Women’s Sports Column 20-26 October 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through yet again with stories from rugby union, football, cricket, tennis, athletics, hockey, volleyball, golf, netball, boxing and taekwondo, plus the result of the Young Sportsperson of the Year award winner.   Also, from the seriousness of last week’s “And Finally” we come to the ridiculous of this week’s….

Let’s crack on.

Tennis – on the Court

Kremlin Cup

Jo Konta couldn’t quite make it to the final of the Kremlin Cup, succumbing to eventual winner and sixth seed Daria Kasatkina, 6-4 6-3.  In the other semi-final Ons Jabeur beat fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 3-6 6-3.

Daria Kasatkina won the final, 2-6 7-6 6-4.

Luxembourg Open

In the Luxembourg Open semi-finals, Belinda Bencic defeated ninth seed Dayana Yastremska 6-2 3-6 7-6 and top seed Julia Goerges beat Eugenie Bouchard 6-7  7-5 6-1.

Goerges went on to win the final 6-4 7-5.

WTA Finals

Of course all eyes are now on Singapore and the fierce competition at the end of season finals.

Red Group:
Angelique Kerber
Naomi Osaka
Sloane Stephens
Kiki Bertens

Matches so far:
Stephens beat Osaka 7-5 4-6 6-1
Bertens beat Kerber 1-6 6-3 6-4
Kerber beat Osaka 6-4 5-7 6-4
Stephens beat Bertens 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3

White Group
Caroline Wozniacki
Petra Kvitova
Elina Svitolina
Karolina Pliskova

Matches so far:
Svitolina beat Kvitova 6-3 6-3
Pliskova beat Wozniacki 6-2 6-4
Wozniacki beat Kvitova 7-5 3-6 6-2
Svitolina beat Pliskova 6-3 2-6 6-3
Pliskova beat Kvitova 6-3 6-4
Svitolina beat Wozniacki 5-7 7-5 6-3

More news of who eventually triumphed next week.

Tennis – off the Court

After her exit from the WTA Finals at the group stage, Caroline Wozniacki has revealed that she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in August.

She said,

“In the beginning, it was a shock.  It’s obviously not ideal for anybody, and I think when you’re a professional athlete, it’s also not even more ideal.

“I think I didn’t want to talk about it during the year because I don’t want to give anyone the edge or thinking that I’m not feeling well, but I have been feeling well.

“You learn how to just cope after matches. Some days you wake up and you can’t get out of bed and you just have to know that’s how it is, but other days you live and you’re fine. You don’t even feel like you have it.”

There is no cure, but the symptoms of pain and swelling in the joints can be relieved by medication and treatment.

We cannot know at this stage just how and how fast the condition will progress, but Wozniacki is determined to fight through as far as she is able.

Taekwondo

There were a series of excellent results for British women at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester over the weekend.

First, Lauren Williams won gold in the -68kg division, beating Matea Jelic of Croatia in the final 15-10.

Then Bianca Walkden took silver in the +67kg category, losing 6-4 to Olympic champion Zheng Shuyin of China in the final.

And finally, two-time Olympic champion, Jade Jones, won the -57kg title, beating Zhou Lijun of China 11-4 in the final.

Volleyball

Two weeks of Women’s Super League results to catch up on:

13 October
Tendring VC Ladies 3-0 Sheffield Hallam (25-16, 25-19, 25-15)
Polonia SideOut London 0-3 London Orcas (17-25, 10-25, 10-25)
Durham Palatinates 3-0 Bristol VC 1 (25-12, 25-4, 25-8)
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club 1 (25-22, 22-14, 25-9)

20 October
Sheffield Hallam 3-0 Bristol VC 1 (25-17, 25-14, 25-12)
Team BU Wessex 0-3 Durham Palatinates (25-15, 25-19, 25-11)
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-13, 26-24, 25-12)

Most teams have now played two games.  Durham are top with two wins from two with Malory Eagles second, also with two wins from two but with an inferior points quotient.  Three teams have no points, Polonia from two games and Birmingham and Wessex from only one.

Football

Last weekend’s Super League results:

Yeovil Town 1-2 Bristol City
Gaylor 33’
Graham 32’, 73’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-6 Manchester City
Stanway 21’ 64’ 68’, Weir 43’, Parris 87’, Emslie 91’

Birmingham City 0-0 Chelsea

West Ham 0-1 Liverpool
Sweetman-Kirk 7’

Reading 0-6 Arsenal
Miedema 3’ 49’ 85’, Nobbs 7’, Mead 47’, Van de Donk 76’

It’s as you were at the top with another big win for Arsenal.  Five wins from five for the Gunners and a massive +24 goal difference.  Manchester City are second with 14 from six games and Birmingham third with 13, also from six.  At the bottom, Yeovil are still without a point and Brighton sit just above them with one point from six games.

Championship results:

London Bees 3-2 Lewes
Beckett 11’ 44’, Gould 63’
Quayle 17’, Kempson 26’

Charlton Athletic 2-0 Sheffield United
Stobbs 42’, Clifford 72’

Durham 2-0 Crystal Palace
Roberts 57’, Watling 89’ OG

Leicester City 1-1 Aston Villa
Axten 43’ (Pen)
Hutton 20’

Tottenham Hotspur 8-0 Millwall Lionesses
Addison 21’ 83’, Dean 29’ 50’ 71’, Wiltshire 30’, Neville 37’, Baptiste 62’

Tottenham are top of the Championship with their stunning 8-0 win over the Lionesses.  They have 15 points from five games.  Manchester United are second with 13 from five.  At the bottom, Millwall have a single point from five games and Aston Villa are just above them on two from five.

World Cup Build-up

More friendlies have been announced this week.

Scotland will play USA in Paisley on 13 November.  It will be the US’s first game in Scotland.  The question is, can the US do it on a wet Tuesday in Paisley?

England, meanwhile, will face Austria in Vienna on Thursday 8 November and then Sweden at Rotherham’s New York stadium on Sunday 11 November.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

20 October
Surbiton 6-0 Bowdon

21 October
Holcombe 1-2 East Grinstead
Clifton Robinsons 1-1 Slough
Buckingham 1-2 Beeston
University of Birmingham 1-1 Canterbury

Surbiton march on.  Four wins from five and top of the table with 13 points.  Holcombe and East Grinstead lie second and third on 10 points.  Bowdon are bottom on two points.  Slough also have two points but are second from bottom on goal difference.

This weekend’s fixtures:

Saturday 27 October
Slough v Holcombe (12.30pm, Slough Hockey Club)
Bowdon v University of Birmingham (13.45pm, Bowdon Club)
East Grinstead v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, East Grinstead Hockey Club)
Beeston v Surbiton (4pm, Nottingham Hockey Club P1)
Canterbury v Buckingham (4pm, Polo Farm SC – P1)

Hockey – off the Pitch            

Women’s Hockey will finally have a new European league, launching in 2020.

The men’s league, which features the top 24 teams in Europe, has been in existence since 2007.

European Hockey is yet to finalise details, but it’s a great move and one that has been a long time coming.  We look to hockey to be a leader in sporting equality, so it is good to see that the women will, at last, get their chance.

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

The long-running dispute between Coleraine Rugby club and Ulster Rugby seems to be at an end.  The authorities have now fined the club £5,000 for the incident in which a female referee was verbally abused at the club last season.

Colleagues of the referee, thought to be Grainne Crabtree, staged a protest and refused to officiate at Coleraine’s home matches until a satisfactory result had been reached.  They have now ended this protest, but it still is not clear whether the official has received an apology from the club.

The club has refused to comment as to what reparations have been made.

In a statement, the club somewhat disingenuously said,

“Coleraine Rugby Club is pleased that there has been a resolution to the long-running dispute involving rugby’s Ulster Branch Referees Society and the club,” a spokesperson said.

“The club has accepted the decision of the Ulster Branch review into this matter.

“We are now looking forward to giving a warm welcome to all referees and teams visiting our club for matches this week and in the future.”

