Welcome to this week’s column. Apologies for my prolonged absence, but hopefully you’ve been keeping up with the women’s sports news without me. But also, hopefully, you’re still with me as I return to the weekly blog.
I can’t pretend to be able to go through everything I’ve missed, but there’s plenty write about just from this week, so let’s crack on.
Stories and news this week come from football, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, hockey, netball, tennis and motor sport.
Great Britain beat Kazakhstan 3-1 in the promotion play-off to get into World Group II for the first time in 26 years.
Jo Konta started with a hard-fought win over Zarina Diyas in her customary three sets, 4-6 6-3 6-2.
Kazakhstan took the second rubber as a heartbroken Katie Boulter went down in three sets to Yulia Putintseva 3-6 6-2 7-6.
Konta beat Putintseva in the third rubber, again in three sets, 4-6 6-2 7-5
to make it 2-1 to Great Britain.
Boulter came through in the fourth match against 6-7 6-4 6-1, which meant Great Britain took the tie 3-1 and didn’t have to play the doubles rubber.
Meanwhile, in the World Group, the final will be between Australia and France.
France 3-2 Romania
Romania took 1-0 lead in Rouen as Simona Halep defeated Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-1.
Caroline Garcia drew France level, beating Michaela Buzarnescu in straight sets, 6-3 6-3.
In the third rubber, Halep won again, beating Garcia in three sets, 6-7 6-3 6-4 to take Romania ahead again, but in the final singles rubber, Pauline Parmentier defeated Irinia-Camelia Begu 6-3 2-6 6-2.
The tie was 2-2 going into the doubles, which went the way of France as Garcia and Mladenovic defeated Halep and Niculescu 5-6 6-3 6-4.
Australia 3-2 Belarus
Australia reached their first Fed Cup final for 26 years after they defeated Belarus in Brisbane at the weekend.
Belarus won the first rubber with Aryna Sabalenka beating Sam Stosur in three sets, 7-5 5-7 6-3.
Ash Barty levelled it with a win over Victoria Azarenka 7-6 6-3. Barty also played the third rubber, defeating Sabalenka 6-2 6-2.
In the fourth, Azarenka comprehensively defeated Stosur 6-1 6-1, to take it to a deciding doubles rubber.
Barty and Stosur came out on top, defeating Azarenka and Sabalenka in three sets, 7-5 3-6 6-2.
The final will be in Australia over the weekend of 9-10 November.
We are at the quarter-final stage in Stuttgart and the matches look like this:
Anastasija Sevastova (7) v Petra Kvitova (3)
Kiki Bertens (6) v Angelique Kerber (5)
Naomi Osaka (1) v Donna Vekic
Victoria Azarenka v Anett Kontaveit (8)
News on how it all panned out next week.
We are at the same stage in Istanbul and the matches are as follows:
Barbora Strycova v Elena Rybakina
Petra Martic (6) v Kristina Mladenovic
Lara Arruabarrena v Marketa Vondrousova
Veronika Kudermetova v Margarita Gasparyan
Again, more news next week.
Champions League – Semi-Finals
Lyon 2-1 Chelsea
Chelsea grabbed a potentially vital away goal on Sunday, but it could and perhaps should have been even better for the London side.
Lyon took the lead through a Magdalena Eriksson own goal on 27 minutes. Eleven minutes later the home side were two up when Amandine Henry scored from a corner.
Chelsea had the chance to pull one back on half-time when they were awarded a penalty. Fran Kirby took it, but it was saved by Sarah Bouhaddi in the Lyon goal.
In the second-half, Chelsea did pull one back through Erin Cuthbert.
The second leg, at Kingsmeadow, is this weekend, on Sunday 28 April. Kick-off is at 2pm.
Bayern 0-1 Barcelona
The Spanish side take a one-nil lead into the second leg. After a goalless first-half, the only score came in the 63rd minute, through Kheira Hamroaui.
The second leg is also on Sunday 28 April at 11am.
With just two games to go in the regular season, Arsenal are in the box seat.
They have a four point lead at the top over Manchester City. Arsenal have 48 and City 44. Chelsea are third, some way back, on 36. At the bottom, Yeovil are already gone and lie on -3 having had points deducted for going into administration.
