Season review Q&As – part one

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Scottish Juniors winners, Teams Jackson (back) and Mouat (photo: RCCC/Brian Battensby (brianbatphotography.co.uk))

To look back on the season just gone, I asked several Scottish and British teams six questions about the tournaments they’ve played in, how they’ve played and what their future prospects are.

Add in a couple of not-so-serious questions, and here we are.

My thanks go to Tom Brewster, Anna Fowler, Lauren Gray, Grant Hardie, Sophie Jackson, Ben Fowler and Bruce Mouat for the following answers.

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Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: The Scottish Men’s Championship in Perth. We had great preparation going into the event and once the event got underway we felt at the top of our game all week.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: Curling Night in America. This was a staged event for NBC between Scotland, USA, China and Japan. As it was not on the tour it was very relaxed and fun to play in.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: My best shot of the year was against the USA at the World Men’s Championship – last shot of the 10th end and we needed two to go to an extra. I played a double raise takeout to get it.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: It would have to be Hammy! There are too many moments to mention and some which I can’t!!

Q: Team Muirhead played the end of the season with a couple of ‘super subs’. If you needed a sub from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Kevin Koe. He’s just such a great shot maker.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Planning started before the season ended. The tour schedule for next season has not been finalised but we have a rough idea of the events we want to play in. We plan our season around peaking at the European playoffs in October and the Scottish Men’s Championship in February. The tournament and training schedule is then fitted so we peak at these events.

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Team Fowler (Anna Fowler, Hetty Garnier, Angharad Ward, Lauren Pearce, Naomi Robinson)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: We had a really great week in Esbjerg at the Europeans and were just one shot away from the A Group. It was fantastic to see all the hard work we’d put in nearly pay off. We also had a good weekend in Perth at the Ladies International in April – we were the second-placed British team after Eve Muirhead’s rink, a great achievement for us as a non-funded team.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: The European Championship is always the most special event for us, and Esbjerg was no different. We’ve played against the same international teams for years, so now it’s always good to catch up with friends from abroad at these events. The layout at Esbjerg was superb with the A and B halls next to each other, and we had a lot of support from home, so that helped make the atmosphere extra special.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: At the Europeans, I made a great double takeout with the last stone against Turkey in the tie-breakers to win the game and put us through to the semi-finals against Italy. The girls have all played so well this season, so I know there are a lot of brilliant shots I should be crediting them for too!

when you see it
When you see it…

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season? 
A: We hosted a charity bonspiel in December for the Princes Trust raising over £2,500. The event photographer was really keen to get a photo with the girls in their England kit, but when we got the photo back, we couldn’t stop laughing!!

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: We’ve had a fair few super subs ourselves this season – Lorna Retig, Lucy Sparks and Rhiann Macleod, to name a few! They would always be top of the list to help us out if we were in need again.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: We already have a lot planned for next season. As usual, the Europeans in November are our main focus, so the front end of the season is heavily loaded with lots of competitions and training. Also, being at Braehead this year (a second home for us), we are even more determined to get onto the podium in one of the top two spots. After another fun and successful season together, we will be keeping the line-up the same for 2016-2017. I believe we’ve got great potential and a lot more to give, so watch this space!

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Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: I feel Team Gray’s best team performance was at the Dumfries International event in December 2015. We brought together a lot of the process points we had been working on in the first half of the season, and succeeded in our first final as a result of that.

Team Gray With Dumfries Challenger Series Trophy - David Owen
Team Gray, CCT Lely Dumfries Challenge winners (photo: David Owen)

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: We enjoyed the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Canada the most, from a social perspective. There was live music and food provided at the rink on the Saturday night, and the teams were seated at mixed tables in an informal manner, which encouraged different teams to get to know each other.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: My shot of the year, for me as an individual, would probably be drawing the button against Daniela Driendl in the semi final of Dumfries CCT to progress to the final. It was a great team shot with tricky line call and perfect sweeping from the front end.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: Most embarrassing moment in the team this year would be Mhairi falling on the ice in Bern. She was sweeping a shot and was looking at the stone so did not see the guards in play to the right of her feet, they swept her feet away from under her and she went down. To be fair, she managed to not burn any of the stones in play which we were proud of her for.

