Team Mouat make Grand Slam history in Sault Sainte Marie

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CHAMPIONS: Team Mouat (photo: Alan Hannah/British Curling)

Team Mouat made curling history this weekend, becoming the first Scottish men’s rink to win a Grand Slam title, with Bruce Mouat the youngest ever skip to win a GSOC event.

They triumphed at the Boost National in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, seeing off Canada’s best before beating Team Chang-Min Kim of South Korea in the final.

But first, a quick update on Scotland’s teams at the 2017 European Curling Championships…

Muirhead and Smith well positioned

We are three days into the 2017 European Curling Championships in St Gallen, Switzerland, and both Scottish teams hold W4 L1 records in the round robin stage.

On the men’s side, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead) have made a far better start than their previous campaign in Esbjerg in 2015, winning their first three – beating Italy (7-3), Austria (7-3) and Russia (5-3).

A blip followed, as they lost 6-4 to Germany, but Monday afternoon saw them bounce back in style, by beating Slovakia 8-1.

As for the women, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) faced a tough first couple of games – losing 5-2 to Sweden but beating Russia 8-7 (after an extra end).

Their next three games were more comfortable, as they overcame Denmark 6-1, Italy 8-1 and Germany 8-5.

Mouat’s moment of history

Now to events over the Atlantic, and the Boost National in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario – which featured Teams Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregory Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) and Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan).

Drummond exited without winning a match, losing to Teams Koe (7-3), Jacobs (9-2), Lyburn (8-7) and Gunnlaugson (10-7).

By contrast, Mouat – who’d already had an amazing season, with back-to-back wins at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard and Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic, and Grant Hardie winning the World Mixed Curling Championships – were in it for the long haul.

They only just squeezed through from the round robin, though, having won two – against Balsdon (8-4) and Morris (8-2) – and lost two – against Gushue (7-6) and McEwen (7-2).

That meant a tiebreaker with Olympic champions Team Jacobs, and threes in ends one and five helped them to an 8-5 victory.

Another three (in end four), plus steals in ends one, two, five and six, helped them ease past Team Koe 7-1 in the quarter-finals, setting up a rematch with McEwen.

This time it was Mouat who triumphed, with two in the first end, three in the fourth and a steal in the fifth firing them to a 6-4 win – meaning they were only the second Scottish men’s rink to make a Grand Slam final after Team Smith at the Tour Challenge last season.

As the top Canadian teams fell by the wayside, a Mouat v Chang-Min Kim final was a surprising one, and the Scots began it with a steal of one.

Kim scored two and then stole, only for Mouat to hit back with three in the fourth end, and a steal in the fifth and score of four in the seventh wrapped up a brilliant 9-4 win to claim the historic title.

Team Mouat said: “It’s been one hell of a week.

“The final was closer than the score suggests but we managed to take control after a few missed shots from myself in the second and third ends with a big three in the fourth.

“It’s unbelievable to think we are the first Scottish men’s team to win a Slam.

“I am so proud of our effort this week and the fact that we never doubted ourselves when we were playing the top teams in the game.”

The women’s title went to Team Jones, who beat Team Scheidegger 8-7 in the final.

Bryce and Fleming make their mark

Not to be outdone, Teams Bryce and Fleming have also put together strong runs in Canadian competition.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) competed in the DEKALB Superspiel in Morris, Manitoba.

Their first match brought a loss, 7-6 to Team Jordan Smith, but having dropped to the B-Road they reeled off four straight wins to make the playoffs – beating Teams Friesen (7-0), Schwaller (6-5), Bohn (7-1) and Forrester (7-4).

The quarter-finals proved the end of the line though, as Schwaller of Switzerland got their revenge with a 6-5 victory after an extra end.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) have been in Alberta, for the Red Deer Curling Classic – and they took the shortest possible route to the quarter-finals, winning their three matches on the A-Road against Teams Marthaller (7-2), Brown (7-6) and Gushulak (5-4).

The last eight brought a clash with Team Moiseeva of Russia, and steals in ends seven and eight gave the Scots a 5-3 win.

They faced Team Fujisawa of Japan in the semi-finals, and that was where their run ended – with their opponents winning 7-5 after an extra end.

