Women’s Sports Column 12-18 May 2018

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty again to get into this week.  Sorry I missed doing a full report on the FA Cup final as it was a great match – so just a quick review.  Stories this week come from tennis, football, rugby league, hockey, cricket, netball, sports administration and rugby union.  Plus, this week’s “And Finally” is a positive news story about a brilliant new campaign launched by Women in Football. 

So let’s crack on.

Hockey

It’s the Women’s EuroHockey Club Cup in Surbiton over the next four days.  Play is already underway.  English hopes lie with Surbiton, the current Investec Premier League champions, while the Republic of Ireland is represented by UCD Ladies.

So far the results have been:

17 May

    • Mannheim (GER) 0-1 Hamburg (GER)
    • AH & BC Amsterdam (NED) 8-0 UCD Ladies (IRL)
    • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) 5-0 Victorya Smolevichi (BLR)
    • Club Campo de Madrid (ESP) 2-0 Surbiton (ENG)

We then go into a series of fixtures as follows:

18 May

    • UCD Ladies (Loser M2) v Mannheim (Loser M1)
    • Victorya Smolevichi (Loser M3) v Surbiton (Loser M4)

19 May

    • AH & BC Amsterdam (Winner M2) v Hamburg (Winner M1)
    • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Winner M3) v Club Campo de Madrid (Winner M4)

20 May

    • Loser M5 v Loser M6 (7th/8th place)
    • Winner M5 v Winner M6 (5th/6th place)
    • Loser SF1 v Loser SF2 (3rd/4th place)
    • Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (Final!)

Football – on the Pitch

Both FAWSL titles have been decided.  Chelsea secured the WSL 1 title on Tuesday, while Doncaster Rovers Belles were crowned champions on Sunday.

WSL1 Results

Saturday 12 May
Yeovil Town 0-2 Bristol City
Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City
Reading FC 3-0 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland AFC

Sunday 13 May
Everton 0-3 Birmingham City

Tuesday 15 May
Bristol City 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea secured the WSL1 title, and league and Cup double on Tuesday with a fine away win at Bristol City.  Drew Spence opened the scoring on 10 minutes and they maintained this one-goal lead until the 88th minute when Jonna Andersson sealed it with the second.  Their final game of the season is away at Liverpool on Sunday, when all games kick off at 12.30pm.

Wednesday 16 May
Manchester City 5-0 Yeovil Town
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Arsenal

WSL2 Results

Saturday 12 May
London Bees 0-0 Sheffield FC

Sunday 13 May
Durham 4-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Oxford United 1-2 Watford
Millwall Lionesses 0-1 Doncaster Rovers Belles

The Belles had already sealed their championship win on Wednesday with a 2-1 win at Sheffield FC.  On Sunday they won again against the Lionesses with a Jade Pennock deflected shot.  Doncaster will not be promoted, however, as they applied to be in the new Women’s Championship (replacing WSL2) next season.  Their last game of the season is on Sunday 20 May when they are at home to Oxford United.  All games kick off at 2pm.

Wednesday 16 May
Watford 0-5 Sheffield FC

FA Cup Final
Arsenal 1-3 Chelsea

I was sorry to miss out on reporting more fully on the FA Cup final, which took place on 5 May, particularly as it was a cracking, competitive match and a record crowd of 45,423 saw a great advertisement for women’s football.

What a game for Ramona Bachmann, who has so often flattered to deceive for Chelsea.  After a quiet, even first half, the game needed a spark.  Enter Bachmann who scored twice to completely change the complexion of the game and take it away from Arsenal.

Disappointingly, some of Arsenal’s big names, including a particularly subdued Jordan Nobbs, just couldn’t up the tempo when needed.

Two great strikes by Bachmann were the difference. She scored on 48 and 60, ripping the heart out of Arsenal.  Vivianne Miedema pulled one back for the Gunners on 73, but the resurgence was short-lived.  Just three minutes later Fran Kirby got into the action, slotting home a fine shot to make it 3-1.

Football – off the pitch

Chelsea captain Katie Chapman has announced that she will retire from playing at the end of this season at the age of 35.

In a distinguished career, Chapman won 94 England caps, taking part in two World Cups and three European Championships.

Domestically, she played for Millwall, Fulham, Charlton, Arsenal and Chelsea, winning 10 FA Cups in total.

Since joining Chelsea in 2014, she has won the FA Cup/league double in 2015, the WSL Spring Series in 2017 and the 2018 FA Cup.

She will now take up an ambassadorial role with Chelsea.

Cricket

Exciting news from women’s cricket this week.  There will be a women’s T20 exhibition match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai before the first IPL Qualifier on Tuesday May 22.

It will be broadcast live around the world and also live on Sky Cricket from 9.20am.  Make no mistake, this is a big thing for women’s cricket in India and it could pave the way for a future women’s IPL.

Many of the superstars of the women’s game will be playing:

IPL Trailblazers: Smirti Mandhana (c) Alyssa Healy (wk), Suzie Bates, Deepti Sharma, Beth Mooney, Jemima Rodrigues, Danielle Hazell, Shikha Pandey, Lea Tahuhu, Jhulan Goswami, Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, Dayalan Hemalatha.

IPL Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Danielle Wyatt, Mithali Raj, Meg Lanning, Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Veda Krishnamurthy, Mona Meshram, Pooja Vastrakar, Megan Schutt, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Anjuja Patil.

Wow – should be quite an event and I hope it gets the crowd and the coverage it deserves.

Tennis – Off the Court

Alize Cornet was facing a ban for missing three drugs tests in a year, but an independent tribunal has found that the doping control officer did not take “reasonable steps” to locate her for the third test.

The first test (3 November 2016) was missed as she left early for a flight to a competition, the second (26 July 2017) because again she had already set off for competition in the United States.

At the time of the third attempt (24 October 2017), Cornet says she was in her apartment but her intercom was broken.  She did not receive a phone call or any other attempt to contact her to conduct the test.

The tribunal accepted this as “frank and compelling” evidence.  Cornet also had two completed tests in that time, in March and October 2017.

Tennis – On the Court

Korea Open

British wheelchair tennis player Lucy Shuker won the Korea Open singles title this week.  She beat her doubles partner, Giulia Capolcci of Italy, in the final, 6-2 3-6 6-3.

As a pairing they also won the doubles title.

Shuker will go into the Japan Open next week, full of confidence.  The Japan event is part of the Super Series which is the next level down from the Grand Slams.

Madrid Open

Petra Kvitova won a tight Madrid Open final, beating Kiki Bertens 6-6 4-6 6-3.  It was an epic final, lasting just under three hours.

Italian Open

Kvitova then pulled out of the Italian Open, taking place this week.   Also missing is Serena Williams, who pulled out of both Madrid and Italy, instead concentrating on a return at the French Open, which begins on 27 May.  Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has said that she “came back too early” after the birth of her first child, but is confident that she will be back, “Serena can achieve anything,” he said in an interview with the WTA website.

Johanna Konta was due to play Kvitova in the first round, but instead took on Magdalena Rybarikova, winning 6-4 6-3.

In the second round she faced Hsieh Su-wei, winning 6-0 6-4, but she fell in the third against current French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko in three sets, 2-6 6-3 6-4.  She started so well and confidently, while Ostapenko could not find her form at all and seemed to be struggling with the conditions.  Konta was 4-1 up after just 17 minutes.  But in the second set the tables were turned and Konta quickly lost the confidence she had shown in the first.  Ostapenko took her chances, taking the match with her first match point in the third set.

We are now at the quarter-final stages:

Angelique Kerber (11) v Elina Svitolina (4)
Maria Sharapova v Jelena Ostapenko (5)
Anett Kontaveit v Caroline Wozniacki (2)
Simona Halep (1) v Caroline Garcia (7)

Meanwhile at the same tournament Karoline Pliskova lost her temper with a vengeance, attacking the umpire’s chair with her racquet after she was beaten by Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

She had a smash called out when serving at 30 all, five games all in the third set.  Television replays showed it to be in, but on clay the reviews are done by physical marks (I’ve never quite understood that) and as there was no mark to be seen, the call stood.

At the end of the match Pliskova repeatedly hit the chair with her racquet frame.  She now, needless to say, faces a fine.

Rugby Union – Canada Sevens

New Zealand retained their Canada Sevens title in Langford on Sunday, defeating Australia in the final, 46-0.

Portia Woodman scored the first try, followed quickly by one for Ruby Tui.  Kelly Brazier scored a third after Australia had conceded a penalty and the Black Ferns took a quick tap.

They still had time to score again before half-time as Woodman went in for a second and it was 22-0 at the break.

It was no better for Australia in the second-half.  Niall Williams went in twice and then captain Sarah Goss barrelled over for a seventh.

Brazier went in for her second and New Zealand’s eighth to leave Australia stunned and well beaten.

Other Placings

USA claimed bronze with a 21-5 win over France and Canada finished fifth, beating Ireland 29-12.

The Challenge Trophy went to Japan as they beat Spain 26-21.

Pool Results

Pool A: Fiji 24-14 England; New Zealand 51-0 Brazil; Fiji 47-14 Brazil; New Zealand 22-0 England; England 31-17 Brazil; New Zealand 12-7 Fiji

Pool B: Russia 14-35 United States; France 33-7 Japan; Russia 7-24 Japan; France 22-19 United States; United States 28-7 Japan; France 45-0 Russia

Pool C: Spain 0-7 Ireland; Australia 22-7 Canada; Spain 10-24 Canada; Australia 31-19 Ireland; Ireland 17-19 Canada; Australia 43-10 Spain

England finished seventh, equalling their best place of the series so far, beating Fiji 29-24.

The final round takes place in Paris on 8-10 June, with Wales competing by invitation.

