Women’s Sports Column 24 March – 1 April 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  I’m going to have to be brief about it, due to time pressures, but here goes.  Stories this week come from athletics, football, ice hockey, tennis, netball, curling, rugby union, squash and gymnastics.

Netball

It was round six of the Vitality Netball Superleague last weekend.  Storm and Lightning are still unbeaten at the top of the league on 18 points.  Results were as follows:

Friday 24 March

Team Bath 47-38 Team Northumbria

Wasps Netball 52-58 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 25 March

Surrey Storm 69-47 Celtic Dragons

Hertfordshire Mavericks 57-66 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 27 March

Severn Stars 54-45 Sirens

This weekend sees round seven with Sky’s televised match on Monday 3 April being Thunder v Mavericks.  The action starts at 7.30pm.

Tennis

Miami Open

Jo Konta has become the first British woman to get to the final of the Miami Open.

She beat Venus Williams 6-4 7-5 in the semi-final and will now play Caroline Wozniacki in the final on Saturday.

Wozniacki beat Karolina Pliskova 5-7 6-1 6-1.

If Konta takes the title she will rise to seven in the world rankings.

Rugby Union

Bristol finished unbeaten and at the top of the table in the Women’s Premiership.  The final round of matches finished as follows:

25 March 2017

Lichfield Ladies 48-0 Richmond Women

26 March 2017

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 44-17 Worcester Valkyries

DMP Sharks 5-21 Saracens Women

Bristol Ladies 48-7 Wasps Ladies

The unfortunate Lichfield played a marvellous final Premiership game and ended up second in the table, just one point behind Bristol.

Pos Team P W L PD BP Pts
1 Bristol Ladies 14 12 2 338 12 60
2 Lichfield Ladies 14 12 2 251 11 59
3 Aylesford Bulls Ladies 14 10 4 222 9 49
4 Saracens Women 14 9 5 158 10 46
5 Worcester Valkyries 14 6 8 -22 7 31
6 Richmond Women 14 3 11 -274 5 17
7 Wasps Ladies 14 2 12 -375 5 13
8 DMP Sharks 14 2 12 -298 4 12

The play offs will be on 9 April:

12pm Portway Rugby Development Centre

Bristol v Saracens

1pm Cleve RFC

Lichfield v Aylesford Bulls

The Grand Final will be on 23 April at 12pm.

Curling

Team Muirhead were at it again this week as Scotland took bronze at the World Women’s Curling Championships.

They beat Sweden 6-4 to take the medal, while the gold went to Canada as they defeated Russia 8-3 in the final.

Gymnastics

It was the British Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool last week.

Ellie Downie just gets better and better, taking vault, bars and all-round gold medals.

Phoebe Turner won gold on the beam.

There was a surprise result in the floor when the title went to 15-year old newcomer Maisie Methuen, beating Claudia Fragapane into silver.

Football

Women’s Champions League quarter finals

Manchester City Women 1-0 Fortuna Hjorring

City win 2-0 on aggregate.

It was a tight affair at the Academy Stadium and became clear early on that it was unlikely to be a goalfest.  In the end City made one of their few chances pay when Lucy Bronze headed home from a Mel Lawler corner just before half-time.  US star Carli Lloyd has a great chance earlier in the half after speeding through the Danish defence, but she hit it wide.  In the second half she was quieter but had a header cleared five minutes from the end.

In the other games:

Lyon 0-1 Wolfsburg

(Lyon win 2-1 on aggregate)

Paris Saint Germain 4-0 Bayern Munich

(PSG win 4-1 on aggregate)

Barcelona 2-0 Rosengård

(Barcelona win 3-0 on aggregate)

City play cup holders Lyon in the semi-final.

FA Cup quarter finals

Chelsea 5-1 Sunderland

Sunderland took the lead through a Lucy Staniforth penalty, but after that it was all Chelsea.  Two goals from Ramona Bachmann and two from Hannah Blundell plus one from Drew Spence saw Chelsea into the semis.

Liverpool 2-0 Notts County

The home side were two up before half-time, with County unable to respond.  Caroline Weir scored in the third minute with Natasha Harding hitting a second before the break.

The Lady Pies were unable to break down the Liverpool defence in the second half.

Birmingham City 1-0 Arsenal

The holders went out to a single goal from Marisa Ewers.  After a goalless first-half the winning strike came in the 77th minute after Arsenal had missed several chances.

Birmingham goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger had a stormer, saving from Kim Little, Danielle Carer and Danielle van de Donk in the first-half and Katie McCabe and Jordan Nobbs in the second.

 Bristol City 1-2 Manchester City

Bristol took the lead as Hayley Ladd headed an unfortunate own goal, but by half-time Manchester were level through Claire Emslie.

Nikita Parris hit the winner just before full-time, when it seemed likely the tie was heading into extra time.

FA Cup Semi-final draw

Manchester City v Liverpool

Birmingham City v Chelsea

Both ties should take place on Monday 17 April.

Athletics

Jo Pavey has been awarded a bronze medal from the 10,000m at the 2007 World Championships, after the original second-place finisher, Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegasse was stripped of her title for a doping offence.  American Kara Goucher has been upgraded to silver and Pavey to bronze.

Squash

Laura Massaro won her second British Open title this week when she beat fellow English woman 11-8 11-8 6-11 11-6.