McClearys make the quarters

In a very, very busy weekend, we also had the Mixed Doubles Bern tournament in Switzerland, with Judith and Lee McCleary representing Scotland.

They made the playoffs with a W5 L2 record, having overcome Teams Iseli (11-1), Wendel (10-2), Stolt (6-4), Srnska (9-5) and Kasner (9-8) – the losses being to Mei (8-2) and Moskaleva (9-2).

Jaeggi/Michel ended their challenge, though, winning their last-eight encounter 8-2.

Also at the tournament, Anna Fowler of England paired with Thomas Jaeggi, and they won three and lost four to go out in the quarter-finals of the consolation event.

…And finally, the latest Asham Under-14 Slam took place at Curl Aberdeen, with Team Carson (Orrin Carson, Logan Carson, Archie Hyslop, Charlie Gibb) winning the high road final by beating Braehead Rockers 7-0.

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Drummond make Champery Masters final

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Team Drummond. Photo: British Curling/Perthshire Picture Agency (Graeme Hart)

Team Drummond were the star performers from a Scottish point of view this week, making the final of the Champery Masters, where they lost out to Team Edin.

Teams Brewster and Mouat also did well in Switzerland, while Team Kinnear won the EJCT Oslo junior men’s title.

Over in Canada, Teams Muirhead and Smith warmed up for the next Grand Slam tournament of the season – the National – by competing in a couple of World Curling Tour events.

***

There were three Scottish rinks at the Champery Masters in Switzerland, and all three made the playoffs.

Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Duncan Menzies, Scott Andrews, Alasdair Schreiber) cruised through the round robin stage with a W5 L0 record – beating Teams Edin, Hess, Mancini, Retornaz and Schwaller.

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) also topped their pool, thanks to wins over Teams Kauste, Snitil, Stjerne and Van Dorp, plus a loss to Smilga of Latvia.

And Team Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) topped Pool D, also with a W4 L1 record – overcoming Teams Baumann, Lottenbach, Pfister and Sik, and losing to Team Attinger.

Three became one following the quarter-finals, however, as Drummond beat Mouat 4-3, while Brewster exited at the hands of Van Dorp.

Drummond saw off the Dutch rink in the last four though, scoring four in end six in a 6-5 triumph.

That put them into a final against former world champions Edin, and it was the Swedes who moved ahead early on, scoring two in the second end and stealing one in the third.

Another two in end five gave the Scots too much to do, Edin winning 6-3 to claim the title.

This is, nonetheless, the most impressive performance so far this season from Drummond, after a slow start to the season, and one they’ll be looking to push on from.

Skip Drummond said: “The event was a great learning curve for our team.

“We were able to utilise Misha Botting’s sports psychology services over the course of the event and his input has provided a good base for us going forward.

“Playing Niklas Edin in the final was always going to be tough but it was a good test for our team at this stage in the season.

“We were just disappointed that we weren’t able to execute our game plan.”

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith), meanwhile, were in Quebec for the ARENA Challenge de Curling de Gatineau.

As a warm-up for the GSOC Masters (October 24-29 in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, with Smith facing Gushue, Ulsrud, Shuster and McEwen), it was a short-lived one – only lasting four games.

Defeats to Chandler and Allen tipped Smith onto the C-Road, where they beat Homan but then lost to Murphy to depart the competition – which saw the title go to Rui Liu of China, thanks to an 8-2 victory over Team De Cruz in the final.

One to forget about from a Smith perspective.

***

Also in Canada, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) were in action in the Canad Inns Women’s Classic in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

Wins over Holland and McCarville put them within touching distance of the playoffs, only for Englot to beat them in the A-Road final.

Defeat to Carey put them on the C-Road, where the Scots got back to winning ways against Meilleur and Tirinzoni, but Einarson proved too strong in the C-Road final, winning 9-6 (despite threes from Muirhead in ends four and seven).

The competition was won by Team Roth of the USA, who beat Team Hasselborg 5-4 after an extra end in the final.

Muirhead, like Smith, are taking part in the Grand Slam in Lloydminster – they take on Sidorova, Flaxey, Sinclair and Hasselborg.

***

Back in Europe, there were three Scottish rinks at the EJCT Oslo event in Norway – with quite a contrast between the men’s and women’s outcomes.

