Carson and Jackson triumph in Braehead

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Braehead Junior International women’s champions Team Jackson. Pic: facebook.com/TeamJackson1

Team Jackson retained their women’s title at the Braehead Junior International, while Team Carson made it a Scottish double by triumphing on the men’s side.

There was also action in Forfar this weekend, while Teams Brewster and Hamilton took part in competitions further overseas.

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Braehead welcomed 18 men’s teams and 14 women’s for the Junior International event on the European Junior Curling Tour (EJCT).

There were seven Scottish rinks on the men’s side, with five making the knockout stages – and a sixth (Team Craik) just missing the playoffs by a few centimetres in the draw shot rankings.

Teams Baird and Gallacher topped Pool A, with Team Whyte joining Team Nygren (Sweden) at the summit of Pool B, and Teams Kinnear and Carson dominating Pool C.

The quarter-finals brought wins for Carson (8-2 against Baird), Nygren (6-4 over Gallacher), Ramsfjell of Norway (5-3 versus Kinnear) and Whyte (6-1 against Lochmann of Switzerland).

Come the last four, Carson beat Nygren 8-4 and Ramsfjell saw off Whyte 6-2.

In the final, twos in ends three, four and six helped Carson (Luke Carson, Ben Cormack, Euan MacDiarmid, Mark Taylor) win 7-5 to clinch the title, while Nygren beat Whyte 5-4 for third spot.

There were six Scottish teams in the women’s competition, and four of them – Teams Davie, Farmer, Jackson and Morrison – progressed to the playoffs.

In the last eight, Davie saw off Chmarra (Poland) 6-4, Jackson defeated Morrison 6-4, Tanner (Switzerland) beat Farmer 6-5, and Witschonke of Switzerland eased past Podrabska (Czech Republic) 9-2.

The semi-finals were all-Scottish and all-Swiss affairs, with Jackson beating Davie 6-3 and Witschonke defeating Tanner 7-2.

As for the final, it was rather one-sided, as Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) got two on the board in the first end before blowing it open with five in the fourth and a steal of two in the fifth to win 9-1.

Davie won the third-place match 7-6.

***

The latest stop on the Goldline Scottish Curling Tour was the Forfar Curl Fest, involving 12 teams.

The semi-finals were won by Team Barr (against Marshall) and Team Dick (versus Prentice), with Grant Barr’s rink going on to take victory in the final.

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Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Duncan Menzies, Scott Andrews, Alasdair Schreiber) were in Canada for the Ashley Home Store Curling Classic, and finished Pool C with a W4 L1 record.

Wins against Teams Laycock, McQuiggan, Pierce and Tardi, with their only defeat coming against Mike McEwen’s rink.

The quarter-finals proved their limit, however, as they lost 4-3 (after extra end) to Team Koe, who went on to beat Team Edin in the final.

***

And Team Hamilton (Claire Hamilton, Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) headed to Estonia for the Tallinn Ladies International Challenger, and beat Teams Link, Pavlyuchik and Telnova to make the playoffs (only losing to Team Widmer).

Like Brewster, they went out in the last eight, again to an extra-end defeat – 5-4 against Team Kauste of Finland – as Swiss rink Widmer won the final against Baksheeva (Russia).

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Teams Bryce and Jackson excel at World Juniors

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SILVER: Cate Brewster, Laura Barr, Sophie Sinclair, Mili Smith, Naomi Brown and Sophie Jackson. Pic: twitter.com/CurlTeamJackson

Team Bryce and Jackson both performed strongly in Korea at the World Junior Curling Championships, Sophie Jackson’s rink winning silver in the women’s section and Cameron Bryce’s men finishing fourth in the venue for the forthcoming Winter Olympics.

***

Scotland women (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr (alternate), Cate Brewster (coach)) enjoyed a huge turnaround from the last World Juniors, when they were relegated to the B-Division, but having won promotion they did superbly.

They cruised through the round robin with a W7 L2 record, starting with four consecutive victories – versus Korea (7-6, stealing one in end 10), Hungary (8-7), Turkey (10-5) and Sweden (6-5, stealing two in the 10th end).

Team Jackson then lost 8-7 to Switzerland, but bounced back with three more wins, against Japan (9-7), the USA (7-2) and Canada (8-5, scoring four in end four).

