End of season round-up

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PODIUM: Scotland women won bronze at the World Senior Curling Championships. Pic: twitter.com/jlockhart65

It’s been a packed end to the season, with the good (Team Smith’s European Masters win, bronze for Scotland women at World Seniors) mixed with the bad (Scotland/GB missing out on Olympic Mixed Doubles).

Here’s a quick round-up of how the 2016-17 season has come to its conclusion.

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Firstly to St Gallen, where the European Masters involved three Scottish men’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).

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Vicky Wright, Alice Spence) were the sole Scots on the women’s side, but after two wins in the opening two matches versus Teams Schöpp (6-4) and Thompson (6-5) they lost their three remaining group matches to miss out on the final.

In the men’s event, it wasn’t a great tournament for Murdoch, as they only picked up one win from seven round robin games – 7-4 against Team Walstad.

Team Brewster did rather better, with wins against Murdoch (8-2), Pfister (5-3), Walstad (10-1) and McCormick (4-2) qualifying them for the 3v4 game versus McCormick, which the Scots won 4-2.

The best performance, though, came from Team Smith, who won four of their round robin matches – against Pfister (5-4), Murdoch (7-5), Brewster (7-3) and McCormick (8-5) – to edge by Brewster to make the final.

There they faced the ever-menacing Team Edin, and Smith finally got one over on the serial Slam-winning Swedes, as two in end four and one in end eight saw them pinch it 5-4.

***

The Champions Cup – for teams who have won major competitions during the season – took place in Calgary, Alberta, and involved three Scottish rinks – Teams Brewster and Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Duncan Menzies) on the men’s side, and Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) on the women’s.

Neither men’s team could progress from the round robin, with Brewster taking a win against Team Morozumi (9-3) but being beaten by Teams Laycock (5-4), McEwen (9-1) and Gushue (6-3).

Hardie, meanwhile, lost all four games – against Teams De Cruz (8-1), Carruthers (6-3), Jacobs (8-6) and Morris (6-3) – but this was undoubtedly a helpful experience for the team in a Slam environment.

The men’s title went the way of Team Jacobs, who overcame Team Koe 6-2 in the final.

Muirhead also missed out on the women’s playoffs – beating Flaxey (9-4) but losing to Pätz (7-2), Jones (7-6) and Wrana (6-2).

The women’s final was contested by Teams Homan and Hasselborg, with Homan scoring two in end eight to pinch it 5-4.

***

The World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Lethbridge, Canada, saw Scotland represented by Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat.

They swept the round robin, with victories over Norway (6-3), Bulgaria (10-3), Ireland (8-5), Wales (11-2), Serbia (11-0), Denmark (8-2) and Italy (8-4).

Also in Scotland’s group, Ireland (Alison Fyfe and Neil Fyfe) won four and lost three (beating Serbia 10-2, Denmark 7-3, Bulgaria 11-4 and Wales 11-2, but losing to Italy 5-4, Scotland and Norway 10-4), with Wales (Dawn Watson and Adrian Meikle) coming in on W2 L5 (winning against Serbia 11-3 and Denmark 9-7, but defeated by Norway 6-2, Scotland, Italy 9-8, Ireland and Bulgaria).

England (Anna Fowler and Ben Fowler) just missed out on qualifying from the round robin, finishing on a W4 L3 record (beating France 8-5, Kazakhstan 17-2, Turkey 10-5 and Germany 9-6, but losing to the USA 7-2, the Czech Republic 6-4 and Canada 7-6).

The quarter-finals saw Ireland face Korea, losing 6-3, while Scotland – despite winning their group – faced Canadians Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers, and they were beaten 8-3 after giving up four in end seven.

Now scrambling to qualify for the Olympics, Aitken and Mouat faced Sweden – and scored four in end four as they beat them 9-2 – while the Irish pair lost to Russia 7-5.

It was the Russians Anastasia Bryzgalova and Aleksandr Krushelnitckii up next for Scotland, and again Aitken/Mouat lost to a very strong opponent, 6-5, as Russia scored singles in ends one, three, four, six, seven and the extra to edge a tight match.

Scotland had to beat Italy next and hope. They did that, 7-5, but Norway’s win over Finland denied them a spot at Pyeongchang 2018, with just two points in it on the ranking system.

Sport is seldom ‘fair’, and Scotland had the misfortune to face Canada and Russia after a flawless round robin.