Neither Team Bryce (Amy Bryce, Molly Keen, Layla Al-Saffar, Jane Barr) nor Team Morrison (Rebecca Morrison, Amy MacDonald, Hailey Duff, Leeanne McKenzie) were able to make it out of the group stage.

Bryce finished with a W1 L4 record, having beaten Moberg but lost to Dami (11-10, Bryce scoring six in the fourth end!), Tanner, Ramsfjell and Hoehne, while Morrison won two – against Mesloe and Norrlander – but lost three – to Halse, Loertscher and Keiser (the eventual winner of the event).

On the men’s side, however, Team Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Duncan McFadzean, Ryan McCormack, Matthew McKenzie) got out of their section on W4 L1 – as they lost their opening game to Heinimann but then claimed victories over Nygren, Bjoernstad, Hermansson and Kringlebotn to make the playoffs.

There the wins just kept on coming, with Lochmann seen off 5-1 in the quarter-finals, and Ramsfjell 5-2 in the semis.

That means a rematch with Heinimann in the final, but there were no problems for Kinnear this time, as steals in ends three and five, then three in end seven, won them the match 6-1 and thereby the title.

The Kinnear rink were unfortunate not to make the playoffs at last season’s Scottish Championships, and here is more evidence of their exciting potential.

***

Finally, the Stirling Wheelchair International Invitational, at The Peak, saw eight of the world’s best wheelchair curling teams gather to compete.

Russia defeated Scotland 5-4 in the final, with Switzerland in third place.

Mouat double up with Oakville Fall Classic title

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Team Mouat with their second trophy in two weeks. Pic: facebook.com/teammouat

Team Mouat have enjoyed a storming start to the season, adding the Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic title to last week’s Stu Sells Oakville Tankard win.

Bruce Mouat shuffled his pack over the off-season, bringing in Grant Hardie and Hammy McMillan, and the results have been instant.

More on them in just a moment, but first here’s what happened at the first Grand Slam of the season…

Solid start for Muirhead

First competition of the new season for Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray), and a run to a Grand Slam semi-final.

The Tour Challenge in Regina, Saskatchewan, provided the first real opportunity for the sport’s big guns to size each other up, and it turns out the British Olympic women measure up well.

They made the playoffs the hard way – beating Harrison and Homan, but losing to Wang and Sweeting, meant a tiebreaker against Tippin, which they won 5-4.

Skip Muirhead then shot 88% to guide her side past Pätz in the quarter-finals, but Hasselborg of Sweden were too strong in the last four, winning 6-5 after a crucial steal of two in end six.

Not a bad platform for Team Muirhead to build on for the rest of the season.

Muirhead told British Curling: “Reaching a Grand Slam semi-final on our first outing of the season is no mean feat.

“The competition out here is the best in the world with the highest level of curling there is.”

Also performing well in their first event of the new season were Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), who took part in the Tier 2 section in Regina.

Like Muirhead, they won two (against Eberle and Silvernagle) and lost two (versus Feltscher and Sidorova) in the round robin stage, forcing them into a tiebreaker.

Fleming pushed Lawton all the way, but lost out 6-5.

The eventual women’s champions were Team Sweeting (Tier 1) and Team Einarson (Tier 2).

Struggles on men’s side

Things were not quite so promising for Teams Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) and Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) on the men’s side at the Tour Challenge.

There’s plenty of work for Smith to do ahead of the Olympics, underlined by four defeats – to McCormick, Edin, Simmons and Epping – in their Tier 1 pool.

In Tier 2, Drummond managed to go one better than at last week’s Oakville Tankard by winning a game (against Jacobson), but losses to Brown, Gunnlaugson and Lyburn ended their challenge early.

The men’s winners were Team Gushue (Tier 1) and Team Gunnlaugson (Tier 2).

Mouat at the double

Away from the Grand Slam, but still in Canada, Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Duncan Menzies, Scott Andrews, Alasdair Schreiber) and Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) took part in the Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic.

Brewster lost their first three pool games (to Mabergs, Kim and Steski), which meant that their victory over Zou was only a consolation.

Mouat, by contrast, cruised through the group stage, beating Retornaz, Baumann, Maus and Dickie to book their passage to the quarter-finals.