It is unlikely that we will ever know just what the “resolution” has been.

Rugby Union – on the Pitch

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

20 October 2018
Wasps Ladies 31-15 Richmond Women
Loughborough Lightning 59-3 DMP Sharks
Gloucester-Hartpury 67-3 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins 20-17 Saracens
Bristol Bears 75-13 Firwood Waterloo

It was a chastening weekend for both Worcester and Firwood Waterloo at the bottom, while at the top a shock defeat for Saracens sees a new leader.  Loughborough Lightning are now top with six wins from six and 29 points, including five bonus points.  Saracens are second with 25 and Harlequins third on 22.  At the bottom, there is no respite for Worcester who still have only two bonus points and Firwood Waterloo just above them on five.

This weekend’s fixtures:

27 October
Firwood Waterloo v Loughborough Lightning (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Bristol Bears (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
DMP Sharks v Wasps Ladies (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

28 October
Richmond Women v Harlequins (3.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury (3.45pm, Allianz Park)

Rugby Sevens

New Zealand powered their way to yet another win in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Glendale, Colorado.

They defeated USA 33-7 in the final.  There was a hat-trick of tries for Portia Woodman, and one each for Sarah Goss and Niall Williams.  Tyla Nathan-Wong kicked four conversions.  The US scored one try, through Nicole Heavirland which was converted by Alev Kelter.

Canada beat France 28-0 in the bronze final.

Australia took fifth, beating Ireland in the fifth place play-off 21-19 and England finished eighth, beaten in the seventh place play-off by Russia 17-14.

The next round is in Dubai on 29-30 November.

Boxing

Katie Taylor retained her IBF and WBA titles at the weekend with a unanimous points victory over Cindy Serrano in Boston.

Taylor has now won all 11 fights since turning professional in2016.

BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year

Kare Adenegan has been named 2018 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.

Adenegan has had a storming year, taking Hannah Cockcroft’s world record in the T34 100m.  She also took gold in the same event at the Para-athletics European games in Berlin, again beating Cockcroft in the process and also took silver in the T34 800m.

The original shortlist was whittled down to three, the other two being swimmer Freya Anderson and jockey James Bowen.

The shortlist and winner were chosen by a panel including BBC presenters, current and former sporting stars and two representatives from the Youth Sport Trust.

Athletics

Great South Run

Eilish McColgan won the Great South Run at her first attempt last weekend.

The race, run over 10 miles (16 km) was held in Portsmouth and Southsea.

McColgan won in a time of 54:43 with Steph Twell in second in 55:15 and last year’s champion Gemma Steel in third in a time of 56:56.

Netball

England Netball Investment

We all know that the seemingly best-supported women’s sport actually usually hangs precariously over a precipice, so news of any investment is welcome.

In January England Netball revealed it had a shortfall in funding which could have resulted in cuts to the England programme, but this week came the announcement that Vitality will extend its sponsorship of English netball for another three years.

Joanna Adams, Chief Executive of England Netball said,

“We want netball to be a career, and a career option for players and coaches. We want it to be a fully professional sport with a fully professional Superleague and we want to keep our young athletes in netball.

“As women’s football, cricket and rugby grow, we just can’t be left behind as a sport.”

“The Australian league is still the best in the world,” Adams added.

“But in the next three to four years we want to be as competitive as Australia, we want our top English stars playing in this league and we want to attract some of the top internationals too.

“We need more investment in Superleague so it is a similar environment to the national squad.”

So the immediate future for netball in England is bright.  I’m not sure about the England team being now known as the “Vitality Roses”, but needs must, I suppose.  Possibly marginally less bizarre than the Samsung Diamonds….

Fast 5 World Series

This weekend sees the third edition of the Fast 5 World Series.  It takes place at the Melbourne Arena in Melbourne, Australia on 27-28 October.

New Zealand won the first event in 2016 and England the second in 2017.  This will be the third and last time (for now) that the tournament will be held in Australia.

All teams will play six 24 minute games across the two-day series. Each team will feature on both days of competition, with finals held on Sunday.

The countries taking part are Australia, New Zealand, England, Malawi, Jamaica and South Africa.

The whole event is live on Sky Sports.

Cricket

Australia sealed a 3-0 win over Pakistan in their ODI series this week.  After skittling Pakistan for 95 in the first ODI, they pressed home their advantage to take the series easily.

Second ODI – Kuala Lumpur
20 October
Australia 273/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 123 all out (40.1 overs)
Australia won by 150 runs

Captain Meg Lanning hit 124 and put on a stand of 181 runs with Rachael Haynes, who scored 79 as the Southern Stars made a fine 273/7 in their 50 overs.

In response Nahida Khan made 66, but no-one else could muster a score as Pakistan were all out for 123.  Sophie Molineux took 4/14 off nine overs.  Ash Gardner and Megan Schutt took two wickets each.

Third ODI – Kuala Lumpur
22 October
Australia 324/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 235/7 (50 overs)
Australia won by 89 runs

Alyssa Healy fell three short of a century before she was bowled by Diana Baig.  Nicole Bolton was the only player to miss out, lbw for a duck to Sana Mir.  Everyone else got into double figures as the Australians put on an imposing 324/7.  Sana Mir took 3/53 from her 10 overs, and in doing so became number one ranked bowler in women’s ODIs.

Pakistan started well in response.  They had reached 49 before the first wicket fell, Muneeba Ali caught by Molineux off Gardner for 15.

Most of the Pakistanis got starts, but they soon fell behind the required rate.  Aliya Riaz top-scored with 51, but Pakistan fell short by 89 runs.  Gardner was again in the wickets, taking 3/44 off her 10 overs.

Golf – on the Course

Indian Open

Becky Morgan won her first professional tournament at the weekend, at the 119th time of asking.  She took the Indian Open title by two shots, finishing on -7.  Caroline Hedwall (Swe), Christine Wolf (Aut), Nicole Broch Larsen (Den) and Felicity Johnson (Eng) tied for second on -5.

In her 18-year professional career Morgan has had 22 top-10 finishes.

Golf – off the Course

The fourth oldest golf club in the world, the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society in Edinburgh, has voted to accept women members.  It has only taken them 257 years.

The club announced that 83.7% of members who voted were in favour of admitting women. The turnout was 67%.

We’re getting there, folks.

And Finally

The judging panel for World Rugby’s Women’s 15s Player of the Year has been announced.  And you couldn’t make it up.  Maggie Alphonsi (so far, so good), then it’s Fabien Galthié, George Gregan, Richie McCaw, Brian O’Driscoll, Agustín Pichot, John Smit and Clive Woodward.  Hmmm.  Call me cynical (and I’m not the only one), but how many of these esteemed names will have watched enough women’s rugby to reach an informed decision on this issue?  Well, probably one.

This is the governing body that not so long ago, last year in fact, produced its strategy for women and girls’ rugby, Accelerating the Global Development of Women in Rugby 2017-25.  Obviously the strategy doesn’t extend to participation on judging panels.

Of course I’m not saying that men don’t watch women’s rugby, but these seven?  I don’t think so.  Could they not at least have a fifty-fifty male/female split?  Obviously not.  But good luck to the poor souls that have to provide the panel with its crib notes so that they can come to a Verdict.

Come on World Rugby, you can do better. Can’t you?

More news and views next week.

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Women’s Sports Column 13-19 October 2018

social mediaWelcome to this week’s column.  The motorsport issue is still causing fierce debate, but there’s so much more to offer this week with stories from winter sports, hockey, rugby league and union, netball, football, gymnastics, athletics, golf, tennis and cricket!  Unfortunately, also two disturbing and despicable “and finally” items this week.

So let’s crack on….

Winter Sports

The biggest story this week, as regards British athletes, has to be that Lizzy Yarnold, two time Olympic gold medallist, has announced her retirement from the skeleton.