Rugby League

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

Sunday 13 May
Featherstone Rovers 32-40 Castleford Tigers
Bradford Bulls 72-10 York City Knights
Wigan Warriors 16-6 St Helens

Castleford Tigers lead the table with seven points from four games.  St Helens lie second with six points from four games.  Leeds Rhinos are also on six points, but from three games – they are third on points difference.  York City and Featherstone are yet to take a point.

Netball

Round 12 of the Netball Super League was last weekend.  The results were:

Saturday 12 May
UWS Sirens 45-59 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 51-56 Team Bath
Team Northumbria 51-58 Manchester Thunder
Severn Stars 55-44 Benecos Mavericks

Monday 14 May
Celtic Dragons 38-66 Loughborough Lightning

This weekend’s Round 13 fixtures:

Friday 18 May
UWS Sirens v Loughborough Lightning (7pm)
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (7.45pm)

Saturday 19 May
Benecos Mavericks v Celtic Dragons (3pm)
Manchester Thunder v Severn Stars (5pm)

Monday 21 May
Team Bath v Team Northumbria (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Sports Administration – Sport England

Jennie Price will quit her position as Chief Executive of Sport England at the end of October.

She took over in 2007 in the heat of London’s 2012 Olympic bid.  Since she has been in post, the number of people playing sport regularly has gone up by 1.6 million.

Price was also instrumental in the formation of the This Girl Can campaign.   She was awarded a CBE in 2017 for services to sport.

And finally,

Use it, shout it, talk about it #Whatif is trending.  So what is #What if?

It’s the new campaign launched by the organisation Women in Football, at Twitter HQ in London on Wednesday.

It is aimed at everyone; football professionals, businesses and members of the public who are encouraged to pledge one way they could take action to contribute to helping improve things for women and girls in football.

There are already some high-profile names involved and the pledges already received should make a difference.  These include:

Sky Sports – #WhatIf Sky Sports committed to including female talent as studio pundits on Gillette Soccer Specials from the 2018/19 season onwards 

SPORF – #WhatIf @SPORF amplified the reach of women’s football by fully integrating coverage of the women’s game on online communities

Twitter – #WhatIf Women in Football had its own emojil on Twitter

Betfair – #WhatIf Betfair ring-fenced 50 per cent of their Cash4Clubs grassroots grants for women’s teams to help support their growth and sustainability

Forza Football – #WhatIf Forza Football made live score updates and results for women’s football games easily accessible across the world

Anyone can make a pledge, be it large or small, as an individual or corporately.  Check out the story: https://www.womeninfootball.co.uk/news/2018/05/16/whatif-we-changed-the-landscape-of-football-forever/

Or contact Leanne Dingle via leanne@womeninfootball.co.uk for more information.

There is a great will to improve the lot of women in all aspects of football.  Although I constantly despair at the comments made by those who obviously have nothing better to do, I do believe that women’s football is a good and improving product, worthy of investment by individuals and companies alike.  Let’s get behind this campaign – make your own pledge and keep #Whatif trending.

From my own point of view, I do what I can but #Whatif I can do more?  #What if I pledge to tweet more, cover more in depth and promote women’s football wherever I can.  Let’s do it.   

And, and finally,

Congratulations to Chelsea Manager, Emma Hayes, who this week gave birth to a baby boy.  Not content with a championship and FA Cup double, she is now a Mum!  Talk about multi-tasking…..

Sorry to be flaky, but there will be no column again next week, but I’ll be back in a fortnight with more news and views. 

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Women’s Sports Column 28 April – 4 May 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  After a surfeit of ranting last week, calmness reigns as I endeavour to present as much as I can without going on to 3k words!  Stories this week come from rugby union, football, tennis, cycling, hockey, netball, cricket, rugby league plus a reminder about the Be a Game Changer awards.

Rugby Union – on the pitch

Tyrrell’s Premier 15s Final

Saracens are the inaugural Premier 15s Champions.

They beat Harlequins 20-24 in the final at Ealing Trailfinders RFC on Sunday.

It was a fitting final to a fine season; full-blooded with plenty of flowing rugby on offer.

Saracens took the lead after five minutes when Sam Martinez Gion went over for the first try.  Quins hit back quickly with an Ellie Green penalty.

Saracens looked to have got a second on 10 minutes when Poppy Cleall crossed, but it was disallowed and the penalty given to Quins.  Saracens were clearly on top, but couldn’t seem to make the most of their possession until Lotte Clapp went over under the posts to make it 12-3.

Quins tried to get back into it, but were disappointed when Garnet Mackinder went in for Saracens’ third just before half-time.  They didn’t give up, however, and got their due reward as Holly Myers scored the try to get them back into the game and make it 8-17 at the break.

The momentum was with Quins and they took full advantage, Jess Breach scoring their second try nine minutes in.

There then followed a period when it looked to be anyone’s game.  Hannah Botterman scored a try for Saracens and then Deborah McCormack did the same for Quins, taking the score to 24-20 with just two minutes left.

Quins thought their comeback could be completed when Poppy Cleall was sin-binned for killing the ball on the line.  But Jess Breach could not quite get over and nothing Quins tried came off.

The game ended with a turnover by Player of the Match, Marlie Packer and Saracens had won it.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

England full-back and wing Danielle Waterman has announced her retirement from international rugby.

She won 82 caps for England in a career spanning 15 years and scored 47 tries.

“It has been an incredible journey and a true honour to be a Red Rose for the past 15 years,

“It’s been a huge privilege to have not only played alongside and against some of the best players in the world, but to have been part of the huge development and progression of women’s international rugby to date.

“Winning the World Cup in 2014 was definitely a dream come true and to beat New Zealand for the first time in 16 years and go world number one was amazing, and to do it with the support of the Lions crowd was amazing.”

Waterman will continue to play her club rugby with Wasps.

Tennis – on the court 

Stuttgart Open

Karolina Pliskova defeated Coco Vandeweghe 7-6 6-4.  Vanderweghe had been very much in it in the first set, but at the beginning of the second she fell and injured her hand, necessitating a medical timeout.

In the end, Pliskova’s serve was the difference – she served 11 aces in the two sets.

Istanbul Open

Meanwhile, In Istanbul France’s Pauline Parmentier was triumphant, beating Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-4 3-6 6-3.  Three out of four semi-finalists were unseeded and Parmientier saw off the last of them, Irina-Camelia Begu, seeded seven, in straight sets.

This week we’re on to Prague and Rabat, Morocco.

Prague Open

Unfortunately, it gets no better for Britain’s Heather Watson this season.  She lost in the first round of the Prague Open to wildcard Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-1 6-3.  Last week’s Stuttgart winner, Karoline Pliskova, has withdrawn from her home tournament, through injury.

We are now at the semi-final stage:
Zhang Shuai (6) v Petra Kvitova (2)
Mihaela Buzărnescu (7) v Camila Giorgi

Morocco Open

We lost second, third and fourth seeds, Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Martić and Timea Babos in the first round.

The semi-final line-up:
Ajla Tomljanović v Aleksandra Krunić (7)
Elise Mertens (1) v Su-Wei Hsieh (8)

Tennis – off the court

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Madrid Open which starts next week.  She has said she does not yet feel ready for the clay season.

Football

Don’t forget it’s the FA Cup final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.  Apparently over 40,000 tickets have already been sold.

It’s bound to be a close-fought thing with Arsenal and Chelsea well-matched.  Neither side has had the ideal run up to the final with Arsenal beaten 3-0 by Birmingham City at the weekend and Chelsea totally outplayed by Wolfsburg on Sunday.

The match kicks off at 5.30pm and is live on BBC1 from 5.10pm.

Champions League

Unfortunately it was all too predictable for the remaining English teams as both went out at the semi-final stage to their impressive opponents.

Lyon 1-0 Manchester City
(Lyon win 1-0 on aggregate)

Former City player and England star, Lucy Bronze, put paid to City’s hopes on Sunday with a stunning volley to take her new club through to the final.

In truth, City barely raised a chance throughout the tie (both legs) and went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Lyon had several other chances, the best of which fell to Amandine Henry in the second-half, but her shot came off the post.

After the season started well, City only have the league title to go for and they currently lie second behind Chelsea.

Wolfsburg 2-0 Chelsea
(Wolfsburg win 5-1 on aggregate)

The damage was done in the first leg of this tie.  Wolfsburg took it incredibly easy as they romped away to a 2-0 win.

Pernille Harder scored the first put the first away after making a good run into the box and Ewa Pajor headed the second to seal the win.

Although the British teams are getting closer, I’m afraid it still looks as if they are some way behind their continental European colleagues when it comes to European competition.  There will, undoubtedly be further progress next season and there needs to be if the world’s best players are to be tempted to play in the FAWSL.

FAWSL

Saturday 28 April
WSL2
Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 London Bees

Sunday 29 April
WSL1
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Reading
Birmingham City 3-0 Arsenal (hat-trick for Ellen White)
Liverpool 1-1 Everton

WSL2
Tottenham Hotspur 6-3 Durham
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Aston Villa
Sheffield FC 4-1 Oxford United
Watford 0-4 Millwall Lionesses

Wednesday 2 May
WSL2
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Millwall Lionesses

Thursday 3 May
WSL1
Bristol City 1-6 Manchester City

There’s a change at the top of WSL1 as Man City’s drubbing of Bristol City meant not only drawing level with Chelsea on points, but overtaking them on goal difference.  They have 32 points from 14 games and a goal difference of28.  Chelsea are second with a goal difference of 26 from 14 games and Reading are third with 28 points but having played two games more.  We may just be saying at the end of the season that bagging that six at Bristol won City the WSL1 title. Yeovil are still bottom with just two points from 14, while Bristol City are second from bottom on 10.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles are still top on 38 points from 15 games.  Millwall missed the chance to close the gap as they could only draw their game in hand against Spurs and are second on 33.  Brighton & Hove Albion lie third with 31 from 14 games.  Watford lie marooned at the bottom with just a solitary point from 13 games.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey Premier League Final

Surbiton completed their fifth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1 in the final on Saturday 28 April at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.

