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.

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