Welcome to this week’s column. After a surfeit of ranting last week, calmness reigns as I endeavour to present as much as I can without going on to 3k words! Stories this week come from rugby union, football, tennis, cycling, hockey, netball, cricket, rugby league plus a reminder about the Be a Game Changer awards.
Rugby Union – on the pitch
Tyrrell’s Premier 15s Final
Saracens are the inaugural Premier 15s Champions.
They beat Harlequins 20-24 in the final at Ealing Trailfinders RFC on Sunday.
It was a fitting final to a fine season; full-blooded with plenty of flowing rugby on offer.
Saracens took the lead after five minutes when Sam Martinez Gion went over for the first try. Quins hit back quickly with an Ellie Green penalty.
Saracens looked to have got a second on 10 minutes when Poppy Cleall crossed, but it was disallowed and the penalty given to Quins. Saracens were clearly on top, but couldn’t seem to make the most of their possession until Lotte Clapp went over under the posts to make it 12-3.
Quins tried to get back into it, but were disappointed when Garnet Mackinder went in for Saracens’ third just before half-time. They didn’t give up, however, and got their due reward as Holly Myers scored the try to get them back into the game and make it 8-17 at the break.
The momentum was with Quins and they took full advantage, Jess Breach scoring their second try nine minutes in.
There then followed a period when it looked to be anyone’s game. Hannah Botterman scored a try for Saracens and then Deborah McCormack did the same for Quins, taking the score to 24-20 with just two minutes left.
Quins thought their comeback could be completed when Poppy Cleall was sin-binned for killing the ball on the line. But Jess Breach could not quite get over and nothing Quins tried came off.
The game ended with a turnover by Player of the Match, Marlie Packer and Saracens had won it.
Rugby Union – off the pitch
England full-back and wing Danielle Waterman has announced her retirement from international rugby.
She won 82 caps for England in a career spanning 15 years and scored 47 tries.
“It has been an incredible journey and a true honour to be a Red Rose for the past 15 years,
“It’s been a huge privilege to have not only played alongside and against some of the best players in the world, but to have been part of the huge development and progression of women’s international rugby to date.
“Winning the World Cup in 2014 was definitely a dream come true and to beat New Zealand for the first time in 16 years and go world number one was amazing, and to do it with the support of the Lions crowd was amazing.”
Waterman will continue to play her club rugby with Wasps.
Tennis – on the court
Karolina Pliskova defeated Coco Vandeweghe 7-6 6-4. Vanderweghe had been very much in it in the first set, but at the beginning of the second she fell and injured her hand, necessitating a medical timeout.
In the end, Pliskova’s serve was the difference – she served 11 aces in the two sets.
Meanwhile, In Istanbul France’s Pauline Parmentier was triumphant, beating Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-4 3-6 6-3. Three out of four semi-finalists were unseeded and Parmientier saw off the last of them, Irina-Camelia Begu, seeded seven, in straight sets.
This week we’re on to Prague and Rabat, Morocco.
Unfortunately, it gets no better for Britain’s Heather Watson this season. She lost in the first round of the Prague Open to wildcard Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-1 6-3. Last week’s Stuttgart winner, Karoline Pliskova, has withdrawn from her home tournament, through injury.
We are now at the semi-final stage:
Zhang Shuai (6) v Petra Kvitova (2)
Mihaela Buzărnescu (7) v Camila Giorgi
We lost second, third and fourth seeds, Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Martić and Timea Babos in the first round.
The semi-final line-up:
Ajla Tomljanović v Aleksandra Krunić (7)
Elise Mertens (1) v Su-Wei Hsieh (8)
Tennis – off the court
Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Madrid Open which starts next week. She has said she does not yet feel ready for the clay season.
Don’t forget it’s the FA Cup final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium. Apparently over 40,000 tickets have already been sold.
It’s bound to be a close-fought thing with Arsenal and Chelsea well-matched. Neither side has had the ideal run up to the final with Arsenal beaten 3-0 by Birmingham City at the weekend and Chelsea totally outplayed by Wolfsburg on Sunday.
The match kicks off at 5.30pm and is live on BBC1 from 5.10pm.
Unfortunately it was all too predictable for the remaining English teams as both went out at the semi-final stage to their impressive opponents.
Lyon 1-0 Manchester City
(Lyon win 1-0 on aggregate)
Former City player and England star, Lucy Bronze, put paid to City’s hopes on Sunday with a stunning volley to take her new club through to the final.
In truth, City barely raised a chance throughout the tie (both legs) and went out with a whimper rather than a bang.
Lyon had several other chances, the best of which fell to Amandine Henry in the second-half, but her shot came off the post.
After the season started well, City only have the league title to go for and they currently lie second behind Chelsea.
Wolfsburg 2-0 Chelsea
(Wolfsburg win 5-1 on aggregate)
The damage was done in the first leg of this tie. Wolfsburg took it incredibly easy as they romped away to a 2-0 win.
Pernille Harder scored the first put the first away after making a good run into the box and Ewa Pajor headed the second to seal the win.
Although the British teams are getting closer, I’m afraid it still looks as if they are some way behind their continental European colleagues when it comes to European competition. There will, undoubtedly be further progress next season and there needs to be if the world’s best players are to be tempted to play in the FAWSL.