They scored in the first half through Sarah Page (8th minute field goal), Hollie Pearne-Webb (10th minute penalty corner) and Beckie Middleton (26th minute penalty corner), taking the match away from Holcombe.

In the second-half Holcombe battled back, scoring a goal through Heather McEwan (35th minute field goal), but it proved only to be a consolation as Surbiton took the title once more.

Play-offs

Slough retained their Premier League status after they draw 1-1 with Beeston, while Hampstead & Westminster beat Stourport 4-2.

Slough 1-1 Beeston

Beeston scored first through a Sophie Robinson field goal, but Slough kept on pressurising the Beeston goal until in the 23rd minute Mel Ball rounded the keeper to equalise.

It was a competitive second-half, with both sides having chances to win it.  In the end the draw for Slough was enough.

Hampstead & Westminster 4-2 Stourport

Hampstead & Westminster not only needed a win, but they needed Slough to lose to be promoted.  Whilst they fulfilled their part of the bargain, the Slough draw meant they were foiled in their attempt.

Stourport took the lead through a Lorna Mackenzie penalty corner, but Hampstead & Westminster equalised soon after with a Lauren Turner field goal.  Just minutes later they were in front as Jessica Orrett fired home a penalty corner.

In the second-half both teams were still battling hard.  A reverse strike from Sophie Thompson brought Stourport level, but the Londoners were not done.  Louise Radford scored their third and Turner their fourth and her second to take the tie away from Stourport.

Rugby League

The Super League scores from the weekend were as follows:

Castleford 40-16 Bradford Bulls
Wigan Warriors 14-20 Leeds Rhinos
St Helens 40-14 Featherstone Rovers

So after three matches of the season, St Helens are top with the only 100% record.  Castleford Tigers are second on four points.  There are still three teams yet to get off the mark; Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights, although the latter two have only played two games.

Cycling

It’s the Tour de Yorkshire this week and stage one was won by Dutch rider Kirsten Wild of the Wiggle High5 team.

Britain’s Dani Rowe lies fourth after she picked up four bonus seconds in intermediate sprints and fellow Briton Pfeiffer Georgi will be in the Queen of the Mountains jersey as she reached the only climb of stage one in first place.

Friday’s second stage starts in Barnsley and is 128km long.

Netball

It was round nine of the Netball Superleague last weekend.  The results were:

Wasps 64-60 Manchester Thunder
UWS Sirens 44-58 Surrey Storm
Celtic Dragons 51-56 Team Northumbria
Severn Stars 43-58 Loughborough Lightning
Benecos Mavericks 57-41 Team Bath

So Wasps maintain their 100% record with 10 wins from 10 games.  As I have said before the figures may be somewhat skewed as although it was round nine, Wasps have played 10 and some teams only seven!  Benecos Mavericks have 21 points – that’s seven wins from nine games.  Lightning are third on 18 – six wins from nine.  Team Northumbria are off the bottom of the table, having registered their first win of the season in their ninth attempt when they beat the Celtic Dragons on Saturday.  UWS Sirens are bottom with only one win, but they have only played seven games.

This weekend sees a kind of combined round 10 & 11 to cover the Bank Holiday in the UK.  The fixtures are:

Friday 4 May
Team Bath v Celtic Dragons (7.30pm)

Saturday 5 May
UWS Sirens v Manchester Thunder (2pm)
Surrey Storm v Benecos Mavericks (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Team Northumbria (6pm)

Monday 7 May
Surrey Storm v Celtic Dragons (3pm)
Team Bath v Severn Stars (5pm) – Live on Sky Sports
Manchester Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (5pm)
Team Northumbria v UWS Sirens (6pm)

Cricket

Two pieces of cricket news this week.

Firstly, Wales have signed New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter Rachel Priest for the 2018 county season.  This is a major coup for Wales, who play in the second division in both the Women’s County One-Day Championship and the Women’s County T20.

It is hoped that Priest’s presence will inspire Wales in their push for promotion in both competitions.

Priest has played 86 ODIs for New Zealand with an average of 28.35.  She also played in the Kia Super League in 2017 for tournament winners, Western Storm.

Secondly, Sarah Taylor has given an interview with the BBC on how she has coped with the anxiety that put her out of the game for some time a couple of years ago.  It’s well worth a listen.  Here’s the link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/43991569

Be a Game Changer

Don’t forget you still have time to vote in the Women’s Sport Trust #Be A Game Changer Awards.  Check it out: https://www.womenssporttrust.com/bagc2018/

And finally,

No ranting; just something to consider.  This is a comment left at the end of the BBC website’s piece on the retirement of Danielle Waterman from international rugby:

“6. Posted by Bionic weather man

On 1 May 2018 11:15

I think it’s great what she has achieved but truth be known women’s rugby and women’s sport in general is a complete travesty. The tens of millions they waste on women’s sport could be better used else where [sic] to improve infrastructure etc.”

This is what we’re up against, Ladies and Gentlemen.  I’ll leave it there.

No column next week, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 21-27 April 2018

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

Let’s crack on.

Athletics

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

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

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

In its statement the IAAF stated,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smriti Mandhana

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

Tennis – on the Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuttgart Open

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

Istanbul Open

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

Tennis – off the Court

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

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

In her speech, Judy Murray said,

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

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

Football

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

On the Pitch

Champions League

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

Manchester City 0-0 Lyon

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

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

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

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

Chelsea 1-3 Wolfsburg

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

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

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

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

Both second legs are this Sunday, 29 April.

FAWSL

This week’s WSL1 and WSL2 scores were:

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

Sunday 22 April
FAWSL1
Reading 3-0 Everton

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

Tuesday 24 April
FAWSL1
Arsenal 3-0 Liverpool

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

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

Off the Pitch

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

Casey Stoney also received a Special Achievement award.

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

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

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

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

Golf

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

Rugby union

Kitakyushu Sevens (World Sevens Series Round Three)

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

England beat China 36-5 to finish seventh.

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

Rugby league

Just two results from the Super League this week:

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

Cycling

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

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

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

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

In a s statement he said,

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

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

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

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

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

Netball

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

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

Sunday 22 April
Wasps Netball 61-44 Team Bath

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

This weekend’s fixtures are:

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

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

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

Women’s Sports Trust – Be a Game Changer Awards

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

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

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

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

And, and finally,

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

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 April 2018

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

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

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

Commonwealth Games

Netball Semi-final
Jamaica 55-56 England

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

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

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

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

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

Netball Final
Australia 51-England 52

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

It was 25-25 at half-time.

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

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

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

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

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

Other Commonwealth Games Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologies again to those I have missed.

Netball – off the court

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netball – on the court

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

Fixtures:

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

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

Football – off the pitch

The Michael Oliver/Gianluigi Buffon debacle

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

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

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

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

Who knows?

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

Over to UEFA to sort it out.

Millwall Lionesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

PFA Awards Nominations

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

FAWSL 1:

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

Women’s PFA Young Player of the Year award:

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

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

Football – on the pitch

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

Everton 0-1 Arsenal

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

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

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

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

Chelsea 2-0 Manchester City

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

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

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

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

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

League Results:

Sunday 15 April

WSL2

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

Wednesday 18 April

WSL1

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

WSL2

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

Thursday 19 April

WSL2

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis

Fed Cup

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union

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

Saracens 45-26 Gloucester-Hartpury

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

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

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

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

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

Harlequins 22-7 Wasps

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby League

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

More news and views next week.

 

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 April 2018

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

So, to coin a phrase, let’s crack on.

Commonwealth Games

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

 Netball

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

Basketball

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

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

Hockey

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

Badminton

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

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

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

Rugby Sevens

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

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

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

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

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

Athletics

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

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

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

 Other medal highlights:

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

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

Football – World Cup Qualifiers

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

England 0-0 Wales

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

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

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

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

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

Bosnia-Herzegovina 0-2 England

England were back to goalscoring form in Sarajevo on Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

Scotland 3-0 Poland

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

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

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

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

Netherlands 7-0 Northern Ireland

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

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

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

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

Northern Ireland 0-3 Norway

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

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

Football – Domestic

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

FAWSL2

London Bees 2-1 Aston Villa

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

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

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

Lacrosse

Home Internationals 6-8 April, Edinburgh

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

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

Senior A team:

England 21-7 Wales

Scotland 6-14 England

Senior B team:

Wales 6-19 England

Scotland 6-19 England

England 17-2 Ireland

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

Cricket – on the pitch

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

Second ODI

India 113 all out (37.2 overs)

England 117/2 (29 overs)

England won by 8 wickets with 126 balls remaining

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

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

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

Third ODI

England 201/9 (50 overs)

India 202/2 (45.2 overs)

India won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining

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

Knight won the toss and chose to bat.

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

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

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

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

Cricket – off the pitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis – on the court

Monterrey

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

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

Volvo Car Open

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

Tennis – off the court

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

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

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

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

In a statement Brengle said,

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

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

News to follow as the case develops.

Rugby Union

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

Gloucester-Hartpury 0-62 Saracens

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

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

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

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

Wasps 19-25 Harlequins

It was an altogether tighter affair at Twyford Avenue.

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

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

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

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

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

Join me for more next week. 

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 31 March – 6 April 2018

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

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

So let’s crack on.

Commonwealth Games

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

The home nations story so far:

Triathlon

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

Netball

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

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

Scotland play Wales next.

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

Squash

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

Table tennis

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

England play Canada in their quarter-final.

Cycling medals

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

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

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

Swimming medals

Aimee Willmott (ENG) Gold in 400m Individual Medley

Sarah Vasey (ENG) Gold in 50m Breaststroke

Eleanor Robinson (ENG) Gold in S7 50m Butterfly

Alice Tai (ENG) Gold in S9 100m Backstroke

Hannah Miley (SCO) Silver in 400m Individual Medley

ENG bronze in 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay

Gymnastics

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

Hockey

Pool A

India 2-3 Wales

England 2-0 South Africa

India 4-1 Malaysia

England 5-1 Wales

Pool B

Scotland 1-6 New Zealand

Australia 1-0 Canada

New Zealand 12-0 Ghana

International Football -World Cup Qualifiers

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

Wales have a full-strength squad to pick from.

