Welcome to this week’s somewhat truncated column. It will probably seem particularly short this week, after last week’s mammoth effort. No ranting this week, but stories from football, cricket, rugby union, hockey, Winter Olympics, WWE (yes, really – desperately pretending I know anything about this one) and this week’s “And Finally” comes from Formula 1.
Let’s crack on.
With just a week to go before the opening of the Pyeongchang games uncertainty still surrounds the participation of Russian athletes.
Speed skater Olga Graf has declined her invitation to compete as a neutral. In an interview she said,
“As an athlete and as a citizen, I was extremely negative about the decision of the IOC to admit Russia to the Olympic Games under a neutral flag,” added Graf.
“Nevertheless, I was ready to defend the honour of the country even on these discriminatory and degrading conditions.
“But at the end of January we learned that the majority of athletes of our Olympic speed skating team will not be able to perform at the Olympics, which means all my hopes in the struggle for the Olympic pedestal will not come true because the sport has become a bargaining chip in dirty political games.”
A good performance from Izzy Atkin at the X Games in Colorado last week saw her take silver in the ski slopestyle.
The winner of the event was American Maggie Voisin on 92.33, Atkin scored 88.00 and Jennie Lee Burmansson of Sweden took bronze with 85.00.
Atkin is due to compete on 17 February and will, hopefully, be one to watch for Team GB fans.
Just the one result from the Tyrell 15’s Premiership last weekend:
DMP Sharks 10-15 Richmond Women
This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:
Saturday 3 February
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, venue tbc)
DMP Sharks v Firwood Waterloo (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Saracens Women v Richmond Women (2pm, Allianz Park)
Bristol Ladies v Harlequins Ladies (2pm, Cleve RFC)
Loughborough Lightning v Wasps Ladies (3pm, Loughborough)
But of course, this weekend also sees the start of the Six Nations Championship and it promises to be tighter, more competitive and more exciting than ever. It all begins on Friday.
Friday 2 February
Wales v Scotland (6pm UK time, Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay)
Wales starting 15:
15. Jodie Evans, 14. Hannah Bluck, 13. Kerin Lake, 12. Rebecca De Filippo, 11. Jess Kavanagh-Williams, 10. Robyn Wilkins, 9. Jade Knight, 1. Caryl Thomas, 2. Carys Phillips (Captain), 3. Amy Evans, 4. Natalia John, 5. Mel Clay, 6. Alisha Butchers, 7. Beth Lewis, 8. Siwan Lillicrap
Scotland starting 15:
15. Chloe Rollie, 14. Liz Musgrove, 13. Lisa Thomson, 12. Lisa Martin (Captain), 11. Rhona Lloyd, 10. Helen Nelson, 9. Jenny Maxwell, 1. Jade Konkel, 2. Rachel Malcolm, 3.Megan Kennedy, 4. Emma Wassell, 5. Deborah McCormack, 6. Hannah Smith, 7. Louise McMillan, 8. Sarah Bonar
Saturday 3 February
France v Ireland (8pm UK time, Stade Ernest Wallon)
France starting 15:
15. Jessy Trémoulière, 14. Caroline Boujard, 13. Jade Le Pesq, 12. Camille Boudaud, 11. Cyrielle Banet, 10. Pauline Bourdon, 9. Yanna Rivoalen, 8. Romane Ménager, 7. Gaelle Hermet (Captain), 6. Marjorie Mayans, 5. Safi N’Diaye, 4. Celine Ferer, 3. Julie Duval, 2. Agathe Sochat, 1. Lisa Arricastre
Ireland starting 15:
15. Kim Flood, 14. Megan Williams, 13. Claire McLaughlin, 12. Sene Naoupu, 11. Alison Miller, 10. Niamh Briggs, 9. Ailsa Hughes, 1. Lindsay Peat, 2. Cliodhna Moloney, 3. Fiona Reidy, 4. Ciara Cooney, 5. Orla Fitzsimons, 6. Anna Caplice, 7. Claire Molloy, 8. Ciara Griffin (Captain)
Sunday 4 February
Italy v England (5.30pm UK time, Stadio Mirabello)
Italy starting 15:
England starting 15:
15. Ellie Kildunne, 14. Abigail Dow, 13. Lauren Cattell, 12. Rachael Burford, 11. Danielle Waterman, 10. Katy Daley-Mclean, 9. Leanne Riley, 1. Rochelle Clark, 2. Lark Davies, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Abbie Scott, 5. Tamara Taylor, 6. Poppy Cleall , 7. Marlie Packer, 8. Sarah Hunter (Captain)
It’s hard to see past an England championship win, but they will surely be pushed harder than ever before in this year’s tournament.
