Welcome to this week’s column. I went to see a poor Loughborough Lightning well beaten by Yorkshire Diamonds at Loughborough last Friday. I thought our rain curse was going to pan out yet again as we sat in the car listening to and watching the hail come down. But we did get a game – 13 per side and actually Loughborough would probably have preferred it to hose down as it was the only way they were ever going to get a point. Hey ho. Onward.
Stories this week come from rugby, golf, badminton, cycling, football, snooker, cricket, hockey and tennis. I’m also happy to say this week’s “And Finally” is a good story.
The Badminton World Championships are taking place in Glasgow this week. Britain’s Gabby and Chris Adcock are through to the quarter-finals. They went through to the last 16 of the missed doubles by beating French pair Bastian Kersaudy and Lea Palermo, 21-10 21-13.
The fifth seeds played the 11th seeds, Kenta Kazuno and Ayane Kurihara from Japan in the next round, winning 21-15 21-16.
In the quarter-finals they face Tse Ying Suet and Tang Chun Man of Hong Kong on Friday 25 August.
Kirsty Gilmour, Britain’s best women’s singles hope is also through to the quarter-finals after beating He Bingjiao of China 21-14 15-21 21-16. She plays Saina Nehwal of India in the next round.
Women’s Rugby World Cup
The final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup will be between New Zealand and current holders, England.
Two contrasting semi-finals on Tuesday 22 August saw New Zealand pull away from a tiring USA to win comfortably, while England had to fight to the hooter to see off France.
New Zealand 45-12 USA
Although most this was only going to go one way, the USA gave it everything they had to cause New Zealand more of a challenge than they had faced in the World Cup so far.
The Black Ferns took the lead after just three minutes, an unconverted try by Subritzky-Natafali. But USA were ahead 12 minutes later with a try from Thomas, converted by Kelter.
Cocksedge kicked her first points of the afternoon two minutes later, a penalty to take New Zealand 8-7 ahead. On 25 they looked to be warming to their task as player of the match Portia Woodman went over for her first try, converted by Cocksedge.
At half-time it was 15-7 to the Black Ferns but there was a palpable feeling that they could still be beaten.
But it was not to be. Woodman scored her second on 48 minutes. It went unconverted, but a matter of minutes later Cocksedge popped over another penalty to make it 23-7.
Three minutes later USA were back in it with a try from Kelter, but she was unable to add the conversion.
On 62 Woodman went in for her hat-trick – my goodness she’s a force that England will have to keep quiet if they are to win this final.
Cocksedge missed the conversion but the score was 28-12.
The Eagles must have thought they were in with a chance three minutes later when Itunu was yellow-carded. However, it only seemed to spur the Black Ferns on. Woodman scored her fourth try on 71 minutes and although it went unconverted, just four minutes later they were in again, this time through Ngata-Aerengamate and they were home and hosed at 38-12.
They still had time to cross the line one more time Brazier scoring and Cocksedge converting to take the final score to 45-12.
England 20-3 France
This was a marvellous, bruising, brutal game, with plenty of hard-hitting tackling and powerful running. France, who had been so majestic in their previous game against USA, were not allowed the same freedom by England, who smothered any attempt by the French backs to break away.
The sides went in level at half-time with just three points each on the board; one penalty from Emily Scarratt and one from Shannon Izar.
After the break England went ahead again through another Scarratt penalty. And then came the play of the match as prop Sarah Bern drove over to score a try which was also converted by Scarratt.
It was clear France were not going to give up and only a stunning last-ditch tackle from Megan Jones prevented Julie Annery from going over as her foot went into touch.
Jones then did some attacking herself, breaking French hearts as she pounced on a loose French ball behind the line and touched down for England’s third.
What a fine, well-fought match it was – it would have made an excellent final.
One blow for England is that Danielle Waterman will be unable to play in the final having suffered concussion during the semi-final.
Ireland played for the fifth place semi-final, but were unable to come away with the victory and now play Wales in the seventh-place play-off.
Australia scored five tries with Williams, Riordan, Samoa, Boyle and Murphy all crossing the whitewash. Four were converted by Hewson, who also kicked a penalty.
Ireland scored four tries through Egan, Miller, Spence and Fitzpatrick. Conversions were by Stapleton and Tyrrell.
Everyone plays on Saturday 26 August for the placings. The games are as follows:
11th place play-off Japan v Hong Kong (12noon)
9th place play-off Italy v Spain (2.30pm)
7th place play-off Ireland v Wales (2pm)
5th place play-off Australia v Canada (5pm)
Bronze Final France v USA (5pm)
Final England v New Zealand (7.45pm)
Britain’s Johanna Konta went out in the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati event, beaten by world number two Simona Halep 6-4 7-6.