What would seem flawed is a qualification process that places so much emphasis on a couple of games at one event, over the hard work and consistent tournament success of a Scottish duo who have spent the last four years working towards an Olympic spot, and were clearly heartbroken to fall short.

Switzerland, who went unbeaten through the championship, beat Canada 6-5 in the final to win gold, with China taking silver.

***

Lethbridge also hosted the World Senior Curling Championships, with Scotland represented by Ian Drysdale, David McQueen, Ronald Wilson, Graham Lindsay and Andrew Hemming (alternate) in the men’s event.

They finished the round robin with a W3 L3 record, as they saw off Finland 6-3, England 4-2 and Russia 12-2, but were beaten by Canada (7-2), Wales (6-4) and New Zealand (5-2)).

That meant a tiebreaker against Wales (Adrian Meikle, Richard Pougher, Chris Wells, Gary Waddell, Alistair Reid (alternate)), who had also won three and lost three, and again the Welsh came out on top, 5-4 this time, to put the Scots out.

England men (Thomas Campbell, Philip Barton, Mike Spain, Alastair Fyfe) ended up on W1 L5, with Ireland men (Peter Wilson, Johnjo Kenny, Bill Gray, David Whyte, David Hume (alternate)) on W5 L2.

Wales beat Israel 8-6 to make the last eight, but there they succumbed 8-1 to Canada; Ireland, though, qualified for the quarter-finals with a 5-4 win over Denmark.

Canada proved too strong for the Irish in the semi-finals, winning 5-2, but the Irish did secure bronze with a 6-3 win over Germany in the 3v4 game, while Sweden pipped Canada to gold.

As for the women’s competition, Scotland (Jackie Lockhart, Christine Cannon, Isobel Hannen, Margaret Richardson, Janet Lindsay (alternate)) qualified from Group B with five wins (against the Czech Republic (9-2), Slovakia (15-1), Australia (9-1), Finland (7-6 after an extra end) and Switzerland (8-4)) and one loss (versus the USA (6-4)).

England women (Judith Dixon, Val Saville, Helen Forbes, Deborah Higgins) were W3 L4 for the event, with Ireland women (Carolyn Hibberd, Marie O’Kane, Louise Kerr, Clare McCormick) W1 L6.

Scotland, having finished second in their group to the USA, had to beat Russia to make the last four, which they did 10-0.

Their semi-final pitted them against Colleen Jones’ Canada, and it was the host country who emerged victorious with a two in end eight to win 5-3.

Canada took gold and Switzerland silver, and Scotland ensured they joined them on the podium by beating the USA 8-5 (scoring four in end five) in the bronze medal match.

Skip Lockhart said: “It feels really good to get a medal and to go back with something after not playing quite the ‘A’ game we wanted against Canada.

“We had to fight really hard for that. It’s been a tough week but every medal makes the season worthwhile and we’ve still got years to play in seniors, so…bring it on.”

Team Hardie come out on top in Aberdeen

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TROPHY TIME: Aberdeen International winners Team Hardie (pic: facebook.com/aberdeeninternationalcurling)

A busy weekend saw the start of the World Women’s Curling Championship, as well as events in Scotland, Europe and Canada.

Team Hardie were the standout success, winning the Aberdeen International event, while there was also bronze for Team Aitken/Mouat in their latest mixed doubles endeavour.

But first to Beijing, where Scotland women have had a rollercoaster start…

***

The 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship sees Scotland represented, once again, by Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate), Glenn Howard (coach)).

Two days in and, at time of writing, three games played – Scotland sit on a W2 L1 record.

They began against the USA, and after a three in end one, they were hauled back to 3-3 after four, only to answer with another three in end five.

But they then gave up five points over the next three ends, to trail 8-6, and were forced to one in the ninth.

But steals of one in end 10 and the extra end saw them snatch a 9-8 victory.

The outcome from their next match was less positive, as they were shocked by an inexperienced Italian team.

Diana Gaspari’s rink scored three in end seven and two in end nine, meaning the Scots needed three in end 10 to force an extra – an opportunity opened up but the shot was missed, so Italy won 7-6.

Scotland needed to bounce back quickly and did so, overcoming Team Sidorova of Russia, always a strong force at these championships.

Again the Scots started well with three in end one, and a steal of four in end four saw them lead 8-1.

Russia fought back, creeping up to only trail 8-5, but ones in ends eight and 10 got the job done for the Muirhead rink, who face Denmark and Sweden in Monday’s action.