France will be the biggest test, but there could be a few surprises in store this year, especially between the home nations.
Media coverage is its usual patchy and inconsistent self (it is slowly getting better). If I read it correctly, you should be able to catch at least highlights on terrestrial TV with some also live on the BBC red button and online:
BBC: Scotland, Ireland and Wales matches (but not Wales v Ireland or France!) – keep checking the BBC website for details.
Sky: All England games on Sky Sports Action and/or Sky Sports Mix
Australia won the Sydney leg of the Sevens Series at the weekend without conceding a point. Over the course of three days they scored 213 unanswered points.
In the final they beat New Zealand 31-0. Australia’s tries came from Parry, Caslick, Green, Pelite and Sykes.
England made good progress at this event:
USA 24-27 England
New Zealand 33-12 England
England 10-17 Japan
England 52-0 Papua New Guinea
Challenge Trophy Final
England 29-10 Fiji
Bowdon Hightown won the Jaffa Super 6s last weekend, defeating Leicester in the final.
Bowdon took the lead in the fourth minute of a tightly contested final from a Sally Walton penalty corner.
The lead lasted into the second half but on nineteen minutes Leicester equalised through Rachael Mack.
But with just four minutes to go Charlene Mason hit the winner for Bowdon in open play.
Leicester pushed to draw level for a second time, but were unable to convert their chances.
Women’s Big Bash League Semi-finals
Perth Scorchers 148/2 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 121/8 (20 overs)
Scorchers won by 27 runs
The Scorchers are through to the final after a convincing win over the Thunder at the Perth Stadium.
The Thunder won the toss and put the Scorchers in to bat. But they found it hard to make inroads into the strong Perth batting line-up. Villani and Bolton compiled an opening stand of 65 before Villani was out for 38 from 37 balls. Bolton hit a battling 37 from 26 balls before she was caught by Stalenberg off the bowling of Taylor.
It was down to Sciver and Graham to take it on and they scored 38 and 27 respectively.
It shouldn’t have been beyond the Thunder, but several batters got bogged down as the run-rate went up.
Haynes was out early for just one and Blackwell, usually so dependable, went for nine from 22 balls. The Thunder lost wickets at regular intervals. Only Fran Wilson, with 46 from 28 balls showed any spark, and the Thunder possibly missed a trick by not moving her up the order.
In the end the Thunder were comprehensively beaten. Player of the match was Emma King, who took 3/17 from her four overs.
Sydney Sixers 138/5 (20 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 121/9 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 17 runs
At one point it looked as if this was going to be a massacre. But a fine 50 From Tammy Beaumont brought the Strikers closer to chasing their total than it seemed possible.
The Sixers got off to a bad start with Healy dismissed for just two, Ellyse Perry mustered 16 before she was caught by McGrath off the bowling of Devine.
But Ashleigh Gardner’s 72 off 45 balls took the Sixers to a decent 138.
The Strikers would have been confident of chasing down the total, but could not anticipate the devastating effect of Sarah Aley. She took two wickets in her first two balls; Suzie Bates for 14 and Tahlia McGrath for a duck. Kim Garth then took two in the next; Sophie Devine for seven and Bridget Patterson for a duck. Then Aley was back into the attack. In her second over she struck twice again, getting both Amanda Wellington and Tabitha Saville for ducks. At that point the Strikers were 23/6.
Tammy Beaumont provided the resistance, scoring 50 from 46, but she was out in the seventeenth over. From that point it was clear that the Strikers were going to fall short.
Unsurprisingly, Sarah Aley was player of the match for her 4/18 bowling performance.
The final, between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers takes place at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday 4 February (1am UK time) and will be live on BT Sport and BBC 5Live Sports Extra.