She is Britain’s most decorated Winter Olympian, having defended the title she won in 2014 at Pyeongchang in 2018.  She also won World Championship gold in 2015 and bronze in 2012 and 2017, World Cup gold in 2013-14 and silver in 2014-15 and European Championship gold in 2015.

It is no secret that the skeleton has taken its toll on her body, with her back and knees taking the brunt of this punishing sport.  She also suffers from vestibular disorder which affects her inner ear and brain, causing dizziness.

Yarnold’s decision may have been hastened by former teammate Amy Williams’ revelation that her skeleton career has caused her so much back and knee pain that she has had to sell her house and move into a bungalow.

Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that Yarnold is a brilliant role-model for would-be winter sports athletes and I’m sure she’ll stay involved in sport, perhaps working with youngsters and their motivation and I would like to offer my congratulations to her on a stunning career.

Rugby League – Super League Grand Final

Leeds Rhinos 16-18 Wigan Warriors

Wigan defeated Leeds Rhinos in the Grand final on Saturday with a penalty in the last minute.

Leeds took the lead through Rhiannon Marshall, but Wigan were ahead at the break 8-6.  Rachel Thompson scored a hat-trick of tries and Georgia Wilson one try as Wigan pulled 10 points ahead.

But Leeds were not done.  They drew level to 16 points all with tries from Caitlin Beevers and Suze Hill with two goals from Courtney Hill.

With one minute to go, Wigan were awarded a penalty and Charlotte Foley calmly slotted it home to take the two points and the game.

Leeds have still had a great season, winning the League Leaders’ Shield and the Challenge Cup.

Tennis – on the court

Kremlin Cup

Jo Konta is through to the semi-finals of the Kremlin Cup.  She had a fine win in the first round of the beating seventh seed Elise Mertens 6-3 7-5.  In the round of 16 she defeated Daria Gavrilova in three sets 6-4 3-6 6-3 and in the quarter-final she overcame Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2 2-6 7-6.

She faces sixth seed Daria Kasatkina in the semi-final.  The first semi is between Ons Jabeur and fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Luxembourg Open

We are also at the semi-final stage of the Luxembourg Open where top seed Julia Goerges meets Eugenie Bouchard and Belinda Bencic comes up against ninth seed Dayana Yastremska.

Tennis – off the court

Britain’s Katie Boulter is into the top 100 of the WTA world rankings for the first time.

Last week she lost at the quarter-final stage of the Tianjin Open to world number six Karolina Pliskova.

Now the 22-year old from Leicester is ranked 96 in the world.

Race to Singapore

She was due to be number one seed at the WTA Finals which begin on 21 October, but Simona Halep has had to withdraw due to her ongoing back injury.  Kiki Bertens, who finished ninth in qualifying, takes her place.  The full line-up is as follows:

(1. Simona Halep)

Angelique Kerber
Caroline Wozniacki
Naomi Osaka
Petra Kvitova
Sloane Stephens
Elina Svitolina
Karolina Pliskova
Kiki Bertens

Gymnastics

After the hideousness of the Larry Nassar scandal, it is up to USA Gymnastics to get its house in order, and quickly.  Unfortunately, it seems they have failed spectacularly this week.

It had appointed Mary Bono as interim head, but after objections by Olympic champions Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, Bono has resigned after just four days in post.

First Biles criticised Bono for appearing to oppose Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advertising campaign.

Bono has responded that she did not oppose the campaign because of Kaepernick’s stance over racial injustice, but because of the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.  She said she was responding as someone who has lost family serving in the armed forces – the ultimate sacrifice.

But it Raisman has also raised the issue that Bono was a solicitor at the law firm that represented Larry Nassar in 2015.  Bono did not represent him directly, but the firm and the sport’s administrators were aware of abuse allegations at the time.

Nassar was sentenced to 300 years in prison for child pornography and sexual abuse charges.  He abused both Biles and Raisman while coaching for USA Gymnastics.

Time for USA Gymnastics to think again.

Football

World Cup Qualifying

Three more countries qualified for next year’s World Cup this week.  The USA and Canada qualified from the CONCACAF Women’s Championship as finalists.  USA beat Canada 2-0 in the final with goals from Rose Lavelle in the second minute and Alex Morgan in the 89th.

There was an historic result in the third-place play-off as Jamaica defeated Panama 4-2 to qualify for their first World Cup finals.  The match ended 2-2 in normal time and the deadlock still could not be broken in extra-time.  So it went to penalties.  Jamaica coach, Hue Menzies, took off the first-choice goalkeeper in the last minute of extra time to bring on Nicole Mcclure, a renowned shot-stopper, a manoeuvre that paid off as Mcclure saved two penalties while the Jamaicans scored all their four.

Panama still have a chance to qualify, but they have to beat Argentina, who finished third in the Copa America Femenina.  First leg is Monday 5 November and the second is just over a week later on Tuesday 13.  Brazil and Chile have qualified for next year’s finals after finishing top and second respectively.

Champions League

Chelsea 1-0 Fiorentina

Chelsea may rue their missed chances when it comes to the second leg in Florence in two weeks.  Emma Hayes had made seven changes to the team that were demolished 5-0 by Arsenal at the weekend.

Chelsea played well and were most often on the front foot, with chances for Fran Kirby, Ramona Bachmann (who ran and ran all night) and Millie Bright.

The only goal of the game came from Karen Carney from the penalty spot on eight minutes.

Fiorentina seemed happy to sit back and try to hit Chelsea on the break, but in truth it would have been most unjust if they had scored an equaliser.

Some fine goalkeeping from Fiorentina’s Stephanie Öhrström kept the score down and Fiorentina will go into the second leg confident of overturning the 1-0 deficit.

Barcelona 5-0 Glasgow City

Glasgow contributed to their own downfall with a series of mistakes and now the tie seems to be over.

Barcelona were three-up at half-time with goals from Kheira Hamraoui, Aitana Bonmati and Patricia Guijarro.  After the break the onslaught continued and two more goals from Andressa Alves and Maria Leon ensured a thumping first leg win for the Spanish team.

Other Champions League scores:

Wolfsburg 4-0 Atletico Madrid
Zurich 0-2 Bayern Munich
Ajax 0-4 Lyon (a goal for Izzy Christiansen for Lyon in this match)
FC Rosengard 2-3 Slavia Praha
Linkoping 0-2 Paris St Germain
Lillestrom SK 1-1 Brondby

The Round of 16 second leg matches are 31 October and 1 November.

Football – English Domestic

Arsenal are on Fire, as the current idiom would have it.  They put five past Chelsea at the weekend away from home to stay top of the table, but they need to watch out as Manchester City also seems to be hitting their straps at last.

Super League Results from Sunday 14 October:

Bristol City 0-1 Birmingham City
Mannion 75’

Everton 3-3 Brighton & Hove Albion
Kaagman 27’, George 46’, Kelly 70’
Buet 2’, Brazil 75’ 78’

Liverpool 2-1 Yeovil Town
Linnett 18’, Clarke 87’
Heatherson 28’

Manchester City 7-1 West Ham United
Weir 2’, Parris 7’ 17’, Stanway 72’ 80’, Houghton 76’, Wullaert 86’
De Graaf 82’

Chelsea 0-5 Arsenal
Little 21’ (pen), Miedema 38’ 57’, Nobbs 52’ 67’

On the negative side for Arsenal, Scotland striker Kim Little fractured her leg in the match and will be out for approximately 10 weeks.  According to social media it was a bad tackle by Drew Spence that took her out and she should have been red carded, although she was only booked.

Arsenal are top from Birmingham City on goal difference.  Both teams have 12 points, the Gunners from four games and the Blues from five.  Manchester City are a point behind in third.  At the bottom, Yeovil are still without a point and Brighton are above them with just one.