In doing so she became the first English woman for 66 years to win two British Open titles, having first won it in 2013.

Ice Hockey

Three cheers for the US women’s ice hockey team this week.  They were so fed up over the lack of equality with the men’s game that they threatened to boycott their own world championships in protest.

Just two days before the championships were due to begin they called off the protest as it was announced an agreement with USA Hockey had been reached.

The fine details have not been released but are thought to include a new improved pay deal plus better marketing and promotion from the governing body.  There will also be more support for women’s hockey at grassroots level.

Badminton

India Open

Britain’s Chris and Gabby Adcock are through to the quarter-finals of the India Open.  They beat Yang Lee and Hsu Ya Ching of Taiwan 23-21 22-20 to get there.

They face Bodin Isara and Savitree Amitrapai of Thailand in the next round.

But Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith are out of the mixed doubles and Smith and Sarah Walker out of the women’s doubles.

And finally,

A quick tribute to Hazel Irvine, who has announced that she will anchor the BBC’s Masters coverage for the last time in April 2017.

Irvine was a real trailblazer for broadcasting women, particularly in sports considered traditionally “male”.  She has fronted the BBC’s golf broadcasts for 25 years.

I’m a big admirer of Hazel’s.  She is understated, intelligent and knowledgeable, but doesn’t ram her knowledge down the viewer’s throat.

Glad to say she will continue to present the snooker and other major events.

And I’m also pleased to say that Eilidh Barbour will take over in the golf hot seat, and will start with the PGA Championship in May.

Women’s sports column 11 – 17 March 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week.  There have been some big announcements, and although my heart tentatively skips a beat at the new FA Strategy and the Muirfield declaration, I am still weighed down when I read the comments sections after such pieces.  I had made a promise to myself not to look at them, but find myself drawn to the sad, ignorant, abusive nonsense posted by the socially inadequate.  I will stop it, because otherwise I fear that way madness lies.  Anyway, a couple of stellar examples feature in my “And finally” and hopefully that’s the end of it.

Stories this week come from cycling, rugby union, netball, gymnastics, speed skating, hockey, lacrosse, football and golf.

Cycling

It’s still safe to say that British Cycling is in turmoil.  The row about “the package” rumbles on and there seem to be weekly revelations about the culture prevalent in the organisation.  So, perhaps it was not a surprise that this week saw the announcement that Joanna Rowsell Shand is to retire from international cycling.  Of course we all hope that this is a decision based on how well she knows her body and not the urge to leave a possibly sinking ship.

Certainly she is positive about the move;

“The decision to step away has been the hardest I’ve ever had to make.  I believe I have more to offer the world.”

She has indicated that she would like to go into coaching and will also compete in the L’Etape du Tour, an amateur race that covers the same route as the first part of the Tour de France.

In an outstanding career, the 28-year old Rowsell-Shand won gold in the team pursuit at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.  She won five world title, four European titles and a Commonwealth gold in the individual pursuit in 2014.

Netball

It was Round 4 of the Netball Superleague last weekend.  We are down to two unbeaten teams at the top of the table; Surrey Storm and Loughborough Lightning, while Celtic Dragons and Team Northumbria still languish at the bottom without a point.

Last weekend’s scores:

Saturday 11 March

Manchester Thunder 62-53 Celtic Dragons

Surrey Storm 67-45 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Severn Stars 39-48 Team Bath

Wasps 44-57 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 13 March

Team Northumbria 46-64 Sirens

Round 5 is this weekend and Sky’s televised match is on Monday 20 when Team Northumbria takes on Manchester Thunder at 7.45pm.

Lacrosse

Thanks to Martin, as usual, for prompting me into mentioning both lacrosse and hockey this week.

On Saturday 18 March England takes on Japan at the Surrey Sports Park.  This is part of the team’s preparation for the World Cup which takes place at the same venue in July.  If you’re in the area, get along and support the team.  If you don’t know lacrosse well, go and discover it- it’s fast and exciting and pretty much unlike anything else you will see.

Hockey

English domestic hockey

Meanwhile in the IWHL Premier Division, Surbiton have it wrapped up with two games till to play.  This means they will be playing in Europe next season.

On 11 March they beat Bowdon Hightown 6-0 and with just bottom team Reading to play away on Saturday and a final home game on 25 against Clifton Robinsons, their seven-point lead at the top of the table is unassailable.

This is how the table stands:

Team Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Goal Difference Points
Surbiton 16 13 2 1 48 11 37 41
Holcombe 16 10 4 2 40 23 17 34
East Grinstead 16 8 5 3 28 19 9 29
University of Birmingham 16 9 2 5 35 31 4 29
Clifton Robinsons 16 8 1 7 37 27 10 25
Leicester 16 7 4 5 25 22 3 25
Canterbury 16 5 4 7 24 36 -12 19
Slough 16 3 3 10 15 34 -19 12
Bowdon Hightown 16 1 5 10 16 35 -19 8
Reading 16 0 2 14 16 46 -30 2

 Hockey World League (HWL)

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has announced the schedule for the HWL semi-final, to be held in Brussels this summer.

Seven teams have already booked their places; The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Belgium and Spain.

There are three places left to claim and will be decided in a round two event in West Vancouver in April.

