Women’s Sports Column 29 July – 4 August 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I’m still calming down after the amazing day that was the Women’s World Cup Final, but there’s no time to rest as the Women’s Euros come to their thrilling conclusion this weekend.  After that it’s the Rugby World Cup.  This fantastic summer of sport just goes on and on!

Stories this week come from football, tennis, cricket, lacrosse, and rugby.

Women’s Euros

Well it’s all over for the Lionesses. Can’t pretend I’m not gutted, but the better side won in the semi-final – England weren’t robbed or anything, so that’s the way the game goes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying this tournament a lot.  It has been great to see some teams, other than the usual suspects, progressing.  There certainly would have been long odds on the final four being Austria, Denmark, England and the Netherlands.  But surely it’s all the better for that.  Germany and Sweden were particularly disappointing, but at least it gives someone else a go.

In case you missed it (and where were you, if you did?), here’s what happened in the quarter-finals.

Austria 0-0 Spain
Austria won 5-3 on penalties

Spain were clear favourites to win this match and to progress to the quarter-finals, but Austria, in their first Euros, clearly hadn’t read the script.

Silvia Meseguer missed her penalty and Sarah Puntigam put hers away coolly to take the Austrians through.

Netherlands 2-0 Sweden

Goals from Lieke Martens and Vivianne Miedema were enough to see the tournament hosts beat a disappointingly disjointed Sweden side in front of a packed house in Doetinchem to reach the semi-finals.

After Martens had scored with a free kick, the Netherlands were always in control and Sweden quickly lost heart.

The immensely impressive Shanice van de Sanden rampaged down the wing, crossing to Miedema to tap in for the second and it was all over.

Germany 1-2 Denmark

The biggest shock came in Rotterdam where the unfancied Denmark beat reigning champions Germany.

The game had to be played on the reserve day as the torrential rain caused the original fixture to be postponed.

Germany took the lead through Isabel Kerschowski.  The Danish goalkeeper was at fault, parrying the shot into the net.  Germany held the lead until just after half-time when Nadia Nadim headed in the equaliser for the Danes.

Seven minutes from time Theresa Nielsen headed in the winner as she stood unmarked in the centre.

England 1-0 France

England hung on by hook or by crook to beat France for the first time in 43 years in a competitive game in Deventer on Sunday.

England were far from perfect and it was only the stalwart defence that kept France out.

Jodie Taylor scored the winner – her fifth in three games – after being put in by Lucy Bronze.  Bronze had another excellent game – her strength and consistency are phenomenal.

Two minus points for England; Jill Scott received her second booking, thereby missing the Semi-final on Thursday and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley broke her leg in a collision with her own captain, Steph Houghton.  Somehow she played on for 15 minutes, going down a couple of times for treatment, which earned whistling and howls of derision from the French fans.  In the end she was replaced by Siobhan Chamberlain and it was revealed later that Bardsley had suffered a fracture.

Semi-finals

Denmark 0-0 Austria
Denmark won 3-0 on penalties

This was a tight game with plenty of chances for both sides.  In the 13th minute Austria were awarded a penalty for handball, but Sarah Puntigam, who had so coolly slotted in the winning penalty in the quarter-final, this time blazed over.   At the final whistle they could not be separated and the tie went into extra time.    Denmark had had the lion’s share of possession, but could not force a goal.  Both sides again had chances during extra time but it remained stubbornly goalless and it was penalties.

Austria should have been confident going into penalties after their excellent display against Spain, but this time it all went wrong.  They missed their first three spot-kicks and Simone Sorensen put away hers to send the Danes through to the final.

Netherlands 3-0 England

A largely orange crowd of over 27 thousand saw the hosts rout England with an impressive display of attacking football.  The Netherlands were on the front foot from the off and England seemed to have no reply.

The hosts took the lead after just 22 minutes when Vivianne Miedema headed in and it was only then that England started to look calmer and more possessed.  They should have equalised when Jade Moore’s shot was deflected onto her own post by a Netherlands defender.

With Shanice van de Sanden (one of my stars of the tournament) and Lieke Martens raiding down the flanks the Dutch were consistently dangerous, but managed relatively few meaningful shots.

With England 1-0 down at the break and the crowd in full voice, it was up to Mark Sampson to rally the team and get them moving.  But the second half started very much as the first, with the Netherlands coming forward and England retreating.  Fara Williams, in for the suspended Jill Scott (who was very much missed) had a poor game and on 62 minutes Danielle van de Donk capitalised on a misplaced header back to the goalkeeper, making it 2-0 and the game was effectively over.

I feel Sampson made some odd decisions regarding substitutions.  Ellen White was having a stinker and should have been replaced.  I would have liked to have seen Toni Duggan on much earlier and someone creative like Izzy Christiansen to replace Williams.

But it was not to be for the Lionesses.  In injury time Millie Bright deflected the ball into her own net, which seemed to sum up the night for England.  It made the scoreline a little flattering for the Netherlands, but there can be no doubt that they were the better side on the night, by a considerable margin.

According to all reports the England squad is “devastated”.  And rightly so.  They were the highest ranked team left in the competition and could and perhaps should have gone on to win it.  The Netherlands of course had some stunning home support, but England have shown defiance in this kind of situation again and again.  Sampson will need to look at his plans again.  He’s been a great influence for good with this side, don’t get me wrong, but I think he will have to learn, along with his Lionesses, if they are to make that final push to win a major tournament.

The final between Denmark and the Netherlands is on Sunday at 4pm and is live on Channel 4.  The programme starts at 3pm.