Their last round robin match brought an 8-7 loss to Russia after an extra end, but they had done enough to make the 1v2 page playoff.

There they were beaten 9-6 by Sweden, having given up a steal of three in end three, but they secured their spot in the final, guaranteeing a medal, with a emphatic victory against Canada.

The Scots got off to an ideal start, scoring three in end one, and added two in the third end, stole four in the fourth, three in the fifth and one in the sixth, for a 13-2 win after eight ends.

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “I think the fire was sparked in us. We were so ready for that game and we wanted to make the final so bad after last night’s loss.

“We were just really ready and really pumped for that. This takes the pressure off a wee bit, but we still want that gold so bad.”

The final brought a third meeting with Sweden, the sides having won once and lost once against each other already in Gangneung.

Isabella Wranaa’s Swedes took the spoils this time, as although Scotland scored three in end four to lead 4-3, Sweden hit back by taking a three of their own in end five, stealing two in the sixth end and adding another two in the eighth for a 10-7 win and the gold medals.

Scotland could still be delighted with claiming silver in a tough competition; Canada took bronze.

Jackson said: “I’m a bit gutted, but we’ve had a really good week.

“I’m speechless really, we’ve done way better than we expected, so we’re still happy.

“I’m so proud of my team, we’ve done so much this season.”

***

It was a tougher route to the playoffs for Scotland men (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw, Ross Whyte (alternate), Colin Morrison (coach)), who lost their opening two matches – 7-6 to the USA after an extra end (having been 6-2 down), and 8-7 to Norway (having been 6-1 down).

But they pulled out four successive wins to get back in contention – beating Sweden 8-6, Switzerland 8-7 (after an extra end), China 8-3 and Italy 7-5.

They went down 8-7 to hosts Korea (another extra end loss), which meant they had to win their final two round robin games to clinch a playoff spot.

That they did, overcoming Turkey 7-4 and Canada 9-8 (taking their one with hammer in an extra end).

They won the 3v4 game 8-7 against Norway, scoring two in end 10 and then stealing one in the extra end, but they came unstuck against Ki Jeong Lee’s Korea in the semi-final.

The host nation, who went on to beat the USA in the final to win gold, beat the Scots 11-4 courtesy of three in end one, two in end three, three in the sixth end and two in the eighth.

That left Scotland facing Norway (again!) for bronze, and here they fell short – as the Norwegians went 7-0 ahead courtesy of steals in the first three ends, and eventually won out 10-3 in eight ends.

***

 

As well as the Scottish Championships, plenty of other national championships have been taking place this week, including the English Championships – which were won by Team Woolston (men’s) and Team Farnell (women’s).

In Canada, of course, we had the national women’s championship, the Scotties, which witnessed fierce competition between Teams Englot (Manitoba) and Homan (Ontario).

Englot won both the round robin encounter and the 1v2 page playoff game, but when it came to the final, it was Rachel Homan’s rink who won a see-saw affair 8-6, gaining the national title and securing a trip to face Team Muirhead and co at Worlds in Beijing.

 

Bryce and Jackson win Scottish Juniors

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Scottish Junior men’s champions Team Bryce (photo: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce)

Teams Bryce and Jackson will represent Scotland at the World Junior Curling Championships next month after winning the national titles in Aberdeen.

There was also success this weekend for Team Muirhead, who claimed a home victory at the Glynhill Ladies International, a Curling Champions Tour event in Braehead.

And Team Smith made the final at the German Masters in Hamburg, finishing as runners-up to Team Walstad of Norway.

***

The Scottish Curling Junior Championship, hosted by Curl Aberdeen, saw Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) top the men’s round robin with seven wins from seven.

They defeated Teams McNay (8-2), Cormack (10-2), Whyte (7-5), Joiner (10-2), Carson (5-3), Craik (6-3) and Baird (7-3).

Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) finished second in the section on W6 L1, ahead of Teams Baird (David Baird, Fraser Kingan, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) and McNay (Cameron McNay, James Baird, Fin Campbell, Angus Bryce) on W4 L3, who had to play a tiebreaker – won 8-6 by McNay after a steal of two in end 10.

On the women’s side, it was Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair), who went undefeated, with round robin victories against Teams Farmer (7-6), Aitken (14-5), MacDonald (8-4), Dandie (9-6), Keen (12-1) and Davie (9-4).