The semi-finals will consist of pool stages between June 21 and 27 and the classification matches will begin on 29 June.  The semi-finals will be on 1 July and final on 2 July.

The winners will qualify for the 2018 Hockey World Cup.

Golf

Muirfield members have (finally) voted in favour of admitting women members to the club.

The R&A had said that the course would be unable to host the Open Championship until it changed its admittance rules.

A similar vote in 2016 failed to win the two-thirds backing, but in this new vote 80.2% voted in favour.

Without wishing to spoil this special moment, I’d just like to point out that it still means that out of the 621 who voted, 123 still voted against admitting women…..

Football

The FA launched its new strategy for the future of women’s football this week (stop me if you’ve heard this before).

FA chief executive, Martin Glenn said that women’s football had, in the past, been “let down” by the FA.

There are a number of aspirations named including the hosting of a major tournament, although it is unclear as to when a bid for such an event may be made.

Major commitments include:

  • Building a sustainable and successful high-performance system
  • Building a world-class talent pipeline
  • Increasing the number and diversity of women’s coaches, referees and administrators in the sport at all levels
  • Developing participation opportunities and infrastructure
  • Changing  perceptions and social barriers to participation and following
  • Enhancing the profile and value of the England team and players
  • Signposting opportunities to participate, watch or follow
  • Improving the commercial prospects in women’s football

Read the full document here:

http://www.thefa.com/news/2017/mar/13/fa-womens-football-strategy-gameplan-for-growth-double-participation-130317

Unhappily, one only has to read the comments below any article on women’s football to realise what fundamental shifts of opinion need to happen before we can make any progress at all.

Now we have Baroness Sue Campbell at the heart of things, perhaps change has a chance of becoming a reality.  I recommend you read this article by The Guardian’s Paul MacInnes: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/mar/13/baroness-sue-campbell-womens-football-fa-plan

Her most telling statement and one I agree with wholeheartedly is this;

“I always believe that great development is making yourself redundant,” she says. “Great development in sport is about transforming a system so that it doesn’t need you. If it always needs you then you haven’t really changed the system.”

This is what I have said about initiatives such as “Women’s Sports Week.”

Moves

Sunderland

Melanie Reay has been appointed as the new head coach of Sunderland Ladies after Carlton Fairweather left this week.

Reay had been assistant coach and a former Sunderland striker.

“It is a great honour for me to manage this special club,” she said.

“We have some great young players coming through and hopefully they can make their mark on the team which already has a host of good, experienced players. We will be looking to consolidate and improve together.”

Yeovil Town

The Lady Glovers have extended the contracts of another five first-team players.

England under-19 goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes, midfielders Jessie Jones, Kelly Snook and Leah Burridge and Welsh international striker Nadia Lawrence have all signed new contracts.

Gymnastics

Steve Penny has resigned as USA Gymnastics President and chief executive.  The organisation is currently undergoing investigation into a sexual abuse case involving a team doctor.

Former team doctor Larry Nassar is awaiting trial for child sexual abuse and possessing child pornography.  More than 40 women have a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, claiming it failed to protect them.

It is alleged that USA Gymnastics did not fully report sexual misconduct claims made by female team members.

The investigation is eight months in already and will, no doubt, run and run.

Speed Skating

Elise Christie won three world championship golds at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Rotterdam at the weekend.  In doing so she became the first British woman to win a world title.

She won the 1000m, 1500m and the overall title.  She also finished fourth in the 500m.

Rugby Union

A crushing win for England and a hard-fought triumph for Ireland have set up a grandstand finale to the 2017 championship and a Grand Slam title to be won.

Saturday 11 March

Wales 7-12 Ireland

There was no score in this match until the 39th minute, when Ireland were awarded a penalty.  They kicked for the corner.  Prop Lindsay Peat crashed over from the resultant maul and Nora Stapleton converted to make the score 0-7 at half-time.

After the break try-scorer Peat was yellow-carded for repeated Irish infringements and Wales steeled themselves to take advantage.

Shona Powell-Hughes went over for the home side and Robyn Wilkins converted to even the score.

With Ireland back to full strength it was then Wales’ turn to go down to 14 as Amy Evans was sin-binned for a high tackle.

After a period of valiant defence by Wales Ireland finally breached the line with winger Hannah Tyrell going over for the try.  Stapleton could not convert and the score was 7-12.

Wales pushed until the end but were unable to convert pressure into points as Ireland held on.

England 64-0 Scotland

Kay Wilson scored a record seven tries for England as they demolished Scotland at the Stoop.

Wilson has scored two tries in the first few minutes and although Emily Scarratt had an off-day with the boot, it made no difference to England’s dominance.

Jessica Forsyth was then sin-binned for Scotland and Amy Cockayne went over soon afterwards to extend the English lead.  After only 20 minutes, the bonus point was secured as Cockayne went over for her second try of the match.

Danielle Waterman scored England’s fifth and then Wilson got her hat-trick.

Wilson then scored her fourth – the first player to score four tries in the first-half of a Championship match.

The first period scoring was not yet done though, as Cockayne completed her hat-trick on the stroke of half-time.

In the second-half Wilson scored her fifth and sixth tries, Scarratt her first and then Wilson got a seventh.  With two conversions the score was 64-0 and the rout over.

Scotland never stopped battling, but were outplayed from the first minute to the last.