The early pace-setters as of Sunday – Canada, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, all W3 Lo from the first two days.

***

Back in Scotland, and a Curling Champions Tour event – the Aberdeen International Curling Championship – had drawn a high quality field.

In a triple knockout format, the A-Road qualifiers were Team McEwen of Canada (defeating Team Stjerne (Denmark) 10-3 in the A-Road final) and the Scots of Team Murdoch (who overcame Team Ulsrud of Norway 7-6 to qualify).

Murdoch’s compatriots were having a tougher time of it, as it was Teams Deruelle (Canada) and Eskilsson (Sweden) who made the quarter-finals via the B-Road, meaning that Teams Brewster, Bryce, Craik, Hardie, Hutcheon, Mouat (minus their skip – more on him later), Smith and Whyte all ended up on the C-Road.

Of those, only Hardie and Whyte (thanks to a win over Ulsrud) made the C-Road finals, and while Hardie defeated Stjerne 4-3 to make the last eight, Whyte lost 10-5 to Team Schwaller of Switzerland.

Schwaller claimed another Scottish scalp on the Sunday, beating Murdoch 5-2 in their quarter-final, leaving Hardie – 7-2 winners over Deruelle – as the last Scots standing.

In the semi-finals they faced McEwen – serial Grand Slam champions and recently bronze medal winners at the Brier… not that any of that fazed Hardie, as they stole one in end one and two in end four, before adding three in end six to clinch it 7-3.

Hardie faced Team Liu of China in the final, and after the teams traded ones, it was the Scots who claimed two in end three, then forcing Liu to one in four and scoring another two in end five – which proved enough as the next two ends were blanked and they ran their opponents out of stones in the eighth to claim victory 5-2.

So congratulations Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Duncan Menzies and David Reid, the team having had another good season – just missing out on playoffs at the Scottish Championships again, but proving they can mix it with the best by claiming another Scottish Curling Tour title.

***

There was more Scottish success overseas, as Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat took bronze at the Westbay Hungarian Mixed Doubles Cup.

They cruised through their group with four wins from four – beating Szekeres/Nagy 8-7 (after an extra end), Sykorova/Misun 9-0, Morand/Borini 14-4 and Florek/Herman 9-3.

Also competing in Budapest were Judith and Lee McCleary, who also won their opening four matches – overcoming Szabo/Foti 7-4, Komarova/Goryachev 5-2, Wiksten/Wiksten 9-0 and Pathy-Dencso/Szabo 8-7.

That meant both Scottish pairs were into the quarter-finals, but that was as far as McCleary/McCleary could go, as they gave up a four in end six to lose 7-4 to home rink Palancsa/Kiss.

Aitken/Mouat, though, made the last four by defeating Heldin/Sjoberg of Sweden 8-5, which was largely down to a score of five in end two.

Defeat to Komarova/Goryachev, 9-7, ended their hopes of the title, but while the Russians went on to win gold, Aitken/Mouat bounced back to defeat Szekeres/Nagy again, by a 7-3 scoreline this time, which secured bronze.

***

Finally, the latest Grand Slam of Curling event took place in the shape of the Elite 10 in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia.

The 10-team competition featured match play scoring – the game decided by the number of ends won by each team (full explanation here).

It came down to a final between Teams Jacobs and Morris, and it was the latter (Jim Cotter, John Morris, Tyrel Griffith, Rick Sawatsky) who claimed the Slam title with a 1-up triumph.

#scc2017 men’s round robin review

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CRUNCH TIME: Tom Brewster is in the Scottish Championships playoff mix again. Pic: Brian Battensby (brianbatphotography.co.uk)

The round robin stage of the Scottish Curling Championships is complete, and the men’s section saw less playoff pandemonium than the year before, where five teams finished on W6 L3 records. 

This year it only required one tiebreaker between Teams Hardie and Mouat to give us a final four of Teams Brewster, Mouat, Murdoch and Smith.

The 10 teams involved in the championship all played their part, with Team Telfer – who lost all nine of their games – coming within a couple of shots of beating Team Smith, edged out 7-6.

Kyle Smith and his rink were also glad to escape unscathed from a tough encounter with Team Whyte, who outplayed their opponents for much of the match but lost 7-3.

It was one of a number of impressive performances from the young team, who shrugged off the loss of regular skip Ross Whyte (he’s at the World Junior Championships as Cameron Bryce’s fifth man) to claim five wins.