Championship results from 14 October:

Millwall Lionesses 1-2 Leicester City
Lumsden 20’
Axten 61’ 77’

Crystal Palace 1-0 London Bees
Hincks 21’

Aston Villa 0-0 Durham

Lewes 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Kempson 14’
Baptiste 16’, Dean 32’ 45’

Manchester United 3-0 Charlton Athletic
Zelem 16’, Sigsworth 57’, Arnott 75’

Who can stop Manchester United from running away with it?  They are top with 13 points from five games.  Spurs are second a point behind, but from four games, and Leicester are third with nine from five.  At the bottom, Villa and Millwall have a point each but Villa have a terrible goal difference (-17).

Athletics

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  The introduction of the IAAF’s new testosterone rules has had to be delayed due to a legal challenge from Athletics South African (ASA) and 800m runner Caster Semenya.

The new ruling was due to come in on 1 November, but that has now been put back to 26 March 2019.

However, the ruling states that female athletes have to keep their testosterone levels below the prescribed amount for at least six months before competing.

This means that the athletes affected (primarily Semenya), will not be allowed to run for six months from the date the rule comes in.  If the March date happens, six months from then will be 26 September, just one day before the start of the World Athletics Championships in Doha.

More to come as it happens.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey league Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

Holcombe 2-1 Canterbury
Beeston 4-3 Clifton Robinsons
Surbiton 1-0 University of Birmingham
Slough 0-3 East Grinstead
Buckingham 2-1 Bowdon

So the Surbiton juggernaut rolls on.  They are top on 10 points from four games.  Second are Holcombe with the same points but an inferior goal difference.  Buckingham lie third on eight points.  At the bottom Slough lost again and still have only one point.  Canterbury and Bowdon are just above them with two.

This weekend’s fixtures:

20 October:
Surbiton v Bowdon (12 noon, Surbiton Hockey Club)
University of Birmingham v Canterbury (4pm, Birmingham Uni P1)

21 October
Buckingham v Beeston (12 noon, Stowe School P1)
Clifton Robinsons v Slough (1pm, Coombe Dingle, P1)
Holcombe v East Grinstead (2pm, Holcombe Hockey Club, P1)

Rugby Union

Premier 15s

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

DMP Sharks 15-7 Richmond
Saracens 21-5 Wasps
Loughborough Lightning 36-18 Bristol Bears
Worcester Valkyries 19-69 Harlequins
Firwood Waterloo 10-43 Gloucester-Hartpury

After five games Saracens are top with 24 points.  Loughborough are second with the same number of points but an inferior goal difference.  Harlequins are third on 18.  At the bottom, Worcester have only two points having lost all of their games so far.  Firwood Waterloo lie above them on five.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

20 October
Wasps v Richmond (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Firwood Waterloo (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Harlequins v Saracens (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Worcester Valkyries (4.30pm)
Loughborough Lightning v DMP Sharks (5pm, Loughborough University)

Young Sports Personality of the Year

The shortlist for Young Sports Personality of the Year has been announced.  There are six girls and women in the list of 10:

Kare Adenegan (17) (Para-athletics)
Freya Anderson (17) (Swimming)
Georgia-Mae Fenton (17) (Gymnastics)
Anna Hursey (12) (Table tennis)
Georgia Roche (17) (Rugby League)
Maisie Summers-Newton (16) (Para-Swimming)

Check out the credentials of the contenders here

Netball

A full house at the Copper Box saw Wasps Netball win the second Fast5 Allstars tournament at the weekend.  They beat the benecosMavericks 42-32 in the final.

The series of results were as follows:

Double elimination stage

Loughborough Lightning 19-21 Surrey Storm
Strathclyde Sirens 4-15 Severn Stars
Team Bath 23-18 Manchester Thunder
benecosMavericks 31-41 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 12-28 Severn Stars
Team Bath 23-37 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 32-28 Strathclyde Sirens
Manchester Thunder 22-32 bencosMavericks
Surrey Storm 15-6 Loughborough Lightning
Team Bath 21-47 benecosMavericks

Semi-Finals
Wasps Netball 45-36 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 8-38 benecosMavericks

The Final
Wasps Netball 42-32 benecosMavericks

There are a number of “warm-up” tournaments before the Vitality Netball Superleague begins in January.  Check out your favourite team’s website to see who they’re playing.

Sunshine Series

Meanwhile England Roses have suffered a disappointing series defeat against Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls in Kingston.  England were without some of their star names, but with the World Cup next year, Tracy Neville will be concerned that none of the three matches was particularly close.

First Test
Jamaica 55-43 England

Second Test
Jamaica 58-39 England

Third Test
Jamaica 58-43 England

Cricket

It was an easy a start to a series as Australia could wish for as they demolished Pakistan in a rain-affected first ODI in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Pakistan 95 all out (37.2 overs)
Australia 95/5 chasing revised target of 92 (22.2 overs)
Australia won by five wickets with 112 balls remaining

The rain hit when Pakistan were 76/6 and reduced the game to 41 overs per side, but Pakistan were in deep trouble already by then.  Sana Mir made 21 not out and captain Javeria Khan also made 21, but Megan Schutt took 3/17 from 7.2 overs and Nicola Carey 3/19 off 7 as the home side slumped to 95 all out.

Australia’s target was revised to 92 via the D/L method.  They started well with an opening stand of 40 before Alyssa Healy was out for 26 in the seventh over.  Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry went cheaply (four and one respectively), both wickets falling to Sana Mir, who eventually took 3/26 in seven overs.  After Nicole Bolton was out for 22 it was up to Rachael Haynes and Beth Mooney to see it home.  Haynes was out with just one needed, but Ash Gardner came in to back up Mooney and take the win.

The only real positive for Pakistan is that they took five Australian wickets.

Reports from the rest of the series next week.

Golf

Laura Davies has won the Senior LPGA in Indiana.  She finished four ahead of the field on -8.  Helen Alfredsson of Sweden and Silvia Cavalleri of the US were tied for second on -4.  Of the other British players, Trish Johnson finished on +3 and Catriona Matthew +4.

This is Davies’ second senior major win of the year, after winning the US Senior Women’s Open in July.

And Finally,

I have neither the space nor time do justice to the subjects of this week’s “And Finally”.

This week Chelsea winger Karen Carney received abuse, rape and death threats on Instagram after Chelsea’s win over Fiorentina on Wednesday.

You will know how much I tend to “go on” about the abuse women receive on social media and on “Have Your Say” sections of websites, but there has been talk that the abuse of Carney is of “another level”.  Is it?  Is it not part of the same systematic degradation of women in sport (and in other areas of public life) that goes on every day?  It’s despicable and unacceptable and sends chills right through me, but I would say, seeing the stuff that gets through the comments pages, I would imagine it is probably on a level with those comments that are “moderated and removed because they have broken house rules.”

No-one should have to contend with this, be they woman or man – no-one should be threatened for doing their job, be that on the pitch, as a journalist, an administrator or an activist.

What is on “another level”, however, is the news from Mexico that a woman who spent her life working to promote women’s football, Marbella Ibarra, has been murdered.  It is not known whether her links to football made her a target, but it has certainly brought home to me yet again that while words are upsetting and unacceptable, women all over the world are being killed or suffer violence for their thoughts, actions and stances.

Read the full story of the death of Marbella Ibarra here

I in no way mean to belittle what Carney and many, many other women have gone through – goodness knows I try to highlight it and call it out as much as I can.  I also realise that violent words can often escalate into violent behaviour, so we should always investigate this kind of abuse and find out the motivation behind it.  But I also realise that social media is not the be-all and end-all of life.  Some people are living through real-life horror stories every day.  And some may not survive it.

More news and views next week.   

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 October 2018

boxing_gloves-2Welcome to this week’s column. Hopefully a bit shorter (and sweeter) this week.  Lots of positive news around, which we all like to see. Stories this week come from boxing, football, rugby union, rugby league, tennis, netball, hockey, cricket, winter sports and motor racing.

So let’s crack on.

Boxing

Nicola Adams’ next bout could be a shot at the WBO world flyweight title.  On Saturday she beat Isabel Millan of Mexico on points (unanimous) at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.

She is now five from five since turning professional in 2017.

