Welcome to this week’s column. With new and competing claims on my time during the week, it may mean that my future columns are somewhat contracted. I will endeavour to keep up the breadth of coverage, but please bear with me if some of the items may be in less detail.
Having said that, no problems this week and there’s plenty to get through. Stories this week come from netball, hockey, rugby union, golf, athletics, cycling, football, volleyball, tennis and cricket.
So let’s crack on…
Another good win for England, plus a first win for Italy over Ireland and a better performance from France in the third round of the Six Nations.
Wales 12-51 England
England had claimed the bonus point by the 26 minute mark. Prop Sarah Bern scored the first after just two minutes. Jess Breach went over shortly afterwards making it 0-12.
Then Marlie Packer burst through from a maul after a lineout for the third and Bern went over again for her second and England’s fourth and the bonus point with the score 0-24.
On 30 minutes Breach claimed her second try taking it to 0-29.
Five minutes before half-time, Wales hit back with their first try against England since 2016. Keira Bevan made the break before the ball got to Jess Kavanagh who crossed the whitewash to score. The score at the break was 5-29.
The home side started the second-half with renewed vigour. They applied pressure and had most of the possession in the first 15 minutes, but were unable to score.
When England finally got back into it, Bern went over but the try was disallowed for a knock-on. Shortly afterwards, Cath O’Donnell went over to take the score to 5-34.
There were further England tries from Abby Dow and Sarah Beckett and the score was then 5-46.
But Wales still had something to add. Cerys Hale went over after sustained pressure to make it 12-46.
England rounded it off with a Katy Daley-Mclean try to make the final score 12-51.
Italy 29-27 Ireland
Italy recorded their first ever win over Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.
The home side took the lead after just three minutes through a Michela Sillari penalty. Four minutes later they scored their first try though Aura Muzzo, which Sillari converted.
Ireland hit back on 11 minutes with a try from Eimear Considine. But the come-back short-lived as Italy went over just three minutes later through Giada Franco, converted by Sillari to make it 17-5.
Then Ireland had a sustained period of pressure. Considine went over for her second, which was converted by Nicole Fowley. Just after the half-hour the visitors were awarded a penalty that Considine duly slotted. And then with just five minutes to go before the break, Ireland scored another try, this time through Anna Caplice. Fowley kicked the conversion and it seemed that Ireland were bound to go into the break 22-17 up.
But Italy were having none of it. On 39 minutes Sofia Stefan went over to score Italy’s third and with Sillari missing the conversion, the half-time score was 22-22.
Five minutes into the second-half, Franco went over for her second try, which was converted by Sillari to take the score to 29-22. Laura Sheehan scored for Ireland on 64, but the conversion was missed. It was this miss that was to prove decisive and with no further scoring the result was 29-27.
France 41-10 Scotland
Could France hit back after their mauling by England in the last round? Yes, they could. They made a nervous start, but soon began to dominate up front with the Scottish scrum unable to cope with the power.
Gabrielle Vernier went over for France’s first, with Pauline Bourdon their second to make it 10-0.
Scotland hit back through Rhona Lloyd and with 12 minutes to go before half-time the arrears were reduced to 10-5.
France, however, had other ideas and went over twice more before the break. Vernier went in for her second and right on half-time Doriane Constanty went in to secure the bonus point for the home side and a lead of 24-5.
Vernier scored her hat-trick try 13 minutes after the resumption. Then replacement Caroline Boujard started a move in her own half and was then on the end to finish it to go over and take the score to 36-5.
Emma Wassell went over for Scotland on 67 minutes, but the last word went to France when Lea Murie went over again to take the final score to 41-10.
Round Four is in two weeks:
Friday 8 March
Scotland v Wales (19.35, Scotstoun Stadium, BBC Alba & BBC Wales)
Saturday 9 March
England v Italy (12.05, Sandy Park)
Ireland v France (19.00 GMT, Energia Park, Donnybrook)
The second round of the Women’s World Championship in Singapore has been completed.
Amy Olson of the US leads on -7. She is two ahead of five players; Azahara Munoz (Esp), Inbee Park (Kor), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (Eng), Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), and Minjee Lee (Aus).
Of the other British players Georgia Hall (Eng) is level, Charley Hull (Eng) is +1, Bronte Law (Eng) 3+ and Catriona Matthew (Sco) +8.
Defending champion, Michelle Wie of the US, had to withdraw during the first round due to an ongoing wrist problem.
The European Indoor Championships begin today (Friday 1 March) and continue through the weekend. The event is taking place in Glasgow and there is plenty of coverage via the BBC on BBC2, BBC4 and online. Results and stories in next week’s column.
The Track World Championships are also in full swing in Pruszkow, Poland.
After GB took silver to Australia in the team pursuit, Laura Kenny, who was due to race in the omnium today (Friday), pulled out through illness. Katie Archibald (not a bad replacement!) will take her place.
