Women’s Sports Column 21-27 April 2018

test tubesWelcome to this week’s column.  After the netball frenzy of last week, it’s all calmed down a bit.  But there’s still plenty going on with stories from athletics, football, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, golf, cycling, tennis and netball. Plus another depressing “And finally”.  Sorry folks, but it’s got to be done.

Let’s crack on.

Athletics

The big breaking news this week comes from the IAAF and its attempts to restrict women with higher testosterone levels from competing in their best events.  Well, that’s how I see it, anyway.  If you have followed me for any length of time, you will know this is subject I have covered before and this announcement has thrown it all up in the air again.

Even if it didn’t mean it to appear so, this new ruling has been seen as a direct attack on South African 800m/1500m runner Caster Semenya.  The acceptable testosterone levels will be reduced in the new directive, but only for those in 400m-1mile events.

If a woman with higher testosterone levels is to compete, they will have to take medication for six months previous to competition.

In its statement the IAAF stated,

“The sport has a lot of athletes with DSD (hyperandrogenism).

“It is not just the one or two females you hear about in the media. In elite female athletics, the number of intersex athletes is 140 times more than you might find in the normal female population.

“As world governing body, we need to ensure a level playing field for all athletes. The research and evidence clearly shows there is a performance advantage in female athletes with DSD over the track distances covered by this rule.”

This very hypothesis was successfully challenged by Indian sprinter Duttee Chand in 2015, which caused a similar ruling to be suspended.  This is the first attempt by the IAAF since then to re-introduce a ruling on acceptable testosterone levels.

The IAAF will also have to contend with the accusation that this is a racist rule.  There can be no doubt that a powerful, strong, black woman is a troubling image for some people and the IAAF appears to be reinforcing this with its new ruling.

If the IAAF is so convinced that intersex athletes are such a threat, why doesn’t it just go the whole hog and re-introduce the invasive gender tests many women were subject to for so many years?  Then it could ban anyone who it feels doesn’t conform to its idea of “natural”.

I cannot believe there is not a better way to sort this issue.

The new rules should come into effect in November 2018, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was delayed due to legal opposition.

If you would like to read more of my research and views on this see below:

http://www.wispsports.com/womens-sports-blogs/extra-cover-by-penny-hopkins/makes-woman-woman/

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2013/11/gender-testing-in-sport-back-in-the-news/

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2015/08/sport-gender-testing-guidelines-suspended/

Cricket

History was made at Lord’s on Tuesday when Middlesex played their first ever appearance on the main pitch in front of a record crowd of over 5,000 – a mere 85 years after their founding.

MCC were captained by Charlotte Edwards and the side also included England’s Sarah Taylor and Georgia Elwiss.

MCC batted first, scoring 145/3 in their 20 overs.  Top scorer was Alex Rogers on 72.

In reply, Middlesex made a good start, but fell behind the required rate until it was nine-per-over.  But Maia Bouchier took it on, and they needed 30 off the last four overs.

In the end it went down to the wire as Hayleigh Brennan hit a boundary off the penultimate ball to win it for Middlesex.  Bouchier finished on 39 not out with captain Natasha Miles having made 38.

But, as you will realise, the result was very much secondary to the historic aspect of the game.  Onward and upward for women’s county cricket (hopefully).

Smriti Mandhana

The BCCI has nominated Smriti Mandhana from the women’s game and Shikhar Dhawan from the men’s game for the prestigious Arjuna award 2018.  These awards are given annually by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to recognise outstanding achievement in sport.  The awards have been given since1961 and it is only the second time a woman has been nominated, after Harmanpreet Kaur received the same honour in 2017.

Tennis – on the Court

Fed Cup
Great Britain lost their tie against Japan at the weekend.  While Jo Konta won both of her singles matches, Heather Watson lost both of hers, which took it down to the doubles.  GB now returns to the Europe/Africa Zone.

I’m not sure that playing a doubles team of Watson/Konta is the way forward – surely it makes more sense, if you have a team of four, that two will be doubles specialists?

Watson lost the first rubber to Osaka 2-6 3-6.  Konta levelled the tie by beating Nara 6-4 6-2.  On day two, Konta beat Osaka 6-3 6-3, but Watson lost to Nara 6-7 4-6.

The deciding doubles was the only rubber to go to three sets.  Kato/Ninomiya defeated Konta/Watson 6-3 3-6 3-6.

Meanwhile the Fed Cup final will be between Czech Republic and defending champions, USA.

The Czechs beat Germany 4-1 in their semi-final.  They were 2-0 up after the first day, but then Julia Goerges beat Karoline Pliskova 6-2 6-2 to bring it back to 2-1.  But Petra Kvitova then defeated Angelique Kerber 6-2 6-2 and then the Germans retired from the doubles, giving the Czechs the 4-1 tie win.

The USA were 1-1 with France after the first day of singles.  On day two, Sloane Stephens beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 6-0 and Madison Keys defeated Pauline Parmentier 7-6 6-4 to give USA an unassailable 3-1 lead.  France won the dead rubber doubles to take it to 3-2.

The final will be on the weekend of 10-11 November in the Czech Republic.

There are two WTA tournaments taking place this week; Stuttgart and Istanbul.  As of today (Friday 27 April) we are at the quarter-final stage of both.

Stuttgart Open

Simona Halep (1) v Coco Vandeweghe
Anett Kontaveit v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Elina Svitolina (3) v Caroline Garcia (6)
Karolina Plíšková (5) v Jelena Ostapenko (4)

Istanbul Open

Maria Sakkari v Arantxa Rus
Caroline Wozniacki (1) v Pauline Parmentier
Polona Hercog v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Donna Vekić v Irina-Camelia Begu

Tennis – off the Court

The LTA has announced it wants to see 1,600 women qualifying to coach in the next five years.  This would double the number currently working in the sport.

The announcement was made at the Women’s Coach Conference in Birmingham this week.

In her speech, Judy Murray said,

“I believe that girls respond better to female role models.

“The LTA want to see more female coaches who can encourage girls to take up, and stay in, sport.”

Football

Lots of football news to get through this week, both on and off the pitch.

On the Pitch

Champions League

It was a poor week for the British teams in the Champions League semi-finals as Manchester City could only draw at home, while Chelsea suffered a comprehensive home defeat.  Both teams will now find it difficult progress to the final.

Manchester City 0-0 Lyon

City would have been hoping for a lead to take back to Lyon, but it was not to be.

Lyon had the lion’s share of possession throughout, but relatively few chances.  Their best came through Eugenie Le Sommer just before half-time and substitute Camille Abily just after.  And in the closing minutes Karen Bardsley pulled out a fine save to deny Amandine Henry’s header and to keep it level after the first leg.

Mel Lawley had a good chance for City, but the Lyon ‘keeper, Sarah Bouhaddi, pushed her shot over the bar.   Nikita Parris also volleyed over, but, in truth, City had few chances.

City will have to play exceedingly well to beat Lyon on their own turf.

Chelsea 1-3 Wolfsburg

If the Manchester City result was disappointing, Chelsea’s first leg was nothing short of a disaster.

The home side started well and took the lead through Fran Kirby in just the second minute.

But a header from Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir and an own goal from Maren Mjelde meant the German side went in 2-1 up at half-time.

In the second-half Wolfsburg were clearly the better side and got a third through Lara Dickenmann.

Both second legs are this Sunday, 29 April.