Further wins against Horgan (6-5) and Schwaller (8-7, stealing one in an extra end) sent them into the final, where they faced Chang-Min Kim of Korea.

It was a tight match, with only singles scored as it went to an extra end, but Mouat held hammer and scored their one to win 4-3.

That’s two events entered and two titles gained for Team Mouat to start the season, and they’re yet to lose a single match (played 14, won 14).

It’s going to take a good team to stop these boys if they keep this up!

Bryce and Mouat get Scots off to a flier

Mouat win Oakville Tankard
Team Mouat, 2017 Stu Sells Oakville Tankard winners. Pic: twitter.com/DMurdoch17

That didn’t take long, did it? One week, two events, two Scottish wins in World Curling Tour events.

We’re barely into September, but a slightly altered Team Bryce and a rather more different Team Mouat have already secured their first titles, in Tallinn and Oakville, respectively.

With our first Grand Slam of the season just around the corner, here’s hoping that Scottish curling can carry this initial form further into the season.

Bryce rise to the challenge

While four Scottish teams headed west to Canada, Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) went east to Estonia, for the Tallinn Challenger.

They cruised through the round robin stage, finishing with four wins (against Teams Truksans, Lill, Svensgaard and Jungen) and no defeats.

They faced Team Eremin (Russia) in the last four, and a 7-3 win put them into the final against Team Gulbis of Latvia.

Again Bryce were just too strong for their opponents, scoring three in end three and stealing two in the fourth on their way to a 7-2 victory and the Tallinn Challenger title.

Skip Cameron Bryce told British Curling: “The whole team played really well, although we are still learning with our change of line-up for the season.”

The team now return to the new National Curling Academy, to prepare for the Braehead Open (September 22-24).

Mouat takes Tankard triumph

Teams Brewster, Drummond, Mouat and Smith ensured Scotland was well represented at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard in Ontario, but it was Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) who finished top of the pile.

I said in my season preview that I was excited to see what these boys could do on tour this season… it looks like I have my answer already.

Things were not so rosy for Team Drummond, though, as they lost to Mouat, McCormick and Deruelle to bow out early.

It’s early days for this rink, certainly, but they will be hoping for more at next week’s GSOC Tour Challenge (Tier 2).

Team Brewster have also rung the changes, and they had something of a rollercoaster in Oakville – a defeat to Fournier to drop onto the B-Road, wins over Corbett and Kim, a loss to Clark, victory over Stjerne, and finally a defeat to McCormick to end their involvement.

Team Smith, by contrast, have kept the same roster (only adding Glen Muirhead as alternate ahead of the Olympics), and they made the quarter-finals in Oakville.

Not that it was a smooth journey. Beaten by Kim first up, they then saw off Zou and Horgan, lost to Simmons to land on the C-Road, but then overcame Fournier and Gunnlaugson to make the playoffs.

Those quarter-finals pitted them against Mouat, who had sailed into the last eight thanks to four straight wins – against Ainsley, Drummond, Horgan and Clark.

Mouat dominated the all-Scottish meeting, taking three in end one, then a steal, and then twos in ends four and six to win it 8-3.

Mouat’s semi-final was tighter, but one in end eight was enough to see off Horgan, setting up a final against Kim of Korea.

The Korean rink scored three in end four to lead 3-1, but twos in ends five and seven, plus a steal in the eighth, gave Mouat a 6-4 victory – making it W7 L0 at the event.

For this team to have gelled this quickly is highly impressive, especially given the quality of the other teams on show.

So that’s $8,000 in the bank for Mouat already; their next event is the Oakville OCT Fall Classic (alongside Brewster) – can they maintain their hot streak?

Muirhead and Murdoch triumph: 2017 Scottish Curling Championships round-up

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CHAMPIONS: David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow. Pic: RCCC/Brian Battensby 2017

Team Murdoch won the men’s title at the Scottish Curling Championships for the first time since claiming their 2014 Winter Olympic silver medals, while Team Muirhead clinched their third women’s title in succession.

Finals day began with Team Muirhead facing Team Fleming in the women’s title decider, and a three in end five and two in end eight gave Eve Muirhead’s rink a 6-4 victory and the skip her seventh title.