Sunday 12 March

Italy 5-28 France

France were in clinical mood in Parma and had a bonus-point win in the bag by half-time.

The visitors scored their first try after nine minutes with Caroline Ladagnous going over.  Audrey Abadie missed the conversion.

On 14, Romane Ménager scored France’s second, this time converted by Abadie.

Ladagnous crossed for her second and Elodie Poublan claimed France’s fourth before half-time.  An Abadie penalty took it to 0-28 at the break.

The second-half saw few chances, indeed the only score being a try for the home side as Michela Este powered over.  The conversion was missed and there was no further scoring.

Round 5

17 March

Scotland v Italy

6.20pm, Broadwood Stadium (Eurosport IT)

Ireland v England

8pm, Donnybrook, (RTE, Sky Sports)

18 March

France v Wales

8pm (GMT), Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive, (France 4)

And finally

And finally, back to where we started.  This enlightened soul commented on the end of the BBC piece about the retirement of Jo Roswell-Shand.  I think it’s safe to say that he misses the point by several million miles….

In response to someone whose post included:
‘ all our cycling girls have shown that women can perform to the highest standards ‘

He so intelligently replied:

“Oh spare me. Only to the highest standards of other women. Not to the standards of men, lets’ clear that up. We are not equal, let’s not start sharing a sporting platform. Unless you wanna be outperformed of course.”

Even more elegant was the fine fellow who posted the first comment I saw after an article about the FA’s new women’s football strategy,

“Nobody gives a f***”, he posted, without the asterisks.

No column next week as I’m away.  

 

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 March 2017

cricket-ballI can’t believe it’s that time again, but apparently it is, so welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column.

As usual, there has been plenty going on this week, including what I thought was a quite spectacular International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th.  So here we go with stories from athletics, tennis, football, sports governance, netball and rugby and cricket.  Let’s crack on.

Football

SheBelieves Cup

The Lionesses finished a creditable third in their second appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in the USA.  France were the eventual winners after they convincingly beat the hosts 3-0.

England 0-1 Germany

England finished their campaign with one win from three as they lost narrowly to Germany on Wednesday.  Again England got off to a storming start and they had several chances in the first 20 minutes.  But Germany came back into it, having the better of the play and scoring what turned out to be the only goal of the game, through Anja MIttag, just before half-time.

Jordan Nobbs and Demi Stokes had chances in the second-half and Jill Scott had a clear opportunity in stoppage time, but shot over.

England coach Mark Sampson should be pleased with the three performances and it was certainly all good build-up to the Euros in the summer.

Team P GD Pts
1 France Women 2 1 4
2 Germany Women 3 0 4
3 USA Women 2 0 3
4 England Women 3 -1 3

 Cyprus Cup

 Scotland 0-0 Wales
Scotland won 6-5 on penalties

Scotland beat Wales in a penalty shoot-out to take fifth place in the Cyprus Cup.

After 90 minutes there was no score and the game went to penalties with Frankie Brown scoring the winner for the Scots.

The eventual winners of the tournament were South Korea who beat Switzerland 1-0.  Third place went to North Korea who beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0.

Signings

Notts County have signed full-back Shelly Provan on a contract which takes her up to the end of the Spring Series.

Broadcasting news

The BBC has won the rights to broadcast the 2019 Women’s World Cup due to be held in France in 2019.

Every game will be covered across television, radio or online.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s round four this weekend and the fixtures are as follows:

Saturday 11 March, 11.30am
Wales v Ireland (Cardiff Arms Park)
SC4/BBC Wales/RTE

Saturday 11 March, 1pm
England v Scotland (The Stoop)
Sky Sports

Sunday 12 March, 2pm GMT
Italy v France (Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi)
France 4/Eurosport IT

Athletics

Apologies that the European Indoor Athletics passed under my radar last week.

Scotland’s Laura Muir won gold in both the 1500m and 3,000m.  In the latter she broke the championship record in a time of eight minutes 35.68 seconds with Eilish McColgan taking bronze.

Asha Philip won gold in the 60m in a time of 7.06 seconds, a new British record.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took silver in the 800m in a photo-finish with Swiss athlete Selina Buchel.

Lorraine Ugen won silver in the women’s long jump and the 4x400m relay team of Eilidh Doyle, Philippa Lowe, Mary Iheke and Laviai Nielsen also took silver behind Poland.

Great Britain finished second in the medal table behind Poland.

Sports Politics

Russia

Yelena Isinbayeva has been reappointed as Chair of RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.  She was originally appointed in December but WADA took issue with the appointment and so the election was re-run.  Isinbayeva was re-elected.

She was critical of Russia’s competition-wide ban declaring it “a blatant political order”, but today, Friday 10 March she said,

“We will watch and control everybody and everything.

“We have just one attempt to clear our sport of this dirt.”

WADA has already been critical of the speed of reform in Russian athletics and will now be sure to be watching carefully to see what happens next.

Diversity Developments

In a landmark ruling, Muslim women have won the right to wear full body suits in amateur swimming competitionsThis will include all Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) meets and national competition.

Full body suits are already allowed in Olympic Games.

In a separate development, Nike has become the first major sports brand to produce a range of hijabs for sporting Muslim women.  They are not the first in the field, but they are by far the biggest.  It can only be a matter of time before others follow suit.