It was a test for Adams – the first time she had been taken beyond four rounds.  Two judges scored it 97-93 and one 96-94.

Her promoter, Frank Warren, is keen to see Adams get a shot at the title.  It could be as soon as December and he is eyeing up the undercard of the Josh Warrington v Carl Frampton fight, which takes place at the Manchester Arena on the 22nd.

The current champion is Arely Mucino of Mexico, who has been professional since 2008.  She has won 16 of her 20 bouts, nine within the distance.

Tennis

China Open

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki took the China Open title with a straight sets win over Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-3.

Wozniacki beat home favourite Wang Qiang 6-1 6-3 in the semi-final, while Sevastova defeated US Open champion Naomi Osaka 6-4 6-4.

The doubles final was an altogether closer affair, eventually won in three sets by second seeds Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova 4-6 6-4 10-8 over third seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski.

This week sees tournaments in both Hong Kong and Tianjin.

Hong Kong Open

Naomi Osaka withdrew before the tournament started with a back injury.

Third seed Jelena Ostapenko suffered a shock exit in the round of 32, 5-7 3-6 2-6 to the unseeded Kristina Kucova of Slovakia.

At time of publication we are at the quarter-final stage; two have been completed and two are yet to take place:

Zhang Shuai beat Daria Gavrilova (7) 6-1 6-3
Dayana Yastremka beat Kristina Kucova 7-6 6-2
Garbine Muguruza (4) v Luksika Kumkhum
Elina Svitolina (1) v Wang Qiang (6)

Tianjin Open

Meanwhile in Tianjin Britain’s Katie Boulter has had a storming week.  She reached the quarter-finals of the Tinajin Open, eventually falling to world number six, Karolina Pliskova 5-7 6-0 6-3.

After taking the tight first set, Pliskova asserted her authority in the second, taking it 6-0.  But Boulter rallied in the third and was 2-0 up before Pliskova re-asserted herself and took the set and the match.

Quarter-finals:

Caroline Garcia (2) beat Petra Martic (6) 6-2 1-0 (Martic retired with an injury)
Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Timea Bacsinsczky 7-6 7-6
Karlina Pliskova (1) beat Katie Boulter 5-7 6-0 6-3

Pliskova meets Bacsinsczky in the semi-final

Still to play:

Hsieh Su-wei (5) v Elise Mertens (3)

Tennis – off the Court

British number one Jo Konta has split with her coach Michael Joyce after less than a year.  She has struggled this year, particularly in the Grand Slams and has slipped to 45 in the world.

There is clearly something wrong in Konta’s world and it is not my job to speculate in this column.  Her rise over the last couple of seasons has been wonderful to watch and I really hope that she finds a coach who will restore the self-confidence she really should have, but shows so little.

More news as it happens.

Football

The shortlist for the first Women’s Ballon d’Or award has been announced.  There are two English players, Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby, on the list.

It’s a lot more representative of the current state of things than the Best Fifa Awards that took place last month.

Shortlist:
Lucy Bronze (Lyon and England)
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg and Denmark)
Ada Hegerberg (Lyon and Norway)
Amandine Henry (Lyon and France)
Lindsey Horan (Portland and USA)
Sam Kerr (Chicago and Australia)
Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England)
Saki Kumagai (Lyon and Japan)
Dzenifer Marozsan (Lyon and Germany)
Amel Majri (Lyon and France)
Marta (Orlando and Brazil)
Lieke Martens (Barcelona and Netherlands)
Megan Rapinoe (Seattle and USA)
Wendie Renard (Lyon and France)
Christine Sinclair (Portland and Canada)

Lionesses

There were two somewhat contrasting friendlies for the Lionesses this week.  The first, a dull affair played in rotten conditions against Brazil and the second, a much tighter effort enlivened by some incomprehensible refereeing decisions.

England 1-0

Brazil were clearly uncomfortable in the driving rain and wind at Meadow Lane.  England used it to their advantage and scored after just two minutes, an exquisitely placed header from Fran Kirby.

Nikita Parris caused mayhem down the wing, but was, perhaps, guilty of shooting selfishly on occasion when a cross or pass would have done a better job.

Marta went off with an injury in the first-half which didn’t help their cause.

England had several chances to increase their lead, but were profligate in front of goal.  But their attacking style was pleasing to the eye (23 shots, 8 on target), even if the quality of the end product was frustrating.

Brazil had a ten-minute period towards the end of the second-half when they seemed to finally come alive, but it would have been most unjust if they had scored the equaliser.

In the end England held out and were on the front foot at the final whistle.  It was a good performance under the circumstances, even though the opposition were disappointing.

England 1-1 Australia

The Matildas, by contrast, were up for the fight from the off.  And although the Lionesses were not made to pay for their carelessness in front of goal by Brazil, the Australians were not so forgiving,

Fran Kirby was on target again as England took the lead midway through the first-half.  Lucy Staniforth had a goal disallowed as she was (wrongly) adjudged offside.

But it was the two penalties turned down by the referee that had both Head Coach Phil Neville and the rest us scratching our heads.

Both Beth Mead and Nikita Parris were clearly brought down in the box with neither penalty being given.

Even so, England had plenty of chances to score again, particularly through Mead, but the Matildas kept on with a tenacity that we didn’t see from Brazil and were impressive on the break.

Six minutes from the end, Australia equalised as Clare Polkinghorne headed in from a corner.

World Cup Play-offs

The last European place for next year’s World Cup in France will go to either European Champions Netherlands or Switzerland.

First leg – 5 October:

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
Beerensteyn 21’, Van de Sanden 42’

Belgium 2-2 Switzerland
Cayman 5’, De Neve 60’
Lehmann 55’, 87’

Second leg – 9 October

Denmark 1-2 Netherlands
Nadim 5’ (Pen)
Beerensteyn 7’ 90+2’

Switzerland 1-1 Belgium
Reuteler 23’
De Caigny 77’

So, Netherlands win 4-1 on aggregate and although the other tie finished 3-3, Switzerland go through on away goals.

The final is also a two-legged affair.  The first leg is on 5 November and the second on 13 November.  Netherlands are at home in the first leg.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Breaking news is that Doncaster Rovers Belles are in talks with Club Doncaster about a possible takeover.

Club Doncaster runs Doncaster Rovers men’s side, the rugby league side and several projects in the community.

Belles Chair, Faye Lygo told the BBC,

“We believe matters are moving forward positively,” Lygo told BBC Sport.

“We have had to take measures to stabilise the club at a time of change in the women’s game and believe the future of the Belles lies in Doncaster, with the Rovers.”

Let’s hope that the discussions go well as a fully integrated club will hopefully ensure the Belles’ survival and progress.

Rugby League

Woman of Steel

Georgia Roche of Castleford is the Rugby Football League’s first ever Woman of Steel.

Roche, who is just 17, is part of the Castleford team that got to the Challenge Cup final this year and the Super League play-off semi-finals.

Talking of which….

Super League Play-offs

Leeds 24-10 Castleford Tigers

The first-half was a tight affair with Castleford going in 6-0 up at the break.  But Rhiannon Marshall, player of the match, had other ideas.  She went in for a try and set up two more for Chloe Kerrigan and Frankie Townend.  Charlotte Booth scored a fourth.  Suze Hill added another and Castleford could only come back with a consolation try from Kelsey Gentles.  Courtney Hill hit a penalty to round off the scoring and see Leeds safely through.

Wigan Warriors 10-6 St Helens

Wigan led 10-2 at half-time.  St Helens took the lead through a Faye Gaskin penalty, but Wigan hit back through tries from Alison Burrows and Rachel Thompson with Michelle Davis converting the latter.

The second-half was intense as both sides tried to make the decisive breakthrough.  In the end, the only score was a try from Saints’ Katie-May Williams with just four minutes to go.  It made for an exciting end, but Wigan managed to hold out to get through to the final.

So it will be Leeds v Wigan in the Super League Grand Final which takes place this Saturday, 13 October at the Manchester Regional Arena.  1pm kick-off.  Admission is £5 with under-16s getting in for free.