Australia finished top of the Quad series pile this week, defeating the New Zealand Silver Ferns by 19 goals thereby avenging their surprise defeat at the hands of the Ferns during last year’s series. The England Roses finished an excellent second, their best final position in a Quad Series.
New Zealand 48-67 Australia
In the first quarter alone New Zealand conceded 13 turnovers and this set the tone of the match.
At half-time it was 35-22 to the Diamonds and the Ferns never looked like they would recover the deficit. New Zealand coach, Janine Southby, made 14 changes in the game, but nothing seemed to work.
In the end the Diamonds ran away with it, claiming the Quad Series title in the process.
South Africa 47- 52 England
England finished an impressive Quad series as runners-up as they beat the Proteas in Johannesburg on Sunday.
The Roses were eight ahead, 30-22, at half-time and never lost the lead. But South Africa fought hard, coming back to be trailing by only three going into the fourth quarter.
This was a much-improved performance by South Africa but Tracy Neville will be heartened by the fact that she made changes to the side established in the first two games and the Roses were still able to take the win.
Next weekend sees the start of the 2018 Superleague. There will be one match per week televised live on Sky and I would urge you, if you’ve never watched netball and have access to Sky, to give it a go. Better still, go and watch it in the flesh. It’s a breathless hour of entertainment. The opening weekend’s fixtures are as follows:
Saturday 10 February
Severn Stars v Manchester Thunder (6pm, University of Worcester Arena)
Loughborough Lightning v UWS Sirens (6pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps Netball v Surrey Storm (7pm, Ricoh Arena and Live on Sky Sports)
Monday 12 February
Celtic Dragons v Benecos Mavericks (7pm, Sport Wales National Centre)
Check out the Superleague website and book tickets!
Ronda Rousey has officially made the switch from UFC to WWE.
Rousey was the first woman to win a UFC bout and was the first UFC women’s bantamweight champion.
Since losing her title to Amanda Nunes in 2016 she has been repeatedly linked with wrestling and she will now take her place amongst the WWE elite.
Football – off the pitch
England defender Gemma Bonner is set to be out for up to 12 weeks with ankle ligament damage sustained in the game against Bristol City.
Birmingham City’s Norwegian midfielder, Andrine Hegerberg has signed for PSG.
Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park will host the Continental Cup final between Manchester City and Arsenal on 14 March.
Football – on the pitch
Saturday 27 January
Liverpool 2-0 Bristol City
London Bees 3-1 Watford FC
Sunday 28 January
Chelsea 1-0 Everton
Birmingham City 3-0 Yeovil Town
Reading FC 0-0 Arsenal
Sunderland AFC 0-3 Manchester City
Millwall Lionesses 3-2 Durham FC
Sheffield FC 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Doncaster Rovers Belles 4-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Oxford United 3-1 Aston Villa
Thursday 1 February
Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City
It was a tight, good quality game at Kingsmeadow, befitting the top two FAWSL1 sides, but neither team could break the deadlock. It leaves City still two points clear at the top.
The downside for City was the loss of ‘keeper Karen Bardsley, who was stretchered off after just two minutes. She was taken to hospital with x-rays taken on her left shoulder. No news yet as to the extent of Bardsley’s injury.
This weekend sees the fourth round of the FA Cup. For full match details click this link to the FAWSL website.
Formula 1 is one of those sports that divides people at the best of times. It has a loyal (although diminishing) following, but it has an equal number of detractors who just, quite frankly, don’t see the point.
I used to be quite a fan in my younger days when Ayrton Senna was at his majestic peak, but recently I’ve tended towards the “What’s the point” camp.
But one thing’s for sure, any sport that needs scantily clad women to walk next to the participants and hold their umbrellas for them has a serious problem with its image. And if they are needed as a “selling point”, there is something fundamentally wrong with the product.
So the decision by F1’s governing body to dispense with the services of “grid girls” from the start of the 2018 season works for me.
We need to see “girls” (that is, women) as drivers, engineers, team directors, etc., rather than as an adornment to the competitors.
It looks like darts (!) may follow suit and then it’s just up to cycling to get its house in order; the sooner the better in my view.