Teams Mouat and Murdoch, both on six-game winning runs, collided later in the afternoon, and David Murdoch’s men were ruthless in punishing Mouat mistakes, scoring four in end three and three in the fifth to triumph 10-4.

***

Scottish Curling Championships Ladies Final 25.02.17
WOMEN’S WINNERS: Lauren Gray, Vicki Adams, Anna Sloan and Eve Muirhead. Pic: RCCC/Brian Battensby 2017

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Glenn Howard (coach)) went unbeaten through the tournament, with six wins in the round robin (see my review here) and victory over Team Smith in the 1v2 page playoff.

They had only just edged by Hazel Smith’s rink in the group stage, stealing two in end 10 to win 11-9, but they did a professional job on the same opponents in the playoff.

Twos in ends four and six propelled them to a 6-3 victory, putting them into the final and tipping Smith into a semi-final against Hannah Fleming’s rink.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright, Nancy Smith (coach)) had endured a tough round robin, forcing a tiebreaker by beating Team Gina Aitken in their last match.

There they saw off Team Karina Aitken 8-4, putting them into the semi with Smith.

A third consecutive victory followed, as twos in ends one and three, plus three in end six, won them the match 9-6 and booked their spot in the final.

Team Fleming made the better start to that final, maintaining their composure and preventing the Muirhead rink getting an early jump on them, as it was tied at 1-1 after four ends.

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RUNNERS-UP: Vicky Wright, Alice Spence, Jen Dodds and Hannah Fleming. Pic: RCCC/Brian Battensby 2017

But a couple of fine shots from Sloan, and loose ones from Fleming, gave Muirhead the opportunity to hit for three, which she duly made for a 4-1 lead at halfway.

Fleming took a single in end six and stole one in end seven to narrow the gap to one, but Muirhead hit back with a two in the eighth end for a 6-3 lead which always looked difficult to pull back.

So it proved, Muirhead running out 6-4 winners for a third consecutive Scottish title (seventh in all) and passage to Worlds in Beijing (March 18-26).

Afterwards, Eve Muirhead said: “I think patience was a key factor out there. Right from the off Hannah and the girls played really well, and so did we.

“We knew we had a game on our hands, we expected that, and as a team we never get ahead of ourselves or get complacent, so we stayed patient and then got that little break in the fifth end, scored the three and that gave us a little jump ahead.

Adams added: “This is what we train for, we do a lot behind the scenes, not just on the ice, and we take each game as one game, we don’t get too ahead of ourselves.

“We individualise the games, break them down into stones, single ends, making it much easier to focus on that rather than the bigger picture.”

While Muirhead won her seventh title, and Sloan and Adams their sixth, it was a first success for lead Gray, who capped it with two perfect tick shots in the final end.

She said: “I’m so delighted to have won my first Scottish Championship; it was an absolute joy to be playing with the girls today.

“I’ve been working hard on the tick shots, as this is my first season as a lead, so I was really pleased to make them both in the 10th end.”

 

Muirhead also praised coach Glenn Howard, adding: “As soon as we brought him on board we knew he’d help us in a lot of different ways, especially on the tactical side, and that’s just what he’s done.

“I think he was more nervous than us today! But he’s been fantastic, and absolutely delighted to get his first Scottish title I guess – but now he has the Canadian Championship coming up next week, and we’re all behind him for that.”

Now the focus turns to the World Championships in China, on which Sloan said: “It’s a quick turnaround, so we’ll get back to training pretty quickly.

“We’re really looking forward to getting out there, the field will be tough this year as always, but we’re in a good place and we just need to build on our performances this week – I think we’ve been pretty consistent.

“We’re excited and looking forward to the challenge.”

***

The men’s final was a meeting of the two form teams, with Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Derrick Sloan, Alasdair Schreiber (alternate), Alan Hannah (coach)) and Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow, Ian Tetley (coach)) both on six-game winning streaks.

Team Murdoch had a slow start, but picked up the pace to finish on a W7 L2 record and top the standings – review of the men’s round robin here.

That put them into the 1v2 page playoff against Kyle Smith’s rink, and after a tight match Murdoch emerged victorious 4-3, stealing one in end six and taking their one down the last to make the final.

Team Mouat had to get there the hard way after a terrible Tuesday – losing heavily to Teams Murdoch and Whyte – and three wins on the trot forced a tiebreaker against Team Hardie, which they edged 5-4.