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

Liza Burgess

Liza Burgess has become the 142nd member (and first Welsh woman) to be inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame.

She won 93 caps for Wales and Great Britain, captaining Wales 62 times.  She also played in four World Cups and

Domestically, she started at Loughborough University and Wasps and then co-founded Saracens in 1989, spending ten years at the club.

She ended her playing career at Clifton (now Bristol) and played her last game for Wales in the 2007 Six Nations against England at the age of 42.

Since her on-field retirement, she has coached extensively both domestically and with the Welsh national side and was Giselle Mather’s assistant coach of the inaugural Women’s Barbarians team in 2017.

Rugby Union – On the Pitch

The Premier 15s are back in action this weekend:

13 October
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Harlequins (2pm, Sixways Stadiium)
Loughborough v Bristol Bears (3pm, Loughborough University)
Saracens v Wasps (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Richmond (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 6 October were as follows:

Clifton Robinsons 1-3 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 2-2 Buckingham
Bowdon 1-1 Beeston
East Grinstead 1-1 Surbiton
Canterbury 1-1 Slough

Surbiton dropped their first points of the season in their draw with East Grinstead.  Holcombe were the beneficiaries as they beat Clifton Robinsons to go level with Surbiton at the top of the table.  Both lie on seven points, with Surbiton top on goal difference.  University of Birmingham are third on five points.  At the bottom Slough gained their first point of the season, but are still at the foot of the table, with Bowdon second from bottom on two points.

This weekend’s fixtures:

13 October
Buckingham v Bowdon (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Slough v East Grinstead (12.30pm, Slough HC)
Surbiton v University of Birmingham (1pm, Surbiton HC)
Beeston v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
Holcombe v Canterbury (6pm. Holcombe HC, P1)

Netball

This Saturday sees the second Fast5 All-Stars tournament at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Loughborough Lightning are the defending champions.  The eight teams taking part are Lightning, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, Wasps Netball, Manchester Thunder, Strathclyde Sirens, Severn Stars and benecosMavericks.

It will be a fast and furious five-hour session.  All eight teams play in a double elimination format; two wins and a team goes through to the semi finals.  Two losses and you’re out.  Teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches will play a deciding match for a place in the semis.

Matches are 12 minutes long.  There is a five-point line and a two-minute Power Play where points count double.

It’s the netball equivalent of T20 (not commenting either way).  But it will be fun, so if you’re in the vicinity of the Copper Box on Saturday, check it out – the tournament starts at 1pm and goes on until 6pm.   It is also live on Sky.

The winning team takes away £25k, so it’s not to be sniffed at.

One player who will be there – and it’s probably worth going just to see her – is Sharni Layton.  Somehow I missed the startling fact that Layton, who retired from international netball earlier on this year, will be one of the “All Stars” playing for Surrey Storm.  Layton (and I don’t doubt it for a moment) has also indicated that she will play AFLW for Collingwood in the new season. Top of Form

Cricket

No cricket reports this week, but just to let you know that Australia will playing a three-match ODI series against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur in the coming weeks.  The dates are 18, 20 and 22 October and I will have news and reports on their completion.

Winter Sports

Lindsey Vonn has announced she will retire at the end of the upcoming season.

She currently has 82 World Cup victories and is still aiming to break Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86.

There is no doubt that the sport has taken a physical toll on her and it is mainly for this reason that she has decided that this season will be her last:

“Physically, I’ve gotten to the point where it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“I really would like to be active when I’m older, so I have to look to the future and not just be so focused on what’s in front of me.”

And Finally – motor racing W Series

Is it a chance to “show what women are really capable of” (Catherine Bond-Muir, Chief Executive of the new W Series) or is it “a sad day for motorsport” and an “historic step backwards (Pippa Mann, British IndyCar driver)?  Is it “an important means to an end – a stepping stone for female drivers” (Alice Powell, sportscar driver) or is it “founded on segregation” (Charlie Martin, racing driver)?

The news that there is to be a new women-only motor racing competition, the “W Series”, has certainly divided opinion.  It is backed by some big names, both male and female, including former F1 driver David Coulthard, former Williams test driver Susie Wolff and Red Bull chief designer Adrian Newey.

It’s a tricky one and I can see both sides.  What we want to avoid is creating yet another opportunity for men to cry “inferior sport” when actually, the premise is that motor racing is a sport in which men and women can compete alongside each other.

There will be up to 20 drivers competing for a prize fund of $1.5m.  There will be six races around Europe, including one in the UK.   The cars will be identical and will be run by the W Series.

Competitors will be chosen by assessment of their capabilities.

So why do we need a women-only competition?  Newey states that brute strength is not a factor in the success of racing drivers and so, he says,

“That being the case, I believe the reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men is a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability.”

And surely that’s the issue.  It was the issue when all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats were introduced, and it’s the issue now.  I was a long-time opponent of so-called “positive discrimination” and of all-women shortlists.  But I came to see that they are a means to an end.  We want women in all areas of life to have equality of opportunity.  But it doesn’t happen.

It’s slightly different in motorsport as there is the karting route to come through.  But are women getting the opportunity in karting?   If, by the introduction of the W series, seeing women in motorsport becomes the norm, then hopefully the competition will do itself out of a job.  But until that happens, let’s give them the chance to compete and provide them with a different possible route into major motorsport and formula 1.

I’m against “ghettoising” women’s sport, but I’m all for extending opportunity, particularly in sports where, traditionally, the opportunities have been few.  Let me know what you think.

More news and views next week.      

Women’s Sports Column 29 September – 5 October 2018

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  After a slightly ranty piece last week, hopefully this week’s will be a bit calmer (but also longer!).  There’s another bit of “feedback” on women’s football in this week’s “And finally”, but I’m sure you’ll all be able to appreciate the irony when you read it – it certainly made me laugh!  Hey ho.   Stories this week come from tennis, football, netball, cricket, rugby union, athletics, motorcycling (yay!), hockey, rugby league and volleyball.

So plenty to get through.  Let’s crack on.

Tennis

Wuhan Open

After Wang Qiang had retired in the first semi-final against Anett Kontaveit (6-2 2-1), the second semi-final was won by Aryna Sabalenka.  She beat the last remaining seed, Ash Barty (16), 7-6 6-4.

The final saw a straight sets win for Sabalenka 6-3 6-3 over Kontaveit.

This week the WTA tour moves on to Beijing for the China Open.

China Open

Still no joy for Jo Konta as she departed the China Open in the first round, beaten by 10th seed Julia Goerges of Germany 6-2 4-6 6-3.

British number three Katie Boulter also fell in round one after coming through qualifying, losing to Kirsten Flipkens 4-6 6-2 7-5.

And to complete a miserable trio of results, British number two Heather Watson didn’t even make it to the main draw, losing in the final round of qualifying 6-0 6-3 to Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

Other top names to fall in the first round proper were Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina.  Simona Halep had to retire with a back injury.

 Three out of the four quarter-finals have been completed at the time of publishing:

Caroline Wozniacki (2) beat Katerina Siniakova 6-2 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 7-6
Naomi Osaka (8) beat Zhang Shuai 3-6 6-4 7-5

Still to play: Wang Qiang v Aryna Sabalenka

Sevastova will face Osaka in the first semi-final on Saturday 6 October

In the doubles the semi-final line-up is:

Lucie Hradecka/Ekaterina Makarova (7) v Gabriela Dabrowski/Xu Yifan (3)
Elise Merterns/Demi Schuurs (4)v Barbora Strycova/Andrea Sestini Hlavackova (2)

Both matches to be played Saturday 6 October.

Race to Singapore

We’re only two weeks away from the end of season WTA Finals in Singapore and, as it stands, only three places have definitely been bagged.  US Open champion Naomi Osaka has become the latest to qualify for her first WTA Finals.  There is also still some doubt as to Simona Halep’s fitness, after she pulled out of the China Open this week.

