The four quarter final games in the Moray Province Open Knockout competition have resulted in two evenly split East v West semifinals. On a night when conditions outside were as slippery as those on the Moray Leisure Centre Ice sheet, three local East Province teams welcomed their three Inverness based West Province opponents. Andy Cameron had progressed from the East following Tom Pendreigh’s unfortunate withdrawal and was joined in the semi final draw by fellow East Province’s Alan Campbell. Campbell’s rink with young Ben Rankin throwing last stones were 3-0 down to Mike McInnes after 2 ends but rallied strongly to score at all the remaining ends in a 7-3 win.
The West’s two successes came in the very different shapes of Ali Asher and Ally Fraser.
Despite Asher claiming none of his rink had ever been east of Forres, I happen to know that plumbing brothers Robbie and Ross Cope once serviced an old boiler in Llanbryde and Alan Scott and Asher himself come Line Dancing to Elgin town hall twice a month. Meanwhile, back on the ice,the Nairn baker and soon to be President of Scottish Curling soon clicked into gear on pretty quick, if just a bit straight Elgin ice. East’s Wilson Burnett stole at each of the opening two ends to lead 3-0 before Asher’s team hit back with a count of 4. It was nip and tuck after 5 ends with the Nairn rink holding a slender 5-4 lead and the all important hammer. With a well protected Burnett counter on the button, Asher’s second player Robbie Cope played the shot of the night with an angled raise on his own stone to lie shot and leave Burnett with a very difficult route to the button to level the game. Lying 4 against, his draw came up short and handshakes were exchanged with a 9-4 Asher victory.
Ally Fraser’s Ardclach team held on in a game that was considerably closer than the 8-5 score might suggest. With a pickup of 4 shots at the second end, Charlie Watt jnr led 5-4 after five ends. Fraser countered at the next with a deuce and a chance to tie the scores at the seventh end was lost when Watt jnr just threw his last stone take out a bit outside the brush and wrecked on a guard to give up 2 shots. Now 3 shots ahead, the wily Fraser and co simply ran the Watt team out of scoring shots in the last end for their win.
Andy Cameron now plays Ali Asher and Alan Campbell plays Ally Fraser in the semifinals at Inverness Ice Centre on February 21st.
In East League business,Division 1 has split into a top 3 and bottom 3 situation, the top 3 at least 5 points ahead of the basement stragglers.
Buckie’s Alan Campbell still sits atop following a 13-3 demolition of Mike McDonald’s Forres rink.
Andy Cameron’s Aberlour team remain a couple of points behind Campbell,a count of 5 at the third end easing the Speysiders to a comfortable win over a short handed Tennis Club team.
Charlie Watt jnr kept his Forres team in the hunt with an 8-4 win over Wilson Burnett.The game was keenly contested, a Forres count of 4 at the fourth end together with some missed opportunities by the Fochabers lads allowing Watt to remain in the Division’s top trio.
In Division 2 Bob Stewart was a player short due to the wintry road conditions and despite a count of 4 shots to level things up after 4 ends,the Elgin team ran out of steam to allow the Sunninghill Mob their 9-4 victory.
Bill Jaffrey