FAWSL

This week’s WSL1 and WSL2 scores were:

Saturday 21 April
FAWSL1
Yeovil Town 0-0 Arsenal
Sunderland AFC 1-2 Bristol City

Sunday 22 April
FAWSL1
Reading 3-0 Everton

FAWSL2
Durham 2-1 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Sheffield FC
Aston Villa 1-0 Oxford United
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Watford 0-4 London Bees

Tuesday 24 April
FAWSL1
Arsenal 3-0 Liverpool

No change at the top in WSL1, but Yeovil have now picked up two points in two games at the bottom.  Bristol City also picked up their third win of the season, taking them to 10 points, still second from bottom, but level on points with Everton, who are third from bottom.

Millwall Lionesses spurned their chance to close the gap on leaders Doncaster, as the top two both lost at the weekend.  Brighton are now only one point behind Millwall in third, but Watford are still bottom with a single point.

Off the Pitch

Fran Kirby scooped the PFA Women’s Player of the Year award on Sunday at the Grosvenor House Hotel.  Bristol City’s Lauren Hemp picked up the PFA Young Women’s Player of the Year.

Casey Stoney also received a Special Achievement award.

And the week got even better for Kirby as she won the inaugural Football Writers’ Association’s (FWA) Women’s Footballer of the Year award on Tuesday.  It’s great to see that football writers now care about women’s football enough for there to be an award!

The shortlist for the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2018 has also been announced.  The contenders are:

Lucy Bronze (Olympique Lyonnais & England)
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg & Denmark)
Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars/Perth Glory & Australia)
Dzsenifer Marozsan (Olympique Lyonnais & Germany)
Lieke Martens (Barcelona & Netherlands)

Check out the profiles of the contenders and how to vote here.  You have until 8am on Tuesday 8 May make your choice.

Golf

After the first round of the Mediheal Championship in California, the lead is shared by five golfers: Lydia Ko (NZ), Caroline Hedwall (Swe), Kim In-kyung (Kor), Jessica Korda (USA) and Su Oh (Aus) on -4.  England’s Charley Hull is one back along with Kim Sei-young (Kor), Celine Herbin (Fra) and Lexi Thompson (USA).

Rugby union

Kitakyushu Sevens (World Sevens Series Round Three)

New Zealand won the latest round in the World Sevens in Japan on Sunday.  They defeated France in the final 24-12.  In doing so, they closed the gap in the Sevens standings to six points.

England beat China 36-5 to finish seventh.

Semi-Finals: New Zealand 17 – 12 Australia; France 21 – 0 Spain
11th Place Match: Japan 14 – 33 Canada
Challenger final: United States 24 – 19 Ireland
7th Place Match: China 5 – 36 England
5th Place Match: Fiji 7 – 30 Russia
3rd Place Match: Australia 19 – 5 Spain
Final: New Zealand 24 – 12 France

Rugby league

Just two results from the Super League this week:

Sunday 22 April
York City Knights 0-62 Castleford Tigers
Bradford Bulls 4-42 St Helens

Cycling

Good news all-round for women’s cycling this week.

It was announced this week that Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen will compete in the Tour de Yorkshire in May.  Britain’s Katie Archibald and Dani Rowe will also race.

The two-day race starts in Beverley on 3 May and ends in on a course of 162 miles.  It’s a race that is gaining in profile and popularity and this year will be broadcast live on television.

The second piece of interesting news is that former UCI president Brian Cookson is planning to develop a professional women’s cycling team by 2009.

In a s statement he said,

“Over the next few months, I am going to be exploring the possibilities of setting up a new professional cycling team structure.  My intention is that this should begin with the establishing of a UCI Women’s WorldTour Team for 2019 – a team that will meet or exceed the new high standards that are likely to be put in place by the UCI for the new two-tier structure for Women’s Teams that was developed during my term as UCI President.

“I am not just talking about a top-level team in the traditional sense. There has never been so much interest in women’s sport, fitness and health generally, and this is clearly reflected in the interest in women’s cycling, not just at the elite level, but in terms of general participation. It seems to me that we are at a moment of real opportunity for women’s cycling. We are at a pivotal point, a sea-change in attitude towards women’s sport in the media and amongst the public is taking place, and we should seize this opportunity.”

“I am putting this idea out there because I want to stimulate the decision-makers in those companies, many of whom (men and women) enjoy cycling themselves, to start to think about the possibilities.  The potential return on their investment could be very substantial, but I want to make it clear that it will need innovation, creativity, and a major effort from their side to make that happen.”

He is hoping the team will be based in the UK, but this will be largely dependent on being able to raise the required sponsorship.

Although Cookson was unsuccessful in his bid for a second term as president, he is still a name in the cycling world and will hopefully carry the gravitas needed to secure the serious amount of sponsorship money he will need to get the team off the ground.

Netball

The Vitality Superleague is back!  Round eight’s results were:

Saturday 21 April
Manchester Thunder 62-57 Surrey Storm
Team Northumbria 43-47 Severn Stars
Loughborough Lightning 54-41 Benecos Mavericks

Sunday 22 April
Wasps Netball 61-44 Team Bath

The table is a bit higgledy-piggledy at the moment as although we’re on round eight, not all teams have played eight games; indeed the Dragons and the Sirens have only played six each.  At the moment Wasps are top with a one hundred per cent record, nine wins from nine (27 points).  Thunder are second with six wins from seven games (18 points) and Mavericks third with six wins from eight games (18 points).  Team Northumbria are bottom, yet to get off the mark after eight games.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 27 April
Wasps Netball v Manchester Thunder (7pm)

Saturday 28 April
UWS sirens v Surrey Storm (2pm)
Celtic Dragons v Team Northumbria (4pm)
Severn Stars v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)

Sunday 29 April
Benecos Mavericks v Team Bath (5.30pm) (Live on Sky Sports)

Women’s Sports Trust – Be a Game Changer Awards

The shortlists for the Be a Game Changer Awards have been announced.  The public vote is from 30 April – 13 May.

Categories are: Sporting Role Model – Individual, Sporting Role Model – Team, Ambassador of Women’s Sport, National Governing Body of the Year, Inspiring Initiative – National, Inspiring Initiative – Local/Grassroots, Imagery of the Year and Media Initiative of the Year.

To see all those shortlisted, click here – and don’t forget to vote!

And finally,

In a similar theme to last week’s “And Finally”, you will be unsurprised to know that it is a rant – so if you’ve had enough of me ranting I’d stop reading now.

This rant is over something I find mind-bogglingly bizarre and concerns, yet again, the keyboard warrior commentators at the end of BBC football posts.

Last weekend, as outlined above, it was the PFA Awards.  Now, if I’m not wrong there’s a Men’s award and a women’s award, also a Young Player (male) and Young Player (female) award.  So why then, were there on the end of the BBC article, not just one but several males asking why the outcome of the women’s award had been included.  One suggested it was another example of women’s football “being rammed down our throats”.

I do feel there really is only one answer to this; the BBC was covering the whole event, as they are supposed to do.  Not just half of it.  How would it be if they gave the result of the Best Film award at the Oscars, but not that of the Best Director award?  It would be half a story.

Seriously, this one has had me scratching my head for most of the week.  The level of misogyny against women’s football is not diminishing – in fact I would contend it is increasing.  Sorry to end on a negative note, but it’s dispiriting to see it again and again.  Yes, these are obviously males with limited social skills, probably living with their mothers and yes, I probably should laugh at them.  But what I fear is that they are actually fully functioning members of society who go on to (or already have) wives/partners and daughters……

And, and finally,

Don’t forget it’s the Tyrrell’s Premier 15s final on Sunday, at the Trailfinders Sports Club in West Ealing at 3pm.  Be there to see what’s sure to be a cracking match between Saracens and Harlequins.