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Our team would ask Silvana Tirinzoni from Team Tirinzoni. She has made multiple finals on the Curling Champions Tour this year and we would like her to play for us in order to learn from her tactics and processes in order to obtain that success.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: The team line-ups will be decided and submitted by the end of May, and the schedules will be decided quickly after that in June, to allow planning, booking and prep time.

***

Team Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Billy Morton)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: Tough question as we never really put a complete tournament together all year; we played some of our best curling at the Scottish Championships, but the inconsistency is what probably cost us in the end.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: Mike Ferguson puts on a fantastic social weekend at the Forfar Open but we also really enjoyed the Scottish Championships. Unfortunately we got knocked out early, but Perth had plenty to offer and kept us busy during the weekend.

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Grant Hardie (photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: Nose hit to beat Team Smith in their “grudge match” at the Scottish.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: Collective answer here… we lost to Team Macleod once.

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Duncan Menzies – he must have averaged about 40% when he played us this season but kept beating us. We played quite a few games at 40% but lost them all, so hopefully he would teach us how it’s done.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Early stages yet but discussions have been had and we will be looking to take on a heavier schedule next season. Any news regarding the schedule will be announced via our Facebook page as soon we finalise plans.

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Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: The Scottish Juniors (we won!).

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: A competition we played in Canada, the Thames Valley Junior Bonspiel in London, Ontario.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: A cross house double we made in the eighth end against Turkey in the World Juniors with my first stone to set up a three, which was big for us. It had been a tough week for us to keep going and this just gave us a bit of a boost.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: Naomi has countless to remember and name. She is definitely the provider of entertainment in the team. One time we had practice in Dumfries, we all got to the rink apart from Naomi so we decided to look for her on ‘find my friends’… we saw that she was in Braehead! Rachel phoned Naomi and confirmed she was in Braehead – she thought we were practising there! Naomi made it down to Dumfries with 20 minutes of practice left. She then tells us she had travelled from Stranraer to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Braehead and then Braehead to Dumfries and it was only midday!

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Johanna Heldin (Team Lundman) because she is a great sweeper and can play in any position throughout the team.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: We are in the midst of planning our competition schedule for next season and are also in the process of confirming our line-up.

***

Team MacDougall (Alan MacDougall, Andrew Reed, Andrew Woolston, Thomas Jaeggi, Ben Fowler)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: We only played four competitions as a team this season so there’s a limited selection. The team played really well during the English playdowns though, which was a good win for us.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: The European Men’s Championship is always a really good competition to participate in. The atmosphere is always tense and there’s lots of old friends playing (and some new). The venue was a little small this year though, so we’re looking forward to playing at Braehead 2016.

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England men at 2015 Europeans (photo: WCF)

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: I actually have two best shots of the season. Both in the third end of our game vs Austria at the Europeans. They secured us a five and essentially the game. I’ve attached videos!

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: In one of our games at the Europeans I had been struggling with t-weight. Late in the game Alan asked for a barrier weight from me. Andy W turned to me and said “your t-weight then”. The umpire overheard and burst out laughing. She had clearly noticed how bad my t-weight was!

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Ben Hebert to show us how to sweep like a boss!

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Next year will unfortunately be our last season as a team. We are however very motivated to go out with a bang and hopefully promote England to the A group on semi-home turf.

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Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Duncan Menzies, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: Over the season we played very well as a team. For me, I first noticed that we were playing well on our first trip to Canada when we played in Gatineau. This then showed at other competitions including the World Juniors.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: The Grand Slam Of Curling Champions Cup. Getting to play in our first Grand Slam was a great way to end our season. For nearly every draw we played, the stadium was near full and the atmosphere was great. It was also a great feeling to be able to socialise with amazing curlers who have achieved so much.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: My shot of the year would be the shot I played against USA in the 1v2 page playoff at the World Juniors. We played a hack weight take out through a port to score three that was pretty much swept from the hand. That secured our spot in the gold medal game.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: I can’t really think of anything that shameful. I guess Gregor got us lost with his lack of directional skills in Canada but then he’ll probably blame Alan [Hannah, coach].

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Well having Robin [Brydone] at the Worlds came in handy when Bobby became unwell but if we could ask anyone we would probably ask someone like Brad Gushue or Mark Nichols. They don’t miss much.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Still working a few things out for now.

***

Look out for ‘Season reviews – part two’ coming soon!

