Welcome to this week’s column. There’s plenty to get through, yet again, especially in the football department, so I’d better crack on. Stories this week come from the Winter Paralympics, football, cricket, rugby union, hockey, Commonwealth Games, netball, tennis and badminton. Plus an “And Finally” that’s just a bit of banter, really… honest guv.
Team GB has won three medals so far at the event in Pyeongchang.
The first medal went to Millie Knight and Brett Wild, who took silver in the visually impaired downhill. Henrieta Farkasova and guide Natalia Subrtova of Slovakia took gold and Eleanor and Chloe Sana of Belgium bronze. Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jen Kehoe didn’t finish.
Fitzpatrick and Kehoe won silver in the visually impaired super combined. Henrieta Farkasova and Natalia Subrtova won gold again, while Melissa Perrine and Christian Geiger of Australia won bronze. The other British participants, Millie Knight and Brett Wild and Kelly Gallagher and Gary Smith finished fourth and seventh respectively.
Fitzpatrick and Kehoe struck silver again in the giant slalom. Needless to say, Farkasova and Subrtova won gold with Perrine and Geiger won bronze. Gallagher and Smith finished fifth and Knight and Brett, seventh.
Disappointingly, the Team GB curlers failed to make the semi-finals. The gold medal match will be between China and Norway, while the bronze medal match will be between South Korea and Canada. Both matches take place on 17 March.
Football – off the pitch
The FA has received 15 applications to join the new WSL and Championship. There are nine places up for grabs in total, up to four in the WSL and five in the Championship.
We won’t know the outcome until the end of May, but it is thought that Charlton Athletic, Coventry United, Crystal Palace, Derby County and Sheffield United are amongst those vying for places in the second tier.
Anita Assante has had surgery on the knee injury sustained at the SheBelieves Cup. She will be out for some time in recovery.
Germany has sacked the national side’s national head coach, Steffi Jones after poor results at the SheBelieves Cup and at last year’s European Championships.
Former German international striker Horst Hrubesch has been appointed as interim coach.
The team has upcoming World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Slovenia in April.
Football – on the pitch
Continental Cup final
Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City
City’s dream of the quadruple crumbled on Wednesday as Arsenal won their fifth Continental Cup final at Wycombe.
The only goal in a tightly-contested game came on the half-hour through Vivianne Miedema, after she was put through by Jordan Nobbs.
City seemed out of sorts in the first-half, barely registering a shot. In the second, they had better chances, through Nikita Parris, Jane Ross and Claire Emslie, but the Gunners’ defence held strong.
Sunday 11 March
Aston Villa 1-3 Durham
Wednesday 14 March
Yeovil Town p-p Reading
Round six of the Vitality Netball Super league was completed during the week:
Friday 9 March
Team Bath 51-60 Manchester Thunder
Saturday 10 March
Celtic Dragons 49-40 Severn Stars
Benecos Mavericks 46-44 UWS Sirens
Wasps Netball 74-38 Team Northumbria
Wasps are top of the table with seven wins from seven and 21 points. There is clear water between them and Manchester Thunder who are second on1 5 points from five matches and Benecos Mavericks lie third, also on 15, but from six matches.
This weekend’s round seven fixtures are as follows:
Friday 16 March
Manchester Thunder v Benecos Mavericks (7.30pm)
UWS Sirens v Severn Stars (7.30pm, Live on Sky Sports)
Saturday 17 March
Loughborough Lightning v Tam Bath (6pm)
Team Northumbria v Surrey Storm (6pm)
Sunday 18 March
Wasps Netball v Celtic Dragons (6pm)
We are at the semi-final stage of the Indian Wells tournament. The quarter-final results were:
Simona Halep (1) beat Petra Martic 6-4 6-7 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (20) beat Angelique Kerber (10) 6-0 6-2
Naomi Osaka beat Karolina Pliskova (5)
Venus Williams (8) beat Carla Suarez-Navarro (27) 6-3 6-2
In the semi-finals on Saturday, Williams faces Kasatkina, while Halep takes on Osaka.
