Women’s Sports Column

rugby ball16 – 22 January

This week’s stories come from  rugby union, netball, cricket, tennis, football and American football.

The new English Premiership champions are Richmond.  They defeated favourites and reigning champions, Saracens, 28-10 at the Stoop on Sunday 17 January.  The challengers never looked in trouble as they stormed to a 22-5 lead at half time with tries from Croker, Shiels and Myers.  Both teams suffered from bouts of indiscipline which took them down to 14 players, but Richmond were better at exploiting their advantage.   Saracens came back with determined effort in the second half and Richmond could only score two penalties.  In truth, the match was over by half time and Richmond worthy winners.

The English netball season started with a vengeance this week with the first in a series of three tests against reigning world champions Australia. The first match, on Wednesday 20 January, took place in front of a packed house at the Liverpool Echo Arena.

In a pulsating match the Roses came up just short, losing to the Diamonds 52-58.

Chance for revenge comes quickly as the second game takes place at London’s Copper Box Arena tonight, Friday 22 January. Full coverage on Sky as part of their netball month.

We now know which two teams will be in the final of the inaugural WBBL – it will be an all-Sydney affair. In the first semi-final Sydney Thunder beat Charlotte Edwards’ Perth Scorchers. The Thunder set the Scorchers 119 to win, but Perth fell short with only 110.

Alex Blackwell top-scored for the Thunder with 39 with the West Indies’ Stafanie Taylor scoring a quick-fire 24.

The Scorchers made heavy weather of it from the start, and although Elyse Villani made 23 and Charlotte Edwards 18, they couldn’t see it through and when Katherine Brunt went LBW in the last over the game was up.

The second semi-final was somewhat of a damp squib with the only real winner being the weather. Hobart Hurricanes had been there or thereabouts for the whole tournament with Captain Heather Knight of England in great form.

However they could only muster 86-8 in the semi-final after a rain-affected 14 overs and after the total to chase was revised to 55 from 8 overs there was only going to be one winner.

Australian veteran Lisa Sthalekar, who came out of retirement to play in this tournament, took a very handy 3-9 for the Sixers off her three overs.

The Sixers chased their target with 10 balls to spare and without losing a wicket. Healy ended 32 not out and Perry 22.

Laura Marsh is now the only England player left in the WBBL. She did not play for the Sixers in the semi-final and it must be doubtful if she will be picked for the final.

The final of the WBBL takes place on Sunday 24 January, showing on SkySports 3 at 2.30am.

Can I recommend you visit the official Rebel WBBL website? It is packed full of interesting articles and some excellent stats, team of the tournament, best wicket-takers, best batting performances, etc – really good for anyone who loves cricket.

In other cricket news, England all-rounder Nat Sciver, has pulled out of the South Africa one-day series through injury. She hopes her ankle will have recovered sufficiently to rejoin the squad for the T20s. Tammy Beaumont will replace Sciver in the one-day squad.

The Australian Open has seen Britain’s number one, Johanna Konta, continuing her excellent form. In her first round match on Tuesday, she beat seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams in straight sets 6-4 6-2.

She faced China’s Zheng Saisai in round two and duly dispatched her 6-2 6-3.

In the third round she will face Denisa Allertova from the Czech Republic, who defeated 30th seed Sabine Lisicki in round two.

Heather Watson did not fare so well, as she went out in the first round to Timea Babos 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 7-5.

In a surprise footballing move, Arsenal Ladies have signed England’s Fara Williams from Liverpool Ladies on a two-year contract.

Williams, who with 148 caps is England’s most-capped player, looked to be a permanent fixture at Liverpool, and the Gunners are clearly pleased with their successful swoop.

In an interview with the BBC, Arsenal coach Pedro Martinez Losa, said,

“Fara is a great competitor and a fantastic character, too

“She is a player with huge experience at club and international level, and her reading and understanding of games is fantastic.”

American football has appointed its first full-time female coach. Kathryn Smith becomes, and yes this is a thing, “quality control-special teams coach”. The role is about analysing opposing teams ahead of the Bills’ games and is a considerable step up for Smith.

Needless to say, the appointment has been controversial, but Smith has received full support from her colleagues;

Head coach Rex Ryan said, “She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment,”

“She has proven that she’s ready for the next step, so I’m excited and proud for her with this opportunity.”

Bills player, MarQeis Gray tweeted,

“Congrats to Coach Kathryn Smith! Welcome aboard! This is a big deal people!”

But others have not been so welcoming, particularly Kevin Kiley of Cleveland radio, who not only insulted Smith, but every woman working in sport by declaring;

“There is no place for a woman in professional sports.”

He called the person who made the choice an “idiot” and then said,

“She couldn’t possibly be qualified to the same level as a man.”

He went on to justify his view with an analogy on the “absurd” idea that women could be qualified to vote for inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,

“Do you want a woman to have a vote on that, who’s never played the game and doesn‘t understand?”

His co-host pointed out that many of the people who vote are sportswriters, and therefore would be unlikely to have played Pro Football. Kiley’s response,

“But they’re men.”

Goodness knows how he’d get on with a female writing about American football! How could that work? I have to admit I’m boggling as I’m writing this. My brain (probably because I’m a mere female) just cannot compute that level of bigotry/stupidity. Let’s hope Kathryn Smith shows him up to be as clueless as he sounds.

And finally, you may have seen my article about this earlier on in the week, but in case you missed it – Ladyball was indeed a spoof on behalf of the Irish Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association and their sponsors, Lidl. I have mixed feelings about this, and not just because it suckered me in good and proper. Read here for details.



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