Curling: Scotland’s male team take gold in Russia

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SCOTLAND’S male team took gold in yesterday’s final of the World Junior Curling Championships in Sochi, Russia, beating the hosts by 6-2 but, despite fighting all the way to an extra end.

Lockerbie’s Hannah Fleming just failed to defend her world crown, as the Scottish women went down by 5-6 to Russia in their final.

It was the first-ever appearance by a Russian team in a men’s junior world final, and they had alfready inflicted the only loss suffered by Scotland, skipped by Perth’s Kyle Smith, at the event, when they won the round-robin match between the sides by 5-4.

But this time, Russia faced a Scotland team at the top of their form and determined.

With last-stone advantage because they had topped the rankings, the Scots blanked the first end and then took the early lead in the second, scoring two when Smith delivered a perfect nose-hit on an open Russian stone.

Scotland stole a single in the fourth and added another single steal in the fifth end, for a 4-0 halfway lead.

The Russians finally got on the scoreboard in the eighth but, by then, the Scots were keeping everything clear and scored one in the ninth for a 6-2 lead.

And, with his first stone of the final end, 20-year-old Smith cleared the house and ran Russia out of stones.

Afterwards, he said: “I don’t know what to say. I just feel fantastic. We’ve just had a really good week and a good year.

“I was a wee bit nervous, but that’s only natural.

“We just played everything we could, we just didn’t give them much of a chance. They played well but we got our two for the lead and that just settled the nerves a bit, and we just made a lot of shots from there.”

Smith led this team to bronze last year and was visibly disappointed then. About that, he said simply: “We’ve got the colour of the medal right this year.”

Although they went to an extra end, Fleming’s team were eventually out-gunned by Russia in the second half of their final. In the eighth end, a perfect draw by Russian fourth player Yulia Portunova forced the Scots to attempt a double take-out that failed, ­giving Russia a two-point steal and the lead – by 5-3 – for the first time in the game.

After a long discussion before they played their last stone in the ninth, the Scots chose to blank.

That paid off when good play in the tenth gave them their reward as Fleming eventually hit for two to tie the game and force the extra end.

In the eleventh, the Scots placed their front guards too close together, allowing Russia easy peels and, with her last stone, Portunova delivered a perfect nose-hit on a Scottish stone sitting at the front of the house for the one point needed to complete the win.

Skip Fleming was reflective in defeat, saying: “We’ve been playing well all week, but we just weren’t firing as well in the final as we have been. But you’ve got to hand it to Russia because they played well. I’m really disappointed. I think overall we deserved to win, but we just didn’t show it in the final.”

Canada won the men’s bronze, beating Sweden 6-4, while Japan took women’s bronze, beating the Czech Republic 8-4.