Team Fleming make last eight and Canadian Olympic spots decided

Team Fleming before Mesabi Classic
Team Fleming at Mountain Iron Buhl High School ahead of the Curl Mesabi Classic. Pic: facebook.com/teamfleming1

There was not quite the overseas success which Team Morrison enjoyed at the EJCT Austrian Women’s Cup the week before, but Team Fleming did a good job representing Scotland across the Atlantic this weekend.

A little further north of Minnesota, the hotbed of curling (and therefore the gold medal favourites in every Olympic Games) saw its Olympic representatives decided.

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Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) were in Eveleth, Minnesota (USA), for the Curl Mesabi Classic.

They began well, with wins over Teams Rhyme (5-2) and Martin (6-5), but defeats to Rocque (3-2) and Schultz (6-4) forced them into a tiebreaker with McPhee, which they won to make the quarter-finals.

The last eight pitted them against Rocque again, and once again the Grand Slam regulars were too strong, with twos in ends three and six helping them to a 6-2 victory – and Rocque went on the win the title, beating Roth in the final.

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The Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings culminated in Ottawa, Ontario, this weekend, and it’s Teams Homan and Koe who will represent Canada at next year’s Olympic Games.

Team Carey topped the women’s round robin with eight wins from eight, but after Homan defeated reigning Olympic champions Jones in the semi-final, it was the current world champions who triumphed 6-5 in the final.

On the men’s side, Koe finished W7 L1 to book their place in the final; McEwen beat Gushue in the semi, but could not repeat the trick – Koe winning 7-6.

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They will be joined at Pyeongchang 2018 by Denmark men (Stjerne), Italy men (Retornaz), China women (Wang) and Denmark women (Dupont), after they emerged from the Olympic Qualification Event in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

That means that the Olympics will feature the following teams:

Men – Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, USA; women – Canada, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, Russia (subject to International Olympic Committee decision), Sweden, Switzerland, USA.

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Finally, this weekend also saw the Perth edition of the Asham Under-14 Slam take place at the Dewars Centre.

A total of 16 teams competed across four sections, before the High Road final was contested between Teams Chalmers and Maguire.

McGuire (Inca Maguire, Holly Wilkie-Milne, Laura Watt, Emma Allan) won 5-1 to clinch the title.

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Weekend round-up: Canada conquer World Men’s

koe wins worlds
Canada (Team Koe), World Men’s champions (photo: twitter.com/CurlingCanada/status/719213209387831296)

Kevin Koe and his Canadian rink won gold at the World Men’s Curling Championship in Basel, Switzerland, while Denmark took silver and the USA bronze.

Scotland (Team Brewster) missed the playoffs, but finished their week strongly with a win over the defending champions Sweden.

Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, Cameron Bryce’s rink retained their Scottish Mixed Championship title and again earned passage to Worlds.

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Scotland (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Scott Andrews (alternate)) opened their Worlds campaign with a 9-3 victory over Korea, then an impressive 6-3 win against last year’s runners-up Norway.

But from there the wheels seemed to fall off, as the team suffered five consecutive losses. After a 9-6 defeat to Russia, they looked set to recover against Japan, only to give up a steal in the extra end to lose 6-5.

They were then beaten 5-3 by Canada, 5-4 by Switzerland and 9-7 by the USA, the latter two results both after an extra end.

The Scots finally stopped the rot against Finland, a three in end eight capping a 7-3 victory, and then beat Germany 7-6, taking their one with hammer in the extra end.

Yet another extra end loss followed against Denmark, 7-6, but they finished their tournament on a high with a three in end 10 to defeat the holders Sweden 6-4.

Skip Brewster reflected: “It’s nice to finish on a win and it’s good for Olympic points  But it’s what could have been, I think. The guys have played great and we’ve learned a lot – I’ve learnt a lot and they’ve learnt a lot.

“Mike [Harris] our coach was saying that last night… there’s a lot of great things there and if we take that experience and move on we can only be a stronger team next season.”

Scotland ended up in seventh position, on five wins and six losses, behind Norway and Sweden, last season’s finalists both failing to make the final four.

Canada defeated Denmark 5-3 in the 1v2 playoff, before the USA saw off Japan 5-4 in the 3v4 game (though their three in end eight was a controversial one, as a Japanese shooter bounced off the boards and kept a US stone biting).