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

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

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

Northern Ireland play on Tuesday at home to Norway.

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

Scotland play again on Tuesday, at home to Poland.

FAWSL

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

Saturday 31 March

FAWSL2

Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 Watford

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

Sunday 1 April

FAWSL1

Yeovil Town 0-4 Liverpool

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

Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea

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

Birmingham City 2-0 Sunderland

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

Manchester City 0-2 Reading

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

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

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

FAWSL2

Durham 1-1 Oxford United

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

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur

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

Sheffield FC P-P Millwall Lionesses

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

Tennis

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

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

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

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

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

The Monterrey quarter-final line-up is:

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

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

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

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

The Charleston quarter-finals look like this:

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

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

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

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

Ice Hockey

World Championship Division II Group A

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

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

Great Britain 5-1 Australia

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

Great Britain 3-1 North Korea

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

Great Britain 5-0 Mexico

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

Slovenia 1-4 Great Britain

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

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

Golf

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union

Tyrell’s Premier 15s 

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

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

The fixtures look like this:

7 April

Semi-final 1, first leg

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

Semi-final 2, first leg

Gloucester-Hartpury v Harlequins (4.15pm)

14 April

Semi-final 1, second leg

Harlequins v Wasps (The Stoop, 3pm)

15 April

Semi-final 2, second leg

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

Grand Final

29 April, Ealing Trailfinders RFC, 3pm

Cricket

Tri-Series Final

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

Australia 209/4 (20 overs)

England 152/9 (20 overs)

Australia won by 57 runs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

England v India ODI series

First ODI 6 April

England 207 all out (49.3 overs)

India 208/9 (49.1 overs)

India won by 1 wicket with 5 balls remaining

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

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

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

Other fixture dates:

Second ODI 9 April

Third ODI 12 April

Both games to be played in Nagpur.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

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

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

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

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

5) Marina Granovskaia (Director, Chelsea FC)

6) Barbara Slater (Director, BBC Sport)

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

8) Caroline Wozniacki (Tennis player)

9) Nita Ambani (Owner, Mumbai Indians)

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

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

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

13) Mary Davis (CEO, Special Olympics)

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

15) Sophie Goldschmidt (CEO, World Surf League)

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

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

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

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

20) Nadia Nadim (Footballer)

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

22) Lieke Martens (Footballer)

23) Sung Hyun Park (Golfer)

24) Sasha Hostyn (Gamer)

25) Leticia Bufoni (Skateboarder)

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

 

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 March 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get through, yet again, especially in the football department, so I’d better crack on.  Stories this week come from the Winter Paralympics, football, cricket, rugby union, hockey, Commonwealth Games, netball, tennis and badminton.  Plus an “And Finally” that’s just a bit of banter, really… honest guv.

Winter Paralympics

Team GB has won three medals so far at the event in Pyeongchang.

The first medal went to Millie Knight and Brett Wild, who took silver in the visually impaired downhill.  Henrieta Farkasova and guide Natalia Subrtova of Slovakia took gold and Eleanor and Chloe Sana of Belgium bronze.  Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jen Kehoe didn’t finish.

Fitzpatrick and Kehoe won silver in the visually impaired super combined.  Henrieta Farkasova and Natalia Subrtova won gold again, while Melissa Perrine and Christian Geiger of Australia won bronze.  The other British participants, Millie Knight and Brett Wild and Kelly Gallagher and Gary Smith finished fourth and seventh respectively.

Fitzpatrick and Kehoe struck silver again in the giant slalom.  Needless to say, Farkasova and Subrtova won gold with Perrine and Geiger won bronze.  Gallagher and Smith finished fifth and Knight and Brett, seventh.

Disappointingly, the Team GB curlers failed to make the semi-finals.  The gold medal match will be between China and Norway, while the bronze medal match will be between South Korea and Canada.  Both matches take place on 17 March.

Football – off the pitch

The FA has received 15 applications to join the new WSL and Championship.  There are nine places up for grabs in total, up to four in the WSL and five in the Championship.

We won’t know the outcome until the end of May, but it is thought that Charlton Athletic, Coventry United, Crystal Palace, Derby County and Sheffield United are amongst those vying for places in the second tier.

Anita Assante

Anita Assante has had surgery on the knee injury sustained at the SheBelieves Cup.  She will be out for some time in recovery.

Steffi Jones

Germany has sacked the national side’s national head coach, Steffi Jones after poor results at the SheBelieves Cup and at last year’s European Championships.

Former German international striker Horst Hrubesch has been appointed as interim coach.

The team has upcoming World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Slovenia in April.

Football – on the pitch

Continental Cup final
Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City

City’s dream of the quadruple crumbled on Wednesday as Arsenal won their fifth Continental Cup final at Wycombe.

The only goal in a tightly-contested game came on the half-hour through Vivianne Miedema, after she was put through by Jordan Nobbs.

City seemed out of sorts in the first-half, barely registering a shot.  In the second, they had better chances, through Nikita Parris, Jane Ross and Claire Emslie, but the Gunners’ defence held strong.

Sunday 11 March
FAWSL 2

Aston Villa 1-3 Durham

Wednesday 14 March
FAWSL1

Yeovil Town p-p Reading

Netball

Round six of the Vitality Netball Super league was completed during the week:

Friday 9 March
Team Bath 51-60 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 10 March
Celtic Dragons 49-40 Severn Stars
Benecos Mavericks 46-44 UWS Sirens
Wasps Netball 74-38 Team Northumbria

Wasps are top of the table with seven wins from seven and 21 points.  There is clear water between them and Manchester Thunder who are second on1 5 points from five matches and Benecos Mavericks lie third, also on 15, but from six matches.

This weekend’s round seven fixtures are as follows:

Friday 16 March
Manchester Thunder v Benecos Mavericks (7.30pm)
UWS Sirens v Severn Stars (7.30pm, Live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 17 March
Loughborough Lightning v Tam Bath (6pm)
Team Northumbria v Surrey Storm (6pm)

Sunday 18 March
Wasps Netball v Celtic Dragons (6pm)

Tennis

We are at the semi-final stage of the Indian Wells tournament.  The quarter-final results were:

Simona Halep (1) beat Petra Martic 6-4 6-7 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (20) beat Angelique Kerber (10) 6-0 6-2
Naomi Osaka beat Karolina Pliskova (5)
Venus Williams (8) beat Carla Suarez-Navarro (27) 6-3 6-2

In the semi-finals on Saturday, Williams faces Kasatkina, while Halep takes on Osaka.

Serena Williams lost to her sister Venus in the third round in straight sets 6-3 6-4.

Commonwealth Games News

Athletics

Kadeena Cox has withdrawn from England’s Commonwealth Games team through injury.  She was due to run in the T38 100m at the Gold Coast Games.

Hockey

England has announced its squad for the Commonwealth Games.  They will face South Africa, Wales, India and Malaysia in their Pool B games with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals.

The squad in full:
Giselle Ansley (Surbiton), Grace Balsdon (Canterbury), Sophie Bray (Kampong), Alex Danson (Clifton Robinson), Sarah Haycroft (Surbiton), Maddie Hinch (Stichtse), Kathryn Lane (Leicester), Hannah Martin (Surbiton), Lily Owsley (Uni of Birmingham), Hollie Pearne-Webb (Surbiton), Ellie Rayer (East Grinstead), Amy Tennant (East Grinstead), Anna Toman (Wimbledon), Susannah Townsend (Canterbury), Laura Unsworth (East Grinstead), Ellie Watton (Holcombe).

Hockey

Investec Hockey Women’s League Premier Division

10 March
Holcombe 1-1 Leicester
Slough 1-8 Surbiton
East Grinstead 3-1 Buckingham
Bowdon 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Canterbury 4-2 University of Birmingham

11 March
Leicester 1-2 Slough

With their excellent win at Slough, Surbiton are top with 31 points from 16 games.  East Grinstead lie second on 28 from 15 and Holcombe are third, also on 28, but from 16 games.

Leicester are bottom on 11 from 15, with Clifton Robinsons just above them on 14, also from 15.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

New Zealand

Great news from New Zealand as it was announced this week that the Black Ferns are to be awarded paid contracts for the first time.

A minimum of 30 players will be employed on contract and will also have access to medical and life insurance as well as maternity leave entitlements.

The contracts will commit players to 10-14 hours per week training as well as 50 days a year of training camps and fixtures.

This takes the team to a semi-professional status and players are still encouraged to work or study.

Rugby union – on the pitch

Six Nations

Well, what a weekend of Six Nations action last weekend!  Round four saw wins for France, Italy and Scotland in three thrilling encounters:

Saturday 10 March
France 18-17 England

A record crowd of 17,440 (that’s seventeen thousand) saw France snatch victory in the final minutes of the game to send the home crowd into delirium.

Abigail Dow opened the scoring for England with a try converted by Katy McLean.  Rachel Burford was yellow-carded for England, but France couldn’t capitalise.  However, shortly after they were back to a full compliment, Jessy Trémoulière crossed to get the home side on the board.  Her conversion attempt went wide off the post, but France were back to within two.

Right on half-time France took the lead with a try from scrum half Caroline Drouin.  The conversion was again missed, but France went in 10-7 up.

England started the second-half strongly.   Ten minutes in they scored a second try, this time through Amy Cockayne.  McLean was successful with the conversion and it was 14-10 to the visitors.

On 55 the deficit was cut to just one as Trémoulière slotted home a penalty, but with eight minutes to go England responded with a penalty of their own to make it 17-14 to England.

But the sucker punch came with just a minute to go.  The tremendous Trémoulière cut through one more time and went over to score the winning try.  The conversion was missed, but Les Bleues had won by one point.

