Faced with a draw to the four foot rings in front of his home crowd at the extra end of the Hendrick's Gin Men's Scottish Curling Championship final Ross Whyte disregarded the pressure to deliver a perfectly weighted shot and clinch his team's first senior national title at the Dumfries Ice Bowl.
Sweepers Euan Kyle and Duncan McFadzean had to do no more that escort the stone down the ice as vice skip Robin Brydone kept a close eye on its progress before it settled on the button to spark rapturous scenes as they clinched the 7-6 win over former World Junior and reigning World University Games winning skip James Craik's men who had put up a magnificent battle.
It was a match which swung in both directions, Whyte starting with last stone advantage as a result of having gone unbeaten on their way to the final, but Craik forcing him to take just one at the opening end, then making the first telling move after a blanked second.
The third end was an unusual one as stones piled up behind the tee-line and Craik’s men manoeuvred their stones with precision to set up the chance for their skip to play a double takeout with his final stone and seize the initiative with a well-worked three.
Whyte responded immediately with a skip's deuce at the fourth, curling in behind cover with his first draw, then drawing to the button after a near perfect freeze by Craik onto the shot stone levelled the match up.
Play became concentrated on back of house again at the fifth and this time Whyte gained the upper hand with a near perfect freeze with his first stone before Craik’s attempt to follow him glanced off a guard.
Whyte’s subsequent takeout left Craik with no choice but to draw to the button and take his one at the midway break and on the resumption he looked set to claim a telling advantage after a well judged raise double takeout by his vice skip Mark Watt cleared the only reds in the house to give his team the upper hand.
Under pressure Whyte once again responded well and while his attempt to freeze left just enough room for Craik to draw onto the shot stone on the button, tap it back and lie shot, faced with the prospect of letting his opponent double his advantage while scoring at even ends, Whyte adopted a high risk, high reward strategy.
Fortune duly favoured the brave as he found the perfect angle to knock an opposition guard onto another on the button, both rolling out to leave Whyte lying one, tying the scores up once more and he knew it was a vital moment, saying afterwards: "It would have really been a kick in the teeth if we'd given them a steal there and would have been a real momentum shift to Team Craik, so making that shot kept us in the game and in control."
Play yet again play shifted behind the tee-line in the latter stages of the end where two perfectly weighted tap backs by Whyte left Craik with a testing draw to the button around a guard, but he proved up to the challenge to edge his team ahead once again.
Two great shots by Watt, the first a raised hit and roll and the second a hit and roll behind a guard then looked to have swung the eighth end his team’s way, Craik then following his lead, but Whyte froze onto what had been the shot stone with his first and when Craik missed his attempt to follow him by a fraction it left Whyte with a draw to the right foot for the two that put his team ahead for the first time since the second end.
After a blanked ninth end Whyte held upper hand throughout the 10th, ultimately forcing Craik to draw to the four foot to take it down the extra end where both teams used their additional timeouts as the tension rose.
Craik’s first stone was an attempted freeze, but slightly over-curled leaving Whyte a straightforward takeout and while Craik, with the only option available to him, then executed a perfect tap back with his final stone, Whyte was left with that opportunity to draw to the four foot for the title and proved up to the challenge.,
"It's unreal," said the 25-year-old.
"The feeling when that last stone stopped in the four foot was like nothing I've felt in a long time.
"To finally make that big shot to win a big competition was fantastic."
"It was always very tight.
"At the first end James and the boys came out very strong and generated a good force, then he got his three at the third end which made it really tricky and we knew it was going to be a real grind from there, but we felt like if we got ourselves into that situation at the end we would have a good chance."
The victory was all the more satisfying because of the way it was achieved, going through 11 matches against the strongest field ever assembled at a Scottish Championship, with reigning World, European and Scottish champions in the field and four teams ranked in the world's top 20 battling it out in the knockout stages.
"While we're extremely good at going unbeaten in round-robins and it not always working out in our favour, today it did," said Whyte.
"It's nice to put a marker down the whole week, showing how well you're playing and then to get over the line in the final is great."
As he prepared to celebrate with friends and family he felt that his team had now proven their capacity to move onto the international stage at senior level ahead of next week's selection of teams for the forthcoming World Championships.
"It's brilliant to do this in Dumfries," said the local boy.
"We've had so much support this week from everyone in Dumfries in front of a good crowd and it was great to put on a good show for them.
"The Scottish Championships are getting very professional and there are so many good teams here and you know you're always going to have really tough games, so to come out here and continuously win is a sign of real grit and determination winning in a competition that has the World and European champions.
"We feel like we've done a whole lot of good for ourselves and put ourselves in a position to be selected.
"Hopefully the selection panel see the same thing and believe in us after we've just shown in this world class field, going undefeated, that we are good enough to go onto the big stage.
"We're number four in the world already and we are more than capable of representing Scotland very well."
For Craik, Watt, Angus Bryce and Blair Haswell it was meanwhile tough to lose a second successive Scottish Championship final, however their 22-year-old skip could take consolation from the quality of the encounter as he paid tribute to Whyte's men and his own.
"This was a roller-coaster week for us," said Craik, whose men had beaten Bruce Mouat's World Champions on successive days in the round-robin then knockout stages to earn their opportunity to contest the final once again.
"We've done things we've never done before and gained so much experience and really made a statement with a true indication of our work ethic and determination and resilience..
"I'm so proud of my team, they've been amazing and we left it all out there.
"We're trying everything we've got and throwing everything at curling and we're starting to be able to display what we can do in front of a crowd on arena ice, so we're very happy with that.
"Those 11 ends were some of the best curling there's been in a Scottish final in my opinion.
"I felt like we played great, but Ross's team played fantastic and that was the difference.
"They are very worthy champions, so it sucks just now, but I'm still very proud of us.".
Please click here to the Scottish Curling website for the schedule and results.
Action Images: Scottish Curling, Trophy pics: Team Whyte