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Women’s Sports Column 14-20 April 2018

12928352_10201803729532769_8195423317764149816_nWelcome to this week’s column.  No prizes for guessing my top story of the week.  I’m glad to say that my “Give Australia the gold now” statement was proved spectacularly wrong.  Anyway, more of that later.

This week’s stories include a last round-up from the Commonwealth Games, plus news from football, netball, rugby, tennis, cricket and rugby league.

Let’s crack on, starting with those golden Roses!

Commonwealth Games

Netball Semi-final
Jamaica 55-56 England

What a comeback!  England were six down at half-time and I, for one, thought it was all over.

The Roses made a terrible start, completely failing to get to grips with Jamaica’s huge 6’ 6” shooter, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.  They were also profligate at the other end; as Jo Harten admitted, “I had a shocker of a start.”

But in the third quarter they began to pull it back and by the start of the fourth they were only three goals down.

It was neck and neck in the final quarter and with 30 seconds to go it was 55-55.

From England’s centre pass Helen Housby missed the shot to win it with just seven seconds left.  It looked to be going into extra-time when Harten made up for her bad start by taking the rebound and popping it in with one second left on the clock.

Netball Final
Australia 51-England 52

If you thought the semi was tense, it had nothing on the final.  I don’t think I was alone in thinking the Diamonds would run away with it – but how wrong I was.

It was 25-25 at half-time.

In the third quarter the Roses went behind again and were four goals down going into the final quarter.

But they pulled it back yet again and with 20 seconds to go it was 51-51.  They couldn’t do it again, could they?

Well, yes they could.  This time it was Helen Housby who held her nerve after first Harten then Housby herself missed the chance to take the game.  Australia were penalised for contact and

Housby put away the shot to take the game on the buzzer.

As part of the defenders’ union, can I just put in a word for the England defenders?  The shooters get the glory, but without the fabulous performances from Geva Mentor and captain Ama Agbeze, plus the whirlwind that is Serena Guthrie, the Roses would not have won it.

Other Commonwealth Games Highlights

Hockey: England’s women won bronze, demolishing India 6-0 in the bronze medal match. Sophie Bray scored a hat-trick with Hollie Pearne-Webb, Alex Danson and Laura Unsworth also on the scoresheet.

Badminton: Gabby and Chris Adcock retained their mixed doubles title in an all-England final, defeating Lauren Smith and Chris Ellis 19-21 21-17 21-16.  Smith also won silver with partner Sarah Walker in the women’s doubles.  And England made it six medals, taking mixed team bronze.  Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour claimed bronze in the women’s singles.

Boxing: Wales’ Lauren Price won gold in the -75kg category, defeating Australia’s Caitlin Parker on a split decision.  Sandy Ryan of England (-69kg) beat Rosie Eccles of Wales to take gold, with Lisa Whiteside also taking gold in the -51kg, beating Carly McNaul of Northern Ireland on points.  There were also silvers for Michaela Walsh and Kristina O’Hara.

Rugby Sevens: England claimed bronze in the inaugural Commonwealth Games appearance of women’s sevens.  They defeated Canada in the bronze medal match, 24-19.  New Zealand beat Australia 17-12 to take gold.

Squash: England claimed silver and Wales bronze in the women’s singles through Sarah-Jane Perry and Tesni Evans respectively.

Table tennis:  Bronze went to England in the team event, while England’s mixed doubles team of Liam Pitchford and Tin-Tin Ho took silver.

Basketball: England took silver in the women’s event, losing out to hosts Australia 99-55 in the final.  As with netball, basketball receives no UK Sport funding as it is seen as unlikely to bring in Olympic medals.  Will UK Sport have to think again after this?

Athletics: Jade Jones of England completed a remarkable double when she claimed bronze in the T54 marathon, having won gold in the para-triathlon earlier on in the Games.  She was then selected as flag-bearer for the England team at the closing ceremony.  The England women’s 4x100m team of Dina Asher-Smith, Asha Philip, Lorraine Ugan and Bianca Williams won gold in a time of 42.26, beating Jamaica (42.42) and Nigeria (42.75).  Laura Weightman claimed bronze in the 5,000m and  Morgan Lake silver in the high jump (both England).

Apologies again to those I have missed.

Netball – off the court

England’s Commonwealth Games gold is, and I’m not going to shy away from saying it, a “watershed” moment for the sport in England, and the UK.

But a rosy future for the sport in this country is not guaranteed.

At the moment the sport receives £13.9m for the grassroots game and £3m for the national team from Sport England.

It’s a lot of money – agreed.  But there are 160,000 girls and women currently playing netball in England and numbers are growing.  It will take all of that money to sustain and promote this growth with the excitement surrounding the “Back to Netball” and walking netball programmes.

When it comes to the elite game, UK Sport contributes little to netball.  The Superleague has done a tremendous amount over the past few years to fund itself.  It has got backing from Sky Sports and has sponsorship deals with Vitality and Mrs. Crimble’s, amongst others.

UK Sport is supporting next year’s World Cup in Liverpool, but it is still reluctant to put money into the elite game.  As we know, UK Sport is all about success – funding those who are already successful to do more (not the place for this debate here) so isn’t it time for them to put its hand in its pockets for netball?  Do England really have to win the World Cup before they are counted as successful?

Netball – on the court

The Vitality Superleague is back this weekend after the Commonwealth Games break.  And if the venues are not packed out for this round of matches, I’d like to know why.

Fixtures:

Saturday 21 April
Manchester Thunder v Surrey Storm (5pm)
Team Northumbria v Severn Stars (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Benecos Mavericks (7pm)

Sunday 22 April
Wasps Netball v Team Bath (3pm) – This is the live fixture on Sky Sports

Football – off the pitch

The Michael Oliver/Gianluigi Buffon debacle

Which dimwit decided it would be a good idea to post Lucy Oliver’s mobile number on social media after her husband refereed the controversial Champions’ League quarter-final between Real Madrid and Juventus?

Apart from the fact that Michael Oliver made the correct decisions, why should someone think it was acceptable to drag Lucy into the argument?

Not that they stopped at that, of course.  They had to go on to make threats and abuse her generally.

Did they think it was acceptable because Lucy is an excellent and experienced referee in her own right?  Or was it just because she is a woman and, therefore, fair game?

Who knows?

The bottom line is it’s not acceptable in any way.  Not the abuse of Michael Oliver.  Not the abuse of Lucy Oliver.  Not at all.

Over to UEFA to sort it out.

Millwall Lionesses

In the last week it has come to light that one of the stalwart teams of the league, Millwall Lionesses, is in financial trouble.

The WSL2 club has said it has “significant financial discrepancies” and opened a crowdfunding page earlier this week to try to raise money to complete the season.

Emilie Perry, Chair and sole director, resigned in March and the club says “all external funding channels have been exhausted”.

The team currently lies second in the division and is unbeaten in 11 games.  Players and staff have said they are willing to play without salaries in order to finish the season.

This is pretty rotten news and questions must be asked of the FA (yet again), which has already approved the club’s application for what will be the Championship next season.  Surely it looked into the club’s finances?  The crowdfunder may be a great short-term solution, but the club will have to be sustainable in the future.  I know the men’s club support them both monetarily and in-kind, but let’s hope they find their own backer, and soon.

When I started putting the column together earlier on in the week, the page was just starting up.  By Wednesday they had exceeded their £10k target!   The page is still open for contributions though, so if you can, please click here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/millwalllionesses and let’s get them funded.

PFA Awards Nominations

The list of nominees for the Women’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year awards is out.

