Robin Copland writes:
The round-robin sections at this year’s Edinburgh International are now over and have thrown up some interesting results and quarterfinals.
In section A Thomas Ulsrud and Sandy Reid looked like the class of the field. Ulsrud was taking the competition seriously enough, bringing with him long-term coach Ole Ingvaldsen and fifth man Thomas Løvold. They rotated their team to ensure that Thomas got some competitive curling under his belt and were using the event as final competitive practice before the European Championships in Moscow at the beginning of December. A mixed competition when all said and done and I don’t suppose Thomas necessarily wants to meet Lee McCleary, James Stark, Neil Joss or Gavin Fleming anytime soon! Lee had the better of the Norwegians not only in their round-robin game, but crucially in the four-end play-off game as well. Still and all, five games of curling in a competitive environment and three wins under their belt will not be seen as a complete disaster for the red-trousered Norwegian outfit.
Sandy Reid has had a good competition to date and he and Moray Combe look to be throwing the stone well enough. After a first round set back against Ulsrud, they went undefeated and progressed through to Sunday morning’s quarterfinals as winners of their section. Lee McCleary’s win over Ulsrud in the first of the section play-off games set up a play-off for second place against Pascal Hess’s strong-looking Swiss team of Yves Hess, Florian Meister and Stefan Meienberg. A tight game, this one with McCleary lying three after his last stone in the first end. Hess attempted a come around draw to the face of a McCleary stone that had gone maybe a foot too far onto the tee line. Frantic Swiss sweeping kept Hess’s last stone straight enough to just skiff a tight guard and end up in second shot spot to lose only a one against the head. McCleary so nearly stole a three. The last end was where it all went wrong for Lee. A lovely early-in-the-end split left the Swiss lying the two shots they needed and, try as they might, Lee’s team could not get the crucial roll behind some promising cover. When Lee’s last stone ended up a tad light and crashed a guard, that was it and Hess progressed through in second place to the quarterfinals.
In section B, reigning Scottish champions, Tom Brewster, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow sailed through undefeated; they had already qualified in an unassailable first place before they met Markku Uusipaavalniemi in their last round-robin game. Markku was relying on beating Tom and Joel Retornaz losing his game for a play-off spot. Neither happened, so he returns to Finland with two wins under his belt. Graeme Black and John Hamilton had forgettable weekends and although they ran other teams close, they could not finish them off. In the end, they did not need to play their last game. Joel Retornaz will be pleased with his round-robin competition and the Italians did well to come out of a difficult looking group with four wins out of five, including a stuffy win over Swiss favourites, the Berne team skipped by Stefan Hässler.
Section C was always going to be difficult for any of the teams without someone called Smith in them! True to form, veterans David and Warwick, ably aided and abetted by perhaps the most experienced front end in the business, Craig Wilson and Ross Hepburn, went through the section undefeated. Stranraer’s Frazer Hare ran them close and local boy Paul Stevenson found himself four up early on in their game. That just got the Smith rollercoaster upset! They went on to score a couple of big ends in the latter part of their game and ran out 6-4 winners. After a heavy first-round defeat at the hands of Smith, big Logan Gray took the section by the scruff of the neck. He, Al Guthrie, Steve Mitchell and Sandy Gilmour were run close a couple of times, notably by Frazer Hare, who can count himself unlucky not to have taken Logan down an extra end when his last stone did more damage than good and ended up gifting a steal of two to the grateful Stirling skip; Team Gray weathered that particular storm and made the quarterfinals with a 4-1 record.
Finally, a tough looking D section had the two Davids, Murdoch and Edwards, along with Hauser, Graham Shedden, reigning champions Graham Shaw (with David Hay skipping and throwing last stones) and the Czech Republic’s European representatives, Jiri Snitil, making up the six. David Murdoch had a lacklustre campaign by his high standards, ending up on two wins out of five. His Moscow alternate David Edwards skipped his new team of Scottish junior champion skip John Penny, the newly transferred second from Team Sandy Reid, Scott Macleod and lead Colin Campbell to an impressive five straight wins. This team looked the part and faced Jiri Snitil’s Czech team in their last game. The Snitil team played a tight defensive game against David and maybe didn’t go attacking until too late in the game. A sweeping error on Snitil’s last stone in the seventh end sealed their fate and let David hit for home in the eighth. A shame for Snitil – he and his team were another team using the competition as a final staging post before Moscow. They needed to win their last game to set up a potential play-off for a quarterfinal spot with Switzerland’s team Hauser – assuming Hauser lost to the Shaw team. It wasn’t to be; Hauser sneaked a two in the last end of their game versus Shaw and Snitil, as we have seen, lost to Edwards in a game that was webcast on the Saturday night and picked up as far away as Florida by Hugh Craigie – there on holiday and soaking up the sun.
So, where before there were twenty four, now there are but eight. The quarterfinals start at 8.30 Sunday and pit Sandy Reid against Joel Retornaz, David Smith against Jan Hauser, David Edwards against Logan Gray and finally Tom Brewster against Pascal Hess. We will webcast one of the semifinals at 11.30 and the final at 2.30. What price an all-Scottish semi-final line up? Well – it could happen and we shall have to wait and see what transpires.
The seniors return to Edinburgh on Sunday for their semifinals and finals, played at 11.30 and 2.30. The presentation of prizes will be in the club rooms around 5.00pm.
Written by Robin Copland