They faced defending champions Team Brewster in the 3v4 playoff, and steals in ends five and six, then a two in the ninth, gave them a 6-4 victory.

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SECOND SPOT: Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Derrick Sloan, Alasdair Schreiber and Alan Hannah. Pic: RCCC/Brian Battensby 2017

Their semi-final with Team Smith was dramatic in the extreme, Mouat dominating the opening five ends and leading 4-2.

Two in end seven and successive steals looked to have swung it for Smith, but a disastrous final end saw them give up three, Mouat winning 7-6 to set up a Murdoch showdown.

It was a showdown which saw Murdoch clinically exploit little mistakes from Mouat, who was playing an aggressive game but seemed to run out of gas after their Universiade exploits and long week in Perth.

Draws came up short or were a touch wide, and after the teams traded twos in the first couple of ends, Murdoch exploded into a 9-3 lead after five ends, courtesy of four in end three and three in the fifth.

There were to be no miracles for Mouat to allow a comeback as Murdoch completed a professional job well done, handshakes offered in the eighth end with the score 10-4.

An elated David Murdoch reflected on a ruthless performance afterwards: “That’s how we wanted to be. We didn’t win our last two finals, and we wanted to make sure that as we were the more experienced team we came across with that authority, played our A game and put a lot of pressure on the guys.

“For a first final it’s quite daunting out there and we wanted to make sure we put them under as much pressure as we could.”

On his team, he said: “I’m super proud of them. We’ve had this as our goal for a long, long time and put in a ton of work.

“It’s not easy to win this championship; we’ve had a super week, and we look to keep that going and get a good result in the World Championships.

“It’s something the general public probably don’t see, the early starts, in the gym and on the ice; you need to have that amount of work put in to achieve that type of goal.

“We covered every aspect of this week, we wanted to make sure we left no stone unturned, and we certainly did that.”

Murdoch is under no illusions that competition at Worlds will be fierce, adding: “The World Championship a year before the Olympics is probably the toughest year; every team is coming up to their best at the end of the quadrennial.

“It’s in the lion’s den, in Edmonton, and we know how exciting that is – we’ve been there and done it plenty of times, and that excites us too.

“We need to be at our best as it’s going to be a tough fight. [But] I like our chances.

“I’ve said for a long time, although results might not have been going well this season at times, I always like the way we’re throwing it, and we just needed the extra challenge of the Scottish Championship, some good ice conditions, and we brought our best.”

#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.”

Team Mouat win World University Games gold for Great Britain

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Team Mouat: Cate Brewster (coach), Alasdair Schreiber, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon, Bobby Lammie, Bruce Mouat. Pic: twitter.com/BUCSsport

Team Mouat triumphed at the 2017 World University Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan, by winning men’s curling gold after winning 11 straight games.

Team Aitken represented Team GBR in the women’s competition, but fell short of the playoffs after a tiebreaker defeat to Switzerland.

Elsewhere this week, Team Hutcheon took victory at the Aberdeen City Open, while Team Muirhead took part in the Pinty’s All-Star Skins in Banff, Alberta.

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The World University Games attracted strong curling representation, with Gustav Eskilsson, Victoria Moiseeva, Kelsey Rocque, Steffen Walstad and Isabella Wrana among the skips involved.

Team GBR was made up of Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon, Alasdair Schreiber) on the men’s side and Team Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen, Angharad Ward) on the women’s.

The round robin stage proved straightforward for Mouat – as they won all nine of their games!

They saw off Russia 9-5, Canada 9-4, Norway 7-4, Sweden 8-3, hosts Kazakhstan 10-1, the Czech Republic 5-4, Japan 10-4, the USA 9-7 and Korea 5-3.

It was much less clear-cut for Aitken, although having lost 7-3 to Russia in their opener, they reeled off wins against Kazakhstan (10-4), Germany (8-7), Switzerland (6-5), Canada (9-5), Norway (7-6) and Korea (9-6).

But they were then beaten 8-7 by Sweden and 8-4 by China, which tipped them into a tiebreaker against Switzerland.

And it was the Swiss rink of Briar Huerlimann who came through, scoring twos in ends four and nine, plus stealing one in end six, for a 6-4 win.