Serena Williams lost to her sister Venus in the third round in straight sets 6-3 6-4.
Commonwealth Games News
Kadeena Cox has withdrawn from England’s Commonwealth Games team through injury. She was due to run in the T38 100m at the Gold Coast Games.
England has announced its squad for the Commonwealth Games. They will face South Africa, Wales, India and Malaysia in their Pool B games with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals.
The squad in full:
Giselle Ansley (Surbiton), Grace Balsdon (Canterbury), Sophie Bray (Kampong), Alex Danson (Clifton Robinson), Sarah Haycroft (Surbiton), Maddie Hinch (Stichtse), Kathryn Lane (Leicester), Hannah Martin (Surbiton), Lily Owsley (Uni of Birmingham), Hollie Pearne-Webb (Surbiton), Ellie Rayer (East Grinstead), Amy Tennant (East Grinstead), Anna Toman (Wimbledon), Susannah Townsend (Canterbury), Laura Unsworth (East Grinstead), Ellie Watton (Holcombe).
Investec Hockey Women’s League Premier Division
Holcombe 1-1 Leicester
Slough 1-8 Surbiton
East Grinstead 3-1 Buckingham
Bowdon 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Canterbury 4-2 University of Birmingham
Leicester 1-2 Slough
With their excellent win at Slough, Surbiton are top with 31 points from 16 games. East Grinstead lie second on 28 from 15 and Holcombe are third, also on 28, but from 16 games.
Leicester are bottom on 11 from 15, with Clifton Robinsons just above them on 14, also from 15.
Rugby Union – off the pitch
Great news from New Zealand as it was announced this week that the Black Ferns are to be awarded paid contracts for the first time.
A minimum of 30 players will be employed on contract and will also have access to medical and life insurance as well as maternity leave entitlements.
The contracts will commit players to 10-14 hours per week training as well as 50 days a year of training camps and fixtures.
This takes the team to a semi-professional status and players are still encouraged to work or study.
Rugby union – on the pitch
Well, what a weekend of Six Nations action last weekend! Round four saw wins for France, Italy and Scotland in three thrilling encounters:
Saturday 10 March
France 18-17 England
A record crowd of 17,440 (that’s seventeen thousand) saw France snatch victory in the final minutes of the game to send the home crowd into delirium.
Abigail Dow opened the scoring for England with a try converted by Katy McLean. Rachel Burford was yellow-carded for England, but France couldn’t capitalise. However, shortly after they were back to a full compliment, Jessy Trémoulière crossed to get the home side on the board. Her conversion attempt went wide off the post, but France were back to within two.
Right on half-time France took the lead with a try from scrum half Caroline Drouin. The conversion was again missed, but France went in 10-7 up.
England started the second-half strongly. Ten minutes in they scored a second try, this time through Amy Cockayne. McLean was successful with the conversion and it was 14-10 to the visitors.
On 55 the deficit was cut to just one as Trémoulière slotted home a penalty, but with eight minutes to go England responded with a penalty of their own to make it 17-14 to England.
But the sucker punch came with just a minute to go. The tremendous Trémoulière cut through one more time and went over to score the winning try. The conversion was missed, but Les Bleues had won by one point.
Now they have the chance to win the Grand Slam this weekend when they take on Wales at Colwyn Bay on Friday.
Wales 15-22 Italy
Isabella Locatelli opened the scoring for the visitors on nine minutes. It was converted by Michela Sillari. On the half-hour Wales were on the board with a penalty from Robyn Wilkins. Four minutes later Wales were ahead with a try from Alisha Butchers, but this went unconverted.
But the Azzurre were not to be outdone. A minute before the break, Maria Magatti went over and Italy were 12-8 up.
Ten minutes into the second-half the away side were over again. Locatelli looked to be going in for her second, but she was tackled. She managed to get the ball away to Beatrice Rigoni for the try.