Scratch Race 10km
Elinor Barker took gold for Great Britain in a time of 12:49.000, Kirsten Wild of Netherlands took silver and Jolien D’hoore of Belgium, bronze.
Australia (Ashlee Ankudinoff, Georgia Baker, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson) took gold by two tenths of a second, Great Britain (Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson) took silver and New Zealand took bronze.
Australia took gold, Russia the silver and Germany the bronze.
Last weekend’s Super League results:
Friday 22 February
Strathclyde Sirens 37-56 Severn Stars
Team Bath 46-57 Wasps Netball
Saturday 23 February
Surrey Storm 50-66 Loughborough Lightning
Monday 25 February
Saracens Mavericks 65-37 London Pulse
Celtic Dragons 56-83 Manchester Thunder
Wasps are yet to drop a point and lie top with six wins from six and 18 points. Mavericks are second with 15 from seven, Thunder are just below them on 15 from 6 with an inferior goal average. At the bottom, Pulse have three points. Above them are the Sirens and Dragons with six.
Next weekend’s fixtures are:
Friday 1 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm)
Saturday 2 March
Surrey Storm v Celtic Dragons (6.00pm)
Loughborough Lightning v London Pulse (6.00pm)
Wasps Netball v Strathclyde Sirens (7.00pm)
Monday 4 March
Severn Stars v Saracens Mavericks (7.00pm – Live on Sky Sports)
Tennis – on the Court
Last weekend’s tournament results:
Both semi-finals went to three sets, with one seed losing to their unseeded opponent, and one getting through. In the first, Belinda Bencic knocked out sixth seed Elina Svitolina 6-2 3-6 7-6, while in the second, Petra Kvitova, seeded two, defeated Hsieh Su-wei 3-6 6-2 6-4.
The final also went to three sets with the Swiss player, Bencic, defying the odds to take the victory against Kvitova 6-3 1-6 6-2.
Meanwhile, top seed Alison Van Uytvanck beat eighth seed Markéta Vondroušová in the final, 1-6 7-5 6-2.
There was also a welcome return to form and fitness for Heather Watson in the doubles. She reached the final with partner Fanny Stollar, and were seeded three, but they lost the final to unseeded pairing Ekaterina Alexandrova and Vera Zvonareva 4-6 6-4 10-7.
This week some of the top players have been in action at the Mexican Open:
Jo Konta, seeded eight, had a good run, going out in the quarter-finals to third seed Donna Vekic 6-3 7-5.
We are now at the semi-final stage:
Wang Yafan v Donna Vekic (3)
Bianca Andreescu v Sofia Kenin (5)
The semi-finals of the doubles looks like this:
Renata Voráčová/Cornelia Lister v Giuliana Olmos/Desirae Krawczyk (3)
Zheng Saisai/Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sanchez/Sharon Fichman
Tennis – off the Court
It was announced this week that GB’s World Group II play-off against Kazakhstan will be played at the Copper Box in London.
The tie takes place on 20 and 21 April.
If they win, GB will be in World Group II for the first time since 1993.
Tickets go on sale next week. Check out https://www.lta.org.uk/major-tennis-events/international-events/fed-cup/tickets/ for details.
Sharapova has had surgery on her troublesome right shoulder and withdrawn from the Miami Open.
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division
Results from 23 February:
East Grinstead 2-0 Buckingham
Canterbury 1-2 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 3-0 Beeston
Surbiton 2-0 Holcombe
Slough 2-2 University of Birmingham
Surbiton are top on goal difference. They and Holcombe have 28 points from 13 games. East Grinstead are third with 22. At the bottom, Canterbury have just five points and Slough are above them on nine.
This weekend’s fixtures:
Beeston v East Grinstead (12 noon, Nottingham Hockey P1)
Buckingham v Canterbury (12 noon, Stowe School P1)
University of Birmingham v Surbiton (1.15pm, Birmingham University P1)
Bowdon v Clifton Robinsons (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Holcombe v Slough (4pm, Holcombe HC P1)
Last weekend’s results from Women’s Super League Top 5:
Durham Palatinates 3-1 London Orcas (25-19, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16)
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-15, 25-14, 22-25, 23-25, 15-11)
Durham are still top with a perfect 11/11 record and 32 points. Tendring are second on 27. TeamBU Wessex are bottom, but have only played 9 games; they have 13 points.
Continental Cup Final
Arsenal 0-0 Manchester city AET
City win 4-2 on penalties
Manchester City claimed their third Conti Cup title on Sunday.
It was a cagey affair with few chances in normal time. Beth Mead headed wide for Arsenal in the first-half. Steph Houghton had a header saved and Gemma Bonner couldn’t turn in the rebound.