Last weekend’s results:
Reading 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal 2-1 Everton
Quinn 4’, Miedema 28’
Liverpool 5-2 Bristol City
Babajide 11’ 41’ 65’, Daniels 45’ Hodson 90+1’
Kerkdijk 35’, Fahey 83’ (OG)
West Ham 1-2 Birmingham City
Leon 27’ (Moorhouse sent off on 41’)
Ladd 44, Arthur 75’
Manchester United have been crowned champions and will next season compete in the WSL. They beat Crystal Palace 7-0 on Saturday to claim the title.
Last weekend’s results:
Manchester United 7-0 Crystal Palace
James 9’ 83’ 85’ 90’, Arnott 33’, Galton 35’, Sigsworth 46’
Sheffield United 4-1 London Bees
Cox 36’, Sarri 52’, Rayner 76’, Pennock 88’
Durham 1-0 Millwall Lionesses
Charlton Athletic 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Ejupi 41’, Graham 46’
Dean 53’ (PEN), Neville 71’ 80’
Aston Villa 2-2 Lewes
Ale 4’, Hutton 34’
Rood 45’ 90+2’
Everyone has two games to go.
The FA Cup finalists have had their plea to move their men’s home game against Southampton on May 4 rejected. Their match is due to kick off at 3pm on Saturday, with the FA Cup final kicking off at 5.30pm.
PFA Women’s Team of the Year
The Professional Footballers’ Association Team of the Year has been announced and features nine players from Arsenal, Manchester City or Chelsea.
Sophie Baggaley (GK) (Bristol City), Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Demi Stokes (Man City), Ji Sun-Yun (Chelsea), Steph Houghton (Man City), Aoife Mannion (Birmingham City), Kim Little (Arsenal), Lia Walti (Arsenal), Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea), Nikita Parris (Man City), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal)
BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019
The shortlist for the award, drawn up by the BBC World Service is:
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg), Ada Hegerberg (Olympique Lyonnais), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars and Perth Glory), Saki Kumagai (Olympique Lyonnais)
You can vote via the BBC website and voting closes on Thursday 2 May. The winner will be announced on 22 May.
Vitality Netball Superleague
Last weekend saw a double round of fixtures with rounds 15 and 16 being completed. The results were as follows:
Round 15 – Saturday 20 April
Strathclyde Sirens 44 -59 Loughborough Lightning
London Pulse 42-71 Manchester Thunder
Wasps Netball 76-42 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 42-53 Team Bath
Saracens Mavericks 55-50 Celtic Dragons
Round 16 – Sunday 21 April
Wasps Netball 64-48 Celtic Dragons
Strathclyde Sirens 47-44 London Pulse
Surrey Storm 46-51 Severn Stars
Loughborough Lightning 60-57 Manchester Thunder
Team Bath 45-51 Saracens Mavericks
So with just two full rounds to go, Wasps are top with 39 points from 16 games. The other three in the top four spots are Thunder (36), Team Bath (33) and Lightning (33). Mavericks are fifth on 30 and could still qualify if results go their way.
Round 17 is this weekend:
Friday 26 April
Strathclyde Sirens v Wasps Netball (7.30pm)
Saturday 27 April
Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm (4pm)
London Pulse v Loughborough Lightning (4pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Severn Stars (4pm – Live on Sky Sports)
Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (5pm)
The Grand Final is at the Copper Box in London on Saturday 18 May with the third/fourth place play-off at 3pm and the final at 5pm. Both matches will be live on Sky Sports and the link to buy tickets is here.
Tyrell’s Premier 15s
The Premier 15s Grand Final will be between Harlequins and Saracens, who beat Loughborough Lightning (26-10) and Wasps (31-13) respectively in their semis.
In the regular season the two teams finished top and second with Saracens top on 17 wins from 18 with Harlequins seven points behind them and with 15 wins. Should be a classic.
You can still buy tickets here. Under 16s get in for free.
The final is on Saturday 27 April at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton. Kick-off is at 17.45. The match will be live on Sky Sports Action.
It was the fourth of six rounds of the World Rugby HSBC Sevens series at the weekend in Kitakyushu.
England looked as if they were about to claim their first round title since 2016 when Canada pinched it right at the end.