#scc2016 day seven: Muirhead and Brewster crowned champions

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Women’s champions – Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

Team Muirhead won the Scottish Championships women’s title with a strong finish in the final, before Team Brewster won the men’s competition – they will represent Scotland at the World Men’s and Women’s Championships.

Muirhead recovered from losing a three in end four to beat Team Gray 8-4, while Brewster put in a consistent performance centred around a three in end five to defeat Team Murdoch 5-4.

For Muirhead, that means playing at the World Women’s Championship in Swift Current, Canada, from March 19-27; for Brewster, the World Men’s Championships in Basel, Switzerland, April 2-10.

***

Team Muirhead were big favourites for the women’s title, and started confidently, with a two in end one.

However, mistakes then crept into their game, and after a couple of forces, Team Gray scored three in end four to lead 4-3.

Muirhead were forced again in end five, but after the fifth end break they hit back with a vengeance – stealing two in end six.

A steal of two in end eight effectively killed the game off, with Gray run out of stones in end 10 for an 8-4 final score.

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Team Muirhead’s lead, Sarah Reid (photo: Tom Brydone)

For skip Eve Muirhead, this meant a sixth Scottish title. She said: “It was a game of two halves for sure. We started strongly and Lauren came back at us.

“But the second part of the game is the most important part and that’s exactly when we stepped it up, got the little inches sorted out and put the pressure on them to get the couple of mistakes that we needed.

“To go unbeaten in a championships is tough, and we managed that. But it’s the final game that counts, so we’re delighted to win and can’t wait for Worlds.”

Team Muirhead coach David Hay said: “This was absolutely vital for us, to get to Worlds and get the Olympic qualifying points.

“So we structured our season to give us a three-week break before this, and come out fit and firing.

“At halfway we moved one of our lead stones, because we felt one of Eve’s wasn’t drawing enough and one of Sarah’s was a lot more, and swapped them round.

“We wanted better set-ups – the lead stones dictate the whole end; Sarah had a great second half and got us going. Then Eve’s two draws for the steal of two in end eight was the turning point.

“We go to Worlds with high expectations as always; we want to win the gold medal and – in the back of your mind – get Olympic points as well.”

For Lauren Gray, disappointment, but encouragement from the performance of her inexperienced team.

“We had a strong start in the game, something to build on for sure.

“The gap [to Muirhead] hasn’t closed fully yet, but we’re taking the steps to do that.”

***

Winners brewster
Men’s champions – Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, with coach Mike Harris (photo: Tom Brydone)

There was victory for Team Brewster – and another Muirhead, Eve’s brother Glen – in the men’s final several hours later.

The Brewster rink had dominated the round robin, losing only once, but their opponents Team Murdoch had played with renewed purpose in their tiebreaker, 3v4 game and semi-final to make it to Saturday’s decider.

Brewster blanked the first two ends before being forced to one in end three.

But Murdoch were themselves forced in end four, and Brewster struck the pivotal blow in end five, scoring three to lead 4-1.

From there, the teams traded steals – Brewster keeping the game simple given their advantage – and Brewster was left with an open hit to win 5-4, which he duly made.

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Team Brewster’s skip, Tom Brewster (photo: Tom Brydone)

Skip Tom Brewster said: “Finals always have a nervous start. When the three came along that was great and we were really solid after that.

“[Coach Mike Harris] has brought vast knowledge, he’s tactically very good, has experience of major championships. He’s been where we’re going, knows how to make finals, and all the ins and outs of curling.

“For Worlds we don’t need to do anything different. We just need to prepare as hard or harder than we prepared for this week.”

Mike Harris said: “They’ve been really good all week, very consistent, and they maintained that high level of play.

“Getting to Worlds is such a huge hurdle, when you get there strangely the pressure is off. But their expectations are high.

“The way they’re playing now, they’ll be just fine against the best teams in the world.”

***

The Scottish Championships have been a fantastic event to cover: watching high quality games, speaking to athletes and fans, and enjoying the atmosphere – the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and Perth Curling have really stepped things up from last year, and for finals day to sell out (regardless of the charging for tickets) was great news.

Thank you to the organisers, coaches and athletes who gave me time and assistance with my writing, and spending some time on the ice… a feature on that will follow next week.

Thank you to CurlingGeek, the platform which allowed me to showcase Scottish curling and attracted more than 200 fans to the men’s final, and to Tom Brydone for his superb photos and commitment to the sport.