Halep then defeated American Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-1 to get to the final. There she met Spaniard Garbine Muguruza who had a tougher route; she beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 5-7 7-5 in the quarters before facing and defeating number one seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3 6-2.
Muguruza then obliterated Halep in the final 6-1 6-0.
The final grand slam of the season, the US Open, begins at Flushing Meadows on 28 August.
Former world number one Victoria Azarenka has withdrawn due to an “ongoing family situation”, but one player who will be there is Maria Sharapova who has been handed a wildcard.
Australian captain Meg Lanning is out of the Women’s Ashes following shoulder surgery.
It is thought she will be out of action for six to eight months.
The Ashes begin on 22 October in Brisbane.
No replacement has been announced as yet.
Kia Super League
It’s been an odd Super League this season. I’m afraid it’s felt very much “after the Lord Mayor’s show” of the World Cup. Apparently crowds are up on the back of it though, so it’s not all bad. There have been some good performances and some stinkers. Last year’s zeros, Surrey Stars, have suddenly become heroes, while Lancashire Thunder can’t seem to get their act together at all. Loughborough Lightning have suffered from a combination of over-performing last season and doing badly out of the “redistribution” of players that was supposed to make things more even. Consequently they have had a poor tournament. And for the second season in a row, who can stop the mums’ army, Southern Vipers?
Personally I’m looking forward to next season when the tournament is expanded to home and away fixtures – five fixtures just isn’t enough.
Anyway, here are the results from the last week:
Sunday 20 August
Match 8, Stanley Park, Blackpool
Loughborough Lightning 140/5 (20 overs)
Lancashire Thunder 90 all out (17.2 overs)
Loughborough Lightning win by 50 runs
Match 9, Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Southern Stars 127/8 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 100/7 (16.2 overs)
Surrey Stars win by 4 runs via D/L method
Match 10, York Cricket Club
Yorkshire Diamonds 160/7 (20 overs)
Western Storm 161/0 (17 overs)
Western Storm win by 10 wickets
Wednesday 23 August
Match 11, Aigburth, Liverpool
Lancashire Thunder 87 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 88/4 (14.5 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 6 wickets
Match 12, The Oval, London
Surrey Stars 169/6 (20 overs)
Western Storm 117 all out (19.3 overs)
Surrey Stars win by 52 runs
With one round of games to go the top two are through with the next three teams fighting for two places. Lightning can still go through with only two wins, although their last match is against the in-form Surrey Stars.
The USA retained the Solheim Cup at the weekend with a convincing 16½-11½ victory over Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.
Although Europe won the singles on Sunday, the damage had already been done on the previous two days.
Europe started well. In the first session on day one, they took the foursomes 2½-1½, but the afternoon saw a big swing as USA achieved their first clean sweep in a session, leaving the first day totals at 5½-2½.
This was always going to be a large deficit to pull back.
On day two the morning foursomes were tied, taking the score to 7½-4½, but USA again did well in the afternoon session, extending their lead to five points, 10½-5½ going into the singles.
Europe fought well and hard on the last day, but, as I have already said, the gap was too large to close. The singles scores were as follows:
Lexi Thompson Halved Anna Nordqvist
Paula Creamer wins 1UP Georgia Hall
Cristie Kerr wins 2&1 Mel Reid
Stacy Lewis loses 1UP Catriona Matthew
Angel Yin Halved Karine Icher
Michelle Wie loses 4&2 Caroline Masson
Lizette Salas wins 1UP Jodi Ewart Shadoff
Brittany Lang loses 1UP Charley Hull
Brittany Lincicome loses 4&3 Carlota Ciganda
Gerina Piller wins 4&2 Florentyna Parker
Austin Ernst loses Madelene Sagstrom 3&2
Danielle Kang 3&1 Emily Pedersen
Europe will be looking to regain the trophy at Gleneagles in 2019.
Retirments and Transfers
Scotland captain Gemma Fay has retired from international football. She won 203 caps for her country.
This announcement came in the same week that both midfielder Leanne Ross and defender Ifeoma Dieke also declared themselves unavailable for further selection for international duty for Scotland.
The biggest (and shock) transfer news this week came from Manchester City, who announced that their England star and England’s standout player of the Euros, Lucy Bronze is to leave the club to join Champions League holders Lyon. She has signed a three-year contract with the top French club in a deal that also saw Lyon forward and German international, Pauline Bremer, join City.
Arsenal have also been busy in the transfer market. This week they signed Swedish right-back Jessica Samuelsson and have re-signed Germany defender Josephine Henning from Lyon.