Women in Sport report

A new survey from Women in Sport has found that the number of women in the top posts of sports governing bodies is down 6% since 2014.  Read the full report here: https://www.womeninsport.org/news/women-sport-launches-beyond-30-campaign/

Needless to say, and more than a little irritating were the comments at the bottom of the BBC report were all about netball’s governing body, which has 90% women on its board and isn’t this really sexist?

Cricket

World Cup Schedule

Here’s the link to the full schedule, but this is when and where England will be playing:

Saturday 24 June v India (Derby CCC)
Tuesday 27 June v Pakistan (Leicester CCC)
Sunday 2 July v Sri Lanka (Taunton)
Wednesday 5 July v South Africa (Bristol)
Sunday 9 July v Australia (Bristol)
Wednesday 12 July v New Zealand (Derby CCC)
Saturday 15 July v West Indies (Bristol)

The semi-finals will be at Bristol (18 July) and Derby (20 July), with the final at Lord’s on Sunday 23 July.

Ashes Schedule

The 2017 Ashes schedule has also been released and includes the first ever day-night Ashes Test.  The series well again be multi-format.

22 October – 1st ODI, AB Field, Brisbane
26 October – 2nd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium
29 October – 3rd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium

9-12 November – Test match, North Sydney Oval

17 November – 1st T20, North Sydney Oval
19 November – 2nd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November – 3rd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Women’s Ashes points system

Test: Win – 4 points
ODI: Win – 2 points
T20: Win – 2 points

On the field

3rd ODI, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

New Zealand 270/9 (50 overs)
Australia 273/5 (49.2 overs)

Australia sealed a 2-1 series win over their greatest rivals in a thrilling contest at the Bay Oval.  Meg Lanning won the toss and put New Zealand in to bat.  She must have been ruing that decision when the White Ferns got off to a flyer.  Susie Bates was out in the 11th over for 27, but Rachel Priest made 77 and Katie Perkins 34 as they posted an excellent total of 270.  Pick of the bowlers for the Southern Stars were Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner who took three wickets each.

The Australian reply began inauspiciously when opener Nicole Bolton was bowled for a duck by Holly Huddleston in the second over.  But in came captain Lanning and the tide turned.  She and Beth Mooney put on a 93-run partnership before Mooney was run out for 69 in the 20th over.  Ellyse Perry only managed a single, but good contributions from Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell and Alyssa Healy plus 104 not out for Lanning sealed the game and the series.

Tennis

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells

Heather Watson plays Johanna Konta in the second round after beating American Nicole Gibbs 4-6 6-2 6-2 in round one.

Meanwhile, world number one Serena Williams has had to withdraw from the tournament with a knee injury.

Netball

Round three of the Vitality Superleague took place at the weekend.  Round four is this weekend.  You can see Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks live on Sky Sports on Saturday 11 March at 6pm.

There are still three unbeaten teams at the top of the table; Surrey, Wasps and Loughborough.  Northumbria and Dragons are at the bottom, yet to take a point.

The third round results were as follows:

Friday 3 March

Severn Stars 53-46 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 4 March

Manchester Thunder 53-49 Sirens
Team Northumbria 46-63 Surrey Storm

Sunday 5 March

Wasps 51-47 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Monday 6 March

Team Bath 41-47 Loughborough Lightning

And finally, in a moment of shameless self-promotion, I offer you the piece I wrote for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017: https://pennyjhopkins.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/international-womens-day-and-the-world-of-womens-sport/

International Women’s Day and the World of Women’s Sport

iwd17Firstly, let me say Happy International Women’s Day to you all.

Secondly, why sport?  Why do I choose to write about sport on this day?  Well, those of you who read me regularly will know it’s what I do.  It’s not all I care about, however and I had to think long and hard before I decided to write this.  If I write about sport for 364 days a year, why not write about something different on this special day?

Or indeed, why not do both?

There is so much more than sport out there – so much more that affects women throughout the world and, in many cases these issues are a matter of life or death.  These following words can never do justice to what some women are going through every day of their lives, but it’s my offering on this International Women’s Day.

Millions of women worldwide are denied even basic healthcare.  And when it comes to services specifically for women; contraception, sexual health care or termination there is a very long list of countries that restrict, deny and even punish women for accessing such services and this now includes the recent developments in the USA.  Many women do not even have access to regular sanitary protection.

And millions of female children are denied access to schooling or education of any kind.  There is still the pervasive attitude of “why educate a girl when all she’s going to do is get married and have babies?”

And when women do work, they are paid less and are watched suspiciously for any sign that they are about to breed.  They are passed over for promotion, not listened to in meetings and just generally looked on as an irrelevance.  There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest (see www.everydaysexism) that women are still routinely asked at interview about their intentions regarding relationships, marriage and childbearing.

But that’s small beer when there are pre-pubescent girls being sold off in marriage to much older men, again to settle debts, forge alliances or just to get the female child off the family’s hands.

And there are those women who are ostracised or even killed by relatives for the “shame” and “disgrace” they have brought on their family; perhaps they have been caught talking to the wrong boy, been seen in the wrong place, or just wanted a life of their own.

And there are those women who are not allowed to leave the house without a chaperone, aren’t allowed to drive, have a job or wear what they want.

