Team Muirhead triumph as Scots shine in Canada

Muirhead HDF Shootout
HDF Insurance Shoot-out winners, Team Muirhead (pic: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

Team Muirhead continued their strong start to the season by picking up the HDF Insurance Shoot-out title in Edmonton, while three more Scottish rinks made the playoffs at the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic in Cornwall, Ontario.

Teams Drummond, Fleming and Smith performed well against a class field, only to fall short in the knockout stages.

All in all, coupled with Team Mouat’s double success in Oakville, it’s been a very promising start to the season for the Scots.

***

The semi-finals had been the limit for Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) in their first event of the season, the GSOC Tour Challenge, and they continued that fine form into the HDF Insurance Shoot-out.

Wins against Teams Scott, Robertson, Kleibrink and Ramsay, before a loss to Team Wang of China, sent them safely into the quarter-finals, where they defeated Team Rocque 8-4.

The semi-finals brought a 5-3 victory over Robertson, which set up a final against Team Hasselborg of Sweden – the rink which had knocked them out at the Tour Challenge.

After the teams traded twos, Hasselborg moved 5-2 ahead after seven ends, only for Muirhead to score three in the eighth and then steal two in the extra end to win 7-5 and claim the title.

It’s been an excellent start from the Muirhead rink – can they keep it up in their big Olympic year?

***

At the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic, meanwhile, Teams Drummond and Smith took part in the men’s event, with Team Fleming on the women’s side.

Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Glen Muirhead, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were drawn in the same pool, and Smith won their head-to-head 5-3.

Both sat on W2 L2 records going into the final pool matches, where Smith beat Howard 6-5, and Drummond overcame world champions Gushue 4-3 after an extra end – Smith having also beaten Gushue to help them progress to the playoffs.

The quarter-finals saw Smith bow out, beaten 6-5 by Walstad of Norway, but Drummond made the last four by defeating Robillard 8-6.

They could not get past Olympic champions Jacobs in their semi-final however, losing 6-3, with Jacobs going on to beat McEwen 3-1 in the final.

Still, with two wins over Gushue and runs to the playoffs, it had been a very positive event for the Scots.

The same goes for Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), who qualified for the women’s playoffs thanks to wins over Tirinzoni, Arsenault and Belisle.

They lost 8-6 to Duncan in the quarter-finals, giving up a steal of two in the eighth, as Team Sinclair of the USA ultimately took the title, but for Fleming to make the playoffs when the likes of Flaxey and Tirinzoni did not is also encouraging.

***

Finally, the first Asham Under-21 Slam of the season took place this weekend – the Greenacres Junior Masters.

Teams Baird, Carson, Craik and Whyte qualified for the semi-finals on the men’s side, with Teams Bryce, Davie, Farmer and Morrison coming through on the women’s.

The last four saw Baird beat Carson and Whyte beat Craik, while Davie beat Morrison and Farmer defeated Bryce.

The men’s final brought victory for Whyte (Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Fraser Kingan, Euan Kyle), who stole one in the extra end to win 7-6.

And the women’s final was won by Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Anna Skuse, Emma Barr), 7-5 over Farmer.

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#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.”

Teams Brewster and Smith end 2016 on a high

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Dumfries Challenger Series champions Team Smith (photo: facebook.com/DumfriesCurling)

Teams Brewster and Smith finished the year as champions, winning titles at the Karuizawa International and Dumfries Challenger Series.

They weren’t the only ones to enjoy success, with Teams Fleming, Muirhead and Murdoch also enjoying success in China and Japan.

There was a strong showing from the Scottish rinks in Dumfries, too, while Team Whyte took the plaudits at the Lockerbie Junior International.

***

Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) and Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) ventured out to Japan to contest the Karuizawa International men’s title, which was won by Murdoch last season.

Brewster progressed straight to the semi-finals thanks to a W4 L0 round robin performance, having recorded victories against Teams Natsuizaka (5-3), Ogihara (6-4), SooHyuk Kim (8-5) and Takigahira (4-3 after an extra end).

Murdoch, though, had it a little tougher, as despite wins over Teams Komoda (10-2), Hirata (8-3) and Suzuki (6-2), a defeat to Team Morozumi (6-5 after extra end) placed them second in their pool and required them to play a quarter-final.

For that match they faced SooHyuk Kim, and threes in ends one and six propelled them to an 8-2 victory.

In the semi-finals, Brewster edged past Team Morris 7-6 (scoring two in ends one and four, and three in end six), while Murdoch won their rematch with Morozumi – three in end three and twos in ends five and six pointing the way to a 7-2 outcome.

