To be very fair, most of the games so far have comfortably reached seven ends. Niall is the champion, having managed eight ends in three out of his four games. When you look at the league table, you should not be too surprised that he leads the ends table by a whopping four ends in total. He has managed to play 31 ends. This lead that he has built up could well be crucial when it comes to the end of the competition and in the event of a tied points total.
Look also though down the table because as well as the Kettle trophy, we are also playing for the runners-up spot in the league. The runners-up will be presented with the Harlaw Cup and the race could not be tighter. Right now, just about everyone is still in with a shout and it will be decided on points first, then ends, and only then on the shots difference between the teams. You might be getting thumped in terms of the score, but if you can secure another end or two, it may make all the difference between glory and the thought of what might have been!
This does raise an interesting tactical question as well, though. Suppose you have last stone and you are four down in the match, playing the last end. You have the hammer. You know that the chances are that you will not score four, but you want to try; you also want to make sure that you give yourself as good a chance as possible to get in for a crucial shot with your last stone. Tempting though it may be to freeze their first stone on the pot lid, or go round their centre line guard, you really ought to play for the wings and build your end that way.
On the other hand, what if you do not have last stone in that situation? The advice then is to try to make it as easy as possible to get as many stones round the centre guards as you can and this may mean going behind the tee with the second’s stones to leave the room. What happens if they follow you in perfectly? Well, by that time you are pretty well goosed anyway, so you’re kind of hoping that they either fail with their attempt, or (probably more sensibly from their perspective) they rip the guard off.
How have Niall, Shona, Andrew and Francis managed to get their eight ends just about every game? Simple really:
· They start the game as soon after the bell has gone as they can
· They are all in the hack with their stone cleaned and ready to play when the previous stone is coming to a finish
· Quick decision-making in the house by skip and third
· Cooperative opposition!
If you do not do those simple steps, the time builds up. Let’s imagine that you watch your opponent’s stone all the way down the ice from the hogline. Once it has stopped, you go back to the hack (5 seconds), search out your stone (10 seconds), clean its sole (10 seconds), then raise your eyes in the general direction of the skip waiting patiently in the head for your attention. That’s not really that much time – it’s only twenty-five seconds. But then you multiply those 25 seconds by 12 (on the basis that if everyone did that, you wouldn’t get more than six ends in!) and that’s six minutes. Now let’s assume worst-case scenario and imagine that everyone is doing that (forget the skips’ stones for the moment); that’s six minutes times six people and that comes to over thirty minutes wasted, just faffing around!
Just give me a pill; I've lost the will to live!