Their six-man rotation, skipped by Callum Kinnear when he wasn’t working, upset Teams Murdoch (7-5) and Mouat (8-1), took Team Brewster to an extra end (losing 8-7), and were left to rue a few bad shots in defeat to Team Smith.

Kyle Smith said: “They [Whyte] seemed to have a really good week.

“They’re good curlers, and upset a few folk, so we were quite relieved to get over the finish line against them.”

The Smith rink posted seven victories to two defeats, putting them joint top of the round robin standings and into the 1v2 page playoff against David Murdoch’s Olympians.

“That’s 100 per cent where we wanted to be at the start of the week,” said Smith. “So we’re very pleased.

“We’ve been pretty good, we’ve had some tough games and had to dig deep to steal sometimes or create our twos, but we’re all working together so we need to keep that going.

“Hopefully we’re due a win over him [Murdoch], so we’ll see how we get on.”

Team Murdoch lost two of their first four games – to Hardie and Whyte – but since then they’ve won five in a row, meaning they carry the best form into the playoffs.

Skip Murdoch said: “Our number one priority is to get into the playoffs, and it’s a great bonus that we’re in the 1v2 – that’s where we’ve been aiming the whole week.

“We did have a slow start, but we’ve played some great curling this week and bossed some teams around, and beat a lot of teams that have been playing well.”

In fact they have defeated three of the top five in the section, beating Teams Smith (7-5), Mouat (9-2) and Brewster (8-6).

Murdoch added: “We’re in a good place. It’s going to be a tough weekend – everyone’s in it to win it, and so are we, so we hope to bring our best game to the weekend.

“We’ve been on a bit of a win streak, so you feel good and have your chest puffed out from that.

“When you have a good feeling you’re relaxed, and you just need to bring the intensity.”

Rivalling Murdoch for form are Team Mouat who, after their chastening defeats to Murdoch and Whyte on Tuesday, have won four in a row, including the tiebreaker with Team Hardie.

Grant Hardie’s rink enjoyed another good week, starting with four straight wins, but ultimately it ended in frustration as defeats to Smith, Mouat and Brewster pushed them into a decider with Mouat, the latter scoring two in end eight in winning 5-4.

Skip Bruce Mouat paid tribute to his opponents, saying: “They’re [Hardie] really strong, we’ve played them quite a few times this season and it’s probably been 50-50 games-wise, so it was good to win tonight.”

They won gold at the Winter University Games earlier this month, bringing confidence but also, undoubtedly, some fatigue.

Mouat added: “It’s always going to be quite tiring after a week’s rest and then playing another long week, but I think we’ve really managed to rest well over the week – and that’s what we go to the gym for!”

But it’s target achieved for them in Perth, and they’re a dangerous side in the last four.

“Initially [making playoffs] is what we set out to do, and then obviously we want to win it now, so it’s three must-wins,” said Mouat.

“A winning run is always important. We had a rough Tuesday, losing two on the trot, and bad losses, but now it’s four on the trot that we’ve won.

“Going into the games with a bit of momentum is always a good thing, so if we show up and play well we’ll definitely cause some problems for the other teams.”

But standing in their way are reigning champions Team Brewster, who finished alongside Teams Murdoch and Smith on W7 L2, but having lost to both they missed out on playing in the 1v2 game.

Not that skip Tom Brewster has any complaints about his rink’s round robin performance.

“I think we’re playing just as well as we were last year; I don’t see much difference.

“Even the game we lost yesterday to Dave [Murdoch], we probably outplayed them apart from one bad end which cost us the game.”

The concession of fours in end six against Smith and end two versus Murdoch were decisive, fighting back from 5-1 down to 6-6 in the latter match, before being beaten 8-6.

“We’ve lost two games this week where, truthfully, one bad end has cost us the game, so we just need to cut out a couple of those simple mistakes in the ends we’ve given up,” Brewster added.

“We’ve not played badly in either lost game, just our opponents have been exceptional. So if we cut that out we’ll be in a good place.”

As for the 3v4 match-up, it pits them against a team they’ve already beaten in Team Mouat, albeit after an extra end.

Brewster said: “It’s one extra game, that’s it; you’ve just got to be here at the end of the week.

“I’m confident, we’ve had a good end to the week and we’re improving as the week’s gone on, so that’s what matters.”

Brewster secure home victory at Perth Masters

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Team Brewster, Perth Masters champions (photo: facebook.com/TeamBrewsterCurling)

Team Brewster began 2017 as they ended 2016 – with a title, this time at the Perth Masters.