The all-Scottish final was a tight affair, Brewster and Murdoch tied at 1-1 after four ends, before Brewster scored one in end five and Murdoch two in the sixth end.

Brewster blanked end seven, then made full use of hammer in the eighth by scoring two to win the match 4-3 and secure the title.

Skip Tom Brewster said: “We have had a great time here in Japan and the result just tops it off. The team has played great all week.

“Since the Europeans we have been working on a number of things and it’s great to see all that effort has paid off.”

In the women’s competition, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) emulated Brewster by proceeding straight to the semi-finals – beating Teams Ji Suk Kim (7-6), Matsumura (5-4 after extra end), Sigfridsson (9-3) and Fujisawa (9-2).

The last four threw up a Muirhead-Sigfridsson repeat, this time with a different outcome, as the Swedes scored two in the extra end to win it 7-5.

Muirhead still had the chance to finish third, though, and took it by defeating Team Sidorova 5-3, with a two in end seven and steal of one in end eight.

Team Un-Chi Gim claimed the women’s title by overcoming Sigfridsson 7-4.

***

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), meanwhile, were in China for the inaugural Qinghai China International (‘Redmagic Cup’).

They got off to a losing start, beaten 6-5 by Team Kubeskova after an extra end, but recovered to defeat Team Kauste 10-6 and local favourites Team Wang (by a remarkable 11-10 scoreline).

But they were then beaten 10-7 by Team Brown of Canada, before a 7-5 victory over Team Witschonke had them on W3 L2.

That was improved with a 4-3 win versus Team Jentsch (stealing one in the extra end), but a 10-8 loss to Team Roth (after another extra end) pushed them into a tiebreaker for the playoffs.

There, two in end one, three in end six and a stolen two in end seven saw off Wang 8-2.

In the semi-finals they faced Roth of the USA, and frittered away a 4-3 lead after six ends to trail 6-4 after nine having given up consecutive steals – but a three in end 10 won it for the Scots 7-6, and booked a spot in the final.

Fleming had to settle for runners-up spot, though, as Brown grabbed four in end five and three in the seventh end as they won out 9-4.

Coming after a second-placed finish at the Red Deer Curling Classic at the end of last month, it’s been a very fruitful finale to the year for Fleming.

The men’s competition was won by Team Ulsrud of Norway, who beat Canadians Team Lyburn 8-5 in that final.

***

In Scotland, the Dumfries Challenger Series drew in teams from the home nation and across Europe.

Section A of the men’s competition was topped by Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon, Alasdair Schreiber), who took wins over Teams Thune (8-3), Haubjerg (7-1), Gallacher (8-3) and Jamieson (conceded) – while Thune also made the playoffs.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) edged fellow Scots Team Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Duncan Menzies) for top spot in Section B, Bryce winning the head-to-head 5-1 and also beating Teams Grzelka (7-1), Brunner (7-3) and Hamilton (6-0) – Brunner joined Bryce and Hardie in making the last eight.

And in Section C it was Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) who came out in first spot, with victories over Teams Fraser (6-3), Jungen (10-3), De Mollinedo (7-4) and Telfer (6-1) – Fraser and De Mollinedo also reaching the quarters.

The last eight matches saw wins for Bryce (7-3 versus Fraser), Hardie (5-3 over Thune), Smith (7-4 against Brunner) – and, pulling off a shock, the Spaniards De Mollinedo, four in end seven and two in end eight giving them an 8-4 triumph versus Mouat.

Come the semi-finals, Bryce scored four in end three and three in the sixth to outgun De Mollinedo 8-3, while Smith scored two in end one, stole in ends two and three, before adding more singles in ends five and six, then a two in the eighth as they saw off Hardie 8-4.

The final was a suitably close encounter, with the rinks exchanging singles throughout.

But it was Smith who ultimately took the match and the title, scoring ones in ends one and three, blanking end five, and adding ones in ends six and eight to win it 4-3.

Coach Viktor Kjall told British Curling: “Coming in as very heavy favourites for the weekend it was good that they executed their plans so well and got through the tournament undefeated.

“It’s been a terrific first half of the season. They have [made] a final at a Grand Slam and won two tour tournament victories – all this puts us in the top 15 in the world.

“Now we get a few days off over Christmas, then back to camp in Braehead just before New Year’s Eve, then we start the second half of the season with the Canadian Open in North Battleford (January 3-8).”