And thank you to the readers of this blog, the retweeters and shot-by-shot followers. I’ve had a number of people in Perth thank me for my coverage – I do it because I adore the sport and I feel it, and those who play it, deserve far more exposure than they get – but it’s your enthusiasm and interaction as fans who fuel the momentum we’re building.

#scc2016 day six: Final reckoning

Anna Sloan 2
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 three: Tight at the top

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Bruce Mouat and his rink are in contention for a playoff place (Photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

While Team Muirhead continue to blaze a trail in the women’s section at the Scottish Curling Championships, the men’s competition is much tighter, with no teams left unbeaten.

Teams Brewster, Hardie and Murdoch all sit on five wins and one defeat, while Teams Bryce and Mouat are just behind on W4 L2.

Behind Muirhead, Team Gray hold a W3 L1 record, ahead of Teams G Aitken, Fleming and Jackson, all on two wins and two losses.

***

Team Muirhead faced another unbeaten rink in the third women’s draw, but blew Team Jackson away, just as they had Team Fleming yesterday.

A four in end one was followed by a steal of one in end two and two in end three.

Jackson scored one in end four but when Muirhead took another one in end six, handshakes were offered.

Team Gray joined Muirhead on three wins by seeing off Team K Aitken, thanks to another strong finish akin to yesterday’s against Team Young.

Gray scored three in end four to lead 4-1 but then saw their lead wiped out by end eight. One in end nine and a steal of two in end 10 decided the game 7-4 in Gray’s favour, however.

Team G Aitken picked up their first win of the competition by beating Fleming 8-6, exchanging twos throughout the match before stealing two in end 10 as Hannah Fleming’s last draw was heavy.

Also winning their first #scc2016 game were Team Murray, who lost a 4-2 lead to Young as the match went to an extra end – but two for Murray in the extra finished the job.

Skip Katie Murray said: “It’s good to get on the board. It was a better team performance.

“We want to build on it for the rest of the week and stick together.”

***

D Murdoch
David Murdoch’s unbeaten record didn’t survive day three (photo: Tom Brydone)

The fifth men’s draw saw the last unbeaten record vanish, Team Bryce drawing in well to block off David Murdoch’s route to the button and stealing four in end seven.

Team Murdoch couldn’t recover from that, losing 8-4.

Alongside Bryce and Murdoch on W4 L1 were Team Brewster – who needed an extra end to defeat Team Mouat 7-6, having led 4-2 after four and 6-4 after nine but giving up two in end 10, meaning that Tom Brewster had to draw the four foot in the extra to win.

Team Hardie also notched their fourth win, recovering from losing a three in end one to see off Team Smith 9-4, courtesy of steals in ends three and four, two in end six and three in the ninth.

Holders Team MacDonald picked up their first win of the championships by defeating Combe 10-6, by taking two in end one, four in end six and two in end nine.

Team Brydone, meanwhile, got their second win against Macleod, 9-6 – scoring twos in ends three, six and nine.

***

The pick of the games in women’s draw four was Gray v Muirhead, as the two teams with three wins met.

Gray kept it tight early on, something Muirhead’s last two opponents couldn’t manage, before giving up twos in ends four and six that ultimately decided the game, won 5-3.

Lauren Gray was pleased with her team’s performance nonetheless, saying: “We’re going well, we’re three and one, and we’re encouraged by that performance.

“[Team Muirhead] are just so consistent, they have the quality and experience to constantly have you under pressure.”

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Gina Aitken (photo: Tom Brydone)

G Aitken got their second win of the day, beating Young 10-0 in six ends, and Fleming joined them on two wins and two losses by defeating Murray 6-5.

Hannah Fleming, who drew for the winning point in end 10, said: “That was a real big one. We’re not playing badly – teams are just getting key shots at the right time against us.

“We needed confidence [from the win]; if we keep going as we are there’s no reason we can’t make the playoffs.”

K Aitken, meanwhile, got their first win of the event by beating Jackson 11-10, having led 6-0 and 11-6, and just about holding on for the victory.

***

Murdoch were back to winning ways in men’s draw six, stealing two in end five and three in end eight to beat Macleod 8-1.

Ewan MacDonald
Ewan MacDonald (photo: Tom Brydone)

Brewster were narrow victors over MacDonald, their three in end three pivotal in a 5-4 win that went down to the wire on the time clock.