Rasmus Stjerne’s Danes overwhelmed the USA 9-3 in the semi-final – the Americans going on to win bronze by beating Japan 8-6.

In the final, Denmark scored two in end three but Canada hit back with two in end five and then claimed two in end nine for a 5-3 lead before running the Danes out of stones.

That meant gold for Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert and alternate Scott Pfeifer, continuing what has been an enormously successful season for the Koe crew – and it is Canada’s 35th World Men’s win.

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Back in Scotland, the Scottish Mixed Championship took place at Curl Aberdeen, with seven teams formed of two males and two females playing in alternate positions.

Cameron Bryce, Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson won the championship last season and returned to defend their title – they qualified for the final by beating Mouat 6-2, Marshall 8-2, A. Bryce 7-4, Penny 6-1 and Fraser 9-7, only losing one round robin game, 5-2 to Waddell.

Also making the final on a W5 L1 record were Blair Fraser, Rowena Kerr, Duncan Menzies and Abi Brown – their victories coming against Marshall 6-5, Mouat 9-1, Waddell 10-2, Penny 9-4 and A. Bryce 4-1.

Fraser’s rink began the final with a steal of one, but Bryce scored one in end two and then stole one in three, three in four and two in five to lead 7-1.

Fraser took three in end six to give themselves hope, but Bryce hit back straight away with their own three in end seven to win the game 10-4 and retain the championship.

Their reward is a trip to Kazan, Russia, for the World Mixed Curling Championship from October 15-22.

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Finally, the Ladies One Day Bonspiel, run by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s ladies branch, took place in Kinross.

Sixteen teams (two players with more than five years of curling experience, two players with less than five years) played in two sections of eight.

Section A was topped by Team Drysdale (Maggie Scott, Elizabeth Glennie, Jane Drysdale, Lesley Johnston), who defeated Milne 7-2 and Nicoll 9-2.

And Section B was headed by Team White (Margaret White, Pat Galloway, Janice Sutherland, Karen McCreath), winners over Corstorphine 8-1 and Adams 6-3.

Team Drysdale were overall winners, with more shots up than Team White.

World Men’s Curling Championship preview

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Team Scotland (Brewster) – photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages)

Scottish champions Team Brewster are in Basel, Switzerland, this week for the 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship.

At World Women’s, Team Muirhead discovered just how difficult it is to make the playoffs at these top level events, and their male compatriots face a quality field too.

So what are their chances of remaining in contention for medals at the end of the week?

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Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Scott Andrews (alternate)) have had something of an up and down season.

Their highlights include being runners-up at the Baden Masters (August) and Dumfries’ Lely Challenge (December), as well as winning the men’s title at the Curling Night in America event, also in December.

In February they dominated the Scottish Championships, losing their second round robin game but winning every match after that, including the final against Team Murdoch, 5-4.

They lost to Murdoch in the final of last weekend’s Aberdeen International, but to make it to that point they had to overcome Team Ulsrud of Norway in the semi-final – one of their real rivals for medals in Basel.

The Brewster rink may not be hugely experienced as a unit at this very highest level, but their skip certainly is – Tom Brewster won World silvers in 2011 and 2012, plus bronze in 2002 and 2013.

Alternate Scott Andrews was on board for those 2011, 2012 and 2013 championships, so can certainly help the greener members of the team, while inexperienced is certainly not a tag you can apply to their coach, Mike Harris.

team-brewster-harris
Team Brewster with coach Mike Harris at the Scottish Championships (photo: Tom J Brydone)

The Canadian is an Olympic silver medallist (1998), and has since worked in curling commentary for CBC/Rogers/Sportsnet – he knows the world game and how to outplay/out-think the top teams.

If Brewster can show the consistency of performance they did in Perth in February – with a tendency towards playing a sensible game, keeping it tight until an opportunity to score big presented itself – then there’s no reason they can’t be challenging the teams at the head of the standings.

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And there will be some very capable teams for them to challenge, not least the defending champions – Team Edin of Sweden.

Niklas Edin’s young rink have stayed together from last year, spending much of this season in Canada, banking experience against the strongest fields world curling has to offer – and taking a couple of weeks out in November to win gold at the European Championships!

Perennial challengers, and custodians of the fanciest pants in curling, Ulsrud’s Norwegians should also be in contention, and the same goes for Kevin Koe and his Canadian rink.

Having overcome what was widely considered the strongest Brier line-up in history, Koe are gunning for gold and it will take a fine performance from another rink to deny them, given their experience and quality.