Now they have the chance to win the Grand Slam this weekend when they take on Wales at Colwyn Bay on Friday.

11 March
Wales 15-22 Italy

Isabella Locatelli opened the scoring for the visitors on nine minutes.  It was converted by Michela Sillari.  On the half-hour Wales were on the board with a penalty from Robyn Wilkins.  Four minutes later Wales were ahead with a try from Alisha Butchers, but this went unconverted.

But the Azzurre were not to be outdone.  A minute before the break, Maria Magatti went over and Italy were 12-8 up.

Ten minutes into the second-half the away side were over again.  Locatelli looked to be going in for her second, but she was tackled.  She managed to get the ball away to Beatrice Rigoni for the try.

Melissa Clay was sin-binned for Wales and although they held out, there was a brief period when they were down to 13 as Butchers was also yellow-carded.  Somehow they managed not only to not concede, but when Clay had returned they scored the next try,  Sioned Harries going over and Wilkins converting, thereby cutting the deficit to two points.

But in the last minute Italy had the last word.  Sillari scored Italy’s fourth try and they had won by seven points.

Ireland 12-15 Scotland

Saturday also saw a fine win for Scotland at Donnybrook.

In a tight first-half only three points were scored, a penalty to Scotland kicked by Helen Nelson.

The away side redoubled their efforts in the second-half.  Nelson went over two minutes, but the conversion was missed.

Ireland got back into it on 50 minutes when they were awarded a penalty try.  Ireland pressed again and Megan Kennedy was yellow-carded for Scotland after the scrum collapsed.

On 62 minutes Ireland were on the attack, but Scotland full-back Chloe Rollie intercepted a loose pass going over the whitewash after running the length of the pitch.  It was converted by Lana Skeldon and the score was 15-7 to the visitors.

Ten minutes from time Ireland scored their second through Paula Fitzpatrick taking it to 15-12.  It went unconverted and although they repeatedly attacked in the last ten minutes, they were unable to break down Scotland’s defence.

The final round is this weekend with France going for the Grand Slam.  For some ridiculous reason, England v Ireland and Wales v France kick off within 30 minutes of each other in the early evening of Friday 16 March – big huh? to the schedulers there.

16 March

England v Ireland (Ricoh Arena, 5.30pm.  Live on Sky and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
Wales v France (Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, 6pm. S4C and FTV.)

18 March
Italy v Scotland (Stadio Plebiscito , 2pm GMT, Eurosport Italia)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

10 March
DMP Sharks 5-13 Saracens
Firwood Waterloo 10-44 Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough 24-7 Bristol
Harlequins 14-12 Richmond
Wasps 55-5 Worcester Valkyries

Saracens are top on 72 points from 16 games, one point ahead of Harlequins who have played a game more.  Wasps lie third on 59 from 16.  The luckless Valkyries are still bottom on two points, with Firwood Waterloo second from bottom on 11.

Cricket

Australian tour of India

First ODI – 12 March
India 200 all out (50 overs)
Australia 202/2 (32.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

India won the toss and chose to bat first.  Pooja Vastrakar top-scored with 51 off 56 balls and there were other good contributions from Verma and Raut, but 200 was never likely to be enough.  Jess Jonassen took 4/30 off her 10 overs and Amanda-Jade Welllington 3/24 off six.

Australia knocked off the target with nearly 18 overs to spare.  Nicole Bolton scored 100 not out from 101 balls, Alyssa Healy 38, Meg Lanning 33 and Ellyse Perry 25 not out as they went one-up in the three match series.

Second ODI – 15 March
Australia 287/9 (50 overs)
India 227 all out (49.2 overs)
Australia won by 60 runs

Nicole Bolton was at it again, this time opening with 84 from 88 balls as Australia posted a formidable total.  Perry finished 70 not out and Beth Mooney scored 56.  Shikha Pandey took 3/61 from her 10 overs and Poonam Yadav 2/52 from her 10.

India made a decent start in response with an 88 opening stand before Smriti Mandhana was out for 67.  But although most of the batters got starts, they couldn’t go on and dropped behind the required rate.  In the end they were all out in the last over.  Jonassen was again the bowling star for Australia, taking 3/51 from 10.  Perry took 2/41 from 8.2 overs and Wellington 2/20 from four.

The third ODI is on 18 March.

Badminton

Chris and Gabby Adcock are through to the mixed doubles quarter-finals at the All England Badminton Championships, being held in Birmingham.

They face Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino of Japan in the evening session on 16 March.

And finally,

In the Barcelona v Chelsea (men’s) game midweek, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois let in two goals through his legs.   Surely this only goes to prove that all male ‘keepers are c**p?

Sorry no column for two weeks now as I am away.

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 March 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column. After saying I was going to be out and about last week, I ended up actually being very much in and not about, laid up with flu.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – when you’ve got flu, you know about it.

Anyway, I’m back up and running now and there’s plenty to get to grips with this week. Stories come from the Paralympics, rugby, netball, football, cycling, athletics, tennis, cricket and golf.

Winter Paralympics

The Winter Paralympics open today in Pyeongchang with 670 athletes vying for medals in six sports.

Team GB has been set a target of seven medals.

Downhill skier, Millie Knight, along with guide Brett Wild, will be aiming for a medal, as will Kelly Gallagher and new guide Gary Smith in the Super G.  Great Britain also has high hopes in the wheelchair curling.

Full coverage across the BBC.

 Football

 SheBelieves Cup

Thursday 1 March
England 4-1 France

The Lionesses got off to a fine start in the four-team tournament in the US.  True, this French team is but a shadow of its former self as several of the previous stalwarts, and often thorns in England’s side, have retired or are unavailable for selection.  The Lionesses too, however, are missing key players, including captain Steph Houghton, who withdrew from the squad with an ankle injury.

Toni Duggan opened the scoring, slipping Fran Kirby’s pass into the net on seven minutes.

The French offered little and were soon two down as Jill Scott grabbed the second.  Jodie Taylor scored a third before half-time and the game was done as a spectacle.

The second-half saw the Lionesses take their foot off the gas and substitutions caused the game to become disjointed.  But Fran Kirby still found time to grab England’s fourth, before Gaetane Thiney scored a consolation goal for France.

The only downside for England was Anita Asante’s injury incurred in the first-half.  She has since returned to the UK and is set to be out for some time with a knee injury.

USA 1-0 Germany

A goal from Megan Rapinoe on 17 minutes was enough to clinch the opening match for USA.

Sunday 4 March
USA 1-1 France

France recovered from their heavy loss to England to gain an impressive point against the US.  Mallory Pugh scored for the home side, ten minutes from half-time.  France equalised just three minutes later through Eugenie Le Sommer.  Neither side could find the winner in the second-half.

England 2-2 Germany

Whilst there was much to admire in England’s 2-2 draw against Germany, the Lionesses will surely watch the video rerun through their fingers, unwilling to view some of the comedy defending.

But Phil Neville will be heartened by the team’s resilience.  At one time, they would have capitulated after going behind to Germany, but on this occasion they came back – twice.

The Germans took the lead through Hasret Kayikci but England came straight back when a long-range shot from Fara Williams was deflected by Ellen White into the net.

On the resumption, Germany had the better of the play and went ahead again when a poor clearance from Siobhan Chamberlain bounced off Millie Bright and into the net.

This discombobulated England for a while, but Ellen White struck again, getting on to a fine through ball and just beating the German offside trap, to slide the ball home.

The last fifteen minutes were end-to-end, with both teams squandering chances.  England’s best came through Rachel Daly who, having done the hard work to get into a one-to-one with the goalkeeper, then chipped the ball straight to her when it seemed easier to score.

Thursday 7 March
France 3-0 Germany

No-one saw this one coming; France were abject against England and improved against the USA, but 3-0 against Germany?

Armandine Henry opened the scoring for France in the tenth minute with a great shot from 23 yards out.

Germany thought they had equalised when Dzenifer Marozsan chipped the goalkeeper nearly from the half-way line, but Sarah Bouhaddi managed to scramble back to make the save.

In the second-half, France scored through Eugenie Le Sommer (her 66th international goal) and Valerie Gauvin.

The Germans played an inexperienced side against a full-strength French side and paid the price.

The result also ensured Germany finished bottom of the SheBelieves table.

USA 1-0 England

England needed just a point from their final match to take the trophy.  But it was not to be for Phil Neville’s men as an unfortunate own goal from ‘keeper Karen Bardsley saw the points and the title go to the USA.

For most of the first-half the teams were even, but towards the break the US started to take charge.  In the second-half they came out firing again and on 58 minutes a sliced clearance from Millie Bright hit Bardsley and deflected into the net.

The Lionesses had chances to equalise, including one for Ellen White just minutes from time, but she her header came off the post and was cleared by the USA defender.

Football – Off the Pitch

League Restructure in England

From season 2018-19 the women’s game will be renamed/restructured as follows:

Current name                                                     New Name
Tier One:   WSL1                                                 FA Women’s Super League
Tier Two:   WSL2                                                 FA Women’s Championship
Tier Three: Women’s Premier League             FA Women’s national League North/South
Northern/Southern Division
Tier Four:  Women’s Premier League              FA Women’s National League 1 (4 regions)
(4 Regions)

So far, the following clubs have been awarded licences for the top two divisions:

FA WSL: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women, Yeovil Town.

FA Women’s Championship: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur.

In addition to this, there are up to four places available in the FAWSL through the second lot of applications and five in the Championship.