FAWSL 1:

  • Ramona Bachmann (Chelsea)
  • Millie Bright (Chelsea)
  • Fran Kirby (Chelsea)
  • Maren Mjelde (Chelsea)
  • Jill Scott (Manchester City)
  • Ji So-Yun (Chelsea)

Women’s PFA Young Player of the Year award:

  • Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea)
  • Gabby George (Everton)
  • Lauren Hemp (Bristol City)
  • Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)
  • Georgia Stanway (Manchester City)
  • Keira Walsh (Manchester City)

The Awards ceremony is this Sunday, 22 April.  For what it’s worth, my votes would go to Millie Bright (own goals notwithstanding, is improving in leaps and bounds) and Georgia Stanway.  News of the winners next week.

Football – on the pitch

The semi-finals of the FA Cup took place last weekend and it was good to see them televised by the BBC (to hoots of derision from the Neanderthals, of course).  We now know the final will be between Arsenal and Chelsea.  Here’s how the semis unfolded:

Everton 0-1 Arsenal

It’s a sixteenth FA Cup final for Arsenal but heartbreak for Everton as the Gunners scored a stoppage-time winner to take them through.

Dan Carter opened the scoring or Arsenal on 25 minutes and went into the break with this slender lead intact.

In the second-half Everton equalised from the penalty spot.  Chloe Kelly calmly converted after Dominque Janssen was penalised for bringing down Courtney Sweetman-Kirk in the box.

The winner came in the 91st minute as Louise Quinn headed in from corner and the Gunners were through.

Chelsea 2-0 Manchester City

Two goals from in-form striker Fran Kirby were enough to see Chelsea into the final.

But City will be disappointed with their defensive performance as much as their toothlessness in attack.

Kirby was on the scoresheet as early as the fifth minute.  She latched on to a ball that should have been cleared by City captain Steph Houghton, to race through and put it past the ‘keeper.

In the second-half she did it again, this time Jen Beattie the defender with the error.

Chelsea are still in the hunt for three trophies; the FA Cup, the League title and the ultimate prize of the Champions’ League.  Manchester City have seen a slump in form that they will have to end if they are to realise their own dreams of retaining the WSL1 title and winning in Europe.

League Results:

Sunday 15 April

WSL2

London Bees 1-3 Durham Women
Sheffield FC 4-0 Watford Ladies

Wednesday 18 April

WSL1

Bristol City 0-2 Liverpool
Everton 0-1 Chelsea
Manchester City 3-0 Sunderland
Arsenal 3-1 Reading
Yeovil Town 0-0 Birmingham City

WSL2

Millwall Lionesses 2-1 Aston Villa
London Bees 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Thursday 19 April

WSL2

Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 Durham Women
Oxford United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

So it’s as you were at the top of WSL1 with Chelsea on 32 points from 14 games, three points clear of Manchester City, although City have a game in hand.  Arsenal are third, five points behind City with two games in hand over the leaders.

At the bottom, Yeovil registered their first point of the season this week with a home draw against Birmingham City.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles are still top with 35 points from 13 games. Beleaguered Millwall are second with 29 points from 12 games.

Watford are bottom with just one point from their 11 games.

Tennis

Fed Cup

The GB Fed Cup team for the World Group II play-offs has been announced.

It will comprise Jo Konta and Heather Watson for singles and Anna Smith and Gabi Taylor for the doubles.  It will be Taylor’s debut, a reward for her fine start to the year that has seen her rise from 323 in the world to 175 after winning three challenger series titles.

If they win against Japan, they will be in World Group II for 2019, but if they lose they will go back to the Europe/Africa Zone.

The tie, which will be played on hard courts, will be this weekend; 21-22 April at Bourbon Beans Dome in Miki, Japan.  There will be radio coverage on BBC 5 Live and also on the BBC Sport website.

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards has been appointed Hampshire’s new director of women’s cricket.  She takes over from Bob Parks.

In an interview with the Hampshire CC website Edwards expressed her enthusiasm for the new role:

“I see an ambitious organisation that will compliment my passion for domestic cricket,” she told the club website.

“I look forward to working with players, coaches and staff to help Hampshire become one of the leading domestic clubs in the country for women’s cricket.”

Rugby Union

It will be Saracens v Harlequins in the Premier 15s final on Sunday.  The second-leg of the semi-finals were as follows:

Saracens 45-26 Gloucester-Hartpury

Having received a sound beating in the first leg, 62-0, Gloucester-Hartpury showed real fight against Saracens in the second.

Indeed the away side took the lead through a try from Rachel Lund.  But Saracens soon came back and by half-time their lead was 19-14, as they scored through Bryony Cleall, Helena Rowland and Hannah Botterman.  Gloucester-Hartpury also put a second score on the board through Mary-Ann Gittings.

The home side started strongly in the second-half, with Garnet Mackinder and Marlie Packer both crossing the whitewash.

Saracens skipper Lotte Clapp went over again to make it 38-14, before the away side countered again, Sophie Tandy scoring their third.

Rowland grabbed her second try of the match, but it was Gloucester-Hartpury who put the last score on the board as Tandy going over for her second.

Harlequins 22-7 Wasps

Wasps only needed to win by seven points or more to secure their final spot, but it was not to be.

It was Quins who opened the scoring on 25 minutes, after 20 minutes of Wasps pressure.  Stacy White went over in the corner and Quins were ahead.  Jess Wooden went over for a second shortly after.

After the break the home side scored another two tries, through Deborah McCormack and Vickii Cornborough and the game and tie, were effectively sealed.

Danielle Waterman finally went over for Wasps, but there was no way back.

The final is a week on Sunday, 29 April at Ealing Trailfinders.  Kick-off is 3pm.  Adult tickets are £10 and children go free.

Rugby League

I realise that rugby league is woefully underrepresented in this column.  I also know I have promised to rectify this before, but have never quite managed it.  I will make an effort this season!  The RFL is really getting its act together to promote the game and it certainly becoming more high-profile.  It’s not made it onto the BBC website yet, but as they can barely cover the men’s, it’s no great surprise (couldn’t be because it’s from oop-North, could it?  Why are they based in Salford if not to redress the North/South bias?).  And to give the BBC its due, I did hear Dave Woods, its excellent rugby league correspondent, talking about the new season during the interval of a men’s superleague match last week.

Anyway, I started out my journalistic career covering Sheffield Eagles for the Sheffield University newspaper, so I’ve really got no excuse.

The Superleague comprises seven teams: Wigan Warriors, Featherstone Rovers, St Helens, York City Knights, Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos (the first appearance for a Leeds team) and Castleford Tigers.

The 2018 Superleague season got underway last weekend and the result were:

Wigan Warriors 54-0 Featherstone Rovers
St Helens 40-0 York City Knights
Bradford Bulls 16-32 Leeds Rhinos

There is a fine website dedicated to both the men’s and women’s game.  Check it out here

And finally,

As I’ve not mentioned netball for a couple of thousand words or so, I feel justified in putting it in just one more time in this column.  I’m happy to say that the comments on various websites after the Roses’ triumph were, by and large, positive.  In fact, there were several along the lines of (men) not being interested before, but being converted to the skills, excitement and atmosphere of the sport through their Commonwealth Games viewing.  Of course, there were still the Neanderthal naysayers citing the supposed irrelevance, worthlessness, sheer girliness of the game.  And, bizarrely, those (men again) on the other side, harping on at it being sexist that it’s a “girls’ game” and that men don’t play.   In their (mighty) opinion there’s no way it should be an Olympic sport if there were only women playing it.

