, but bounced back by beating Dupont 7-2, Sigfridsson 8-1, Feltscher 9-5 and Hasselborg 10-6.

They then had a narrow defeat to Kim, 8-7, but secured a playoff spot after victory over Barbezat, 5-3.

In the quarter finals, Fleming were beaten 6-4 by Kim, while Muirhead were involved in a tight match – and repeat of the 2015 European Championship women’s final – against Sidorova, only to come out on the wrong side of a 5-4 scoreline.

The event was won by Swiss rink Tirinzoni, who saw off Sigfridsson (who had surprisingly beaten Sidorova in the semis) in the final, 5-3.

Fleming can reflect favourably on their run to the last eight after a tough opening half of the season, while for Muirhead it was a bit of a disappointment, but they did well given their skip was suffering a nasty cold (!) and it was good match practice before their trip to Las Vegas as part of Team World for the Continental Cup.

***

Across the Atlantic, the TSN Skins events saw three days of play involving the cream of Canada’s curling crop.

In the women’s competition, Sweeting defeated Homan via a draw to the button and Jones saw off Rocque – Jones then beat Sweeting in the final to win $54,000 in total.

As for the men, Gushue beat Simmons and Jacobs defeated McEwen. Jacobs ran out overall champions and pocketed $71,000 overall.

For in-depth coverage of the All-Star Skins, check out Twine-Time’s very entertaining blog posts here.

Weekend round-up: Mouat win Superspiel, Fleming make Medicine Hat semis

Aside from the GSOC Masters, Scottish teams enjoyed success in Canada over the weekend, Team Mouat winning their competition and Team Fleming making the last four in theirs.

Teams Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell) and Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) were among 32 teams participating in the BrokerLink OVCA Junior Superspiel in Ottawa.

In what was a triple knockout competition with A, B and C-roads, Team Mouat began with a 5-3 win over Team Hahn, followed by a 6-5 extra-end victory versus Team Smith, before being knocked down to the B-road by a 7-1 defeat to Team Dunstone.

Team Jackson lost their first three matches, to Teams Sutherland (5-2), McKay-Saturnino (7-1) and Wallingford (7-6), which knocked them down into the consolation event.

Although Jackson did gain their first win against Team Hahn, 7-6, their participation in the event was over with an 8-1 loss to Team Smith.

Mouat were faring rather better, winning their B-road quarter final 7-1 against Team Calvert.

However, they then lost 7-4 to Team Dropkin, which meant going onto the C-road and knowing one more defeat would mean elimination.

From there, performances and momentum really picked up. A 9-5 win over Team Kee was followed by an 8-5 win over Canada’s Youth Olympics rink, Team Tardi, and the Scots were into the semi finals.

Their last four encounter with Team Quevillon saw Mouat score threes in ends one and six on their way to a 9-1 win.

That set up a final against Team Dunstone, who had beaten them 7-1 earlier in the competition.

There was to be no repeat of that result, however. Mouat stole one in ends three and six then two in end seven to take the match 7-4 and the Superspiel title – see how the match unfolded on CurlingGeek here.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Lorna Vevers, Alice Spence, Abi Brown), meanwhile, were taking part in the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta.

They opened with a 7-4 win versus Team Schneider but then lost 5-4 to Team Dutton.

Nonetheless, an 8-3 win over Team Dong saw them safely into the quarter finals.

There they faced Team O’Connor, scoring three in end two and finishing off with a steal of two in end eight for another 8-3 victory.

The semi finals saw them play Team Scheidegger, the defending champions, and they battled hard until a steal of three in end six for Scheidegger proved the knockout blow – Fleming bowing out 8-4.

Team Scheidegger were unable to retain their title, beaten 5-3 in the final by Team Kleibrink.