The second application process for places begins this month for those currently outside the two top tiers.  We already know West Ham intend to apply for the WSL and Crystal Palace for the Championship.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s Round Four of the Six Nations this weekend.  The fixtures are:

10 March
France v England (8pm GMT)

11 March
Wales v Italy (11.45am GMT)
Ireland v Scotland (1pm GMT)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Unsurprisingly, last weekend’s fixtures were hit by the weather, with only one tie going ahead:

Gloucester-Hartpury 40-36 Harlequins

This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

10 March
DMP Sharks v Saracens (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby club)
Loughborough Lightning v Bristol (3pm, Loughborough University)
Harlequins v Richmond (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Worcester Valkyries (3pm, Tywford Avenue Sports Ground)

Cycling

Track Cycling World Championships

Katie Archibald and Emily Nelson won gold in the madison.  Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters of the Netherlands took silver and Letizia Paternoster and Maria Giulia Confalonieri of Italy the bronze.

Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Emily Nelson won silver in the women’s team pursuit.  The gold was taken by the USA team of Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert, Kimberly Geist and Kelly Catlin.  Bronze went to Letizia Paternoster, Elisa Balsamo, Tatiana Guderzo and Silvia Valsecchi of Italy.

Elinor Barker was due to take part in the madison, withdrew after a crash and then finished twelfth in the points race.  Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands won.  Jennifer Valente of the USA took silver and Jasmin Duehring of Canada the bronze.

Barker also finished sixth in the omnium.  Kirsten Wild won it with Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark in second and Rushlee Buchanan of New Zealand in third.

Lauren Bate and Katy Marchant finished sixth in the team sprint.  Gold went to Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel of Germany, silver to Kyra Lamberink and Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and bronze to Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova of the Russian Federation.

Golf

Michelle Wie of the US won her first tournament since 2014 last weekend when she took the Women’s World Championship title by one shot with a three-way tie for second.

Wie carded a 65 on the final round, holing a monster 40-foot putt on the last, to go to -17. Brooke Henderson of Canada and Danielle Kang and Nelly Korda of the US tied second on -16.  Best placed UK finisher was Charley Hull, back on -10.

Netball

Netball Super League round five took place last weekend, although a couple of fixtures fell foul of the weather.  The results were as follows:

Friday 2 March
Team Bath v UWS Sirens POSTPONED

Saturday 3 March
Manchester Thunder v Celtic Dragons POSTPONED
Loughborough Lightning 49-60 Wasps Netball
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm POSTPONED

Monday 5 March
Team Northumbria 53-71Benecos Mavericks

One fixture from Round Six also took place on Monday 5:

Loughborough Lightning 53-51 Surrey Storm

The table is a bit uneven now with the postponements, but Wasps are top with five wins from five and 15 points.  Team Bath are second with 12 points from four games and Loughborough Lightning third, also on 12 points, but from six games.  Severn Stars, Surrey Storm and Team Northumbria are yet to pick up a point.

This weekend’s fixtures look like this:

Friday 9 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm Live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 10 March
Celtic dragons v Severn Stars (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Wasps Netball v Team Northumbria (7pm)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Premier League

Several fixtures fell victim to the weather at the weekend, with just two taking place:

3 March
Surbiton 1-2 Holcombe

4 March
East Grinstead 3-0 University of Birmingham

Surbiton are top with 28 points from 15 games.  Holcombe are second, one point behind, from 15 games and University of Birmingham are third on 26 from 14 games.

Cricket – on the Pitch

The West Indies are currently playing a one-day series in New Zealand, the results of which count towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

First ODI – 4 March
West Indies 277/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 278/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand won by 1 run

West Indies won the toss and elected to field first.  Sophie Devine hit 108 and Suzie Bates 44 to steer New Zealand to a defendable total of 278.

The Windies chased with a vengeance.  Kyshona Knight looked to have put them on course as she hit 44 from 31 balls.  They needed 10 off the last over, to be bowled by Leigh Kasperek.

Two runs off the first two balls.  Then a wicket as Tremayne Smartt was caught by Maddy Green for five.  But the dangerous Knight was still there.  The fourth ball went for a boundary and the West Indies needed four off the last two.  The fifth ball went for only a single and the last for two and New Zealand had won by one run.

Second ODI – 8 March
West Indies 194 all out (48.1 overs)
New Zealand 195/2 (30.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 116 balls to spare

The second match of the series was an altogether more one-sided affair.  Stafanie Taylor top-scored for the West Indies with 86, but it was not enough to get them to a useful score.  Kasperek took 4/44 from her 10 overs and Leah Tahuhu 3/42 from 9.1.

New Zealand were ruthless in response, knocking off the total in just over 30 overs.  Devine and Bates were again outstanding, scoring 80 and 101 not out respectively, taking the White Ferns into a 2-0 lead in the series.

The third game is on Sunday 11 March.

Cricket – off the Pitch

England

The ECB has named its squad to tour India and also compete in the tri-series with India and Australia.  Katherine Brunt has been left out with a back injury and Sarah Taylor has been rested.  Lauren Winfield, Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh are also left out.

There are three new names in the squad; Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith and Katie George, while Kate Cross, Tash Farrant and  Amy Jones are recalled.

The squad in full:

Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Tash Farrant (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

Fixtures:

Twenty20 tri-series

(All matches played at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai)

March
22 India v Australia (04:30 GMT)
23 Australia v England (04:30 GMT)
25 India v England (05:30 BST)
26 India v Australia (05:30 BST)
28 Australia v England (05:30 BST)
29 India v England (05:30 BST)
31 Final (05:30 BST)

India v England ODI series

(Not counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship)

April
6 1st ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
9 2nd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
12 3rd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)

News on media coverage when I have it.

Kia Super League

The ECB announced the England players’ Kia Super League allocations this week.  Now forgive me if I’m being particularly grumpy here, but it does seem that it’s all becoming a bit random.  I can’t help thinking we’re just marking time now until the new franchise system is introduced and we start again.  Now it just appears people are moving for no reason – how can supporters get to know a team that’s always changing?  Anyway, the moves are:

Beth Langston – Loughborough Lightning to Yorkshire Diamonds
Jenny Gunn- Yorkshire Diamonds to Loughborough Lightning
Tammy Beaumont – Surrey Stars to Southern Vipers
Sarah Taylor – Lancashire Thunder to Surrey Stars
Alex Hartley – Surrey Stars to Lancashire Thunder

The ECB is looking for balance, but in the end, the divvying up of England players detracts from the tournament for me.

Athletics

World Indoor Championships

There were some excellent performances by Team GB at last weekend’s Championships in Birmingham.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson was the star of the show, taking her first senior title with gold in the pentathlon.  She won with 4750 points.  Silver went to Ivona Dadic of Austria and bronze to Yorgelis Rodriguez of Cuba.

Laura Muir took bronze in the 3000m in a season’s best 8:45.78.  The winner was Genzebe Dibabe of Ethiopia, in a time of 8:45.05.  Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands took silver in a time of 8:45.68.

Muir then went one better, taking silver in the 1500m.  Dibabe was again the winner, with Hassan in bronze.

It was a one/two for the US in the 400m with Courtney Okolo taking gold and Shakima Wimbley, silver.  Eilidh Doyle took bonze for Great Britain with a season’s best 51.60.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took bronze in the 800m with a personal best time of 1:59.81.  The gold went to Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and the silver Ajee Wilson of USA.

Bronze also went to the 4x400m team.  United States took gold with Poland in silver.

London Marathon

Kathrine Swizter, the first woman to be given an official number in the Boston Marathon, fifty years ago, is to run in the London Marathon this year.

Switzer, 71, entered the Boston race using her initials only, hoping to pass through unnoticed.  She was roughly attacked by security men on the day, who tried to remove her from the course.  She eventually completed the race in four hours 20 minutes.

The race takes place on Sunday 22 April.

Tennis

She’s back folks!  I crave your indulgence for just a moment to mention the fact that Serena Williams is back.  Now I know that after childbirth women return to all kinds of work in ridiculously short amounts of time, and I also know that they generally neither ask for nor get recognition for that.  So I’m not necessarily shouting about the fact that she’s returning after childbirth, but just the fact that she’s back.

In her first match back at Indian Wells, she beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5 6-3.  She plays 29th seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in round two.

And finally,

It would be remiss of me not to mention #IWD2018.  I know that in the scheme of things, when women and girls all round the world suffer daily horrific treatment, sport is not one of life’s priorities.  FGM, trafficking, pornography, rape, “honour” killing, withdrawal of abortion and health rights, harassment and forced marriage are just a few things happening to thousands of women and girls every day.

I know I’ve said this before, but while I speak out, sign petitions and protest against all of these things, my actual area of expertise is sport.  Women everywhere have the right to play, officiate, manage, take charge of and watch any kind of sport they want to without fear of reprisal, violence, discrimination or even just scorn and general derision.  But it doesn’t happen.  And while there is a sporting fight to be had, I’ll be there.  Happy #IWD2018 everyone.

 

Women’s Sports Column 17-23 February 2018

winter-snow-nature-60561Welcome to this week’s column.  Last week I asked “what more does Elise Christie have to do to win a medal?”  Well, unfortunately that was answered this week by “wait until Beijing 2022” as she had a terrible experience x 2, crashing out in one and being disqualified from the other of her two remaining events.  But there has been plenty more to celebrate this week.  Stories come from the Winter Olympics, football, rugby union, cricket, netball and hockey.

So let’s crack on!

Winter Olympics

Marit Bjorgen

This week Marit Bjorgen of Norway became the most decorated Winter Olympian.  She has won four medals at Pyeongchang, taking her total to 14.

At this Olympics the cross-country skier won Bronze in the 10km, bronze in the team sprint with Maiken Caspersen Falla, silver in the pursuit and gold in the ridiculously exciting 4 x 5km relay.

Elise Christie

Love her or loathe her (and many do), she’s always good entertainment value.  Personally, I feel gutted on her behalf – is she under an Olympic curse?  There’s no denying her talent, she is a multiple world champion, after all.  So what happens when she sets foot on an Olympic course?

For the record, in the 1500m she crashed out on the final lap, colliding with Li Jinyu of China in the process.  She was taken to hospital and her place in the 1000m was severely in doubt.  She sustained ankle ligament damage and was not really fit to take part.  But she lined up in the 100m heat, even though she was obviously in pain.  She fell on the first lap, but the heat was restarted.  She finished second and would have qualified, but the judges said she had committed an offence during the race and was disqualified.