Last year saw Tom Brewster’s quartet win the Scottish Championships, European Playdowns and Karuizawa International, and they got this year off to the ideal start.

Also this weekend, Team Smith were involved in another Grand Slam of Curling event, the Canadian Open, while Team Jackson have successfully qualified Scotland for the World Women’s Junior Championship.

***

Thirty-two teams from around the world arrived for the Perth Masters, which is becoming a major Curling Champions Tour event – with live online coverage to match.

Ten Scottish teams began the triple knockout competition, and three of those made the playoffs – Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Dave Reid, Duncan Menzies) and MacDonald (Ewan MacDonald, David Edwards, Duncan Fernie, Euan Byers).

Brewster began with wins over Foss (7-1), Snitil 6-2 and MacDonald (7-1), but lost their A Road final 5-3 against last year’s runners-up, Team Ulsrud of Norway.

It mattered little, though, as they then beat Pfister 4-1 and MacDonald (again, 5-1 this time) on the B Road to secure a playoff spot.

MacDonald, having beaten Kauste 10-4 and Pfister 6-4 but suffered their first defeat to Brewster, took victories over Ramsfjell (6-1) and Eskilsson (7-3).

There then followed their second loss to Brewster, but a 7-3 success against fellow Scots Bryce saw them into the knockout stages.

As for Hardie, they opened by overcoming Walstad 5-4, but then lost 5-3 to Eskilsson.

On the B Road they defeated compatriots Bryce 5-4 (stealing one in the extra end) but were then knocked down to the C Road, Pfister edging their match 3-2.

So Hardie needed three straight wins to make the playoffs… and that’s just what they got, against Schwaller (7-5), then two other Scottish rinks – Murdoch (5-4, again stealing one in the extra end) and Mouat (7-3).

Come the quarter-finals, Brewster stole singles in ends seven and eight to eke out a 6-4 victory against Liu Rui of China.

But the last eight proved to be the limit for Hardie – beaten 8-2 by Baumann of Germany after giving up four in end four – and MacDonald – losing out 4-2 to Ulsrud in a tight match.

Brewster had to board the steal train again in their semi-final with Baumann; having been 3-0 down, they scored twos in the seventh and eighth ends for another 6-4 win.

In the final they faced Walstad, who had shocked their fellow Norwegians Ulsrud in last four, and the match was tied 3-3 after five ends.

But three for Brewster in end six, followed up by a steal of two in the seventh, handed them victory by an 8-3 scoreline and meant they were Masters of Perth!

Tom Brewster – celebrating his record fourth Perth Masters title – told British Curling: “This is a fantastic event – it’s really well organised, the ice is always good.

“It’s always a strong field and to come out on top is a real honour.

“It goes down in the record books because people see this as one of the biggest events in Europe.”

 

See photos from the event on the competition website, or via Brydone Images.

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) took part in the Grand Slam of Curling Canadian Open in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, but unfortunately they were not involved for long.

In a triple knockout competition, they lost 5-4 to Team Jacobs, 9-5 to Team Korte and 6-3 to Team Epping, which saw them eliminated.

The men’s final was contested by Teams Edin and Gushue, and it was the Canadians – with skip Brad Gushue clearly back in the swing of things after injury, as he threw 100 per cent in the final – who triumphed 8-3.

As for the women’s title, that went to Team Scheidegger – not one of the best known Canadian rinks, but one which has found fine form this season, including winning the HDF Insurance Shoot Out, where they defeated Team Muirhead in the final.

Here they faced Team Tirinzoni of Switzerland, and won it 5-4 thanks to a steal of one in the eighth end.

***

Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr (alternate), coached by Cate Brewster) have qualified Scotland for the women’s section of the 2017 World Junior Championships.

Playing at the World Junior-B Championships in Östersund, Sweden, they won all six of their round robin matches – against Spain (11-4), Latvia (6-3), Estonia (5-3), Norway (5-2), Romania (13-2) and the Czech Republic (7-1).

That set up a quarter-final rematch with Norway, which yielded an 8-2 victory, largely thanks to a steal of three in end four, plus one in end five, and finished off by two in end seven.

 

And in the semi-finals they scored two in end three, having been 2-0 down, before stealing singles in ends four through to seven, for a 6-2 triumph – and Worlds qualification!

They play Turkey for gold, a match shown live here.

England also had teams at the B Championships, but neither managed to reach the playoffs – the men were defeated in all seven of their matches, while the women took three wins to three losses.