 

Also making it to five wins for the competition were Hardie, who scored twos in ends three and six to see off Brydone 4-1.

Bryce suffered a nightmare two ends against Mouat – giving up three in end two and a steal of four in end three – that saw handshakes after just six ends at 8-2, and places both teams on W4 L2 records.

Bruce Mouat said afterwards: “We’re playing pretty well. The guys [have high stats]… I have a bit of a cold but I just stand there!”

On what they learned from making the playoffs last year, he added: “You have to pick it up from the round robin – keep playing well or even better.”

Smith halted their run of defeats and kept their playoff hopes alive by beating Combe 7-5, but it looks like they will need to win all of their remaining games to make the final four.

***

Tomorrow is the last full day of round robin games, starting with the fifth women’s draw at 8am, including G Aitken v Muirhead and Fleming v Jackson.

The seventh men’s draw is at noon (inc. Brewster v Murdoch), before the sixth women’s draw at 4pm (inc. Gray v Jackson) and the eighth men’s draw at 8pm (inc. Hardie v Mouat).

Updates, quotes and photos to come on the Roaring Game Blog’s Facebook and Twitter.

And there will be shot-by-shot coverage throughout the day on CurlingGeek, as well as linescores on the event page here.

Granite glory for Team MacDonald at Aberdeen City Open

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Aberdeen City Open winners Team MacDonald (photo: Gavin Fleming)

Team MacDonald warmed up for their Scottish Curling Championship defence by winning the Aberdeen City Open, defeating Alan MacDougall’s English rink in the final.

Ewan MacDonald’s rink were one of 20 teams in Aberdeen, split into two groups (red and blue sections) – the top four from each making it into the quarter-finals.

MacDonald’s men topped the red section on four wins from four, those coming against Macleod (10-2), Perras (9-5), Aitken (8-4) and Fowler (13-6).

Gina Aitken and Scott Macleod’s rinks were second and third in the group (both W3 L1 records), and Adrian Meikle’s Welshmen edged their way into fourth – finishing W2 L2 alongside Fowler, Perras and Wilson but having the better ‘shots up’ record.

In the blue section, it was Stuart Taylor’s rink who went undefeated, beating Menzies 11-4, Lockhart 11-2 and Gray 7-4, and drawing 4-4 with Fleming.

That draw for Hannah Fleming’s team saw them qualify for the quarter-finals in fourth spot on W2 D1 L1, in behind Teams Gray (W3 L1) and MacDougall (W2 D1 L1).

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Team Taylor (photo: Stuart McLachlan)

In the last eight, MacDonald continued their fearsome form by defeating Fleming 7-1 thanks to a three in end one and twos in ends three and four.

Gray overcame Macleod 6-4 with twos in ends four and six, while MacDougall beat Aitken 5-2 and Meikle scored three in end eight to sneak past Taylor 7-6.

In the semi-finals, MacDonald faced Gray in an all-Scottish clash, with MacDonald coming out on top 6-4, scoring a crucial two in end six after Gray had stolen one to level at 3-3 after five.

aco pic2
Gray v MacDonald (photo: Stuart McLachlan)

In the other semi, Meikle came from 5-1 down after five to tie it up at 6-6 after eight, but MacDougall had hammer in the extra end and scored the one needed to make the final.

In that final, MacDonald were forced to one in the first but then stole one in end two, two in end three and another one in end four to lead 5-0.

MacDougall got on the board in end five but two from MacDonald in end six saw handshakes at 7-1.

Gray took third place with a 5-3 win over Meikle in the third/fourth game.

More photos from the weekend (courtesy of Stuart McLachlan and Maggie Wilson) are on Facebook here.

***

Judith and Lee McCleary represented Scotland at the Aarau Mixed Doubles, reaching the semi-finals.

They cruised through Group B, winning five from five – taking victories over Guzieva/Ali of Russia (9-5), Gribi/Gribi of Switzerland (6-5), Hümbelin/Gubler of Switzerland (13-3), Matulovà/Derzsi of Slovakia (13-2) and Colceriu/Coliban of Romania (9-6).

They then defeated Szekeres/Nagy of Hungary 6-4 in the quarter-finals, but were beaten by Jäggi/Freiberger of Switzerland 8-5 – the Swiss rink went on to lose to their compatriots Perret/Rios in the final, while the McClearys lost 7-6 to Hegner/Attinger, also of Switzerland, in the third/fourth game.