Mouat had of course safely made the playoffs, but they were made to sweat by Norway – Team Walstad being reigning Universiade champions, and recent German Masters winners – in their semi-final, with the Norwegians 5-3 up after five ends.

Mouat scored three in end seven to tie it up at 6-6, then stole one in the eighth, but Walstad grabbed two in end nine to regain the lead – only for Mouat to score two in the final end for a thrilling 9-8 victory.

GBR faced Sweden for men’s gold (the same countries as in the 2013 World University Games final, only with Mouat v Eskilsson instead of Smith v Eriksson) and Mouat got off to the ideal start – scoring two in end one and stealing another two in the second end.

The Swedes were 5-2 down at halfway, but hit back with twos in ends seven and eight, which gave them the lead at 6-5.

But rather than crumbling, Mouat responded superbly – making a takeout for two in end nine to inch back ahead 7-6, before stealing one in the 10th to win out 8-6 and claim the gold!

Norway won men’s bronze, while on the women’s side the medallists were Canada (gold), Russia (silver) and Sweden (bronze).

Bruce Mouat said: “It feels great that the men have finally won the gold.

“It was a really good final – we started really well and finished really well.

“To finally get the gold around our neck and to do it in such fashion is just absolute class.”

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Thoughts are turning to the Scottish Curling Championships later this month, and several of the rinks competing in that event were present at the Aberdeen City Open this weekend.

The 18 competing teams were divided into two sections – and the Red Section was topped by the rinks skipped by Andrew Hutcheon, Tom Brewster and Greg Dunn (all on W3 L1 records), with Curl Aberdeen 1 (a changing line-up of local players) joining them in the playoffs.

David Edwards and Stuart Taylor’s rinks topped the Blue Section, joined in the playoffs by those of James Pougher and Susan Kesley – the best two of six teams to finish on W2 L2 records.

The quarter-finals saw Team Edwards ease past Curl Aberdeen 1 by a 12-2 scoreline, while Team Hutcheon defeated Team Kesley 7-2 and Team Dunn saw off Team Taylor 5-3.

And in the other last-eight tie Pougher’s Welshmen knocked out Scottish champion Brewster, scoring three in end seven and stealing one in the eighth to win it 7-5.

Team Pougher then edged out Edwards to make the final, winning their semi 8-7 after an extra end, while Hutcheon defeated Dunn 5-4.

The final began with the teams trading twos, but Hutcheon then took control – scoring twos in ends four and five, then three in the seventh – to take the victory 9-3 and claim the Scottish Curling Tour event title.

So the local team took the plaudits – congratulations Andrew Hutcheon, Murray McGregor, Andrew Dolman, Angus Roberston (pictured below)!

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More photos and reports from the event are available here.

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Also in Scotland this weekend, Team Kinnear maintained their dominance of the Asham Under-17 Slam events by winning in Perth.

After six sections which were topped by Teams Morton, Gallacher, Kennedy, Farmer, Craik and Kinnear, the quarter-finals saw Morton beat Farmer 4-3 and Gallacher see off Kennedy 5-3.

In the semi-finals, Craik eased to a 7-1 win over Gallacher, while Kinnear defeated Morton 4-1.

The final brought a ruthless performance from Kinnear, as they scored twos in ends three, four, six and seven en route to a 9-3 victory.

The low road final was won by Team Haswell, 11-3 conquerors of Team Gow.

Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean, Matthew McKenzie) were named as Scottish Under 17 Asham Slam winners for the season, with Farmer (Beth Farmer, Kirstin Bousie, Katie McMillan, Alexandra Mackintosh) crowned the top female U17 team for 2016/17.

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Finally, Team Muirhead took part in the Pinty’s All-Star Skins alongside Teams Carey, Jones and Sweeting – plus Teams Edin, Jacobs, Koe and McEwen on the men’s side.

Unfortunately for Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) their introduction to the competition – where the teams compete for the monetary value of each end, or ‘skin’ – was a rude one.

Pitted against Sweeting, they were well beaten, the Canadians collecting $19,500 in prize money to Muirhead’s $1,500 – you can watch brief highlights of the match here.

Sweeting were beaten to the women’s title by Jones, while Koe defeated Jacobs in the men’s final.