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.”

***

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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.

Team Hardie retain Braehead Open title

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Braehead Open winners David Reid, Grant Hardie (skip), Blair Fraser, Duncan Menzies – photo: Graham Shedden/Goldline Scottish Curling Tour on Facebook

Team Hardie made it two successive Braehead Open victories this weekend, overcoming Team Jackson 5-2 in the final at the opening Scottish Curling Tour event of the season.

The weekend also saw victory for Team Kinnear in the Stevenson Trophy, the event which kicks off the 2016-17 Asham U17 Slam.

Overseas, Kristin Moen Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten of Norway claimed the Tallinn Mixed Doubles International title, while in Canada the College Clean Restoration Curling Classic attracted several top class men’s teams.

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The first Goldline Scottish Curling Tour event of 2016-17 attracted 24 teams – both men’s and women’s, British Curling-funded and amateur, junior and senior level, and coming from England, Ireland, Wales, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

Those teams were arranged into two pools, with the teams playing two pre-drawn matches and then a third based on the Shenkel system, before being divided into high, middle and low roads.

After three matches Section A was headed by Team Kubeska, the Czech men’s team, ahead of Teams Telfer, Jackson, Wiebe, Kubeskova, Horton, Jamieson and Russell.

The top eight rinks in Section B, meanwhile, were Teams Hardie (defending champions), Bryce, Woolston, Taylor, Aitken, Wilson, Mouat and Adam.

The last-16 ties were played on Saturday evening, and saw wins for Teams Bryce, Hardie, Jackson, Kubeska, Mouat, Taylor, Wiebe and Woolston.

In the quarter-finals, Hardie scored threes in ends one, four and six to defeat Wiebe 9-3, while Mouat – without skip Bruce – took three in end two as they beat Woolston 6-3.

Jackson scored twos in ends three, four and six to overcome Bryce 7-2 in their battle of the early season form sides, and Taylor made it an all-Scottish last four by defeating Kubeska 4-3, thanks to twos in ends five and seven.

The semi-finals saw Hardie emerge as victors against Mouat, scoring twos in ends one and three to win 5-3, while Jackson posted a four in end three as they overcame Taylor 7-4.

So the final came down to Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Dave Reid, Duncan Menzies) versus Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) – after the rinks exhanged ones, Hardie drew first blood with a two in end three.

Jackson pulled one back in end five, but another single for Hardie in end six, then a steal in end seven, put the game out of the girls’ reach at 5-2 – and ensured the Hardie rink had retained their title.

Team Smith’s first outing (Hazel Smith skipping a team featuring two former Team Muirhead leads in Claire Hamilton, returning to the sport after her post-Olympics break, and Sarah Reid) won the middle road, while Team Gillespie beat Team Havercroft 4-3 in the low road final.

You can find full results from the weekend here, while photos from the competition are here.

***

There were also 24 rinks involved at the Stevenson Trophy, the opening leg of the Asham U17 Slam taking place in Lockerbie.

Divided into six sections, the teams played three matches before high road and low road knockout stages.

The high road quarter-finals saw victories for Teams Farmer (6-5 against Carter) and Hair (5-4 over Gallacher).

In the semi-finals, Hair won again – 5-4 versus Craik – but Farmer came unstuck against Kinnear, who won 6-2.

Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean, Matthew McKenzie) came up trumps by the same scoreline in the final, scoring ones in ends two, three and four, then adding two in end six and a steal of one in end seven.

The low road final was won by Team Haswell (Blair Haswell, Adam Keron, Cameron Paterson, Adam MacDiarmid), who came from 6-3 down after five ends to beat Team Kennedy 9-6.

***

The inaugural Tallinn Mixed Doubles International attracted 18 teams from nine countries – the Czech Republic, host country Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Latvia, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.

Coming out on top were the Norwegian pairing of Kristin Moen Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten, who kept their cool to score one with hammer in end eight (having given up steals in ends six and seven) to beat Oona Kauste and Tomi Rantimaki of Finland 5-4.

Finally, among several World Curling Tour events taking place in Canada over the weekend, the College Clean Restoration Curling Classic in Saskatchewan involved the most high-profile teams.

The competition finishes today – the rinks left standing are: Team Bottcher, Team Edin, Team Epping, Team Jacobs, Team Laycock, Team Morozumi, Team Thomas and Team Ulsrud. Follow the knockout stage scores here.

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!

***

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.

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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.

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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.

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