***

In Canada, the Brier playdowns continued – with the headline news being Team Glenn Howard overcoming Team Epping 6-5 to become Ontario champion.

Team Laycock won in Saskatchewan, meanwhile, and Mike Kennedy took the New Brunswick title.

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Northern Ontario will see their representatives decided this coming weekend.

And the USA national championships are currently in progress – Team Clark lead the way for the men after three games, while it’s Brown and Roth who sit W3 L0 in the women’s event.

Weekend round-up: Titles for Scots home and away

It was a busy weekend before Christmas for Scottish curlers, with Team Murdoch taking the Karuizawa International title in Japan while their compatriots battled each other in Dumfries and Lockerbie.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) joined men’s teams from Belarus, Canada, Germany, Norway and Sweden, as well as Japan and South Korea, at the Karuizawa International, with 15 rinks divided into three pools.

Murdoch began with a 9-2 win over Team Fukui of Japan, scoring three in end three and four in end six, before a 7-4 victory against Team Matsumura, again of Japan, with threes in ends two and four.

Further wins, 7-6 against Team Hoiberg of Norway and 5-3 over Team Baumann of Germany, sent Murdoch directly into the semi-finals.

There they faced Team Soo-Hyuk Kim of South Korea, and the Scots came out on top 6-4, with twos in ends one and five.

The final was contested between Murdoch and Team Simmons of Canada, and again Murdoch scored two in end one.

But Simmons came back with two in the sixth, and the game went to an extra end tied at 3-3.

Murdoch held hammer, though, and got the one required to win the competition – ending the week undefeated and with impetus to take into 2016.

The women’s competition was won by Team Ogasawara of Japan, who saw off compatriots Team Fujisawa 5-4 in the title decider.

***

The latest Curling Champions Tour event, the Lely Challenge Series, was held at the Dumfries Ice Bowl – with both men’s and women’s titles up for grabs.

The men’s competition saw 16 teams divided into four sections, the first seeing Team Hardie finish top, ahead of Team Smith in second.

Section 2 was headed up by Team Mouat, ahead of Team Hamilton, while Section 3 saw Teams Bryce and Van Dorp as the top two.

Finally, Section 4 produced Team Brewster and Team Thune as qualifiers for the playoffs.

In the quarter-finals, Bryce defeated Hamilton 7-4, Hardie were 4-3 winners over Thune, Mouat saw off Van Dorp 9-5 and Brewster edged Smith 5-4 after an extra end.

Then, in the semi-finals, Brewster won 5-3 against Bryce with a three in end one, while Mouat defeated Hardie 6-2, largely thanks to steals of two in ends three and four.

So the final pitted last year’s winners Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) against Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Duncan Menzies, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell).

Mouat started with a two in end one but Brewster stole ones in ends three and four to lead 3-2, before another two for Mouat in end five.

The game was 4-4 going into end eight, and Mouat scored one with hammer to claim the title.

Bruce Mouat told British Curling: “It’s been a really good week, winning [the Scottish Mixed Doubles] last weekend, then having two exams this week that went OK ahead of this.

“The guys played really well this weekend. I’m thankful that each and every one of them played really well. We got to know the ice.”

“It’s a great way to finish the year and we’ll be looking to come back with guns blazing as we have a really hectic February, March and April coming up.”

The 15 women’s teams were divided into three groups, the first one being headed by Teams Gisler and Rilea.

Group 2 saw Teams Driendl and Maillard qualify, while it was Teams Gray and Fleming who made it out of Group 3.

Driendl and Gisler went straight into the semi-finals, but the remaining four playoff teams faced off in quarter-finals – Gray beat Rilea 5-1 and Maillard beat Fleming 8-3.

Come the semis, there were wins for Gray, 6-5 against Driendl, and Maillard, 4-3 over Gisler.

The final, then, was between Gray (Lauren Gray, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird) and Maillard (Isabelle Maillard, Andrea Marx, Fabienne Furbringer, Bettina Bouhel).

And it was Gray’s Scottish rink who came out on top, scoring twos in ends three and five on their way to a 6-4 victory.

Skip Lauren Gray said: “It came down to the last shot with a hit and roll to win and another good team performance in a tight game.