Saturday 28 April
Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 London Bees
Sunday 29 April
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Reading
Birmingham City 3-0 Arsenal (hat-trick for Ellen White)
Liverpool 1-1 Everton
Tottenham Hotspur 6-3 Durham
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Aston Villa
Sheffield FC 4-1 Oxford United
Watford 0-4 Millwall Lionesses
Wednesday 2 May
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Millwall Lionesses
Thursday 3 May
Bristol City 1-6 Manchester City
There’s a change at the top of WSL1 as Man City’s drubbing of Bristol City meant not only drawing level with Chelsea on points, but overtaking them on goal difference. They have 32 points from 14 games and a goal difference of28. Chelsea are second with a goal difference of 26 from 14 games and Reading are third with 28 points but having played two games more. We may just be saying at the end of the season that bagging that six at Bristol won City the WSL1 title. Yeovil are still bottom with just two points from 14, while Bristol City are second from bottom on 10.
In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles are still top on 38 points from 15 games. Millwall missed the chance to close the gap as they could only draw their game in hand against Spurs and are second on 33. Brighton & Hove Albion lie third with 31 from 14 games. Watford lie marooned at the bottom with just a solitary point from 13 games.
Investec Women’s Hockey Premier League Final
Surbiton completed their fifth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1 in the final on Saturday 28 April at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.
They scored in the first half through Sarah Page (8th minute field goal), Hollie Pearne-Webb (10th minute penalty corner) and Beckie Middleton (26th minute penalty corner), taking the match away from Holcombe.
In the second-half Holcombe battled back, scoring a goal through Heather McEwan (35th minute field goal), but it proved only to be a consolation as Surbiton took the title once more.
Slough retained their Premier League status after they draw 1-1 with Beeston, while Hampstead & Westminster beat Stourport 4-2.
Slough 1-1 Beeston
Beeston scored first through a Sophie Robinson field goal, but Slough kept on pressurising the Beeston goal until in the 23rd minute Mel Ball rounded the keeper to equalise.
It was a competitive second-half, with both sides having chances to win it. In the end the draw for Slough was enough.
Hampstead & Westminster 4-2 Stourport
Hampstead & Westminster not only needed a win, but they needed Slough to lose to be promoted. Whilst they fulfilled their part of the bargain, the Slough draw meant they were foiled in their attempt.
Stourport took the lead through a Lorna Mackenzie penalty corner, but Hampstead & Westminster equalised soon after with a Lauren Turner field goal. Just minutes later they were in front as Jessica Orrett fired home a penalty corner.
In the second-half both teams were still battling hard. A reverse strike from Sophie Thompson brought Stourport level, but the Londoners were not done. Louise Radford scored their third and Turner their fourth and her second to take the tie away from Stourport.
The Super League scores from the weekend were as follows:
Castleford 40-16 Bradford Bulls
Wigan Warriors 14-20 Leeds Rhinos
St Helens 40-14 Featherstone Rovers
So after three matches of the season, St Helens are top with the only 100% record. Castleford Tigers are second on four points. There are still three teams yet to get off the mark; Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights, although the latter two have only played two games.
It’s the Tour de Yorkshire this week and stage one was won by Dutch rider Kirsten Wild of the Wiggle High5 team.
Britain’s Dani Rowe lies fourth after she picked up four bonus seconds in intermediate sprints and fellow Briton Pfeiffer Georgi will be in the Queen of the Mountains jersey as she reached the only climb of stage one in first place.
Friday’s second stage starts in Barnsley and is 128km long.
It was round nine of the Netball Superleague last weekend. The results were:
Wasps 64-60 Manchester Thunder
UWS Sirens 44-58 Surrey Storm
Celtic Dragons 51-56 Team Northumbria
Severn Stars 43-58 Loughborough Lightning
Benecos Mavericks 57-41 Team Bath
So Wasps maintain their 100% record with 10 wins from 10 games. As I have said before the figures may be somewhat skewed as although it was round nine, Wasps have played 10 and some teams only seven! Benecos Mavericks have 21 points – that’s seven wins from nine games. Lightning are third on 18 – six wins from nine. Team Northumbria are off the bottom of the table, having registered their first win of the season in their ninth attempt when they beat the Celtic Dragons on Saturday. UWS Sirens are bottom with only one win, but they have only played seven games.
This weekend sees a kind of combined round 10 & 11 to cover the Bank Holiday in the UK. The fixtures are:
Friday 4 May
Team Bath v Celtic Dragons (7.30pm)
Saturday 5 May
UWS Sirens v Manchester Thunder (2pm)
Surrey Storm v Benecos Mavericks (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Team Northumbria (6pm)
Monday 7 May
Surrey Storm v Celtic Dragons (3pm)
Team Bath v Severn Stars (5pm) – Live on Sky Sports
Manchester Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (5pm)
Team Northumbria v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Two pieces of cricket news this week.
Firstly, Wales have signed New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter Rachel Priest for the 2018 county season. This is a major coup for Wales, who play in the second division in both the Women’s County One-Day Championship and the Women’s County T20.
It is hoped that Priest’s presence will inspire Wales in their push for promotion in both competitions.
Priest has played 86 ODIs for New Zealand with an average of 28.35. She also played in the Kia Super League in 2017 for tournament winners, Western Storm.
Secondly, Sarah Taylor has given an interview with the BBC on how she has coped with the anxiety that put her out of the game for some time a couple of years ago. It’s well worth a listen. Here’s the link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/43991569
Be a Game Changer
Don’t forget you still have time to vote in the Women’s Sport Trust #Be A Game Changer Awards. Check it out: https://www.womenssporttrust.com/bagc2018/
No ranting; just something to consider. This is a comment left at the end of the BBC website’s piece on the retirement of Danielle Waterman from international rugby:
“6. Posted by Bionic weather man
On 1 May 2018 11:15
I think it’s great what she has achieved but truth be known women’s rugby and women’s sport in general is a complete travesty. The tens of millions they waste on women’s sport could be better used else where [sic] to improve infrastructure etc.”
This is what we’re up against, Ladies and Gentlemen. I’ll leave it there.
No column next week, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views.