In the second-half, City were on largely on top with Nikita Paris, Caroline Weir and Parris again all having chances to win it. In the last minutes Janine Beckie had a great opportunity, but hit the bar with her shot.
And so it went to penalties. Karen Bardsley saved from Leah Williamson and Danielle van de Donk, before Beckie stepped up to take the decisive spot kick, which she confidently put away and the win was City’s.
England are without Millie Bright and Jill Scott as they have withdrawn from the England squad for the SheBelieves Cup. Scott was withdrawn, according to the FA, “in order to manage her return to full fitness ahead of this summer’s World Cup”. Bright is injured. Chioma Ubogagu of Orlando Pride has been called up as a replacement.
England 2-1 Brazil
England came from one goal down to claim a fine win against Brazil in their first SheBelieves 2019 match.
England made a slow start and although they had plenty of possession in the first-half, Marta was fouled in the box on 16 minutes and Andressa Alves put Brazil ahead. Some have called it controversial, but I saw Lucy Bronze’s shoulder barge as a penalty.
In the second-half, the Lionesses were a good deal more on the ball. Three minutes after the resumption, Ellen White slotted home to equalize.
Beth Mead scored the winner from what was obviously (yes, obviously you knuckle-draggers out there, it was and Mead admitted it) a cross. Spectacular result and warranted after England’s second-half performance.
United States 2-2 Japan
It was honours even between the US and Japan in Pennsylvania.
Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring for the US on 23 minutes. Japan drew level in the second-half through Emi Nakajima.
The US went back ahead on 76 minutes through Alex Morgan, but Japan came back for a second time, equalising in the first minute of injury time through Yuka Momiki.
England’s remaining games are against the USA on 2 March and Japan on 5 March.
It has also been announced that all of England’s World Cup warm-up matches will be broadcast in the UK on the BBC.
The Algarve Cup is also in its early stages.
Scores so far:
Canada 0-0 Iceland
Norway 2-1 Denmark
Sweden 4-1 Switzerland
Spain 2-0 Netherlands
Scotland are in Group A, alongside Canada and Iceland.
India claimed the three-match ODI series 2-1 at a canter and without Harmanpreet Kaur.
India 202 all out (49.4/50 overs)
England 136 all out (41/50 overs)
India won by 66 runs
Jemima Rodrigues top-scored with 48, captain Mithali Raj scored 40 and there were contributions from lower down the order Taniya Bhatia (25) and Jhulan Goswami (30)as India posted a decent score of 202. The England bowlers shared the wickets, Sophie Ecclestone with 2/27 from her 10 overs, being the most economical.
In response, Jones fell early for just one. Heather Knight and Nat Sciver held the innings together in the middle, scoring 39 not out and 44 respectively, but after Sciver fell, none of the last six got into double figures. In fact England lost 7/25. Spinner Ekta Bisht took 4/25 from eight overs.
England 161 all out (43.3/50 overs)
India 162/3 (41.1/50 overs)
India won by seven wickets
India had no trouble chasing down a small England score in the second ODI.
Nat Sciver top-scored with 85, Lauren Winfield made 28 and Tammy Beaumont 20, but no-one else reached double figures.
The truly awesome Jhulan Goswami took 4/30 in 8.3 overs and Shikha Pandey 4/18 from ten.
India lost only three wickets in their chase. Rodrigues went for a duck but Mandhana scored 63, Raut 32 and Raj 47 not out to see them home.
India 205/8 (50 overs)
England 208/8 (48.5/50 overs)
England won by two wickets
England claimed two precious ICC Women’s Championship points in the third ODI, preventing a whitewash in the process.
After Rodgrigues was out for her second duck in two games, there was a stand of 129 between Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut before Mandhana fell for 66. Katherine Brunt took the first five wickets of the innings and India subsided slightly, but still managed to make the highest first innings score of the series.
In response, England made a better start even though it was only a partnership of 25 before Amy Jones fell for 13. For once Nat Sciver (1) did not contribute, but captain Knight (47) and Danni Wyatt (56) made the bulk of the runs, before Georgia Elwiss (33 not out) and Katherine Brunt (18) got them nearly over the line. Brunt was out with just two needed. Anya Shrubsole came in and hit her one and only ball for four to win the game.
India deserved this series. Several England players were significantly under par – most concerningly Sarah Taylor. It’s on now to the three-match T20 series, which begins on 4 March. Radio coverage via BBC 5 Live Sports Extra.
Sophie Ecclestone is on her way home with a broken hand. This adds to a lengthening injury list that includes Laura Marsh (side strain) and Kirstie Gordon (stress fracture of the back).
There’s a fine interview with Kristina Vogel on the BBC website, where she talks with Sir Chris Hoy about the crash that ended her cycling career and how, as she puts it, “I’m in a wheelchair, but it’s not the end of my life.” Don’t miss it. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/cycling/47407804