Behind them came Teams Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Annabel Skuse, Emma Barr) and Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr), both on W4 L2 records.

In the 1v2 page playoff games, Bryce scored twos in ends seven and nine to beat Whyte 7-5, while Jackson roared into a 7-2 lead after five ends in overcoming Davie 8-6.

Whyte earned their third crack at Bryce by winning the men’s semi-final 7-4 against McNay, but it was Aitken who claimed the women’s match – defeating Davie 8-3.

The finals were both tight affairs. Bryce led Whyte 6-3 after five ends but their opponents forced the issue right to the end, Bryce having to take one in end 10 to win 9-7 and clinch the title.

The women’s final was even closer, as Aitken and Jackson traded singles up to 2-2 after six ends; Aitken then stole in end seven, but Jackson scored two in end nine to lead.

One from Aitken in end 10 forced an extra end, where Jackson scored one to take it 5-4 and claim a place at the World Juniors that they had qualified Scotland for this month.

Jackson’s third Naomi Brown said: “After such a nip and tuck game and following all the hard work that went into the World Bs this is probably the best feeling ever after this Scottish final.

“For a new team we have achieved such a lot together; I didn’t even know Mili at the start of the season and we have all gelled so well and held it together and kept the focus.

“I am really proud of all of my team mates and our coach Cate (Brewster) who is so much part of our team and our results today, it has made all of the hard work worthwhile.”

Bryce and Jackson will fly the Saltire in Gangneung, Korea, between February 16-26.

***

The Glynhill Ladies International returned to Braehead for its 10th edition, with four Scottish teams among the 24-strong field.

The teams were divided into four sections, and Section A saw Teams Kubeskova (Czech Republic) and Wang (China) qualify – Team Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday and Rachel Hannen) dropped short despite wins over Teams Tirinzoni (6-5) and Nielsen (7-3).

In Section B it was Teams PĂ€tz and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) who progressed, Muirhead having won against Kauste (8-4), Sveliga-Frynia (7-2), Wrana (6-3) and PĂ€tz (9-3), and lost to Barbezat (4-1).

Section C saw Team Feltscher join Swiss compatriots PÀtz in the last eight, but Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Nancy Smith (super sub)) just missed out after a 9-7 loss to Team Jentsch meant the Germans went through.

Fleming were then beaten 7-3 by Team Moiseeva in the Consolation competition semi-finals, Moiseeva finishing runner-up to Barbezat in that part of the event.

And Section D was topped by Team Sigfridsson of Sweden and Team Hegner of Switzerland – with Team Smith (Hazel Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton) going out on a W2 L3 record.

Muirhead faced Feltscher in the last eight and scored twos in ends three, four and seven to overcome the Swiss 8-3.

The semi-finals pitted them against Hegner, and this match was won 7-5, the Scots stealing two in end three and scoring three in end six.

And they faced Swiss opposition once again in the final, in the form of PÀtz.

Muirhead scored twos in ends two and four to lead 4-3 at halfway, before steals of three in end five and one in end six handed them the win 8-3 and their first Glynhill title.

Skip Eve Muirhead told British Curling: “Alina [PĂ€tz] won last week in Switzerland when we didn’t have such a good week, so for us to bounce back from that after a lot of good chats with our coaches and all our support staff, we had a few key things to work on and to focus on and I think we did that really well.

“To get a Scottish winner’s always nice, and there was a lot of support in here. I was really impressed with the numbers that came along.”

***

There were also four Scottish rinks involved in the German Masters in Hamburg, and while Teams Brewster and Murdoch went out early on W1 L2 records, there was more success for Teams Mouat and Smith.

Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were in Pool B, and won three straight matches – versus Teams Brunner (6-4), Rui Liu (7-2) and Retornaz (7-4).

Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon), in Pool E, lost their opener 6-3 to Team Walstad of Norway, but hit back by defeating Teams Wunderer (8-4) and Baumann (7-5).

Smith, having topped their group, had two chances to qualify for the quarter-finals and after losing the first 5-4 to Walstad after an extra end, they won the second 7-4 against Team Bottcher of Canada.

Mouat joined them in the quarter-finals after pipping the colourful trouser enthusiasts of Norway, Team Ulsrud, 6-5.

In the last eight, Smith scored four in end four in beating the Swiss De Cruz rink 6-4, but Mouat gave up a four in end six versus Walstad to lose 8-3 and exit the competition.