They obviously don’t know that actually there’s quite a big following for men’s netball – clubs and everything!  Even mixed leagues!  So instead of crying “sexist” why don’t they just pick up a ball and try it?  Get involved, get better and get it to a level whereby they could hold big tournaments.  I’ll tell you why, because it’s easier for them to denigrate it and call it worthless if they’re “not allowed” to play it!

More news and views next week.

 

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 April 2018

the-ball-stadion-horn-corner-47343Welcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get our teeth into this week with the ongoing Commonwealth Games, World Cup qualifiers in the football, play-offs in rugby union, tennis, lacrosse, and top-class international cricket.

So, to coin a phrase, let’s crack on.

Commonwealth Games

So much going on, and so much I’m probably going to have to miss out or this column will be 5000 words long!  So, again, apologies to anyone who thinks I’ve missed something vital (which I probably have).

 Netball

England Roses are through to the semi-finals where they will face Jamaica.  They finished top of their group.  The other semi-final will be between Australia and New Zealand.  Although, after watching Australia demolish Jamaica I am tempted to say just give them the gold now, I am hoping that the Roses beat Jamaica and somehow can stun the Aussies in the final.

Basketball

More surprisingly, England’s basketball team (ranked 21 in the world) are through to the final of their tournament, having beaten Canada (ranked fifth in the world) in the semi-final 65-53.

They will face either Australia or New Zealand who play the second semi-final.

Hockey

England’s women lost out in the semi-final to New Zealand in a penalty shootout.  They now face India in the bronze medal match on Saturday.  The gold medal match will be between Australia and New Zealand.

Badminton

Mixed doubles pairings of Chris and Gabby Adcock and Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith are both through to the semi-finals.

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour is through to the semis in the singles.

Doubles pairing of Lauren Smith and Sarah Walker are through to the women’s doubles semi-finals.

Rugby Sevens

It’s the inaugural women’s sevens at Gold Coast 2018.

In Pool A: England won their first match, against Fiji, 17-5, but then lost to Australia 29-12.

Wales have lost both of their matches so far, 34-5 to Australia and 29-7 to Fiji.

England and Wales play each other in the final pool game on Saturday.

In Pool B: New Zealand beat Kenya 45-0 and South Africa 41-0.  Canada also won their first two matches.

Athletics

It’s been a mixed Games for home nations athletes.  Katarina Johnson-Thompson took gold in the heptathlon, while Niamh Emerson, also from England, took bronze.  Dina Asher-Smith (Eng) won bronze in a strong 200m field.  Eilidh Doyle took silver for Scotland in the 400m hurdles.  Shara Proctor won bronze in the long jump for England.

Also Caster Semenya of South Africa won the 800m/1500m double.

Sophie Hahn took gold for England in the T38 100m and Olivia Breen of Wales took bronze in the same event.  Breen also won gold in the T38 long jump.  Maria Lyle won silver for Scotland in the T35 100m.  Hollie Arnold won T46 javelin gold for Wales.

 Other medal highlights:

  • Fabulous diving from Scotland’s Grace Reid who took gold in the 1m springboard.
  • Bronze for Lesley Doig and Claire Johnston for Scotland in Women’s Pairs bowls
  • Laura Holford silver for Wales in the rhythmic gymnastics Hoop.
  • Kirsty Barr of Northern Ireland silver in the women’s trap and Sarah Wixey of Wales bronze in the same event.
  • Seonaid McIntosh two bronzes; women’s 50m rifle prone & 50m rifle 3 positions for Scotland

One more round-up next week, including how the team sports ended up, boxing, squash, table tennis, more athletics and anything else I can fit in!

Football – World Cup Qualifiers

There have been some excellent performances from the home nations over the last week.

England 0-0 Wales

Wales’ goalkeeper, Laura O’Sullivan, put in an outstanding performance to deny England three points at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium on Friday.

But it could have been even worse for England if Tash Harding’s shot in the ninth minute had been adjudged to have crossed the line.

It wasn’t, and England went on to have 22 shots on target, none of which went in, largely due to a stalwart Wales defence and the heroics of O’Sullivan.

Unsurprisingly, Wales manager Jayne Ludlow was ecstatic with the performance,

“From a female football perspective it’s probably the best (result in Wales’ history),” she said in an interview with the BBC.

Bosnia-Herzegovina 0-2 England

England were back to goalscoring form in Sarajevo on Tuesday.

There was a momentary wobble when Alex Greenwood was sent off before half-time for a second yellow card.  She was penalised for diving, when actually she was pretty obviously caught by the Bosnian defender.

But the home side couldn’t make the extra player count.  Toni Duggan scored the first and Jodie Taylor a stoppage-time penalty to ensure the three points.

Bosnia-Herzegovina captain Amira Spahic was also sent off towards the end, also for a second yellow card.

With the win England went top of Group A, two points ahead of Wales.

Scotland 3-0 Poland

Scotland’s qualifying campaign got back on track with a comfortable win in Paisley on Wednesday.

The away side started well with Ewa Pajor in particular causing problems for the Scottish defence.

But in the second-half Scotland came into the game.  Lee Alexander saved a penalty from Pajor and the Paulina Dudek was sent off for the Poles for a second yellow card offence.

As soon as Poland were down to ten, Scotland took advantage.  Zoe Ness scored two and Erin Cuthbert a third to seal the game for the Scots, taking them to second in the Group 2, six points behind leaders Switzerland and with a game in hand.

Netherlands 7-0 Northern Ireland

Unfortunately, Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup are just about over.

They were thrashed by European Champions the Netherlands in Eindhoven on Saturday 7 April.

They were 4-0 up by half-time with two from Lieke Martens, one from Vivianne Miedema and a penalty scored by Sherida Spitse.

It was more of the same in the second-half.  Shanice van de Sanden, Spitse with her second and a Billie Simpson made it a woeful night for the Northern Irish.

Northern Ireland 0-3 Norway

It didn’t get any better for Northern Ireland on Wednesday as they slumped to a poor home defeat to Norway at Shamrock Park in Portadown.

After a goalless first-half, the away side took the lead on the hour through Caroline Graham Hansen.  She then poached a second late on with Isabell Herlovsen scoring a third for Norway.

Football – Domestic

Just the one result this week with the international break in full swing:

FAWSL2

London Bees 2-1 Aston Villa

Katie Wilkinson opened the scoring for the home side just before the half-hour.  Bees doubled their lead in first-half injury time through Destiney Toussaint.

It looked like three points and a clean sheet until the penultimate minute when Ebony Salmon grabbed a consolation goal for Villa.

The result took London Bees up to fifth, but still five points behind Durham in fourth, having played a game more.  Aston Villa stay second from bottom with seven points from 12 games.

Lacrosse

Home Internationals 6-8 April, Edinburgh

There were no less than four tournaments taking place in Edinburgh at the weekend.

England took all four titles, as they did in Cardiff in 2017.

Senior A team:

England 21-7 Wales

Scotland 6-14 England

Senior B team:

Wales 6-19 England

Scotland 6-19 England

England 17-2 Ireland

England also triumphed in the Under 19 A and B tournaments.

Cricket – on the pitch

India sealed a fine 2-1 series win against England this week.  In a see-sawing series, England took the second game easily, having been outplayed in the first.  They were, however, unable to maintain this form in the third match and succumbed to the home side again to lose the series.

Second ODI

India 113 all out (37.2 overs)

England 117/2 (29 overs)

England won by 8 wickets with 126 balls remaining

It was all about England’s spinners in game two.  Mithali Raj won the toss and elected to bat.

But 4/32 for Dani Hazell from her 10 overs and a career-best 4/14 from Sophie Ecclestone saw the home side slump to 113 all out.  Top scorer for India was Smriti Mandhana with 42 with Deepti Sharma chipping in with 26 not out further down the order.

