Some forty-nine teams entered this year's Scottish Schools Championship, Stranraer having the most entries with five. After local qualifiers, twenty-four teams contested the title at the Murrayfield rink at the weekend, playing initially in four sections: 1 Merchiston Castle Kelvinside Academy, Stirling High, Webster's High, Dollar Academy, Loudoun Academy; Mary Erskine, Stranraer 1, Earlston High, Millburn Academy, Bell Baxter, Garnock Academy; Hamilton Grammar, George Heriots, Stranraer 2, Longridge, Forfar Academy, Inverness Royal Academy; Strathaven Academy, Craigmount High, Douglas Ewart, Arbroath High, Pitlochry, Lockerbie.
Two qualified from each section and the quarters matched Merchiston against Mary Erskine, Hamilton against Lockerbie, Arbroath against George Heriots and Garnock against Loudoun. It was to be Merchiston v Hamilton, and Arbroath v Loudoun in the semifinals.
We can pick up from the semis with some photos. This is the Loudoun team in action. Skip Euan Cunningham is in the head, and that's Mark Guthrie, Kirsty Morton and Eilidh Drummond all sweeping. It was to no avail, as their opposition on the day, Arbroath, were too strong and ran out easy winners.
The other semifinal between Hamilton and Merchiston was a much tighter affair, and the game could have gone either way. That's the Hamilton team in action. It's John Ballantyne's stone which is being swept by Rachel Hannen and Craig Waddell. Skip Kyle Waddell is in the head.
The game went to an extra end after Hardie's takeout in the eighth clipped a guard. Then in the extra, his first took a horrendous pickup and removed his own shot stone. Waddell put a third Hamilton stone in play, leaving the Merchiston skip a real pressure draw to the four foot for the game! He made it perfectly.
So this is how the teams lined up for the final. Merchiston Castle: Grant Hardie, Hamilton McMillan, Alastair Brunton and Mark Munro.
Arbroath Academy: Duncan Menzies, Robert Fawns, Alistair Stewart, Angus Dowell
The Merchiston team were really up for the final. This is young Hammy.
Mark and Hammy look after Alastair's stone.
The pundits behind the glass all thought that Duncan called too aggressive a game early on, and his team fell 4-0 behind.
Front end Angus Dowell and Alistair Stewart work to bring Robert Fawns' stone past a guard.
Duncan adjusts his third's ice.
This end was the end! Merchiston lies four, but Duncan is short with his draw to save, and Arbroath falls 8-0 behind. All the competition results are on the Royal Club website here.
And a caption competition to finish. Mark is saying to Alastair, "Just look at these blisters." Or, "I've got five digits, how many do you have?" (Other captions are available)
Photos © Skip Cottage