Team Kauste of Finland will look to make that leap onto the podium after fourth-place finishes at the 2015 Worlds and then the Europeans in November, while Teams Michel and Shuster of Switzerland and the USA respectively will be no pushovers.

The Japanese women delighted fans with their smiles on the way to silver in Swift Current, and their counterparts Team Morozumi – and fellow Pacific-Asia qualifiers Team Kim of Korea – will also look to make an impression as the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang draw ever closer.

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The 57th edition of the World Men’s Curling Championship takes place in the St Jakobshalle in Basel, the same venue where this event was held in 2012.

The round robin runs from Saturday, April 2 (with Scotland facing Korea and then Norway on the opening day) through to Thursday, April 7 – followed by page playoffs, culminating in the medal games on Sunday, April 10.

You can follow live scores through the event page, as well as updates from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s site – and, of course, the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Selected matches (including Scotland v Canada) will be shown online through World Curling TV, while Eurosport also has some coverage through the week.

And look out for an interview with Scotland skip Tom Brewster on this site tomorrow!

Team Mouat win World Juniors gold

mouat win world juniors
Team Mouat celebrate World Juniors gold (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

Scotland’s Team Mouat won men’s gold at the World Junior Curling Championships in Denmark, defeating the USA in the final.

By contrast, it was a chastening week for Scotland women, as they lost seven games and were relegated to the B-Division for next season.

In Canada, Team Kevin Koe claimed the Brier title and will represent their country at the World Men’s Curling Championship in Switzerland.

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At the World Juniors in Copenhagen, Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell, Robin Brydone (alternate)) shook off an uneven start – beating Norway 7-4 but then losing 7-6 to the USA after an extra end – by reeling off five straight round robin wins.

They scored three in end nine and stole three in end 10 to overcome Canada 10-7, before beating Turkey 13-4, Sweden 9-2, Korea 10-3 and Russia 10-2.

Despite a 10-4 loss to Switzerland (third Bobby Lammie feeling unwell and unable to sweep), they finished their round robin with an 8-2 win over Denmark that proved enough to make it into the 1v2 page playoff game.

There, they scored two in end seven and three in end 10 to beat the USA 7-5, skip Bruce Mouat drawing the port for the winning shot.

Korey Dropkin’s US side won their semi-final against Switzerland (who then lost the bronze medal match to Canada) to set up a third match of the week against the Scots.

In the final, Scotland blanked the first end and in the second Mouat drew for a 2-0 lead. The US were forced to one in end three, before Mouat hit for two and a 4-1 lead in the fourth.

The sides then traded ones, so Scotland held a 6-3 lead and hammer into end 10, where they ran the US out of stones to win 6-4 and claim gold!

Skip Mouat said afterwards: “It was a really good and close final. My guys knew what they had to do today and because of that we were able to control things.

“The team has been awesome all week and I am really chuffed for the guys. I feel we really deserve this.

“We knew it was our last chance as a team to win the title. We had the same vision and same goal before the start of this week and we agreed we wouldn’t settle for anything less than gold.

“That added to the pressure and it has been a roller-coaster of a week; we had a few missed shots in some of the games as well as a bit of illness in the team to contend with, including today as Bobby still wasn’t feeling 100% in the final.

“But we had a great fifth man in Robin. He is exactly what you need from a fifth player and he got to play in one game, so he played his part in all of this.”

Unfortunately it was a very different week for Scotland women (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen, Katie Murray (alternate)), despite them winning their opening game 6-4 against Japan.

The team then suffered defeats against Hungary (10-6), Korea (6-5), Sweden (7-6), the USA (8-4) and Russia (5-2), before finally coming out on top in a close match, scoring three in end eight to beat Turkey 7-6.

However, further defeats to Switzerland (11-4) and Canada (6-2) meant they finished the round robin with a W2 L7 record – and so Scotland women will play in the Junior B-Division next season.

Canada won women’s gold, beating the USA 7-4 in the final, while Korea won bronze by defeating Hungary 8-4.

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The Canadian men’s championship, the Brier, took place in Ottawa over the last week and saw Northern Ontario (Jacobs) finish the round robin with a perfect record of 11 wins and no losses.

They qualified for the 1v2 page playoff along with Newfoundland and Labrador (Gushue) (W9 L2), while Alberta (Kevin Koe) and Manitoba (McEwen) both held W8 L3 records to make it into the 3v4 game.