In response England motored away.  Danni Wyatt scored 47 from 43 balls.  Amy Jones was the only player to miss out, going for a duck bowled by Ekta Bisht.  Tammy Beaumont and Heather Knight saw it home, scoring 39 and 26 respectively and reaching their total with more than 20 overs to spare.

Third ODI

England 201/9 (50 overs)

India 202/2 (45.2 overs)

India won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining

England couldn’t maintain their good form of the second ODI as they lost to India in the final game to win the series.

Knight won the toss and chose to bat.

Amy Jones was unluckily run out for 94, and while captain Knight scored 36, no-one else made a significant enough contribution to get England to a useful score.  The wickets were evenly shared by the Indian bowlers with Goswami, Gayakwad, Sharma and Yadav bagging two each.

Opener Jemimah Rodrigues fell for two, caught by Beaumont off the bowling of Shrubsole.  When Krishnamurthy went for seven, also to Shrubsole, England must have thought they were in with a chance.  When the home side had reached 99 Mandhana retired hurt.

But a 103-run third wicket stand between Raj (74 off 124 balls) and Sharma (54 off 61) saw them home.

In the process Raj also took Charlotte Edwards’ record for the most 50+ innings in ODIs.

Cricket – off the pitch

Excellent, and somewhat surprising, news this week from Wisden.  Three out of the five of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year are women!  Heather Knight, Nat Sciver and Anya Shrubsole all make the list.

Of course it was a sensational year for women’s cricket as a whole with the World Cup causing such a wow in the cricketing world and so many female cricketers becoming household names.   This is happening not just in England, but also particularly in Australia, New Zealand and India.

For three England players to be recognised by Wisden in this way, as well as Shrubsole appearing on the front cover is most definitely a breakthrough.  Only two women have been named in the list before – a list that started in 1889; England’s Claire Taylor and Charlotte Edwards.

India’s Mithali Raj was also named World’s leading Women’s Cricketer.

Heather Knight captained the England side with a cool calmness that belied her experience.  She was filling the giant shoes that belonged to Charlotte Edwards and didn’t miss a step in doing so.  She scored 364 runs during the World Cup, averaging 45.

Nat Sciver’s summer will be remembered for the “Natmeg”, but was actually so much more.  She scored 369 runs during the World Cup including centuries against Pakistan and New Zealand.  Her bowling has also progressed this year.

Anya Shrubsole’s contribution to the tournament has been well-documented already, not least in this column!  At the risk of alienating you all by saying “I was there” yet again, I can honestly say that England had lost that final if it hadn’t been for Shrubsole.  She took 6/46 including the last wicket and putting herself firmly into the history books.

For the sake of balance, I must add that two chaps also made the list: West Indies batsman Shai Hope was the shining light for the Windies during their tour of England last year.  He became the first man to score a hundred in both innings of a first-class match at Headingley during the second Test.

Finally, Jamie Porter of Essex was the leading wicket-taker in the County Championship Division one last season.  He took 75 wickets as Essex won their first title since 1992.

Tennis – on the court

Monterrey

Top seed Garbine Muguruza triumphed at the Monterrey Open at the weekend.  She beat second seed Timea Babos, 3-6 6-4 6-3.

There was also good news for Naomi Broady in the doubles as she won her first WTA Tour title with partner Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain.  They defeated Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos and American Desirae Krawczyk in the final, 3-6 6-4 10-8.

Volvo Car Open

Meanwhile in Charleston twelfth seed Kiki Bertens took the title, defeating fifth seed Julia Görges in convincing manner, 6-2 6-1.

Tennis – off the court

World number 83, Madison Brengle is suing the WTA and ITF for injuries she alleges were sustained in the course of anti-doping tests.

Brengle has a condition which means she reacts badly to injections.  Her solicitor says that,

“Tennis authorities ignored evidence of her professionally-diagnosed condition and refused to provide alternative testing or a medical accommodation.”

Brengle has been left with swelling and weakness in her serving arm and hand.

In a statement Brengle said,

“I am bringing this action in an effort to force those who control the sport I love to understand that players are not commodities and should be treated with respect and dignity.

“The unbridled authority of officials to subject players to the kind of abuse I suffered cannot be tolerated; players must have a say in matters involving our health and safety.”

News to follow as the case develops.

Rugby Union

It was the first leg of the Premier 15s play-off semi-finals at the weekend, as although Saracens look to have already secured their place in the final, it’s still all to play for between Harlequins and Wasps, with Quins taking a six-point advantage into the second leg.

Gloucester-Hartpury 0-62 Saracens

Saracens were out of sight in this match after just twenty minutes as they scored four tries without reply.  Marlie Packer drove over for the first before Helena Rowland scored a second then prop Samantha Martinez Gion and Lottie Clapp scored to put the Saracens firmly in control.

Bryony Cleall scored a fifth before half-time and the away side went in 33-0 up at the break.

There was more of the same in the second-half.  Hannah Botterman scored the sixth, Packer scored her second and Garnet Mackinder added an eighth.

But they weren’t finished there.  Poppy Cleall went in for a ninth and Mackinder a tenth and her second of the match.

Wasps 19-25 Harlequins

It was an altogether tighter affair at Twyford Avenue.

Wasps opened the scoring on nine minutes when Liz Crake went over to score her first try of the season.

But four minutes later Quins were level as Abbie Scott crossed in the corner.  They went ahead on 16 minutes when Deborah McCormack went over to make it 10-7.

Quins scored again through Natasha Bradshaw to make it 17-7 at half-time.

In the second-half Wasps brought themselves back into it with tries from Louise Dodd and Abby Dow, making it 19-17 to the home side.

But it was Quins who were to have the last word –Ellie Green kicked a penalty and Fiona Pocock scored a last minute try to take the game and the lead back to The Stoop on Saturday.

Join me for more next week. 

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 31 March – 6 April 2018

netball1Welcome to this week’s column – it’s good to be back!  This week will be a bit of a past, present, future round-up, going over a few of the things I missed over the last couple of weeks and a bit of what’s coming up.

Stories this week come from the Commonwealth Games, cricket, football, hockey, golf, ice hockey, tennis, and rugby union.

So let’s crack on.

Commonwealth Games

Many consider it an historical and political anachronism, but there is no doubt that the next two weeks of Commonwealth Games action will be filled with elite sportspeople doing their very best in competition – for some it will be the pinnacle of their sporting careers.  So why should we begrudge these athletes their moment?  For the time being, let’s just enjoy the sport.  I will, almost certainly, miss something or someone out so apologies for that, but let’s give it a go.

The home nations story so far:

Triathlon

First home nations medal went to Jess Learmonth who won silver in the triathlon.  Gold went to Flora Duffy, who won Bermuda’s first ever gold.  Joanna Brown of Canada took the bronze.

Netball

While the domestic Superleague takes a break, we can relish the opportunity to watch top class netball on terrestrial television.

In Pool B England have started well with two wins from two: 74-28 v Scotland and 74-49 v Malawi.

Scotland play Wales next.

In Pool A Northern Ireland, in a ridiculously tough group have played just one game, losing to Australia 94-26.

Squash

In the women’s singles the home nations players are going well with one win each from one match.  Tesni Evans of Wales beat Aifa Asman of Malaysia 3-1.  England’s Laura Massaro, Sarah-Jane Perry and Alison Waters all beat their opponents 3-0.  Still a way to go.