Top 20 singles players with their points as of 1 October:

Simona Halep (6911) (Q)
Angelique Kerber (5256) (Q)
Naomi Osaka (4351) (Q)
Petra Kvitova (4300)
Caroline Wozniacki (4087)
Elina Svitolina (3841)
Sloane Stephens (3824)
Karolina Pliskova (3601)
Kiki Bertens (3591)
Elise Mertens (3080)
Aryna Sabalenka (2990)
Serena Williams (2976)
Daria Kasatkina (2920)
Madison Keys (2752)
Julia Goerges (2715)
Garbine Muguruza (2606)
Ashleigh Barty (2475)
Anastasija Sevastova (2465)
Caroline Garcia (2360)
Jelena Ostapenko (2299)

Netball

The fixtures for the 2019 Netball Superleague are out.  Check out where your favourite team will be and when at https://www.netballsl.com/competition/fixtures/

The first weekend will be a “Super 10” event where all 10 teams will be in action, this time at the Arena Birmingham on Saturday 5 January 2019.

Tickets went on sale on Thursday 4 October.  It will sell out – so get your tickets as soon as possible.

Cricket

With Sri Lanka v India done and dusted and West Indies v South Africa drawing to a close, it’s now the turn of the Southern Stars and White Ferns to complete their T20 World Cup warm up series.

Second T20 – Tarouba
28 September
South Africa 101/8 (20 overs)
West Indies 102/1 (15.8 overs)
West Indies won by 9 wickets with 27 balls remaining

West Indies went 2-0 up in this five-match series with another good performance.  Offspinner Anisa Mohammed took only the ninth hat-trick in women’s T20 history as South Africa were restricted to just 101.  She finished with figures of 5/24 from her four overs.

Lizelle Lee went for a 12-ball duck, but fellow-opener Dane van Niekerk top-scored with 36 as South Africa tried to build a total.  Three other players made decent double figure scores, but Mohammed then took three wickets from the last three balls of the innings to keep the total down.

West Indies made short work of the chase, losing only one wicket (Hayley Matthews for 17), in the process.  Natasha McLean scored 42 and Stafanie Taylor 35 as West Indies won with more than four overs to spare.

Third T20
29 September

Abandoned without a ball being bowled

There are still two T20s to go, on 5 and 7 October.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the Southern Stars have just whitewashed New Zealand in a three-match T20 series played over a week.  They will then play them in a three-match ODI series starting in February 2019.

Australia were too strong all-round for New Zealand in this series.  All three matches followed the same format with New Zealand batting first, not making enough and Australia knocking them off.  By match three, New Zealand’s confidence was obviously knocked allowing Australia to press home their advantage to win easily.

First T20
New Zealand 162/5 (20 overs)
Australia 164/4 (17.4 overs)
Australia won by 6 wickets with 14 balls remaining

With Suzie Bates out for just three, bowled by Ellyse Perry, it was up Sophie Devine and Jess Watkin to take it on.  Watkin made 18 from 15 balls before she was stumped by Alyssa Healy.  Devine carried on, making 43 from 33 before she was caught by Beth Mooney off the bowling of Ash Gardner. New captain Amy Satterthwaite fell cheaply for just two, but Katey Martin top-scored with 56 not out from just 34 balls as the White Ferns set a competitive target.

Australia started badly, losing the top four for 45, but captain Meg Lanning and Rachael Haynes steadied the ship and then took on the chase.  Lanning scored 6 off 44 and Haynes 69 off 40 as New Zealand were unable to take any further wickets and Australia got home in the eighteenth over.

Second T20
New Zealand 145/8 (20 overs)
Australia 149/4 (18.5 overs)
Australia won by 6 wickets with 7 balls remaining

Suzie Bates led from the front with 77 from 52 balls, but there was precious little below her backing her up.  Amy Satterthwaite was the next best scorer with 27.  Megan Schutt was the star with the ball for Australia, taking 3/15 from her four overs.

In response, Mooney went for a three-ball duck, but Healy scored 57 and Elyse Villani 50 not out to get Australia on their way.  It was a closer affair, but the Southern Stars still managed to reach their target in the penultimate over.

Third T20
New Zealand 103 all out (18.6 overs)
Australia 105/1 (12.3 overs)
Australia won by 9 wickets with 45 balls remaining

The third game was the least competitive.  New Zealand were battered and bruised and barely put up a fight.

New Zealand seemed to be batting in slow motion.  The openers scored 11 each but took up 27 balls in the process.  The only batting of note came from Katey Martin who was 35 not out by the end.  Perry was fearsome, taking 4/21 from her four overs.   Sophie Molineux took 3/11 from four.

It was never enough and Australia set about the chase with gusto.  Healy pushed it from the off, scoring 67 from 44 balls and by the time she was out, caught Tahuhu, bowled Devine, the game was effectively done (98/1).  Beth Mooney ended with 29 not out and Ash Gardner 5 not out as Australia romped home with more than seven overs to spare.

Anyone betting against Australia for the World T20?  I’m certainly not.

England

The England squad for the T20 World Cup in November has been announced and contains three as yet uncapped players.

The squad in full: Heather Knight (capt), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Kirstie Gordon, Jenny Gunn, Dani Hazell, Amy Jones (wk), Nat Sciver, Linsey Smith, Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt.

Sarah Taylor is rested, as part of the management of her mental health and Amy Jones takes up the gloves.  Of course Taylor is a hard act to follow, but from what I saw of Jones in the summer, her keeping has really come on and she will be, excuse me, a safe pair of hands.

Two of the uncapped players are from Loughborough Lightning.  Linsey Smith and Kirstie Gordon are both left-arm spinners.  Although Gordon has played for Scotland the games did not have first-class status.

All-rounder Sophia Dunkley earned her place after a storming Kia Super League season with champions Surrey Stars.

Alex Hartley, Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh are among the big names to miss out.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

29 September
Bristol Bears 41-14 DMP Sharks
Gloucester-Hartpury 40-41 Loughborough Lightning (Lightning won with the last play of the game)
Wasps 29-10 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins 27-6 Firwood Waterloo
Richmond 12-30 Saracens

It’s four from four for Saracens with a full complement of bonus points.  They sit top of the table with 20 points.  Loughborough Lightning are second with 19 and Wasps third with 15.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries have two losing bonus points from four games and DMP Sharks are second bottom with five.

There are no Premier 15s fixtures this weekend.

Rugby League

The last round of league fixtures in the Super League took place last weekend.  This weekend sees the play-offs.

Friday 28 September
St Helens 24-14 Castleford Tigers

Sunday 30 September
York City Knights 6-50 Leeds Rhinos
Wigan Warriors 26-8 Bradford Bulls

Leeds Rhinos finished top in the regular season with 20 points from 12 games.  Wigan finished just one behind and St Helens were third with 17.

Play-offs

Sunday 7 October
Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers (1pm)
Wigan Warriors v St Helens (2pm)

The play-off winners will face each other in the Women’s Super League Grand Final at the Manchester Regional Arena on Saturday 13 October at 1pm.  The Women’s Championship Grand Final will be the curtain raiser to the main event and begins at 11am.  Tickets can be purchased on the gate; £5 for adults and free for under-16s.  So if you’re in the area on Saturday 13, get out there and show them some support.

Football

Sunday 30 September

FAWSL results:

Birmingham City 2-3 Manchester City
McManus ‘8 (OG – check it out if you haven’t seen it – also features in “And finally”), Sargeant 49’
Weir 54’, Parris 65’, Wullaert 73’

Chelsea 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Kirby 32’, Cuthbert 36’

Liverpool 0-1 Reading
Chaplen 36’

Bristol City p-p Everton

West Ham United 2-1 Yeovil Town
Kiernan 67’, Kmita 80
Mason 78’

Arsenal are still top, although they didn’t play last weekend.  They have nine points from three matches.  They are ahead on goal difference from Birmingham City, who have nine from four.  Manchester City lie third on eight points.  At the bottom, both Yeovil and Brighton are still to get off the mark.