In the women’s section, Teams Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) and Mathis (Switzerland) secured direct progress to the semi-finals, Jackson beating Teams Lander (7-4), Hazel Smith (5-2), Gina Aitken (10-2) and Barbezat (6-4).

The quarter-finals were then contested between Teams Aitken, Barbezat, Gisler and Smith, with Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) and Barbezat making the semis, both by 6-5 scorelines and both stealing in the eighth end to clinch it.

Jackson won the dramatic last-four tie with Barbezat, stealing one in end eight to win 4-3, but Aitken could not make it an all-Scottish final, beaten 5-4 by Mathis after giving up a three in end six.

That final was also very tight, with Mathis taking a 3-0 lead after two ends but Jackson battling back with a steal of two in end seven for 6-6, only for the Swiss rink to take one in the eighth for the victory.

***

Finally, we come to the Lockerbie Junior International, a part of the Asham U21 Slam series.

Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) were looking to take advantage of U21 Slam nemesis Team Bryce competing in Dumfries instead of Lockerbie, and they topped their section with four wins from four.

In the semi-finals they edged out Team McNay 5-4, scoring two in end eight, before facing Team Baird in the final.

Two in end two, three in end four and two in end six gave Whyte a 7-2 triumph.

Team Bremane of Latvia saw off all the Scottish opposition to take the women’s title, defeating Team McDonald 8-3 in the final.

Team Carson secured men’s third place ahead of McNay, while women’s third went to Team Farmer ahead of Team Keen.

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.

Teams Bryce and Muirhead conquer the continent

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Team Muirhead, Women’s Masters Basel winners (photo: facebook.com/wmbcurling)

Teams Bryce and Muirhead won titles on the European curling circuit, while Team Hardie continued their impressive start to the season at the Dumfries Open.

Muirhead came out on top at the Women’s Masters Basel, having knocked out Team Fleming in the semi-finals, while Bryce were dominant at the EJCT Livechannel Cup in Sweden.

Other results saw Team Wilson win the Scottish Senior Mixed Championship, and Team Gallacher claim the Forfar U14 Slam.

***

The candidates to represent Scotland on the women’s side of the European Championships in November were both involved at the Women’s Masters Basel.

After Team Fleming’s (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) superior performance at the Stockholm Ladies Cup, this time it was Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) who had the edge.

In the triple knockout format, Fleming lost their first match to Team Schöpp of Germany, 6-5 after an extra end, and looked like losing again when 6-2 down to Team Barbezat (Switzerland) after six ends, only to score three in end seven and steal singles in end eight and the extra to win it 7-6.

They then overcame two more Swiss rinks, Team Stern and Team Mani (both 6-4), and secured playoff qualification by beating Team Sigfridsson of Sweden 5-2, with twos in ends one and six.

As for Muirhead, they began with routine wins over Team Maillard (Switzerland), 4-1, and Team Matsumura of Japan, 6-2, to move one victory away from a playoff spot.

But against Team Kim of Korea they were 4-0 down after two ends and couldn’t bring that back, beaten 7-4 to drop to the B-Road – where they suffered a second successive loss, 5-2 against Team Sidorova of Russia.

Two wins required on the C-Road, then, and two wins secured. First they beat Matsumura again, 5-4 this time, and then Barbezat 6-5 with twos in the first and sixth ends.

So after a qualification stage full of shocks – Teams Kim, Kubeskova and Schöpp going through as the A-Road qualifiers, and Teams Feltscher, Hasselborg and Tirinzoni making early exits – it was time for the quarter-finals.

Fleming, facing Sidorova, got off to a dream start with a four in end one and steal of one in end two. The Russians fought back hard but Fleming held on to win 7-5.

Muirhead faced Kubeskova of the Czech Republic, and scored two in end four and four in end six to win 7-5, setting up an all-Scottish semi-final against Fleming.

The match started with Muirhead holding Fleming in a vice-like grip, stealing one in end one. In the second end, Hannah Fleming was forced to draw against four and came up short, meaning Muirhead led 5-0 after two.

The teams then exchanged singles, before another steal of two for Muirhead in end five. Fleming took two in end six, and shook hands to concede the game at 8-3.

In the final Muirhead faced Sigfridsson, who had also qualified via the C-Road and had beaten Schöpp 12-5 and Kim 6-0 to give themselves this shot at glory.

The Swedes began with two in end one, but Muirhead hit back with two in end three – at the halfway mark it was 3-2 to Sigfridsson.

End five was the decisive one, as Sigfridsson suffered a nightmare end, missing several takeouts, and Muirhead successfully drew to score five and lead 7-3.

