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Gray puts on his Sunday best to deliver momentous win in Perth

If they were metaphorically talking the talk in uniforms that screamed a desire for attention, Logan Gray and his team-mates duly walked the walk by swaggering off with the title at The Mercure City of Perth Masters last night.

Logan Gray's Stirling-based rink were hard to miss as they secured the title at the Mercure City of Perth Masters. Picture: Tom J Brydone
Logan Gray's Stirling-based rink were hard to miss as they secured the title at the Mercure City of Perth Masters. Picture: Tom J Brydone

It was a dramatic win for the men whose garish outfits are produced by their sportswear fashionista sponsors Loudmouth, with the runners-up in last year's Scottish championship claiming a major boost ahead of that same event since they go into it as top seeds this time.

Their closely fought battle with Oskar Eriksson's rink always looked like going the distance, with never more than a shot in it. Gray's team would not so much sweep to victory as the Swede's over-swept to defeat as their final stone carried just beyond what proved to be Gray's winning shot at the extra end.

Having had to change their line-up this season with Ally Guthrie replaced at third by Glen Muirhead - brother of world champion skip, Eve - it was a first win on the Curling Champions Tour for Gray, Muirhead and lead Richard Woods. Only second, Ross Paterson, had enjoyed such a triumph, while competing at this event alongside David Edwards eight years ago.

Its significance, in a field at The Dewars Centre which contained both Sweden's reigning world champions (not the Eriksson rink) and Switzerland's newly crowned European champions, was reinforced by the fact that the only other Scottish win in the past eight years - in 2010 - acted as a precursor to Tom Brewster's domination of the domestic scene.

"This is absolutely huge for us. We put in a lot of hard work and it's nice to see it come to fruition," the skip said afterwards.

Beyond enjoying the moment itself, Gray was well aware of the impact the win could have ahead of the national championships. "We've been playing pretty well all season but it started to really click together this week," he said. "That's big psychologically and hopefully it will bring a little bit of fear factor for opposing teams as well.

"With the British Olympic team not playing [at the Scottish championships] this year we've been seeded number one, but there are probably five or six teams very much in the mix. We just need to keep doing what we're doing and hopefully we'll put another title on the board in February."

In a sport with a staid image that can only benefit from attempts to broaden its appeal, their dress sense ensured they caught the eye. Yet that is only properly advantageous if performances follow. With no fewer than six of the 12 teams contesting next month's Olympics taking part in Perth, including the British team which, now skipped by David Murdoch, was slightly embarrassingly among the first ha lf dozen of the 15 Scottish teams taking part to be knocked out, this victory provided the perfect fit, then.

"We beat three of the Olympic teams - Russia, Switzerland and Norway - on the way to the quarter-final so that's a big confidence boost for us," Gray said, before adding supportively: "The GB guys had an off week but I'm sure that when it comes to the Olympics they'll be right on song and will peak at the right time."

While Murdoch's early exit was clearly far from ideal just a month from the Winter Olympics, among the prospective Olympians only Thomas Ulsrud's Norwegian representatives made it to the knockout stages. There they were beaten in the quarter-finals by Eriksson.

In the early part of yesterday afternoon Gray's rink and that of their fellow Scots - skipped by Kyle Smith - had, meanwhile, looked to be battling it out in the semi-finals for the right to meet Mike McEwen's Canadian quartet. As the champions here in 2011 and 2012 and beaten finalists last season, the Canadians were strongly fancied to win again.

To some extent, then, Gray almost looked to have been done something of a favour by their final opponents, since they had been beaten by the pre-tournament favourites in a pool match on Friday. Naturally, the Scots would have fancied their chances of reversing that result but McEwen and his men had looked to be fully justifying their status until losing their semi-final.

Gray's rink had pushed McEwen's closest in the pool stages in losing 7-3. The Canadians would sweep into the knockout stages as one of two unbeaten rinks, alongside that of Grant Hardie, who was edged out 6-5 by Smith in the quarter-finals.

McEwen's men had then come through their quarter-final against Peter de Cruz's Swiss rink and were leading five ends into the semi-final before Eriksson transformed the match with that decisive blow, raising one of his stones to clear that of McEwen's, which had been lying shot. All three of the Swede's stayed in the house to give him a crucial 5-3 lead.

That by no means made their passage to the final automatic with two ends remaining, but they forced McEwen to take a single at the penultimate one. When Eriksson had to produce a double take out with the final stone of the last end, he again did so nervelessly.

Yet not long afterwards, a slight misjudgment meant his attempt at another matchwinner slipped centimetres further from the button than Gray's, allowing the Stirling-based quartet to revel in the spotlight.

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