Spain 3-2 France
It was holders v three-time running losing finalist in the final in Belfast.
Spain, having lost the last three finals were in no mood to lose a fourth in a row, but it was France who took the lead with a tap-in from Mathilde Bourdieu as early as the fourth minute.
Fourteen minutes later Spain drew level through Patricia Guijarro and the sides went in level at half-time.
France went ahead again with 19 minutes to go with a curler from Emelyne Laurent, but with five minutes to go Damaris Egurrola headed in from a free kick to make it 2-2.
Two minutes later France were down to ten, as Pauline Dechilly was sent off for two yellow cards.
Spain seized their chance with Guijarro scoring her second in the last minute to take the game and the trophy.
The Women’s Champions League is set to be bigger than ever. 61 teams from 49 football associations have applied to compete, including first-time appearances from Fiorentina and Ajax.
We are currently in qualifying with 40 clubs competing for 11 places in the round of 32. There are 10 groups of 4 with group winners + just one best second placed team going through.
The only British teams involved in qualifying are Hibs and Swansea, who are, unluckily drawn in the same group. Hibs already have a European pedigree which showed when they played their first group game this week – against Swansea
Hibernian 5-0 Swansea
Goals came from Small (11), Turner (18), Graham (42 P, 87) and Hunter (48)
There will be more Champions League coverage from me in the column this year, so watch this space. It’s good to say something positive about UEFA, so I will. There is an excellent website dedicated to the Champions League and I would encourage you all to take a look: http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/index.html
I hummed and hawed before deciding to include an item about the ongoing racism allegations that have hit England women’s football this week. I have the utmost respect for Eni Aluko as both a footballer and a person, which leads me to think that her allegations must have substance and so I thought I owed it to her to say my piece.
It’s doubly hard though, as since taking over as England manager, Mark Sampson has been a breath of fresh air and a fantastic advocate for women’s football and women’s sport in general.
You can’t help but notice that since Sampson has been in post, the number of black players in an England shirt has dropped dramatically – some down to international retirement, such as Rachel Yankey, but others not so easy to explain.
The FA, as usual, has not come out of this well. If Aluko hadn’t made it public, the FA would have been quite happy to never let a whiff of any investigation come to light.
Now Anita Asante and Lianne Sanderson have come out to back Aluko and the issue shows no sign of going away.
The FA needs to take action now. There needs to be a more exhaustive investigation as any kind of discrimination has no place in sport, football and indeed the England set-up.
Goodness knows I write about this stuff every week and every week the level of abuse, discrimination and hate that I see women in sport having to face grinds me down just a little bit further. If this was found to have basis it would be a terrible indictment of the England set-up.
I truly hope it’s a series of misunderstandings, but Aluko is an intelligent woman – she would have weighed it up in her mind before making anything public. Sadly we can expect much more to come out in the ensuing weeks and months.
The Paul Hunter Women’s Classic takes place in Fürth, Germany from 24-27 August. As it has only just started as I post this column, I’ll defer until next week and give you the full lowdown then. It is the tournament’s second year and it’s good to see it getting some (very limited) exposure.
More next week.
It was heartbreak for England’s women on 24 August as they lost in the semi-final of the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam to the hosts 1-0. England were the defending champions.
They had finished runners-up in group B, having beaten Ireland 4-1 and Scotland 2-0, but losing to Germany 1-0. This meant they faced the Netherlands in the semi-final.
It was an incredibly tight game settled by a single goal, scored by Marloes Keetels in the fourth-quarter.
The Netherlands now play Belgium in the final on Saturday, while England play the other losing sem-finalists, Germany, for the bronze medal.
Marianne Vos won the Ladies Tour of Norway this week, finishing the final stage in third and taking the title by 13 seconds.
Megan Guarnier of the USA was in second and another Dutch rider, Ellen van Dijk in third.
The team title was taken by Team Sunweb and Vos also won the points title.
Thanks to Jennie Powell of 4The Love of Sport for making me aware of the organisation Opening Boundaries, whose aim is “to use sporting initiatives as a platform for campaigns that facilitate gender equality & peace around the globe.”
On Sunday they held a cricket match between a combined India & Pakistan team and the UK Armed Forces Ladies team. The fixture, now in its second year, is gaining coverage worldwide and is raising awareness both of women’s roles in sport and of violence against women and girls as part of its Bowling Out Domestic Violence campaign. You can read a report of the game here.
So it’s a combination of women’s sport and empowering women and girls through sport – what’s not to love? Check it out at the links above. You can also follow them on twitter @OB_Official.