Sunday, December 09, 2007

Match Report

by Matt Hames

RAMA – Okay, we take it all back. Four ends in, and look what we have here.

(Ha, actually you take it all back [grin] – Ed.)

After last year’s Brier, I wrote that I liked the shot that Brad Gushue called in the seventh end. He went for it. That’s the kind of thinking and strategy one needs in a Skins Game. Forget the consequences and go for it. And right now, Gushue is going for it. He’s not only matching KMart shot for shot, he’s exceeding him. And that’s a bit of a surprise.

Thing is, people have been underestimating Brad for a long time. At the Olympic Trials, he wasn’t considered a threat. At the Brier last year, he was more a sentimental favourite than a real one.

And yet, he proved the pundits wrong. He’s proved that a team from the farthest point on the right of Canada can compete.

After four ends, we just heard Kevin Martin say: We’ve got a battle.

Fast forward ...

When the seventh end of the second semi final started, this was what we thought would happen.

Martin would throw the first rock top four. He would do it because he wants to play the end wide open. If possible, he’ll peel Gushue out and force a carry over, so he could have last rock.

Martin really, really likes last rock in the last end. He's given up money before to get it. But this is different. This is also the four rock rule – remember? And the 4RFGZ can suck rocks into play.

Because that’s not the way it played out. It was Martin throwing draws for his Skins Game Life. Two absolute pistol draws in the seventh end between two peel-weight hits for Gushue. Both going so far off script that we were beside ourselves.

We are beside ourselves, actually... myself and TCN shooter Anil Mungal are stting together. But I digress.

When the dust cleared, Martin had what we all know he wanted. Last rock in the last end with the entire game on the line.

At stake: 14K, and a trip to the final.

And like a good script, it writes itself. Experience versus rookie. Three-time champ versus guy who has been picked to be an also-ran in and Olympic Trial, a Brier and now the skins game.

I’m not sure if it was like this on your HDTV, but it was so quiet during the eighth end that I was afraid to type this. The tension was so thick you could have cut it with a Jack of Clubs, or at least a casino chip. KMart makes a peel weight double that has the crowd thinking it’s over. But then Gushue papers a guard and buries one in the back four, forcing Martin to a draw to the button.

Then they had to do it all over again.

Draw the nut. The pin hole. The button. For the whole ball game.

To recap, Martin won the first skin. He stole it. From then on in, he didn’t get another skin. Actually, he didn’t really have another chance at a skin. It was all Gushue. And yet, the beauty of the skins game is simply this: it can come down to whoever is closest to the pin hole.

Martin starts and covers the pin. Then Gushue throws and comes up short.

I don’t think this answers the question of whether you want hammer in the last end or not. But one thing is for sure. Going first helps.

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