Jones by a whisker

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- The good ship Manitoba appeared headed for a nasty wreck on the shores of Newfoundland when the skipper finally managed to avert disaster. Jennifer Jones blew a 5-0 lead, giving up four stolen points in the process, in her opening game at the Scott Tournament of Hearts and barely eked out a 7-5 win over Newfoundland's Heather Strong with a clutch shot in the 10th end.

MANITOBA 7 NEWFOUNDLAND 5

Jones made a triple takeout with her first rock, which paved the way for her to score a deuce with her last in the first draw of the Canadian women's curling championship. It was the culmination of a wild opener that had the pro-Newfoundland crowd roaring and the Mile One Stadium buzzing.

"That's Jennifer for you," Manitoba second Jill Officer said of the key shot. "That was a big relief and that triple took a lot of the tension away. Obviously when you are up a few points and they come back it becomes a little bit nerve-wracking, but it's not a bad thing to have a game like that either. We all made some shots and missed some shots, and we are going to have to pull up our socks."

It would have been an horrific beginning for the Buffalo gals if they had lost after dominating completely for the first five ends.

Manitoba blanked the first, scored two with the hammer in the second and stole singles in the next three ends. They then forced Newfoundland to a single in the sixth and appeared to be headed for an early handshake.

But Strong lived up to her name, and with a raucous crowd behind her, managed to steal two in both the seventh and ninth to even things up.

The crowd would have gone bonkers had she managed to steal another one in the 10th, but Strong made one poor decision, bringing a rock into the house when she could have guarded her shot rock and setting up the triple for Jones.

"They left it there for us, and lucky for us I made it," said Jones, who also curls with Cathy Overton-Clapham and Cathy Gauthier. "It's nice to have a close game and to have to make the last shot to win. I think it's important that we won that game because we controlled it early, and I missed a few shots later to make it close. We had a great 10th end."

A few eyebrows were raised over the conduct of the crowd, which cheered as loudly when Manitoba missed as when Newfoundland made a shot -- a no-no in traditional curling etiquette.

The Manitoba players said they were not particularly bothered by the cheering, but the Newfoundland skip said the home fans need to tone it down.

"Hopefully something the fans will come to know over the course of the week is you don't cheer misses," Strong said. "We love to hear them cheer for good shot-making, but there is a proper etiquette for curling. I felt bad for Manitoba, but I know it's just Newfoundlanders and their hospitality ... I think it's just a little bit of a lack of education in that aspect of the game."

Obviously it won't be a problem for Manitoba unless the teams meet again in the playoffs, but Officer doesn't think any teams should be complaining.

"They are pulling for their hometown team, and I don't blame them," she said.

Manitoba is back on the ice this morning for a game against Colleen Jones and Team Canada and plays upstart Jenn Hanna of Ontario in the evening.


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