Skeleton

For all the trials and tribulations, British performance of the Games must go to Lizzy Yarnold.  She retained her skeleton title, taking the gold 0.45 seconds ahead of Jacqueline Loelling of Germany and with a fabulous performance by Laura Deas to secure bronze 0.62 seconds behind the winner.

Yarnold has shown such enthusiasm – she had such a poor season that no-one really expected her to win.  But when she did, it was with an abundance of joy that was clear to see.  It was also good to see her celebrate with her good friend Laura Deas.   A great competition all round.

Ice Hockey

There was a shock in the ice hockey final as the USA defeated Canada in a shoot out.   The scores were level after 2-2 after five penalties each.  Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the sixth for the USA but Meghan Agosta’s for Canada was saved by goalminder Maddie Rooney.

It’s the first time USA have beaten Canada in 20 years.

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill and Mica Moore finished eighth in the bobsleigh.  Not bad for a crowdfunded team, who were not deemed to be deserving of mainstream funding.  Let’s hope this brings them further funding that sees them compete again in Beijing.

Curling

Team Muirhead fell to Sweden in the semi-finals 10-5.  The Swedes went ahead early, and although GB pulled it back to 3-3 after five ends, that’s as close as they got to being in front.

Team GB will now compete for Bronze against Japan on Saturday.

Lindsey Vonn

Another woman to have had a mixed games is US skiing star, Lindsey Vonn.  Before the Games started she endured some serious social media trolling criticising her for her political stance against President Trump.  More than once she was accused of being “un-American”.   She was also still grieving the loss of her Grandfather, who died in November and, it has been revealed that she scattered his ashes on the course in Pyeongchang where she won her bronze medal earlier in the week.

In competition, as already stated, she won a bronze in the Alpine downhill.  Gold went to Sofia Goggia of Italy with Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway in silver.

But it all went horribly wrong in the Alpine combined.  She was top after the first run, but in the slalom she went off course and failed to finish.   Michelle Gisin of Switzerland took gold with Mikaela Shiffrin silver and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, bronze.

Hopefully she will continue to compete, although we will not see her in another Olympics.

Football – on the pitch

FA Cup Fifth Round
Birmingham City 1-3 Manchester City (after extra time)
Arsenal 1-0 Millwall Lionesses
Cardiff City 1-3 Charlton Athletic
Chelsea 6-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Chichester City 0-3 Liverpool
Durham 5-2 Leicester City
Lewes 0-6 Everton
Sunderland AFC 3-2 Aston Villa

The draw has been made for the quarter-finals:

Sunderland v Manchester City
Liverpool v Chelsea
Arsenal v Charlton
Durham v Everton

Fixtures to be played the weekend 18-19 March.

Netball

It was Round 2 of the Vitality Superleague this weekend.  The scores were:

Saturday 17 February
Severn Stars 52-64 Wasps Netball
Team Northumbria 43-65 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 19 February
Celtic Dragons 35-54 Team Bath
Manchester Thunder 60-43 UWS Sirens
Benecos Mavericks 64-62 Surrey Storm

After two rounds, the table is split – five teams have two wins each and five have none from two.  Top are Team Bath on goal average, with Wasps second and Loughborough, third.

It’s a double-header this long weekend, beginning on Thursday and continuing until Monday.  The Sky televised match is on Monday 26 February:

Round 3
Thursday 22 February
Wasps Netball 69-37 UWS Sirens

Friday 23 February
Team Bath v Surrey Storm (7.30pm)
Manchester Thunder v Team Northumbria (7.30pm)

Saturday 24 February
Benecos Mavericks v Severn Stars (4pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons (6pm)

Round 4
Monday 26 February
Loughborough Lightning v Manchester Thunder (7pm live on Sky Sports)
UWS Sirens v Team Northumbria (7pm)
Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm (7pm)
Severn Stars v Team Baath (7.30pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Wasps Netball (7.30pm)

Football – off the pitch

Lionesses

The England squad for the SheBelieves Cup, which starts on 1 March has been announced.  Anita Asante is picked for the first time since 2015:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Carly Telford (Chelsea).

Defenders: Anita Asante, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright (all Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes (both Manchester City).

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh (all Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Fara Williams (Reading).

Forwards: Karen Carney, Fran Kirby (both Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Melissa Lawley, Nikita Parris (both Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Melbourne City), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

All England’s games are being covered by the BBC:

England v France (1 March, 9pm)
Germany v England (4 March, 8pm)
USA v England (8 March, midnight)

Casey Stoney

Not one of sport’s best kept secrets, this week it was announced that Casey Stoney will join Phil Neville’s coaching staff when she hangs up her boots on Wednesday 21 February.

She will play her last game against Sunderland and then will travel with the squad and staff to the USA for the SheBelieves Cup.

Neville could not ask for a more knowledgeable, more respected addition to the team.  Her view of the game and her knowledge of the both the current squad and potential newcomers will be vital to the new manager.

Needless to say, the article on the BBC website prompted some unbelievable bile masquerading in some cases, but not in all of them, as “banter”, directed at Stoney, her sexuality, England women’s football, women’s football in general, Neville, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.  Really chaps (and yes, it is chaps), I know I’ve said this before, but for people who profess to have no interest in or knowledge of the women’s game, you all have an opinion.  And judging by what was left in by the moderators, I’d hate to see what was taken out as unacceptable……

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Tyrell 15s Premier League results were:
17 February
Harlequins 80-7 Worcester Valkyries
Wasps 26-12 Bristol
Saracens 29-29 Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough Lightning 21-15 DMP Sharks

18 February
Richmond 20-12 Firwood Waterloo

All the teams have now played 15 matches.  Saracens’ draw sees their lead at the top of the table cut to just three points.  They lie on 68, with Harlequins on second with 65 and Wasps third on 54.  Worcester are still tethered at the bottom with two points, with Firwood Waterloo second from bottom on 11.

This weekend sees the third round of the Six Nations:

23 February
Scotland v England (Scotstoun, 7.05pm, live on Sky Sports)

24 February
France v Italy (Stade Furiani, 8pm GMT, French TV)

25 February
Ireland v Wales (Donnybrook, Dublin, 3pm, RTE & S4C)

Hockey
Argentina v Great Britain

Well, this series completely passed me by, for which hearty apologies.  GB avoided a series whitewash by winning the fourth game of five.

10 February: Argentina 2-1 Great Britain
GB took the lead through Susannah Townsend, but the hosts hit back through Maria Campoy and Eugenia Trinchinetti.  The GB team included players winning their first caps.

11 February: Argentina 3-1 Great Britain
Alex Danson’s 100th cap saw another loss for GB. The visitors took the lead on seven minutes through Elena Rayer, but again Argentina hit back.   Delfina Merino scored the equaliser.  By half-time Argentina were ahead, their second goal scored by Maria Granatto.  In the third period they grabbed another, through Julieta Jankunas.

14 February: Argentina 5-2 Great Britain
After two tight games, the third was a convincing win for the home side.  Maria Granatto scored after just five minutes, but shortly afterwards Alex Danson equalised. Granatto grabbed another  and Bianca Donati two to take it to 4-1.  Milagros Fernandez added a fifth, before Danson grabbed her second and fiftieth for Great Britain to make the final score 5-2..

17 February: Argentina 2-4 Great Britain
There was at last something to cheer about for GB fans in the fourth match.  Danson scored twice in the first quarter and sealed her hat-trick with nine minutes to go.  The fourth GB goal came from Laura Unsworth.  The Argentine goals came from Campoy and, with just five minutes remaining, Noel Barrionuevo got a second for the hosts.

17 February: Argentina 1-0 Great Britain
It was back to winning ways for the home side in the fifth and final match of the series.  Eugenia Trinchinetti scored the only goal of the game in the tenth minute.

Investec Hockey League Premier Division

17 February
University of Birmingham 5-0 Clifton Robinsons
Canterbury 3-2 Buckingham
Surbiton 1-1 Bowdon
East Grinstead 2-1 Leicester
Slough 0-1 Holcombe

After 13 games, University of Birmingham are top with 26 points, one point ahead of Surbiton.  Holcombe are third on 23.  At the bottom, Leicester prop up the table with 10 points. Just ahead of them are Slough on 12.

Cricket

Second T20
16 February
South Africa 142/7 (20 0vers)
India 144/1(19.1 overs)
India won by 9 wickets with 5 balls remaining

India went 2-0 up in the five-match series on Friday.  Again the batters mostly got starts, but no-on e could make the big score that would seriously cause problems.  Sue Luus top-scored with 33.  Poonam Yadav and Anuja Patil took 2/18 from four overs and 2/37 from four overs respectively.

In response Mithali Raj was in majestic form yet again.  She scored 76 not out from 61 balls with fine back-up from Smriti Mandhana with 57.  Harmanpreet Kaur came in when Mandhana was out in the fifteenth over, scoring seven to get India home comfortably.

Third T20
18 February
India 133 all out (17.5 overs)
South Africa 134/5 (19 overs)
South Africa won by five wickets with 6 balls remaining

Shabnim Ismail produced an excellent spell of 5/30 from 3.5 overs to help skittle India out for just 133.  But it was Marizanne Kapp who began the rout, taking the wicket of Raj for a duck in the first over.

Although Lizelle Lee was also out for five, in the first over of the response, Sune Luus scored 41off 34 balls and the middle order all contributed as South Africa won with an over to spare.

 Fourth T20
21 February
South Africa 130/3 (15.3 overs)
Match abandoned due to rain

India went into an unassailable 2-1 lead as the fourth match at Centurion was abandoned.

The last match in the series, and South Africa’s opportunity to draw it, is on Saturday 24 February at Newlands.

Alex Blackwell

Australia’s vice-captain, Alex Blackwell has announced her international retirement.