The Swedes battled back, scoring two in end six and stealing one in end seven. And in the eighth end skip Muirhead was forced to make a clutch draw to win the match. She did – 8-6 the final score.

After two runner-up finishes in Canada, it was third time lucky for Muirhead in coming out on top in this final for their first title of the season.

Eve Muirhead said: “This weekend in Basel especially showed our grit and determination as a team to keep going and not give up.

“We battled through the C road with lots of games and really brought our A game to the playoffs, which is crucial.

“Delighted to win this event – first Scottish team to do so – and it brings us great confidence moving in to next weekend.”

***

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Team Bryce, EJCT Livechannel Cup winners (photo: facebook.com/brydoneimages)

Team Bryce, who have had a superb start to the season especially given their line-up changes, were in Harnosand, Sweden, for the EJCT Livechannel Cup.

Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) won their opening group stage match 8-1 against Team Foss of Norway, scoring four in end three and stealing two in end six.

They followed that with two more wins, both against Swedish rinks – 12-1 over Team Kohn (four in end one, threes in ends three and six) and 9-1 against Team Engqvist (four in end four and two in end five).

That put them directly into the semi-finals, where they beat Team Nygren (Sweden) 6-1 with a steal of one in end two and twos in ends five and six.

Team Lottenbach of Switzerland were Bryce’s opponents in the final (video here), and they took one with hammer in the first end – only for the Scots to take two in end two, then steal two more in end three.

Another steal put Bryce 5-1 up, the match ending 6-2, which made Bryce the men’s champions, Team Sundberg of Sweden taking the women’s title.

***

In what was a very busy weekend for Scottish curling, we also had the Dumfries Open, the second event on the Scottish Curling Tour, with 18 teams split into three pools.

Section 1 was headed up by Teams Jamieson and Mouat, Section 2 by Teams Hardie, Aitken and Taylor, and Section 3 by Teams Whyte, Pougher and Ward.

In the quarter-finals, defending champions Hardie saw off Taylor 6-1, while Whyte overcame Pougher’s Welsh men 8-4.

The other quarter-finals were particularly close. Mixed doubles partners Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat went toe-to-toe before Mouat eventually prevailed 6-4, while senior rink Jamieson scored three in end eight to take victory against Ward’s English women after a see-saw affair.

In the last four, Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Duncan Menzies, David Reid) scored a narrow 4-3 victory over Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Alasdair Schreiber), courtesy of a two in end two and taking one with hammer in end eight.

In the other semi, Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) stole their way to a 2-0 lead after three versus Jamieson (Willie Jamieson, Tom Pendreigh, Gary McFarlane, Jean Lesperance) before taking two in end six en route to a 5-3 win.

Aitken and Ward, meanwhile, faced off in the women’s final, Aitken taking the victory against their English opponents 8-6.

And so the Dumfries Open title would go to Hardie or Whyte – and what a final it would be.

Hardie scored two in end one and three in end three to lead 5-1, but Whyte hit back with twos in ends four and six, before stealing two in end seven to lead 7-6 after a sensational comeback.

It was Hardie holding hammer in end eight, though, and skip Grant Hardie drew the four-foot to score two and win the game 8-7.

It’s a repeat performance by Hardie, claiming both the Braehead Open and Dumfries Open titles, just as they did last season!

For Whyte, it’s a fourth appearance in a final so far this season… and a fourth runner-up finish. Such consistency will find its reward sooner rather than later.

For more photos from the weekend, see the Facebook album here.

***

Finally, two Royal Caledonian Curling Club events took place at the weekend – the Scottish Senior Mixed Championship, and the Asham U14 Slam at Forfar.

Stranraer hosted the Senior Mixed, with 15 teams divided into three groups.

The qualifiers from Section A were Teams Horton and Hardie, Teams Wilson and Kenny progressed from Section B and Team Prentice made it out of Section C – all finishing their pool matches on six points.

In the semi-finals, Horton edged Prentice 7-6, while Wilson defeated Hardie 8-5.

Wilson (Philip Wilson, Kate Adams, William Johnston, Elspeth Johnston) came out on top in the final, scoring twos in ends one and three, then a four in end five, as they won out 8-3 – Horton finishing second just as they did last season.

In Forfar, there were 14 U14 teams placed in three sections, with qualifiers going onto the high or low road following best of four end matches.

In the high road semi-finals, Team Gallacher scored an impressive 10-2 win over Team Hill, while Team Ryder beat Team Carson 3-2.