And there are those women who suffer the unspeakable horror of female genital mutilation – a practice so alien and abhorrent, certainly in my little world, that I just boggle at the thought.

And there are those women who are the victims of abuse and violence at the hands of their partners.  The figure is still two women killed by a partner per week in the UK.

And then there is the “culture” surrounding rape and sexual assault; the hundreds and thousands of women abused and reluctant to report it for fear of being disbelieved or worse, being blamed.  The tabloid press (and I do mean you, Daily Mail) is full of hateful pieces about women “who deserved all they got” because they wore short skirts or high heels, had the audacity to go out on their own or had too much to drink.

So why do I still choose to write about sport when there are so many wrongs to right?  It’s because sport is the battle I have chosen to fight, yet another area in life where women are nowhere near equality, where there is still a shocking level of misogyny and sexism.

I write about sport today because we still live in a society where Serena Williams can be described as a “monster in a skirt”, where a Hearts FC fan thinks the decline in atmosphere at his club is due to “the make up of our support –too many women” and when the first comment in any (and there are still precious few) articles about women’s sport is usually “who cares?” or “women’s cricket/football/rugby [delete as appropriate] will never be any good because they are women”.

We still live in a society where to be a woman who dares to comment on men’s sport will bring untold abuse and/or threats.

And we live in a society where a mere 7% of all sports media coverage is about women’s sport, where the figure for women in top jobs in sport is DOWN by 6% since 2012 (thanks www.womeninsport.org).

And women’s prize money is less than men’s, where sportswomen are constantly judged on how they look, not how they perform on the field, and where we have to have a “Women’s Sports Week” to prove that we do, in fact, as a gender, love sport, watch it, play it, officiate, run it and write about it.

So while these inconsistencies, the abuse and sexism exist I will keep reporting on it and fighting my corner.

On this International Women’s Day I would like to thank all of those people out there (women and men) who are dealing with any of the injustices mentioned above.

A fairer society for women is a fairer society for everyone. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 25 February – 3 March 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Stories this week come from the good, bad and downright bizarre sides of women’s sport – I’ll leave you to pick out which is which.  The sports featured this week are rugby union, cricket, football, skeleton, curling, tennis and netball.  Plus an “And finally” that takes “Girl Power” (yuk, but let’s go with it) to a whole new level.

Rugby Union

No doubting the big story this week as the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced its plans for a new women’s Super League to replace the current Premiership.  What is it with women’s sport and super leagues?  First the football, then the netball, then cricket and now rugby; what are the governing bodies trying to say?

Anyway, there was both shock and dismay at the new announcement that named the ten teams involved.  They are:

Bristol
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
Firwood Waterloo
Harlequin FC
Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough Students (Lightning)
Richmond FC
Saracens
Wasps
Worcester

So no place for Lichfield who currently lie second in the Premiership table and who boast several internationals in their squad including Emily Scarratt and Harriet Millar-Mills.  Lichfield released a strongly-worded statement expressing their disappointment at missing out.

“Lichfield RUFC is surprised and extremely disappointed by the decision by the RFU to exclude Lichfield Ladies from the new women’s elite competition.

  • We havemade every effort to follow the application process and in doing so have confirmed that we can meet all the required standards as specified.
  • We do not accept the scant reasons given as to why we have not been selected and on the contrary believe that we are one of a very few clubs that can, as of today, already satisfy the necessary conditions regarding players, coaching and facilities.
  • We presented what we believe was a sensible and achievable budget for delivering all of the specified support and facilities to provide the necessary players and performance improvements. We did not propose to spend money that we could not deliver.
  • We have proven our ability to deliver on our promises over many years.
  • We have one of the oldest Ladies sections in the country and have continually evolved over the past 25 years to be one of the best clubs in the country for both women’s and girls’ rugby. We are exceptionally proud of the achievements of our players, coaches and backroom staff and the standards they have reached, in creating new home-grown talent year after year.
  • Our two senior ladies’ teams currently both lie 2nd in the RFU Premiership and the Championship respectively, hence providing two teams in the top 12 nationwide. We are immensely proud of our ability to continually produce not only strong club players, but also international players and some of the best leaders in the ladies’ game.
  • We have helped to produce more than 30 England Internationals and currently have 8 Lichfield players performing in the 2017 Six Nations Championship, as well as supplying a number of World Cup winning players, Olympians and members of the England 7s squad.
  • Very few clubs can boast a tradition and pedigree as strong as this, yet it appears to have been completely disregarded in the selection process.

However, for the good of the game we will continue to support the RFU and direct all our efforts and emotion into completing the 2016/17 season. We will continue to grow the game and develop players to reach their full potential and we shall continue to work closely with the RFU to prepare for the next opportunity to once again participate at the Elite level.”

There is a lot of sympathy for the club and a petition has been started to encourage the RFU to think again.  If you would like to sign it, the link is:

Another team to miss out is high-flying Championship South 1 side Thurrock, who also put in a bid for inclusion.

Gloucester-Hartpury and Waterloo come from the lower leagues, while Loughborough, as I have said before in this column so forgive me if I claim some credit here, are continuing their efforts at world domination with yet another Lightning side joining the fray (adding to the netball and cricket).

The RFU will invest heavily in the new league to help clubs deliver the minimum standards required in coaching, facilities and community engagement.  None of which helps Lichfield or……

Women’s Super Rugby will begin in September 2017 and there will be no promotion or relegation in the first two seasons of the competition.

