With the men finishing a poor seventh overall earlier in the week, Scottish curling endured further disappointment when defending champions Eve Muirhead and her team were beaten 6-5 by Russia after an extra end in yesterday's final of the Le Gruyere European Curling Championships, in Karlstad, Sweden.
Until the final, the Scottish team – Muirhead, third Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and lead Claire Hamilton – had been improving and dominating their games, but yesterday their play was slacker. The lead in this game swung backwards and forth, but in the end it was Scottish mistakes that cost them dear.
Afterwards, a disappointed Muirhead said: "You know, not an awful lot went wrong there, although we've played better this week. We just had one or two slack shots here and there, but they played well. But we had a few chances and I thought we were in control."
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In the tense final end, the Russians had the crucial last-stone advantage and despite the Scots, for once, setting things up well with two front guards in place, Russian second player Margarita Fomina produced the shot of the game to clear them both and take out a Scottish counter on the four-foot for good measure. Russian skip Anna Sidorova then hit and stayed for the one shot needed to claim the title.
"Anyone would be happy in a European final to be going into the extra end with last stone, it just wasn't to be for us," added Muirhead, after her third successive European final. "That extra end could have gone either way – their second made a fantastic double and took out one in the house too, so we just knew they were going to make that final shot. We've worked so hard, so it's disappointing to let ourselves down when it mattered."
The problems for Scotland started in the first end, when poor set-up play eventually gave Russia a steal of one shot. In the fifth, Muirhead was attempting an open take-out to blank the end and keep last-stone advantage, but she just feathered her Russian target instead of removing it, to hand Russia their second steal of the game and a 3-2 half-time lead.
In the ninth, it was another Scottish mistake – this time a draw from Muirhead that came up short – that gave Russia their third single steal of the game for a 5-4 lead. The Scots could only hit and stay for one shot in the 10th to tie the game and put it into an extra end.
Scottish third Sloan said: "It's safe to say we're all pretty gutted. We had a good week, we're obviously disappointed right now, but I think when we look back we will realise that it was a successful week and we've gone home with a silver medal. Now we just need to keep working hard, win the Scottish Championships, and make sure we beat [the Russians] when it comes to the worlds."
This is only the second time Russia have won the title, the previous occasion being in 2006, and it shows encouraging progress for them ahead of performing as host nation at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Sweden's women beat Denmark 9-3 to take bronze.
In the men's final, Niklas Edin, appearing in his home city, led his Swedish team to an 8-5 win over Norway.