Come the semi-finals, Smith faced Team Timofeev of Russia, and having scored two in end two, they took their ones when they needed to, winning 4-2.

That set up a final with Walstad, the Norwegians having been something of a nemesis so far for the Scottish rinks.

And so it proved again. Walstad stole one in end four, but Smith stole in end six to level it up at 3-3.

But a three for the Norwegians in end seven proved the game-winner, as they took the title 6-3 – having won every game played in Hamburg – with Smith as worthy runners-up.

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.

2016-17 curling half season review

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the highlights…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

European Championships round-up: Scotland women medal again!

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Grand Slam final for Team Smith at Tour Challenge

 

smith_kyle1280
Team Smith made their first Grand Slam final this weekend (photo: Anil Mungal/thegrandslamofcurling.com)

Team Smith battled through to their first ever Grand Slam final at the GSOC Tour Challenge, ultimately falling to back-to-back Slam winners Team Edin.

Elsewhere, Team Fraser won the SCT Forfar Open and three Scottish teams competed at the ZO International Women’s Tournament in Switzerland – Teams G Aitken and Muirhead exiting at the quarter-final stage.

Team Jackson won the World Junior B Playdown against Team K Aitken, while the National Masters and Baljaffray Trophy also took place.

***

The GSOC Tour Challenge, in Cranbrook, British Columbia, was organised in two tiers for men’s and women’s teams, and involved five Scottish rinks.

Teams Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) took part in men’s tier 1.

Murdoch began with an 8-4 loss to Team Ulsrud of Norway, then were beaten 8-5 by Team Jacobs (losing a five in end five).

Despite an 11-5 victory over Team Koe (stealing five in end eight), an 8-3 reverse against Team Morris saw them exit on a W1 L3 record.

Smith also started with a defeat, 9-4 to Team Nichols (giving up five in end five), but recovered to post wins against Team Carruthers (6-1), Team Thomas (8-7) and Team Epping (6-4) to progress to the playoffs.

In men’s tier 2, Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) – Scotland’s representative at the upcoming Europeans in Braehead, of course – also made the playoffs courtesy of victories against Team Schneider (7-2), Team Bice (5-4) and Team Lyburn (8-3), their only defeat coming against Team Joanisse (9-4).

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon), also in men’s tier 2, made a good start – beating Team Geall 9-5 – but then lost to Team Balsdon (6-4).

Mouat defeated Team Clark 8-2 to give themselves hope of making the playoffs, but a 6-4 loss to Team Gunnlaugson tipped them into a tiebreaker with Bice, which they lost 7-4.

And in women’s tier 2, Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) were victors against Team Galusha (9-4) and Team Tippin (7-6) but were beaten by Team Brown (10-4) andTeam Kleibrink (6-3), which mean a tiebreaker with Team Harrison, the Canadians winning that 6-4.

Come the playoffs, Brewster went down 5-2 against Joanisse in the men’s tier 2 quarter-finals, which left Smith as the sole Scottish rink remaining.

In the quarter-finals against Carruthers, Smith scored three in end three and stole two in end six on their way to a 7-5 win, putting them into the last four and up against Ulsrud.

Smith scored two in end one but the match went down to the wire, 5-5 after eight ends, the Scots taking their one with hammer in the extra end to make the final.

There they met Edin, who had lost their first two matches in Cranbrook but – as they often do – found form when they needed it to win their tiebreaker and then keep rolling through the playoffs.

And they proved too strong for Smith here, scoring two in end two, stealing one in the third and adding three in end five for a 7-3 victory – and their second successive Grand Slam title.

Team Smith’s coach Viktor Kjall said: “It has been an impressive week from the team and they played with confidence, determination and exactly executed their gameplan.”

“It is an incredible performance from such a young team competing in their second slam to reach a final and it is one of the biggest achievements in Grand Slam history.

“At the moment they can beat any team in the world but they still have to work hard if they want to break into the top 10 in the world.”

Women’s tier 1 was claimed by Team Sweeting (8-5 winners over Team Englot in the final), while Team Balsdon won men’s tier 2 and Team Harrison women’s tier 2.

For photos from the event, see the GSOC gallery here… and of course Ben Hebert returned to present another edition of the ‘Sheet Show’…

***

Sixteen teams travelled to Forfar for another Scottish Curling Tour event, which came just one weekend after the Edinburgh International.