Table tennis

Wales got through to the quarter-finals of the team competition, but were beaten 3-1 by Australia in that round.  The Welsh team included 11-year old Anna Hursey, the youngest person to ever represent Wales at a Commonwealth Games.  She lost in her singles, but won the doubles rubber with partner Chloe Thomas.

England play Canada in their quarter-final.

Cycling medals

Katie Archibald (SCO) Gold in the 3000m Individual Pursuit

Sophie Thornhill (ENG) Gold in the Women’s B& VI Sprint

Lauren Bate & Katy Marchant (ENG) Bronze in the Women’s Team Sprint

Swimming medals

Aimee Willmott (ENG) Gold in 400m Individual Medley

Sarah Vasey (ENG) Gold in 50m Breaststroke

Eleanor Robinson (ENG) Gold in S7 50m Butterfly

Alice Tai (ENG) Gold in S9 100m Backstroke

Hannah Miley (SCO) Silver in 400m Individual Medley

ENG bronze in 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay

Gymnastics

England’s women won silver in the Team event with Canada taking gold

Hockey

Pool A

India 2-3 Wales

England 2-0 South Africa

India 4-1 Malaysia

England 5-1 Wales

Pool B

Scotland 1-6 New Zealand

Australia 1-0 Canada

New Zealand 12-0 Ghana

International Football -World Cup Qualifiers

The Lionesses play Wales at Southampton on Friday evening.  The squad has suffered a number of withdrawals through injury.  Alex Greenwood has been called up to cover for Hannah Blundell, who is unwell.

Wales have a full-strength squad to pick from.

The match starts at 7pm and is live on BBC Two.

England then go on to face Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica on Tuesday.

The Republic of Ireland will play two home games; on Friday against Slovakia and on Tuesday against the Netherlands.

Northern Ireland play on Tuesday at home to Norway.

Scotland played on Thursday 5 April, losing a tight game against Switzerland 1-0.  The only goal of the game came through Lara Dickenmann on the half-hour.

Scotland play again on Tuesday, at home to Poland.

FAWSL

The scores from the latest round of WSL matches were as follows:

Saturday 31 March

FAWSL2

Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 Watford

All the goals in this game came in the first-half.  The home side were three up just after the half-hour.  The Belles scored through Jess Sigsworth (9), Sam Tierney (12) and Maz Pachaco (32), before Anneka Nuttall scored the consolation for Watford a minute before the break.

Sunday 1 April

FAWSL1

Yeovil Town 0-4 Liverpool

Liverpool ended a poor streak with a good win at Yeovil on Easter Sunday.  They took the lead in the first minute through Laura Coombs.  Gemma Bonner added a second on 17 and two minutes later they were three up through an Ash Hodson tap-in.  A fourth was scored in the second-half through Beth England.

Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea

It was honours even at Meadow Park.  The away side took the lead just after the half-hour through an in-form Fran Kirby.  Arsenal equalised just before half-time through Beth Mead.  Neither team could break the stalemate in the second half and the points were shared.

Birmingham City 2-0 Sunderland

A fine streak of form saw Birmingham up to third after this win on Sunday.  Ellen White opened the scoring on 19 minutes, her 11th goal in 11 games.  Four minutes later Rachel Williams made it two and Sunderland had no reply.

Manchester City 0-2 Reading

There was a shock defeat for the WSL1 champions as an inspired Reading took all three points at the Academy Stadium.

Remi Allen opened the scoring with an impressive bicycle kick on 34.  Kirsty Pearce doubled the lead on 61 minutes.  Reading worked  hard to maintain the lead and even managed to work through Jo Potter’s red card ten minutes from time.

So Chelsea are still top of WSL1 with 29 points from 13 games.  Manchester City are second on 26 with Birmingham City breathing down their necks in third on 22.  At the bottom it’s still Yeovil, yet to get a point from 11 matches, with Bristol City above them on seven.

FAWSL2

Durham 1-1 Oxford United

Jordan Atkinson’s strike on 31 opened the scoring for the home side.  Imogen Lancaster, making her debut for Oxford, equalised in first-half injury time.

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Brighton are up to third with this win over Spurs.  Chloe Peploe scored the first from a free-kick just before half-time.  The crowd  had to wait then until the 92nd minute for a second when Amanda Nilden slotted home to ensure the points went to the home side.

Sheffield FC P-P Millwall Lionesses

WSL2 sees Doncaster Rovers Belles top with 32 points from 12 matches.  Millwall  Lionesses are second on 26 from 11 and Brighton & Hove Albion third on 25 from 11.  At the bottom Watford have only one point from 10 matches and Aston Villa seven from 11.

Tennis

Thirteenth seed Sloane Stephens triumphed at Miami last week, beating sixth seed Jeļena Ostapenko in the final 7-6 6-1.

This week Naomi Broady and Heather Watson were competing at Monterrey and Charleston respectively.

Broady had a good win over Carol Zhao of Canada in the first round 6-3 6-7 6-2, but lost in the second to fourth seed Timea Babos of Hungary 6-3 6-7 7-5.

Watson’s bad run continued as she lost to American Taylor Townsend in the Charleston first round, 6-3 6-4.

British number on Jo Konta lost in the second round to Hungarian qualifier Fanny Stollar 6-3 6-4.  Konta had a bye in the first round.  This continues a disappointing series of results for Konta at the start of the 2018 season.

The Monterrey quarter-final line-up is:

S Vickery (USA) (7) v M Rybáriková (SLO) (2)

M Puig (PUE) (5) v T Babos (HUN) (4)

D Collins (USA) v D Bogdan (ROM) (6)

G Muguruza (ESP) 1 v A. Tomljanović (AUS) (8)

The Charleston quarter-finals look like this:

B Pera (USA) v M Keys (USA) (7)

(J. Görges (GER) (5) v D Kasatkina (RUS) (3)

A. Sevastova (LAT) (8) v K. Plíšková (CZE)

A Cornet (FRA) (14) v K Bertens (NED) (12)

Ice Hockey

World Championship Division II Group A

Great Britain are currently competing in the World Championship Division II Group A tournament in Maribor, Slovenia.  At stake is promotion to Division I Group B.

Team GB have made an excellent start and need one more win to finish top.

Great Britain 5-1 Australia

Australia took the lead through Michelle Clark-Crumpton, but GB then scored five unanswered goals to win the game.  GB’s goals came through Beth Hill, Angela Taylor (2) and Leanne Ganney (2).

Great Britain 3-1 North Korea

Leanne Ganney was on the scoresheet again as GB took the lead, with Angela making it two on 25 minutes.  Kim Un-hyang scored for North Korea, but Georgina Farman restored GB’s two-goal lead to ensure the win.

Great Britain 5-0 Mexico

Five goals from five different scorers saw GB comfortable winners over Mexico.  GB’s goals came from Kimberley Lane, Clara Ashton, Saffron Allen, Katie Henry and Louise Adams.

Slovenia 1-4 Great Britain

Team GB took their fourth win in a row in beating tournament hosts, Slovenia.  They scored four unanswered through Beth Hill, Katie Henry, Angela Taylor and Sophie Herbert, before Slovenia pulled one back through Sara Confidenti.

The Netherlands are top of the table on goal difference, with GB in second.  The top two play on Friday 6 April in a winner-takes-all match.  It will be GB’s sternest test as Netherlands finished as runners-up last year, while GB finished third.  The match takes place at 3.30pm UK time and there is coverage on BBC radio.

Golf

Augusta National, not America’s most forward-thinking golf club, has announced that it will host a new women’s tournament before the Masters in 2019.

Augusta, which didn’t even admit women as members until 2012, will hold the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship over 54 holes.