Before the playoffs, there was time for Craig Savill – who has been battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – to return to the ice and deliver a perfect guard for Ontario. There were few dry eyes in the arena.

Gushue’s rink came back from 4-1 down to win the 1v2 match 7-6 after an extra end, and Koe’s Alberta team won the 3v4 playoff 7-5.

In the semi-final, Alberta overcame Northern Ontario (despite this extraordinary shot from Ryan Fry, below) 6-5 with a two in end 10 – Northern Ontario went on to win bronze, beating Manitoba 7-6 after an extra end.

The final pitted Newfoundland and Labrador against Alberta – the latter started with two steals and scored two in end four, leading 4-2 at halfway.

Gushue’s team stole in end six to claw their way back to 4-3, but Koe made a pick to score three in seven – and Gushue conceded at 9-5 after nine.

So Alberta (Kevin Koe, Mark Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert) capped a phenomenal hat-trick for the province at national championships (Team Carey having won the Scotties and Lizmore the Mixed) and they will line up at the World Men’s in April alongside Scotland’s Team Brewster and co.

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In other events this weekend, the Fleming Trophy was played at Fenton’s rink in Kent.

Anna Fowler and Lauren Pearce (from the England women’s team at the 2015 European Championships) were joined by Lucy Sparks and Sara Jahodova – they won their way through to the final and there they took the victory 6-0.

And in South Korea, the Uiseong Masters took place – involving 10 women’s teams from Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the USA, as well as the host country.

The final was contested between Team Rocque of Canada and Team Tirinzoni of Switzerland – Rocque winning 5-1.

Weekend round-up: Perth Masters and Bernese Ladies Cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend round-up: Team Brewster’s American dream

Team Brewster tasted glory at the Curling Night in America event involving Chinese, Japanese and US rinks, in a weekend which also featured the Scottish men’s junior qualifiers and the Canada Cup of Curling.

The Brewster rink (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) faced Teams Zang (China), Morozumi (Japan) and Schuster (USA) in the men’s competition, a double round robin.

They opened with a 7-6 win over Zang, but then lost 10-7 against Morozumi (the Japanese rink scoring six in end four) and 5-4 to Schuster.

However, from there they went on a great run, beating Zang 6-3 and Morozumi 6-4 to set up a decisive rematch with Schuster, who topped the table with four wins.

Brewster won the game 5-4 (with a two in end eight) for their fourth victory, which meant a draw shot challenge to decide who claimed the title – and it was the Scots who came out on top.

The Scottish women’s team in Eveleth, Minnesota, was skipped by Hannah Fleming – she was joined by Sophie Jackson, Laura Ritchie and Karina Aitken.

They played Teams Mei (China), Fujisawa (Japan) and Sinclair (USA), and lost their first match 7-5 to Mei.

Fleming’s rink won their next, 4-3 against Fujisawa, but then lost all of their remaining games – 9-5 to Sinclair, 6-4 to Mei, 7-3 to Fujisawa and 7-1 to Sinclair again.

Mei won the women’s title having won five games and lost just one.

There was also a mixed doubles event, in which Scotland was represented by Jen Dodds and Alasdair Schreiber.

The Scots began with two 8-3 wins, over Japan and then China, but then lost four successive games – 8-4 against Japan, 7-5 and 10-2 to the USA and finally 13-7 to China.

The USA won the mixed title, but China’s three wins – combined with their five wins in the women’s event and three in the men’s – meant they were overall Curling Night in America champions.

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The Scottish Curling Junior Championships qualifiers brought together 12 men’s teams, divided into two pools – the top four in each group would qualify for the championships at the end of January 2016.

With four wins each, Section A was topped by Teams Brydone and Bryce.

They were joined in qualifying for the championships by Team McNay and also Team Joiner – who defeated Team Carson 7-4 in a tiebreaker after both finished the round robin on W2 L3 records.

Team Mouat headed up Section B, also with four wins – the other qualifiers were Teams Whyte, Barr and Hay.

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In the Canada Cup, a Curling Canada event with the reward of an early spot in the Canadian Olympic trials, the women’s final was won by Team Homan, who saw off Team Sweeting 8-7 after an extra end.

In the men’s final, Team Koe defeated Team McEwen 7-3, as skip Kevin Koe made a fine double takeout to score three and seal the game.