I’ve got a feeling we’ve not heard the end of this yet, so expect further updates in future columns.

Six Nations

Scotland 15-14 Wales
24 February Broadwood Stadium

Scotland secured their first Six Nations win for seven years last Friday in their last gasp victory over Wales.

Wales took the lead with a try from hooker Carys Phillips.  Elinor Snowsill kicked the conversion.

The score remained at 0-7 until five minutes before half-time when Scotland conceded a five metre scrum.  Scotland infringed at the resultant scrum and Wales were awarded a penalty try, taking the score to 0-14.

But Scotland were not to go scoreless in the first half.  They kept pressing until Lisa Thomson went over and Sarah Law kicked the conversion to halve the deficit and make it 7-14 at the break.

In the second half there was a period of stalemate before Scotland won a five metre scrum.  Jade Konkel broke out and passed to winger Rhona Lloyd who went over to score.  The conversion was missed and the score was 12-14.

But there was still more to come.  Scotland pressed and pressed until they were awarded a penalty.  Laws kicked the three points to take the game.

England 29-15 Italy
The Stoop, 25 February

The visitors started strongly and took the lead with a try from Sofia Stefan.  The conversion was missed.

England struck back a few minutes later as Kay Wilson went in at the corner.  Amy Wilson Hardy scored a second in short order to put the home side in front.

Hooker Vicky Fleetwood then went over for two more to put England in control and secure the bonus point before half-time.

After the break, Fleetwood went in for her third of the match – the first England forward to score a hat-trick in a Six Nations match.

But Italy were not done.  Scrum-half Sarah Barattin went in for Italy’s second try.

Shortly afterwards Katy McLean was sent off for a dangerous tackle and Poppy Cleall sin-binned and England were down to 13.  Manuela Furlan took full advantage, going over in the corner.

But the visitors could do no more and were unable to pick up a losing bonus point.

Ireland 13-10 France
Donnybrook, 26 February

Ireland are still unbeaten in this year’s Six Nations as they fought off a strong French side to claim in win in Dublin.

The first-half was a tight low-scoring affair with Nora Stapleton’s penalty separating the sides at the break.

In the second-half France took the initiative with a try from Caroline Ladagnous, which was converted by Jessy Tremouliere.

Ireland hit back with a try of their own from Leah Lyons, which was converted by Stapleton.  The score was 10-7 with half an hour to go.

Stapleton hit her second penalty to take it to 13-7, and although Tremouliere put over a penalty for France, they could not overcome the deficit to go down 13-10.

England Test Matches Announced

In preparation for the World Cup in Ireland in August, England Rugby has announced that the Red Roses will play the following test matches:

9 June v Australia (Porirua Park, Wellington)

13 June v Canada (Rugby Park, Christchurch)

17 June v New Zealand (Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua)

Elli Norkett

On an altogether sadder note, Ospreys and Wales winger Elli Norkett died in a car crash on 25 February at the age of 20.

Norkett was the youngest player at the 2014 Rugby World Cup, playing for Wales when she was just 17.

She was in her final year at Cardiff Metropolitan University, studying sport development.

In a Statement the Welsh Rugby Union said,

“A talented, dedicated player and popular teammate, Elli was a treasured member of the Welsh rugby family.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.”

Netball

There was a veritable feast of netball at the Genting arena last weekend as the Superleague’s  Super Ten event took place.  These were the results:
Loughborough Lightning 56-44 Severn Stars

Sirens 73-36 Celtic Dragons
Team Northumbria 46-70 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 58-48 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 42-49 Team Bath

After two games, Wasps, Storm, Lightning and Bath are all unbeaten.

Football

SheBelieves Cup

England 1-2 France

There was heartbreak for England on Wednesday as they conceded a 95th minute goal to lose the first match in the SheBelieves Cup 2-1.

The Lionesses bossed the first half, taking the lead through a fine strike from Jordan Nobbs, who was the stand-out player of the half.  England pressed in a way I haven’t seen for a while which definitely put France off their stride and were clearly on top at the break.

It would have been England’s first win against France since 1974.  Still can’t believe this is a true stat, but it is.

France equalised in the 80th minute through Marie-Laure Delie and broke English hearts in the 95th when Wendie Renard headed past the England defence to take the win.

This will be a great disappointment to Mark Sampson and may mean that England will yet again be winless in the SheBelieves Cup.

They next play the United States in New Jersey on Saturday 4 March.

In the second game of the tournament, USA beat Germany 1-0 with a goal from Lynn Williams.

You can follow the Lionesses on the FA website.  The France game was on the BBC red button, but, as with all women’s sport, there is no guarantee that this will be the case for the other games and if they are on, no-one is likely to publicise it….

Friendlies

As part of their warm up before the Euros in the summer, the FA has announced that England will play two friendlies:

England v Italy, Friday 7 April, Vale Park (home of Port Vale FC)

England v Austria, Monday 10 April, Stadium MK (home of MK Dons)

Cyprus Cup

Meanwhile, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland are all in action in the Cyprus Cup.

Group A:  
Belgium, Italy, Korea DPR, Switzerland

Group B:  
Austria, Korea Rep, New Zealand, Scotland

Group C:    
Czech Rep, Rep.of Ireland, Hungary, Wales

The first round of matches took place on 1 March and there were wins for all three sides.