The 12 men’s and four women’s teams – from Canada, England and Ireland as well as the host nation – played out group matches to decide the quarter-final line-up.

Those last eight matches pitted Team Bryce against Team Hardie (Hardie won 6-1), Team Fraser versus Team D Wilson (Fraser took it 5-2), Team Taylor up against Team Telfer (Taylor coming through 5-4) and – in the women’s quarter – Team Ward against Team M Wilson (Ward, the English women’s team preparing for European B-Division in Braehead, winning 9-4).

In the semi-finals, Hardie overcame Ward 6-2 and Fraser defeated Taylor 5-2.

Hardie have become accustomed to winning SCT events over the past couple of seasons but it was not to be this time, as Fraser (Ally Fraser, Ruairidh Greenwood, Calum Greenwood, Angus Dowell) scored twos in ends one, three and seven in taking the match and the silverware 7-6.

Photos from the event are available on the SCT blog pages here.

***

The International ZO Women’s Tournament in Wetzikon, Switzerland, attracted three Scottish entries.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) – like Team Brewster, counting down the days to be the home team at Europeans – took their place in the quarter-finals courtesy of round-robin victories against Teams Szeliga-Frynia (4-3), Nielsen (5-3), Lundman (9-3) and Bugnon (8-5), before a 7-2 loss to Team Barbezat with qualification already secured.

Team Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) joined Muirhead in the last eight – on draw shot ranking – having won against Teams Maillard (4-2), Mathis (6-5) and Kauste (5-4), and losing to Teams Moiseeva (8-5) and Kubeskova (6-5).

The third Scottish rink, Team Smith (Hazel Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton), went out with a W1 L4 record, beating Team Strnadova 8-3 but suffering defeats to Teams Baksheeva (6-4), Wrana (5-3), Stern (5-4 after extra end) and Mani (8-5).

The quarter-finals proved the limit for both remaining Scottish teams, Aitken beaten 9-3 by Team Schöpp and Muirhead losing 7-5 against Mani.

Schöpp made the final but ended as runners-up, Barbezat claiming a Swiss victory with a 7-5 win over their German opponents.

***

Back in Scotland, two of the nation’s top junior women’s teams contested a playdown to decide who would fly the Saltire at the World Junior B Championships.

Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) took the first game of the best-of-five series by a 9-8 scoreline.

Their opponents, Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Sophie Sinclair, Mili Smith), hit straight back by taking the second game 9-3.

Again they traded victories, Aitken winning 9-6 and then Jackson 8-3, which set up a decisive fifth match.

This one was lower-scoring than the previous games, Jackson taking a steal of one in end five to lead 2-1 at halfway; Aitken couldn’t wrestle back control of the match and opposing skip Sophie Jackson drew the four foot to score one in end 10 and claim victory 4-3.

Therefore it is Jackson who will represent Scotland at the international tournament in Ostersund, Sweden, from January 3-9, 2017.

***

Finally, to round up the last few events (a very busy week!), the National Masters Curling Championship qualifiers took place at Greenacres – results here – and the latest round of the Asham U17 Slam was held at the same venue later in the week.

The latter competition, the Baljaffray Trophy, drew 24 junior teams – who battled it out to make high and low road finals.

The high road final saw Team Kinnear beat Team Farmer 8-4 to win yet another title in what is already turning into a very successful season for Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean and Matthew McKenzie.

Team Gallacher defeated Team Davie 10-1 for third spot, while in the low road final it was Team Craik who won out, 6-5 against Team Hair.

 

Also this week we had the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships, held in Uiseong, Korea, and the host country claimed gold in the women’s competition.

Team Eunjung Kim and silver medallists China (skipped by Bingyu Wang) both secured qualification for the 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship in Beijing.

As for the men, Japan (skipped by Yusuke Morozumi) won gold ahead of China (Rui Liu) – both teams booked their tickets for next year’s World Men’s in Edmonton, Canada.

Last, but certainly not least for Scotland, the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championships took place in Lohja, Finland.

Not only did the Scots (Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson, Angie Malone (alternate)) win silver (beaten 6-4 in the final by the host nation), they also qualified for the 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championship – and the 2018 Winter Olympics as Great Britain.

You can see Scotland’s full results from Lohja, including their 13-3 semi-final win over England, here.