Melissa Clay was sin-binned for Wales and although they held out, there was a brief period when they were down to 13 as Butchers was also yellow-carded. Somehow they managed not only to not concede, but when Clay had returned they scored the next try, Sioned Harries going over and Wilkins converting, thereby cutting the deficit to two points.
But in the last minute Italy had the last word. Sillari scored Italy’s fourth try and they had won by seven points.
Ireland 12-15 Scotland
Saturday also saw a fine win for Scotland at Donnybrook.
In a tight first-half only three points were scored, a penalty to Scotland kicked by Helen Nelson.
The away side redoubled their efforts in the second-half. Nelson went over two minutes, but the conversion was missed.
Ireland got back into it on 50 minutes when they were awarded a penalty try. Ireland pressed again and Megan Kennedy was yellow-carded for Scotland after the scrum collapsed.
On 62 minutes Ireland were on the attack, but Scotland full-back Chloe Rollie intercepted a loose pass going over the whitewash after running the length of the pitch. It was converted by Lana Skeldon and the score was 15-7 to the visitors.
Ten minutes from time Ireland scored their second through Paula Fitzpatrick taking it to 15-12. It went unconverted and although they repeatedly attacked in the last ten minutes, they were unable to break down Scotland’s defence.
The final round is this weekend with France going for the Grand Slam. For some ridiculous reason, England v Ireland and Wales v France kick off within 30 minutes of each other in the early evening of Friday 16 March – big huh? to the schedulers there.
England v Ireland (Ricoh Arena, 5.30pm. Live on Sky and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
Wales v France (Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, 6pm. S4C and FTV.)
Italy v Scotland (Stadio Plebiscito , 2pm GMT, Eurosport Italia)
Tyrell’s Premier 15s
DMP Sharks 5-13 Saracens
Firwood Waterloo 10-44 Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough 24-7 Bristol
Harlequins 14-12 Richmond
Wasps 55-5 Worcester Valkyries
Saracens are top on 72 points from 16 games, one point ahead of Harlequins who have played a game more. Wasps lie third on 59 from 16. The luckless Valkyries are still bottom on two points, with Firwood Waterloo second from bottom on 11.
Australian tour of India
First ODI – 12 March
India 200 all out (50 overs)
Australia 202/2 (32.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets
India won the toss and chose to bat first. Pooja Vastrakar top-scored with 51 off 56 balls and there were other good contributions from Verma and Raut, but 200 was never likely to be enough. Jess Jonassen took 4/30 off her 10 overs and Amanda-Jade Welllington 3/24 off six.
Australia knocked off the target with nearly 18 overs to spare. Nicole Bolton scored 100 not out from 101 balls, Alyssa Healy 38, Meg Lanning 33 and Ellyse Perry 25 not out as they went one-up in the three match series.
Second ODI – 15 March
Australia 287/9 (50 overs)
India 227 all out (49.2 overs)
Australia won by 60 runs
Nicole Bolton was at it again, this time opening with 84 from 88 balls as Australia posted a formidable total. Perry finished 70 not out and Beth Mooney scored 56. Shikha Pandey took 3/61 from her 10 overs and Poonam Yadav 2/52 from her 10.
India made a decent start in response with an 88 opening stand before Smriti Mandhana was out for 67. But although most of the batters got starts, they couldn’t go on and dropped behind the required rate. In the end they were all out in the last over. Jonassen was again the bowling star for Australia, taking 3/51 from 10. Perry took 2/41 from 8.2 overs and Wellington 2/20 from four.
The third ODI is on 18 March.
Chris and Gabby Adcock are through to the mixed doubles quarter-finals at the All England Badminton Championships, being held in Birmingham.
They face Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino of Japan in the evening session on 16 March.
In the Barcelona v Chelsea (men’s) game midweek, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois let in two goals through his legs. Surely this only goes to prove that all male ‘keepers are c**p?
Sorry no column for two weeks now as I am away.