Gallacher (Hamish Gallacher, Scott Hyslop, Jack Strawhorn, Jack Carrick) then scored four in end one, one in end two and two in end three to win the final 7-0 against Ryder and claim the title.

In the high road 3v4 match, Carson beat Hill 5-4, while Team Gow won the low road final with a 5-4 victory over Team Maguire.

Team Smith triumph at Oakville OCT Fall Classic

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Team Smith: Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, coach Viktor Kjall, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith (photo courtesy of Jonathan Brazeau/Sportsnet)

Team Smith claimed the Oakville OCT Fall Classic men’s title and $3,000 prize money by defeating Team McCormick of the USA 7-2 in the final.

While fellow Scots Team Mouat exited with a W1 L3 record at the pool stage of the World Curling Tour event in Ontario, Smith went unbeaten throughout.

Back across the Atlantic, meanwhile, there was double Scottish success at the Braehead Junior International – Teams Bryce and Jackson winning the boys’ and girls’ competitions respectively in their first competitions after line-up changes.

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) came into the Oakville OCT Fall Classic off the back of a run to the quarter-finals at the Baden Masters in Switzerland, and hit their stride in Canada straight away.

They began the round robin pool stage by beating Team Birr 4-2 (with a pivotal steal of one in end five), then saw off Team Ferris 6-3 with a three in end eight.

Passage to the quarter-finals was secured with two further victories, against Team Balsdon 8-4 (threes in ends four and eight) and Team Murphy (three in end six).

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon), in contrast to Smith, altered their line-up over the summer (Sloan coming in) and this was their first competition of the 2016-17 season.

They opened with a 7-4 loss to Team Brown, giving up a four in end two, before enjoying a comfortable 8-1 win over Team Stewart, stealing four in end seven.

However, narrow defeats to Team Krell (7-6) and Team McCormick (8-7) saw them exit the competition on a W1 L3 record. They don’t have to wait long to put that behind them though – they’re back in action this coming weekend, in Stu Sells Oakville Tankard tier 2.

In the quarter-finals, Smith started poorly, giving up a steal of two in end one versus Team Deruelle, but responded with a two and then a massive steal of five. The match was over after six ends, Smith the winners 8-4.

The semi-finals pitted them against Team Gardner, and the Canadians were 2-1 up after four ends. Smith scored one in end six and stole two in end seven, and although Gardner scored two in end eight, it was the Scots who took their one in the extra end to win 5-4 and make the final.

There they faced McCormick of the USA – both rinks reaching the final with W6 L0 records. But it was Smith who started like an express train, scoring two in end one and stealing singles in ends two and three.

The Americans got on the board with two in end four, but ones for Smith in ends five, six and seven handed them a 7-2 victory, $3,000 and precious tour ranking points.

Skip Kyle Smith said: “I’m really pleased with how we played. The ice has been really good and we played as well as we could really.”

Smith will look to carry this early season winning form into the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard next weekend, joined in tier 1 by fellow Scots Brewster and Murdoch.

The Oakville OCT Fall Classic women’s title was won by Team Hasselborg, who overcame Team Wrana 6-2 in an all-Swedish final.

***

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Team Bryce: Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw (photo: Leslie Ingram-Brown)

In Scotland, the opening European Junior Curling Tour event of the season took place – the Braehead Junior International, which involved 12 boys’ teams and eight girls’.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) topped Pool A on the boys’ side, thanks to wins over Muskatewitz (6-1), Lottenbach (8-1) and Foss (7-2), plus peels against Ramsfjell (4-4) and Carson (6-6).

That meant they went straight into the semi-finals, whereas Teams Ramsfjell (Norway) and Carson (Luke Carson, James Carswell, George Ballantyne, Mark Taylor) finished second and third in the group and so proceeded to quarter-finals.

Pool B was won by Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean), who won against Teams Schnider (8-2), Haswell (8-3), Myran (6-1) and Hoesli (7-5), and lost to Hess (5-3).

Team Haswell (Blair Haswell, Adam Keron, Cameron Paterson, Adam MacDiarmid), despite a 6-5 win over Hess of Switzerland, finished bottom of the group – Swiss rinks Hess and Schnider made it into the quarters.

On the girls’ side, the pool was headed by three Swiss teams – Witschonke, Stritt and Keiser. Scottish Teams Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) and MacDonald (Amy MacDonald, Ellie Hamilton, Amy Bryce, Layla Al-Saffar) finished on W2 D1 L2 records to sit fourth and fifth.