The 34-year old is Australia’s most-capped female player making 251 appearances over all formats.  She scored 5,250 international runs.

She will continue to play for Sydney Thunder in the WBBL.

And Finally,

Just a quick note to say it’s been a mixed week for reaction to women and women’s sport.  The Winter Olympics has been exciting and enthralling and, as several commentators on women’s sport have pointed out, no-one seems to say “it’s only women’s skiing” or “It’s only women’s short track.”  Why is this?  Why is it deemed “ok” for women to compete in these events, but not to play football?  Ah, but if I had the answer to this question, I would be a rich woman indeed….

Sorry, no column next week as I’m out and about.

 

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 February 2018

curlingWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get into this week with stories from the Winter Olympics, netball, AFL, football, cycling, rugby and cricket.

So let’s crack on.

Winter Olympics

I don’t plan to cover everything, just what I would consider the highlights.  Only one place to start…

Short track speed skating

What does Elise Christie have to do to get an Olympic medal?  At least she didn’t get disqualified from the 500m; if you remember, she was relegated from all three distances at Sochi, but this will be scant consolation for the Scot who fell in her first final this week.

She had been going so well, making the final with two Olympic record times.  But it seems to me that short-track is a lottery at the best of times and in this final it was even more congested as five skaters contested it instead of the usual four.

Christie fell on the penultimate lap, but that was not the end of the controversy as home favourite,  Choi Minjeong, was relegated and the Canadian, Kim Boutin took bronze.

Arianna Fontana of Italy took gold, with Yara van Kerkhof in silver and Kim Boutin of Canada in bronze.  Christie was officially placed fourth.  There have been reports that Boutin has received death threats after taking the bronze medal away from Choi, which, if true, is a pretty sad and ludicrous state of affairs.

Christie has two more chances to win a medal; in the 1000m and 1500m.

Skiing

Michaela Shiffrin duly took gold in the giant slalom on Thursday 15 February.  She took gold in a two-run combined time of 2:2.02.  Silver went to Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway with a time of 2:20.41 and bronze went to Italian Federica Brignone whose time was 2:20.48.

Shiffrin was going for four golds at Pyeongchang, but could finish only fourth in the slalom.  She complained of feeling unwell afterwards.  Frida Hansdotter of Sweden took the title, 0.05 seconds ahead of Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.  Katharina Gallhuber of Austria took bronze.

Shiffrin still has chances to add to her medal tally in the downhill and alpine combined.

Curling

It’s two wins and one loss for Team Muirhead so far as the round robin stage begins to take shape.

They began with an easy victory over the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) 10-3, but were then beaten by the US team 4-7.

It was back to winning ways in the third match with a tense 8-7 win over China that went to sudden death after the teams finished at 7-7 after 10 ends.

Bobsleigh

I have deliberately stayed out of the patronising “Cool Runnings” hype that has continuously done the rounds since the Jamaican women entered a team for the Olympic bobsleigh.  But things have taken a ridiculous turn for Jazmine Fenlater-Victorian and Carrie Russell.

Three days before the start of the Games, their coach Sandra Kiriasis quit, and in true tantrum style, took her bobsleigh with her.  She claimed that she had secured the sled through her contacts and was “legally responsible” for how and when it was used.

Now the team expects to compete with a sled “donated” by Jamaican beer producer, Red Stripe.

But the sled needs to be checked by the IBSF and cleared to run if they make it to the actual race runs.  They also need to make two runs in official training without crashing to be allowed to compete in the race proper.  It will take the duo some time to get used to a new sled – let’s hope they can get it together in time.

Netball – on the court

Vitality Netball Superleague

The 2018 Superleague season began on Saturday and the results were as follows:

Team Northumbria 39-52 Team Bath
Severn Stars 47-48 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning 55-44 UWS Sirens
Wasps Netball 68-43 Surrey Storm
Celtic Dragons 49-61 Benecos Mavericks

Round two is this weekend. The Sky televised match will be Manchester Thunder v UWS Sirens on Monday at 7pm. Here are the fixtures in full:

Saturday 17 February
Severn Stars v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Team Northumbria v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)

Monday 19 February
Celtic Dragons v Team Bath (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v UWS Sirens (7pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Surrey Storm (7.30pm)

Netball – off the court

England have announced their squad for this April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia:

Ama Agbeze, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Jade Clarke, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Jodie Gibson, Serena Guthrie, Jo Harten, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Helen Housby, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman.

Other squads to follow as they are announced.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Saturday 10 February
England 52-0 Wales

A more than comfortable win for England as they scored eight tries without reply at the Stoop on Saturday.  Poppy Cleall scored the first for the Red Roses after eight minutes and this was converted by Katy McLean.  Abigail Dow scored a second on 17 and scrum-half Leanne Riley grabbed a third four minutes later. On the half-hour England secured their bonus point as Ellie KIldunne scored the first of her two and it was 26-0 at half-time.

It was more of the same in the second period.  There was a second for Kildunne and a second for Cleall.  Marlie Packer and Rachel Burford scored the others and McLean kicked six conversions in total.

Scotland 3-26 France

Scotland deserved so much more than three points for all their skill and effort in atrocious conditions at Scotstoun.

There were handling errors aplenty as the ball took on the aspect of a bar of soap, but it was France who held it together sufficiently to take the win.

The Scots took the lead through a Sarah Law penalty, but two storming tries from Agathe Sochat and Cyrielle Banet gave France a 12-3 lead at half-time.

There was no further score until nine minutes from time when France went over twice as Scotland tired.  Tries from Caroline Boujard and Jade le Pesq saw France take the bonus point win.  Tremouliere also kicked three from four conversions.

Sunday 11 February
Ireland 28-8 Italy

Italy were well in this match up to half-time.  The Irish went in 7-3 ahead but were not convincing.  Megan Williams scored the opening try after 10 minutes and this was converted by Niamh Briggs, but there was no further scoring until first-half injury time when Michela Sillari put over a penalty.

In the second-half Ireland got it together, scoring two further tries as the Italians tired.  Ciara Griffin scored both after 67 and 74, both of which were converted by Briggs.

Italy scored a consolation try in the last minute through Eleonora Ricci, but this went unconverted.

Round three takes place 23-25 February.

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Just one result from the weekend:

10 February
DMP Sharks 22-31 Harlequins

With that win, Harlequins are just six points behind Saracens at the top of the table. Sarries still top then on 65, with Harlequins second on 60, Wasps third on 49 and Gloucester-Hartpury fourth.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Saturday 17 February
Harlequins v Worcester Valkyries (1.30pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Bristol (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (2pm, Allianz Park)
Loughborough Lightning v DMP Sharks (3pm, Loughborough University)

Sunday 18 February
Richmond v Firwood Waterloo (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

Cycling

Sarah Storey has announced that she will compete for Great Britain at the Para-Cycling Track World Championships in March.  She is back on track after missing the 2017 season after the birth of her second child.

The full women’s team is:

Lora Fachie & Corrine Hall, Sophie Thornhill & Helen Scott, Katie Toft, Megan Giglia, Crystal Lane-Wright, Sarah Storey.

Australian Rules Football

There were more developments in the case of Hannah Mouncey this week.  The AFL has agreed to let her play women’s football for Victoria state.

She becomes the first transgender player to play at state level, having previously played at local level for Canberra.

Football

Scores from the weekend’s FAWSL matches were as follows:

Saturday 10 February
WSL1
Birmingham City 0-2 Chelsea
Bristol City 1-2 Sunderland AFC

Sunday 11 February
WSL1
Manchester City 4-0 Liverpool
Arsenal 4-0 Yeovil Town
Everton 2-1 Reading

Another big win for Man City sees them two points clear on 25 from nine games at the top of WSL1. Chelsea lie second on 23 from nine, with Arsenal third on 17 from nine.  Yeovil are still rock bottom after eight games and yet to take a point.

WSL2
Durham FC 1-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Aston Villa 0-2 Millwall Lionesses
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 London Bees
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Oxford United
Watford FC v Sheffield FC (postponed)

Doncaster Rovers Belles have a slender one-point lead at the top of WSL2.  They have 23 from nine matches with Millwall in second with 22 from nine.  Brighton lie third on 16 from eight games.  Watford are bottom of the pile with just one point from seven games.

Cricket – on the field

After pummelling their hosts in the first two ODIs, there was a somewhat surprising result in the third, which took place Potchefstroom on Saturday 10 February:

India 240 all out (50 overs)
South Africa 241/3 (49.2 overs)
South Africa won by 7 wickets with 4 balls remaining

Mithali Raj won the toss and elected to bat first.  They got off to a bad start when Smriti Mandhana was out for a duck, caught by Wolvaardt off the bowling of Ismail.  Raj was the second to go for just five.  There was a fine 79 from Dipti Sharma and 56 from Krishnamurthy, but the innings stuttered to 240 all out as Poonam Yadav was run out on the last ball.  Shabnim Ismail was the main wicket-taker with 4/30 off nine overs.

In response, Lizelle Lee went early for 10, but Wolvaardt scored 59 and Mignon du Preez 90 not out as they reached their total comfortably with Dane van Niekerk contributing 41 not out at the other end.

The series goes to India 2-1.

We are now into a five-match T20 series.

First T20 – 13 February
South Africa 164/4 (20 overs)
India 168/3 (18.5 overs)
India won by 7 wickets with 7 balls remaining

India put South Africa in to bat in the first T20 at Potchefstroom on Tuesday.  All of the South Africa batters got in but couldn’t get to the big score that would take the game away from India.  In the end, the visitors reached their total with seven balls to spare, Mithali Raj top-scoring on 54 not out.

The other four fixtures take place on 16, 18, 21 and 24 February.  More news and match reports next week.

Cricket – off the field

Ellyse Perry is now top of the ODI batting rankings, taking over from Mithali Raj.  She also leads the all-rounders rankings.

Raj is second, with Meg Lanning in third.