“It’s our first competition that we’ve won as a team against good international teams so it’s been a great weekend.

“It’s our second season together and we’re starting to make our games tighter and we need to keep building on that, but we’re progressing quite fast and we’re really pleased to get a team win.”

Team Gray With Dumfries Challenger Series Trophy - David Owen
Team Gray with the trophy – photo: David Owen

***

The final leg of the Asham U21 Slam took place in Lockerbie this weekend, with 10 junior men’s teams (including three from Denmark, England and the Netherlands) in two groups and eight women’s teams (also with one from Denmark), again divided into two groups.

Men’s Group A was topped by Team McNay (Cameron McNay, Fin Campbell, Ryan McCormack, Angus Bryce) ahead of Team Carson (Luke Carson, George Ballentyne, James Craik, Mark Taylor).

The second group saw Teams Joiner (Craig Joiner, Euan MacDiarmid, Robin McCall, Craig Patterson) and Whyte (Ross Whyte, James Baird, Gavin Baird, Euan Kyle, David Baird) qualify.

In the semi-finals, Joiner stole ones in ends six, seven and eight to beat Carson 6-3, while McNay versus Whyte went to an extra end before McNay scored their one with hammer to win 5-4.

The final was a more one-sided affair, McNay scoring twos in ends two and four and stealing three in end six to defeat Joiner 8-1 and claim the title, while in the third/fourth place match Whyte won 7-2.

Junior Women’s Group A saw Teams Murray (Katie Murray, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Mili Smith) and Bryce (Amy Bryce, Lauren Morgan, Leeanne McKenzie, Rebecca Baird) progress.

Teams Young (Lesley Young, Beth Dandie, Kathryn Spain, Jane Barr) and Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Emma Barr, Annabel Skuse) were the qualifiers from Group B.

Come the semi-finals, Young scored two in end one and stole one in end four on their way to beating Bryce 6-4, while Murray stole ones in ends four and five to see off Davie 4-1.

Murray went on to clinch the title by beating Young 8-3 in the final, courtesy of a two in end one, four in end four and two in end six – while Bryce won the third/fourth playoff 5-4.

Weekend round-up: Team Mouat win at Forfar, Brewster and Gray battle hard in Canada

Team Mouat won the latest Goldline Scottish Curling Tour event, the Forfar Open, while Teams Brewster and Gray put together good runs in World Curling Tour events in Canada.

Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell) won their pool ahead of Teams MacLeod (going into the quarter finals in second spot), Taylor and Kirk with three wins.

The other qualifiers were Teams Bryce, Hardie, Joiner and McGlynn, plus Teams K Aitken and Jackson from the women’s pool.

Mouat secured themselves a place in the final with a 6-4 quarter-final win over McGlynn and 7-2 victory over Bryce in the last four.

Joining them in the final were the rink they’d beaten 8-7 in the group stage, McLeod (Scott McLeod, Derrick Sloan, John Penny, Ross Fraser), who knocked out Scottish Curling Tour leader Hardie in the quarters (6-5) and then saw off Jackson 4-2.

The final was 1-1 after four ends, but then tipped in Mouat’s favour as McLeod’s final draw of end five was heavy, gifting a steal of four.

McLeod managed to claw their way back to 5-4, but a two in end eight sealed the win for Mouat 7-4.

***

Over in Canada, Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Ross Patterson, Hammy McMillan Jr, Duncan Menzies) competed in the DEKALB Superspiel in Morris, Manitoba.

Playing a triple knock-out system, Brewster lost their first match to Team Atkins, thus were knocked down to the B-Road.

There they saw off Teams Wunderlin and Irving, before a loss to Team Dunstone.

A C-Road defeat to Team Thomas (who have been making the #broomgate headlines this weekend) saw them go out, just one game short of a quarter-final qualifying decider.

Meanwhile, Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird) participated in the Dave Jones Northbridge Mayflower Cashspiel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the only non-Canadian team involved.

Gray topped their pool, defeating Teams Robichaud (4-3), McEvoy (6-4) and Breen (8-3) while only suffering one loss, 7-4 against Team Jones (Colleen, not Jennifer!).

In the quarter finals, Gray saw off Robichaud again, this time 5-1, but were then beaten in the last four by eventual winners Team Brothers, 4-3 with steals of one in ends seven and eight.