FAWC results:

Manchester United 0-0 Durham

Charlton Athletic 4-1 Lewes
Clifford 9’, Gurr 60’, Agg 79’, Graham 85’
Bergin 77’ (Pen)

Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Balfour 8’ (Pen)
Dean 15’, Addison 65’

Leicester City 4-2 London Bees
Axten 2’, Ayisi 33’, Dugmore 40’, Nymoen 82’
Littlejohn 50’ (Pen) 70’

Sheffield United 4-1 Aston Villa
Jones 4’ 51’ 71’, Paul 35’ (Pen)
Welsh 25’

In the Championship, Manchester United are top, their goal-scoring bonanza having come to an abrupt halt against Durham, with 10 points from four games.  Tottenham are second with nine from three with Lewes third on nine from four games and with a worse goal difference.  At the bottom, Aston Villa are the only side yet to register a point.

Champions League

The draw for the last 16 was made on Monday 1 October:

FC Zurich (SUI) v Bayern Munchen (GER)
Wolfsburg (GER) v Atletico Madrid (ESP)
Ajax (NED) v Lyon (FRA)
Barcelona (ESP) v Glasgow City (SCO)
Linkoping (SWE) v Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Chelsea (ENG) v Fiorentina (ITA)
FC Rosengard (SWE) v Slavia Praha (CZE)
LSK Kvinner (NOR) v Brondby (DEN)

Both Glasgow City and Chelsea have difficult draws.  Ties will be played on 17-18 October and 31 October-1 November.

FA Women’s National League Cup

The draw for the second round of the League Cup has also been made:

Huddersfield Town v Burnley FC
Stoke City v Norton & Stockton Ancients
Derby County v Bolton Wanderers
Hull City v Birmingham & West Midlands
Brighouse Town v Leeds United
Blackburn Rovers v Fylde
Nottingham Forest v Chorley FC
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Sunderland AFC
Billericay Town v Chichester City
Cambridge United v Leyton Orient
Cardiff City v Cheltenham Town
Queens Park Rangers v Loughborough Foxes
Oxford United v Crawley Wasps
Larkhall Athletic v AFC Wimbledon
Southampton v Plymouth
Watford v Coventry

Ties will be played on 14 October.

Lionesses

Don’t forget England Lionesses play two friendlies in the next week.  On Saturday 6 October they face Brazil at Notts County (12.30pm kick off) and on Tuesday Australia will be the visitors at Craven Cottage, Fulham (7pm).  Tickets will be available on the gate.

Scottish football

There was a really good piece on the BBC website this week about Scottish Women’s Football (SWF), in which the chair, Vivienne MacLaren stated that the organisation would not consider sponsorship from alcohol or gambling companies.

In an interview with BBC Scotland she said,

“Over 80% of our members who play football are in youth teams and are under 18,”

“I understand why, in the men’s game and other sports, it fits very well with what they are trying to do.

“But, for us, it is very much family-orientated. Even in our senior teams, there are many players who are under 18.

“We know it is a minority of people with issues around alcohol and gambling, but they are still serious issues.

“We want wee girls playing football to have positive role models and a bit of a cleaner view of life.”

We all know how women’s sport struggles for sponsorship, but I absolutely applaud SWF’s stance.  I am absolutely sick to death of gambling adverts every five minutes during games, posters on billboards and logos on shirts.  The UK has serious problems with both alcohol and gambling without sports viewed by millions of people a week being bombarded with advertising for both.  Let’s hope that companies from other sectors take their chance to sponsor some quality sport.

Check out the full interview here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45704266

World Cup Qualification

There is one European World Cup place still up for grabs.  This Friday, the four best-placed runners-up will play the first leg of a two-legged play-off for the right to compete in the two-legged play-off final on 5 and 13 November.

Netherlands v Denmark
Belgium v Switzerland

The second leg is on Tuesday 9 October.  News of both legs will be in next week’s column.

Motorcycling

It’s not often I get to feature any form of motorsport in this column.  Obviously, there’s a very good, albeit very disappointing reason for this – it’s still largely a boys’ club.  But this week we have a good news story from the world of motorcycling.

Ana Carrasco, aged just 21, has become the first woman to win a motorbike world title.

She won the World Supersport 300 title by one point from fellow-Spaniard Mika Perez.

She won her first race in the series in Portugal in 2017.  Since then she has gone from strength to strength, finally taking the championship lead in May at Imola.

She started from 25th position on Sunday at Magny-Cours and finished 13th, which was enough to take the title.

Here’s hoping this high-profile success will inspire other young women and girls to take up the sport.

Athletics

Great Scottish Run

Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia won the Great Scottish Run half-marathon on Sunday in a time of 1:09:15.  Rose Chelimo of Kenya finished second in 1:10:07 with Alia Gray of USA in third with a time of 1:13:32.

Volleyball

I rarely feature volleyball and I really feel I should.  It’s a great team sport and in the equality stakes it rates highly.  I suggest you all check out the Volleyball England website.  It’s clear, informative and easy to use.  I’ll outline the basics here, but go and check it out for yourselves.  And if you find you’re in the area of a game, go and see it.

https://www.volleyballengland.org/competitions/national_volleyball_league

The NVL (National Volleyball League) is the top competition for volleyball in England.  The men’s and women’s competitions are organised in the same way.  The top league is the National Super League with National Division 1, National Division 2 and 3 National Division 3 beneath them.

I’m going to concentrate on the Super League, with apologies to everyone else.  The structure is a new one, so we’re all learning together.  From 2019-20 there will be 10 teams in the Super League, but this year (2018-19) there are nine.  All teams play each other once before Christmas and then the league splits into two halves.

The top half plays each other twice to determine positions one to five and the bottom half plays each other twice to determine sixth to tenth (ninth this year). The team that finishes bottom is relegated and the team finishing ninth (eighth this year) plays-off against the team which finishes second in NVL division one.

Got that?  Good.

There has only been one fixture so far this season:

Bristol VC1 2-3 London Orcas

I’ll try to remember to include scores when appropriate, but if I do forget, please check out the website.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

29 September results:
Surbiton 1-0 Clifton Robinsons
East Grinstead 2-1 Beeston
Holcombe 1-1 Buckingham
Bowdon 2-2 Canterbury
University of Birmingham 2-1 Slough

After two games Surbiton are top with maximum points.  Then come three teams on four points.  Slough are bottom and the only team yet to pick up a point.

This weekend’s fixtures:

6 October
Clifton Robinsons v Holcombe (1pm, Coombe Dingle Pitch 1)
University of Birmingham v Buckingham (1.30pm, Birmingham Uni Pitch 1)
Bowdon v Beeston (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Canterbury v Slough (4pm, Polo Farm SC, Pitch 1)
East Grinstead v Surbiton (4pm, East Grinstead Hockey Club)

And finally,

You just have to laugh – no, really.  The BBC ran a “story” on Tuesday where it invited comments on which was the worst own goal of the weekend; Abbie McManus (Manchester City) and two from male footballers, one from Stuttgart and one from Olympiakos.  “Right,” I thought, “Here we go.  Fill your boots chaps, go for it all you women’s football-haters, just go for it.  Now’s your chance to come up with the highly original ‘all female ‘keepers are rubbish’, line.”  I looked briefly at the comments, only to find the first said something like “why do you put women’s football in with this?  You should not be giving it space.” And I thought, “Wow, way to absolutely make a complete mess of it…..”

And, and finally,

Apparently, according to the BBC a new study has found that 84% of “general sports fans” are interested in women’s sport.  More than half of the number surveyed were men.  The countries included in the survey were the UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand.  It was found that 51% of men surveyed were supportive of women’s sport.

Check out the facts and figures here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/45737718

I’m always healthily sceptical of such surveys and I certainly wouldn’t use the figures to “prove” or “disprove” anything – I gather the chap mentioned in this week’s “And finally” was probably not among the 51%………

More news and views next week.