Behind them, defending champions Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) squeezed into the quarter-finals having won two (against Davie and Keiser) and lost three (to MacDonald, Witschonke and Stritt).

In the quarter-finals, Hess scored three in end six in beating Carson 6-1, while Ramsfjell defeated Schnider 8-4. As for the girls, Aitken scored three in end four to overcome MacDonald 5-4, while Jackson got two in end two and stole two in end five to defeat Keiser, also 5-4.

Bryce started their boys’ semi-final against Hess with a bang, scoring four in end one, adding a steal of three in end four to win 8-4. Whyte, meanwhile, scored twos in ends five and seven to beat Ramsfjell 5-2.

In the girls’ semis, Jackson were on a roll now and they overcame Stritt 7-4 (having been 4-1 down, they scored three in end six, stole two in end seven and another one in end eight); Aitken were unable to join them in the final, though, giving up two in end four and a steal of one in end five to lose 5-3 to Swiss junior champions Witschonke.

The boys’ final pitted two Scottish teams against each other, and Whyte stole two in end three to lead 3-1. Bryce responded with two in end four, then a steal of one in end six.

Whyte scored two in end seven, but Bryce replied with two of their own in the last end to win the match 6-5 and claim the title.

There was also Scottish success in the women’s final. Witschonke led 2-1 at halfway, but Jackson scored two in end five and stole two in end six for a 6-5 win – a remarkable success given their line-up change and their slow start to the competition, only just making the knockout stages.

Hess won the boys’ third/fourth playoff 5-4 against Ramsfjell, while Stritt beat Aitken 4-3 in the girls’ playoff.

For more photos from the event, and video interviews with skips Cameron Bryce, Sophie Jackson, Ross Whyte and Selina Witschonke, visit the event’s Facebook page here.

Greenacres Junior International: Teams Whyte and Aitken triumph

The first Asham Under-21 Slam event of the season brought success for two Royal Caledonian Curling Club Academy sides, Teams Whyte (in the men’s competition) and Aitken (women’s).

The event, held at Greenacres Curling Rink, Howwood, involved nine men’s teams, split into two pools, and six women’s teams – a round robin format being followed by semi finals and finals.

Team Barr (Grant Barr, Kerr Sands, George McConnell and Thomas Halder) topped Group A with three wins and a tie.

They were joined in qualifying for the semi finals by Team Brydone (Robin Brydone, Callum Kinnear, Callum Greenwood, Craig Waddell), who had a record of won three, lost one.

The qualifiers from Group B were Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, James Baird, Gavin Barr, Euan Kyle, David Baird), on three wins from three, and Team Carson (Luke Carson, George Ballantyne, James Craig, Mark Taylor), on two wins and one loss.

The women’s group was headed up by Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Amy MacDonald, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr), who won four and drew one of their round robin games, followed by Team Murray (Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Mili Smith – and, with Katie Murray being at the World Mixed Curling Championship in Switzerland, Mairi MacDonald), on four wins and one loss.

Also making the last four were Team Bryce (this weekend being skipped by Lauren Morgan, with Leeanne McKenzie, Jenni Cannon, Becca Baird), on won three and lost two, and Team Young (Lesley Young, Beth Dandie, Kathryn Spain, Jane Barr), who won two, lost two and drew one.

The men’s semi finals pitted Team Barr against Team Carson, and it was Carson who triumphed, scoring five in end five on their way to a 9-3 victory.

The other semi was between Teams Brydone and Whyte, and again the Group B side came out on top, but it was much closer.

Despite a score of four by Whyte in end seven, the game was level at 5-5 after eight – in the extra end, Whyte took one to win the match 6-5.

The women’s semi finals saw wins for Team Aitken over Team Young (7-6, largely thanks to steals in ends five, six and seven) and Team Bryce against Team Murray (10-9, with a stolen point in an extra end).

Team Whyte had only just beaten Team Carson (8-7) in the group stage, but they had a firm grip on their encounter in the men’s final after four ends, leading 4-1.

That was too big a gap to be bridged, and it was Whyte who claimed the tournament win with a result of 6-4.

The women’s final, by contrast, went to an extra end as Teams Aitken and Bryce could not be separated at 6-6 after eight.

Team Aitken needed to steal for victory and they did just that, coming through 7-6.

Team Barr won the men’s third place match 6-4, and Team Murray claimed the women’s 3/4 by a score of 5-4.

The next Under-21 Slam (four events designed as a performance pathway for junior curlers, with tournament experience and competing for prize money) is the Kinross Junior Classic on October 2-4.