The first two rounds will be played at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta and the final round, the cut to the lowest 30 scores will be at Augusta National.

It’s a good development for the women’s game, although the first women’s major of the season, the ANA Inspiration, will potentially clash as it usually played the week before the Masters.

Rugby Union

Tyrell’s Premier 15s 

The regular season is now over and the Finals places are decided.

After the season’s 18 games, Saracens finished top with 79 points.  Joining them in the Finals are Harlequins, who finished second on 76, Wasps, third on 69 and Gloucester-Hartpury, who ended on 60 points and in fourth place.

The fixtures look like this:

7 April

Semi-final 1, first leg

Wasps v Harlequins (Twyford Avenue Sports Ground, 1pm)

Semi-final 2, first leg

Gloucester-Hartpury v Harlequins (4.15pm)

14 April

Semi-final 1, second leg

Harlequins v Wasps (The Stoop, 3pm)

15 April

Semi-final 2, second leg

Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury (Allianz Park, 6pm)

Grand Final

29 April, Ealing Trailfinders RFC, 3pm

Cricket

Tri-Series Final

A quick review of the final between Australia and England, which took place on 31 March

Australia 209/4 (20 overs)

England 152/9 (20 overs)

Australia won by 57 runs

In the end England were well beaten by Australia.  Although England had beaten the Southern Stars at the round-robin stage, their last game against India was poor and they went into the final having lost some form.  Australia, on the other hand, had improved throughout the tournament.

Stand-in captain Dani Hazell won the toss and elected to field first.  She must have rued that decision as Australia piled on 209 runs, including 32 fours, the most in a T20 international innings (men or women).

Meg Lanning scored 88 not out from 45 balls – an innings that included 16 fours and one six.  She was ably supported by Elyse Villani who scored 51 from 30.

In response, England lost Bryony Smith and Tammy Beaumont early on for ducks, and while Dani Wyatt tried to hold it together, she couldn’t replicate her earlier form and was dismissed for 34.  Nat Sciver contributed 50 from 42 and Amy Jones 30 from 28, but the chase was too stiff and they fell well short, leaving Australia worthy winners.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of media coverage in the UK of the tournament.  England coach Mark Robinson said,

“I’m led to believe there are a lot of people back home that are disappointed,” Robinson told BBC Sport.

“It might be a wake-up call to broadcasters that there is a demand.

“That’s a healthy thing that we should make the most of.

“It is disappointing.   Danni Wyatt’s innings deserved to be seen by a global audience.

“But to be at a stage where people are demanding to know why it isn’t on TV is a good thing.

“I’d rather look at the positive side of it. How exciting is it that we’re at the stage where people are clamouring to watch the tour, complaining and making a stink that they can’t?”

The tournament was shown live in both India and Australia.  I can’t add much to that, can I, except to agree wholeheartedly.  Come on ECB, put your money where your mouth is.

England v India ODI series

First ODI 6 April

England 207 all out (49.3 overs)

India 208/9 (49.1 overs)

India won by 1 wicket with 5 balls remaining

England captain Heather Knight was still missing for England as she continues to recover from a hamstring strain.  Anya Shrubsole, herself returning from injury, captained the side, winning the toss and opting to bat first.

England made a fair start, making 71 before the first wicket was taken.  Wyatt was out for 27 and, as so often happens, the second wicket just three balls later as Jones went for a duck.  Beaumont was third to go for 37.  Although Fran Wilson scored 45, it was from78 balls and all was a bit slow.  As they tried to speed up they lost wickets and were eventually all out for a disappointing 207.  Star bowler for India was Poonam Yadav, who took 4/30 from her 10 overs.

England never really had enough runs to play with, although the chase was tighter than India would have wanted.  Although Raj went for a duck, Mandhana made 86, Kaur 21 and Sharma 24 to put them well in front.   There was a flurry of wickets towards the end of the innings, but Bisht (12) and Yadav (7) saw India home with five balls to spare.

Other fixture dates:

Second ODI 9 April

Third ODI 12 April

Both games to be played in Nagpur.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League

We are at the end of the regular season in the Women’s Hockey League with just the play-offs to come.

After 18 games, Surbiton finished top of the league with 34 points.  Holcombe were second with 31 and East Grinstead and Buckingham both finished on 29 with East Grinstead finishing third on goal difference.

Leicester finished bottom of the pile with 16 points and are relegated.  Slough finished second-from-bottom with 18.

It gets a bit complicated here, so here’s the official explanation of what happens next from the England Hockey website:

“A series of play-offs determines who is promoted, relegated, qualifies for Europe and crowned champions in the Investec Women’s Hockey League. 

Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and European Qualification
At the end of the regular season the team who finishes top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division will receive an automatic place in the EuroHockey Club Championships as England’s second ranked team. They can improve on this ranking, and compete to be crowned English Champions, in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Finals tournament. 

The team who wins the Investec Women’s Hockey League Final will be crowned Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and will be England’s first ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships for the subsequent season. In the event that the team finishing top of the league at the end of the regular season also wins the Final, the runners-up in the Final will be England’s second ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships.

What are the Investec Women’s Hockey League Play-Offs?
There are two types of play-off that determine which teams are promoted and relegated in the Investec Women’s Hockey League.

Investec Premier Division Play-Off
Here the winners of the three Conferences join the ninth-placed team from the Premier Division to battle it out in a round robin tournament for two spaces in the top tier, with the tenth-placed side having been automatically relegated.”

For all the details of who plays whom, where and when, check it out here.

And finally,

The Forbes list of the most powerful women in international sport 2018 has been published.  It comprises 25 names from nine sports.

Like all of these lists there are those we are going to say “who?” to and those we would add.  And sorry, but for me no-one ever gets in who deals in “gaming”.  I’m not quite sure how Caroline Wozniacki makes it at eight, while Serena Williams doesn’t get on at all.  Great to see Mithali Raj at 12 and Nadia Nadim at 20.  Here’s the list in full:

1) Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura (Secretary General, FIFA)

2) Lydia Nsekera (Council Member, FIFA & Member, IOC)

3) Florence Hardouin (Executive Committee, UEFA & Director General, French Football Federation)

4) Angela Dong (Vice President, Nike & General Manager, Nike Greater China)

5) Marina Granovskaia (Director, Chelsea FC)

6) Barbara Slater (Director, BBC Sport)

7) Moya Dodd (Executive Committee, Asian Football Federation & Member, FIFA Player Status)

8) Caroline Wozniacki (Tennis player)

9) Nita Ambani (Owner, Mumbai Indians)

10) Claire Williams (Deputy Team Principal & Commercial Director, Williams Formula 1)

11) Aoife Brodigan (Head of Games Marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Facebook)

12) Mithali Raj (Indian Women’s Cricket Captain)

13) Mary Davis (CEO, Special Olympics)

14) Rimla Akhtar (Council member, the FA & Chair, Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation)

15) Sophie Goldschmidt (CEO, World Surf League)

16) Japan’s Women’s Baseball League (!)

17) Beng Choo Low (Secretary General, World Baseball Softball Federation & Member, Olympic Council of Asia)

18) Blanca Uribe (Deputy Executive President, Toros de Tijuana

19) Po-chun (Sophiyah) Liu (Umpire)

20) Nadia Nadim (Footballer)

21) XinYi Hua (Sports Journalist, Xin Min Evening News)

22) Lieke Martens (Footballer)

23) Sung Hyun Park (Golfer)

24) Sasha Hostyn (Gamer)

25) Leticia Bufoni (Skateboarder)

Don’t think I’ve got much of a chance to get on this list, but it does give me something to aim for……