Korea DPR 3-0 Italy

New Zealand 2-3 Scotland

Jane Ross opened the scoring for Scotland but New Zealand equalised through Rosie White.  In the second-half Scotland took the lead again through substitute Erin Cuthbert and then went 3-1 ahead through captain Kim Little.  The Kiwis pulled one back late on through Amber Hearn.

Czech Republic 0-2 Republic of Ireland

Stephanie Roche and Aine O’Gorman scored the goals for the Republic to give them a good win in their first match of the tournament.

Belgium 2-2 Switzerland

Korea Republic 0-0 Austria

Hungary 0-2 Wales

Helen Ward scored the first for Wales and Charlie Estcourt doubled the lead in the second half to secure the win.

The second round of matches takes place today, 3 March.

Tennis

It seems to me that the WTA tour is a never-ending list of tournaments and I just don’t have the time or resources to cover it all.  So here is my feeble attempt this week – just one match in one tournament, but what a match!

Heather Watson lost a marathon three-and-a-half hour match against Kristina Mladenovic of France 7-6 6-7 7-5 in the Abierto Mexicano Telcel.

The match saw 15 breaks of serve and the match was ultimately lost by Watson with her 18th double fault.

Mladenovic, who is seeded second in the tournament, plays Kirsten Flipkens in the third round.

Skeleton

Lizzie Yarnold won bronze at the Skeleton World Championships in Germany this week.

Gold went to World Cup leader, Germany’s Jacqueline Lolling with her compatriot, Tina Hermann finishing second.

Yarnold’s time of 2 minutes 36.08 seconds was just 0.73 seconds behind Lolling.

Yarnold’s team-mates Laura Deas finished 10th and Donna Creighton 22nd.

Curling

Eve Muirhead’s team defended their Scottish National Championship title in Perth this week as they beat Hannah Fleming’s team 6-4.

They have now secured a place at the World Championship in Beijing, which takes place in April.

Cricket

Australia v New Zealand ODI Series

After New Zealand won the T20 series, you can guarantee that the ODI series will be equally keenly fought.  And indeed, after two games they are tied one each.

First ODI
New Zealand 276/5
Australia 275 all out
New Zealand won by 5 wickets

The on-form Amy Satterthwaite scored 102 not out to see the home side to victory with five balls to spare.

Australia were all out in 48.4 overs with Lea Tahuhu taking 4/49 and Holly Huddleston 3/46.  Beth Mooney scored 100 for the visitors.  In the early stages the Southern Stars were 237/3, but subsided after Mooney, Elyse Villani and Rachael Haynes were dismissed, with the last six batters making only 28 runs between them.

Satterthwaite’s ton was her fourth in a row in ODIs.  New Zealand’s reply began well with a 58 run partnership between Rachel Priest and Suzie Bates.  When Priest was out Satterthwaite came in to make the match-winning knock.  She was ably supported by Bates (55), Katey Martin (43) and Katie Perkins (29).

Second ODI
Australia 256/6
New Zealand 253/8
Australia won by 4 wickets to level the series

Meg Lanning put New Zealand in and they started well with captain Bates making 35 before being dismissed.   All the batters made contributions with Satterthwaite again the pick, making 85 from 117 balls.

Amanda-Jade Wellington took three wickets and Elyse Perry was tight with 1/9 in the four overs she bowled.

In response Australia started well with Mooney again playing well to score 57.  They were going along quite nicely when 16-year old legspinner Amelia Kerr took two wickets in her first over, bowling Lanning for 44 and Villani for a first ball duck.  At this point Australia were 138/4.

But Alyssa Healey and Alex Blackwell pulled it back for the Aussies, producing a partnership of 81 off 85 balls.  Blackwell scored a timely 65 and Australia won with 16 balls to spare.

The impressive Kerr took 4/54.

The third and deciding game takes place on Sunday 5 March.

Off the Pitch

Australian international Sarah Coyte announced her retirement from all cricket this week at the age of 25.

Last year she retired from international cricket as she battled mental health issues.

“I am going home to Sydney to be close to my family and restore some balance to my life. I have been realising lately how much I have missed my family and it is finally time for me to go home,” she said in a statement.

Coyte admitted suffering from Anorexia while playing international cricket – a problem which led to her international retirement, but now she has gone one step further to quit all cricket.

She played for New South Wales and Adelaide Strikers.  As regards the Southern Stars she averaged 22 with the bat and 22.27 with the ball over 20 matches.

Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland, said,

“On behalf of the board and everyone at Cricket Australia, we congratulate Sarah on a wonderful career, both internationally and domestically, and thank her for the wonderful contribution she has made to Australian cricket,”

And Finally

And finally, the Swedish women’s football team have removed their names from t he back of their shirts and replaced them with messages that “inspire and motivate women to show that everything is possible”.  The quotes are taken from famous Swedish women.

Captain, Lotta Schelin picked words from Swedish politician Gudrun Schyman:

“Never look down on someone unless it is to help her up”,

Other phrases include:

“Believe in your damn self”

“To try is to be successful.  The result is secondary as long as you dare”

“Women want different things”

It may be a gimmick or they may all believe in it with every fibre of their being, but whatever the story, it made me smile.