Canada 7-5 England
England scored a try through Amy Wilson Hardy late in the first-half. It looked as if this was to be the decisive score until Canada captain Ghislaine Landry broke through the defence to score behind the posts, giving herself an easy conversion opportunity. She kicked the extra points and the title went to Canada. It was Canada’s first leg win since 2017.
USA finished with the bronze, defeating France 24-12.
New Zealand could only manage fifth, beating Australia in the play-off 34-26.
The Women’s Standings are as follows:
- New Zealand 72
- Canada 66
- USA 64
- Australia 56
- France 46
The fifth round is in Langford, Canada over the weekend of 11-12 May.
While I’ve been off, the rugby league season has started once more, so apologies for the lack of coverage so far. All Super League teams have played two games. Castleford Tigers are top on points difference, having won both of their games, including a hammering of York City Knights away 80-0. Needless to say, this has given a bit of a fillip to their points for column. Leeds Rhinos and St Helens have also won their first two matches.
This weekend there are four fixtures:
Sunday 28 April
Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos (13.00)
York City Knights v Wigan Warriors (14.00)
Bradford Bulls v Wakefield Trinity (14.00)
St Helens v Featherstone Rovers (17.45)
If you haven’t already had a look at the rugby league website, I would encourage you to do so. It is very informative and kept up to date. Check it out here:
Apologies again, but it’s the time of year when I start to try to get my head around the hockey play-offs. If you don’t know what happens at the end of the season, here are the regulations (thanks to the England Hockey website):
Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and European Qualification
At the end of the regular season the team who finishes top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division will receive an automatic place in the EuroHockey Club Championships as England’s second ranked team. They can improve on this ranking, and compete to be crowned English Champions, in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Finals tournament.
The team who wins the Investec Women’s Hockey League Final will be crowned Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and will be England’s first ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships for the subsequent season. In the event that the team finishing top of the league at the end of the regular season also wins the Final, the runners-up in the Final will be England’s second ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships.
What are the Investec Women’s Hockey League Play-Offs?
There are two types of play-off that determine which teams are promoted and relegated in the Investec Women’s Hockey League.
Investec Premier Division Play-Off
Here the winners of the three Conferences join the ninth-placed team from the Premier Division to battle it out in a round robin tournament for two spaces in the top tier, with the tenth-placed side having been automatically relegated.
Investec Conference Play-Offs
Here the teams that finish ninth across the three Conferences fight it out for survival. The winner of this round robin tournament will stay up while the other two will be relegated to their respective regional league along with the teams that finished in 10th in each Conference. The fixtures are played across three weekend with each side play a home and an away tie. The five regional league winners are then promoted to fill the vacant spots.
Holcombe finished top of the table in the regular season with 41 points from 18 games. Surbiton finished second on 38 and East Grinstead third on 34. East Grinstead were also deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player. Buckingham finished fourth on 29.
Canterbury finished tenth on just eight points and have been relegated.
Play-off dates are still to be announced. More news when I have it (Yes Martin, I know it’s simple really).
EuroHockey Club Cup
Amsterdam were triumphant at the EuroHockey Club Cup last weekend.
It was the last edition of the competition before it becomes the EHL in 2020. Amsterdam will take their place in that competition with this win.
The tournament, also held in Amsterdam, saw the hosts beat Real Sociedad in the final 7-0.
The places finished as follows;
Bronze went to Alster, who been Den Bosch 2-1 in the third place match.
Hamburg beat English representatives Surbiton 4-1 in the 5th/6th place match.
Loreto defeated Ritm Grodno 2-1 in the 7th/8th place play-off.
FIH Pro League
Great Britain are currently lying seventh in the table after losing their fourth match of six against Germany on Wednesday. Hannah Grablach scored a double on 38’ and 58’ as they won 2-0. Great Britain’s next match is against China on Friday 3 May.
Australia are top with six wins from seven matches and a win/loss percentage of 85.71. Argentina lie second having played 10 matches. They have a win/loss percentage of 83.33. Great Britain’s win/loss percentage is 27.78 from six matches.
Don’t forget it’s Women’s County Cricket Day on 6 May. Get down to see your local county in action if you can. You can read all about in my piece published last week.
More news and views next week.