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Muirhead battles back after shaky start

curling

Scotland's Eve Muirhead recovered from a shaky start with two solid wins yesterday at the Le Gruyere European Curling Championships in Sweden, writes Mike Haggerty.

The defending champion had faced the toughest of round-robin openers on Saturday in Karlstad against Switzerland's reigning world champions. In a close match, Muirhead's final effort went wrong and her rink were beaten 5-3.

However, the Scots then made short work of beating Italy 8-2 yesterday morning in just eight ends, scoring in each of the last four ends. Later, against Finland, they set up their 11-5 victory with a score of 4 in the third end, when Muirhead's last stone was swept into a busy house.

Afterwards, Muirhead reflected, saying: "We controlled that game. It wasn't the most solid performance, but we did what we needed to do".

The Scottish men, led by Aberdeen's Tom Brewster, also had mixed fortunes. They lost their opener on Saturday, going down by 5-6 to the Czech Republic, but then bounced back with an eight-end 7-2 win over Germany.

After this game, Brewster said: "It was very important to get a win in the bag. I think we've still got a couple of gears to go. We just didn't believe enough in our technique this morning."

However, Brewster's men suffered another set-back yesterday morning, going down by 5-8 to Russia. After losing three shots in the first two ends, it took all the way till the eighth end for the Scots to claw back level, at 5-5.

However, they were tight on the time clocks and rushed their play in the 10th and gave up a steal of one when Brewster wrecked with his first stone.

Basketball

Glasgow Rocks suffered a fourth-quarter collapse last night and were beaten 90-79 at Cheshire Phoenix, writes Mark Woods. Gareth Murray, the Scotland captain, fired 17 points against his former team but Sterling Davis' men were out-scored 30-22 over the final 10 minutes to slip to a second reverse in a row.

The result was a welcome boost for the hosts, just weeks after they were saved from extinction by a fan-led consortium. However Glasgow stay marooned in seventh place in the British Basketball League, 12 points adrift of leaders Leicester Riders.

The Rocks, playing without captain EJ Harrison, trailed 41-31 at half-time after Cheshire pulled away in the second period. However, they hit back in the third quarter as a three-pointer from Brice Fantazia capped a 13-1 run which took his side 49-47 ahead. It was to be their final lead. Cheshire, paced by a game-high 27 points from their player-coach, Chez Marks, responded with a three-point blitz in the closing stages as the Scots' challenge faded badly away.

Elsewhere, Kareem Maddox had 24 points as Newcastle Eagles rebounded from their surprise loss to Worcester by edging out Plymouth Raiders 73-70 yesterday while Sheffield overwhelmed fellow strugglers Durham 91-74.

Meanwhile, Leicester will face holders Newcastle in next month's BBL Cup final after thrashing Sheffield 75-45 in a one-sided second leg of their semi-final. Already 90-70 in front from their first meeting, the Riders were utterly dominant as Great Britain skipper Drew Sullivan led the rout with 15 points.

BOBSLEIGH

Edinburgh's Gillian Cooke and Wiltshire's Paula Walker recorded another top-10 finish at the World Cup in Winterberg, Germany, writes Lorin McDougall.

Cosistent runs of 57.28sec and 57.33 left them barely half a second behind race winners Kaillie Humphries and Chelsea Valois from Canada.

gymnastics

Scotland's Paul Van Rietvelde is celebrating after he and Daniel Purvis took bronze at the Glasgow World Cup, rounding off a hugely successful year in front of a packed Emirates Arena on Saturday, writes Susan Swarbrick.

Having led until the final rotation, the 22-year-old was edged off the top spot on the high bar by Germany's Marcel Nguyen, who boasts one of the most difficult routines in the world. Kazuhito Tanaka (Japan) claimed the silver.

"It's the last competition of the season and I enjoyed it," said Purvis. "He [Nguyen] came second in the Olympics so he was always going to be hard to beat. I was just happy to be able to rival him today."

British team-mate Kristian Thomas was not so fortunate, errors on pommel horse, vault and high bar seeing him finish in seventh spot.

In the women's competition, Elizabeth Price, the US Olympic reserve in London, dominated to take gold. Elisabeth Seitz of Germany took silver and her compatriot Kim Bui the bronze. Britain's Rebecca Tunney and Niamh Rippin finished fifth and sixth respectively.

ICE HOCKEY

Jason Pitton claimed a treble as Fife Flyers clocked up four straight home wins to defeat early season pace-setters Belfast Giants and knock them off the top of the Elite League table, writes Nigel Duncan.