Rugby Union

England contracts

As we know, Scrumqueens reported the demise of England women’s fifteens contracts some weeks ago and I mentioned it soon after in my column, but it looked as if the RFU’s decision had slipped under the mainstream media radar (surprise).

But in the last week or so the wider media has finally chipped in with its pennyworth.  The RFU has come under increasing pressure to reconsider its stance.  As yet, there’s no word of this actually happening, but should there be any changes in policy, hopefully I’ll bring it to you as soon as is possible.

Tyrrells Premier 15s.

Whilst the contracts controversy rumbles on, the RFU announced this week that the replacement for the Women’s Premiership will be called the Tyrells Premier 15s.

The crisp manufacturer has signed a three-year deal to sponsor the league.

The league, which comprises 10 teams will be in the usual home and away league format.  The top four will then go to semi-finals played over two legs and the final will be on 29 April 2018.

RFU director of professional rugby, Nigel Melville said of the announcement,

“The Tyrrells Premier 15s competition is an important step forward for women’s rugby to strengthen the foundations of the women’s game as it continues to grow in popularity.

“By investing at domestic level we can build a sustainable model to support the growth of the game at elite level.

“The competition will crucially expand the playing pool of players available for international selection which will enable us to reach our long-term objective of running dual professionalised 15s and sevens programmes and allow us to compeon all fronts at the highest level.”

I think we can safely say that this was the RFU’s “subtle” way of deflecting the criticism over contracts.

There will also be a new development league for the 10 clubs’ 2nd teams who will also play in the RFU Women’s Senior Cup alongside the Women’s Championship North and South teams.

World Cup News

Ireland suffered a massive blow this week when captain Niamh Briggs withdrew from the squad through injury.

Briggs had only just come back from the hamstring injury that kept her out of the Six Nations when she suffered an Achilles injury in training.

Louise Galvin has been called up as replacement for Briggs.

Ireland have announced that their captain will now be flanker Claire Molloy.  Molloy has plenty of experience, having won 53 caps.  This will be her third World Cup.

“I’m incredibly humbled to be given the opportunity to captain my country, it’s a massive honour to be selected to lead the team in a World Cup on home soil.

“I’m fortunate that I’ll be surrounded by players with great experience, and I’m just really looking forward to pulling on the green jersey and running out with my team-mates,” she said.

Ireland are in tough group C:

Pool games:
Wednesday 9 August v Australia (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7pm
Sunday 13 August v Japan (UCD Bowl Dublin) 5.15pm
Thursday 17 August v France (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7.45pm

Ireland women’s World Cup squad in full:

Forwards: Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemian/Munster), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Marie-Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Backs: Louise Galvin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster), Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins FC), Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Next week (a bit late, admittedly) I’ll be previewing the Women’s Rugby World Cup as we begin the fourth major women’s tournament in three months!

Tennis

Heather Watson was knocked out in the opening round of the Citi Open in Washington this week.  She lost to world number 134, Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, 7-6 7-6.  Watson had already had to play two rounds of qualifying before proceeding to the main draw.

Meanwhile Maria Sharapova beat Jennifer Brady 6-1 4-6 6-0 in the first round of Stanford’s Bank of the West Classic on her return from injury.  However, she then withdrew before her second round clash with Lesia Tsurenko with an arm injury.

Britain’s Jordanne Whiley has revealed that she was 11 weeks pregnant when she won the Wimbledon doubles title in July.

Cricket

Just when it looked like the possibility of the men’s Ashes being cancelled was a real one, Cricket Australia has finally come to agreement with both the men’s and women’s squads over pay and conditions.

Women’s pay will rise from AU$7.5 million to $55.2 million for a five year term.  For the first time there will be one agreement to cover both male and female cricketers.  A revenue-sharing scheme will encompass all cricketers.

Impressive stuff from Cricket Australia and something other governing bodies should look at.

Lacrosse

Last week the GB lacrosse team took part in the World Games in Wrocław, Poland.  It was the first time lacrosse had featured in the Games, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) having had its application to join the International World Games Association (IWGA) accepted in 2013.

Great Britain was one of six teams to compete, finishing a creditable fourth, just missing out on bronze, losing to Australia 8-10 in the bronze medal match.

Australia were well on top, going 5-1 up early on.  They went 2-0 ahead through Abbie Burgess and Sarah Mollison.  GB then pulled one back through Ailsa Stott.

But then Australia surged ahead with scores from Rebecca Lane, Theo Kwas and Burgess again, putting them 5-1 up.

Seven minutes before half-time GB struck back, and strongly.  They hit six goals without reply to take the lead.  Claire Faram got the first and Emily Gray and Sophie Morrill scored to take GB to just 4-5 down at half-time.

Gray, Faram and Morrill all scored again within five minutes of the re-start and GB were 7-5 in front.

Australia hit back through Mollison and Courtney Hobbs to level it and then GB took the lead again through Stott with 15 minutes to go.

But Australia were not to be outdone.  Mollison hit home again followed by Hobbs and Burgess to put the game beyond the Great Britain team.

The winners of the tournaments were USA who beat Canada 11-8 to take gold.

And finally,

As you know, I’ve been trying to wean myself off the hell that is the comments section of the BBC website and the comments after BBC tweets.  I’ve been managing quite well, but I thought I’d just have a quick peak tonight at the replies to one of the tweets about England in the Women’s Euros.  I was quite heartened.  I expected to see many misogynistic “back to the kitchen” comments, but actually there was just one lone very sad man “Man Utd Fan” bleating “no-one cares”.  One.  Very.  Sad.  Individual.  Did it look pathetic when he’d got none of his equally butch mates to back him up?  It certainly did!

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