The former New York Islanders draft pick helped Flyers roar back from a 1-0 deficit with four straight goals to win 4-1, a result which means Nottingham Panthers move into top spot with Giants slipping to second.

Pitton, who has netted nine goals so far this season, said: "It's great to score, but it's what it means to the team that really counts. This was a big result for us."

The club's eighth victory of the campaign was a massive boost to the Kirkcaldy club as it moves them above Hull Stingrays and into eighth place in the 10-strong league. The result also keeps them three points ahead of bottom club Edinburgh Capitals, who beat Sheffield Steelers 2-1 at The House of Steel.

Flyers, backed by a huge crowd, had the better of the first period against Giants, but went behind as Craig Peacock came out the penalty box in 12 minutes and netted within. But Flyers levelled on the power play within 54 seconds with skipper Casey Haines on target.

The only marker in the second period came the way of the home team as Canadian-born Pitton found the net after 27 minutes. The third period was tense but 26-year-old Pitton fired home two goals in just more than a minute to complete his hat trick.

Elsewhere, Kirkcaldy-born defenceman Willie Nicolson was the toast of his team-mates as Edinburgh Capitals defeated title-chasing Sheffield. The 2-1 result was Capitals' sixth victory of the season, and second in a row.

Sheffield lost the services of ex-Devils player Tyler Michel with less than three minutes on the clock as he was thrown out for checking to the head. But they still dominated the opening 20 minutes which ended blank.

Curtis Leinweber then silenced the home fans by putting Edinburgh ahead in the sixth minute of the middle session. Capitals looked as though they were going to hold on to that lead at the second break but with 20 seconds remaining Matt Stephenson found the net to level at 1-1. However, former Fife Flyers defenceman Nicolson proved the hero with less than seven minutes left. The 22-year-old claimed the game-winner with his first goal of the season in a game in which Capitals were outshot 32-22.

HOCKEY

Glynhill Kelburne, eight-times outdoor champions, are now up with the top sides in the indoor first division with back-to-back wins over Dundee Wanderers and Grange at the Bell's Sports Centre in Perth, writes Craig Madden.

Against a rather lacklustre Wanderers side the Paisley outfit struggled to exert dominance and won 7-6 although they were never behind in the entire match. The first half finished 2-2, youngsters Ed Greaves and Lee Morton getting Kelburne's goals. Willie Marshall and Jack McAllister put Kelburne 4-2 in front, Wanderers pulled one back, but the result seemed to be settled with a goal from Jonny Christie, playing his first indoor game for around five years, and a brilliant solo effort from Morton for a 6-3 lead.

Wanderers almost clawed their way back into the contest with two goals from Steven Glass but shot themselves in the foot by missing two spot efforts, leaving Kelburne narrow winners.

Against Grange, Kelburne raced into a five-goal half time lead through Marshall (2), Christie (2) and Morton. But the Edinburgh side were almost allowed back into the game with three goals at the start of the second half through Stewart Laing and Fraser Sands (2).

Order was restored in the final eight minutes, Christie scoring two more, and Adam Bain completed the tally for a comfortable 8-3 victory.

Title favourites Grove Menzieshill and Inverleith duly finished the day with the full six points, both at the expense of luckless Western Wildcats and PSL Clydesdale. The Wildcats were reduced to a few individual forays up the pitch as they went down 9-1 to Menzieshill in the opening contest. The champions went on to wipe the floor with Clydesdale, seven goals from captain Chris Wilson and four each for Ross Stott and Ross McPherson did most of the damage in a 21-1 whipping.

Inverleith also trounced Clydesdale 12-2 but struggled a bit more to overcome the Wildcats. The first half ended 3-3 with Douglas Simpson, Peter Martin and Joe Simpson scoring for the Wildcats, but after the interval the Edinburgh side took control and won 7-3. There were two goals each for Derek Salmond and Adam McKenzie.

In Melbourne, England finished bottom of the pile in the FIH Champions Trophy after losing 3-2 to New Zealand on a golden goal. The sides finished 2-2 in normal time, England`s goals coming from Darren Cheesman and Barry Middleton, but Nick Wilson`s strike seven minutes into extra time provided the winner, leaving England relegated from the Champions Trophy.

Australia won the gold medal, also with a golden goal, with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands in a match controlled by Scottish umpire Martin Madden.

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