Welcome to this week’s column. Back with a vengeance this week with stories from rugby union, netball, football, hockey, cycling, cricket, winter sports and tennis.
England retained their Six Nations championship title at the weekend, winning the Grand Slam as they crushed Scotland in their final match, 80-0. An improving Italy finished second in the table as they beat France on Sunday and Wales beat Ireland.
England 80-0 Scotland
The Red Roses scored their first try of 12 after just two minutes when flanker Sarah Beckett went over.
Jess Breach scored a second four minutes later, and after 12 minutes they were three up through Natasha Hunt. Breach scored her second on 17 minutes and so after 20 minutes England were already 26-0 up.
Kelly Smith scored England’s fifth after a fine scrum and the bonus point was already secured.
Poppy Cleall then went over and it was 40-0. Things then went from bad to worse for Scotland as their captain Lisa Thomson was yellow-carded.
England took advantage of the extra player and Amy Cockayne made it seven tries before half-time.
After the break, with Scotland still down to 14, England piled on the pressure. Prop Sarah Bern and captain Sarah Hunter both going over before Thomson’s return.
The other tries came from Emily Scarratt, Cleall with a second and second-half replacement Cath O’Donnell.
Katy Daley-McLean was in excellent form with the boot, slotting nine conversions and Scarratt added one right at the end.
Wales 24-5 Ireland
Ireland went into the lead after 13 minutes with a try from Beibhinn Parsons, but this was to be their only score.
Wales were level five minutes later through Jess Kavanagh.
Siwan Lillicrap was sin-binned for a high tackle for the home side, but Wales didn’t buckle, instead taking the initiative and did not concede in the ten minute period.
Once they were back to 15, Wales scored through Carys Phillips and they were in the lead.
In the second-half Wales scored two more tries through Beth Lewis and Jasmine Joyce, the latter securing the bonus point for the home side.
Italy 31-12 France
Italy capped a fine Six Nations with another excellent performance against France, which gave them second spot in the table.
The home side opened the scoring on 20 minutes through Sofia Stefan.
France levelled shortly before half-time as Caroline Boujard ran in from a Pauline Bourdon pass.
But Italy weren’t finished as Michela Sillari put over a penalty and the Azzure went in 8-5 ahead.
After the break, Sillari slotted another penalty as Coumba Diallo was sin-binned for France. Then Italy went over again through hooker Melissa Bettoni.
Sillari’s third penalty made it 21-5 to Italy.
France rallied to score their second try through Ian Jason, which was converted by Jessy Trémoulière.
But Italy were not to be outdone and scored a fourth through Manuela Furlan, securing the bonus point and second place.
England v Sri Lanka
England completed a 3-0 ODI series win over Sri Lanka this week. Sorry, no time for reports, but here are the details:
England 331/7 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 159/8 (40 overs, target 314)
England won by 154 runs by D/L method
Nat Sciver scored 93 and Amy Jones 79.
Sri Lanka 187/9 (50 overs)
England 188/4 (33.4/50 overs)
England won by 6 Wickets with 99 balls remaining
Alex Hartley took 3/36 from 10 overs. Amy Jones top scored for England with 54.
Sri Lanka 174 all out (50 overs)
England 177/2 (26.1/50 overs)
England won by 8 wickets with 143 balls remaining
Amy Jones top scored with 76 – that’s three half centuries in three games. Tammy Beaumont scored 63.
There are three T20s to come: 24, 26, 28 March.
There was a surprise winner at Indian Wells last weekend as wildcard Bianca Andreescu defeated Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4.
Andreescu had three match points on her serve, but was eventually broken as Kerber brought it back to be just 5-4 behind.
But then Andreescu produced some of her best tennis to break the German back and take the match.
Football – on the Pitch
Champions’ League Quarter-finals First Leg
Chelsea 2-0 Paris St Germain
Goals from Hannah Blundell and Erin Cuthbert see Chelsea take a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their quarter-final which takes place in Paris on 27 March.
FA Cup Quarter-finals
Durham 0-1 Chelsea
Ji So-yun’s goal was enough to see holders Chelsea through to the semi-finals of this year’s FA Cup.
Manchester City 3-0 Liverpool
Janine Beckie scored the first for City in the first-half and they went into the break 1-0 up. In the second-half, Georgia Stanway, on as substitute for Beckie, scored their second and added a third late on to see them through convincingly.
Reading 2-1 Manchester United
Neither side could make the decisive breakthrough in 90 minutes and the tie went to extra time.
United took the lead through and Alex Greenwood penalty, but Remi Allen equalised to make it 1-1. Fara Williams looked to have won it for Reading as she scored direct from a corner, but it was ruled out for an infringement in the box.
But Reading didn’t give up and got their reward in the 120th minute when substitute and Iceland international Rakel Honnudottir scored from close range.
Aston Villa 0-1 West Ham
Scotland forward Jane Ross scored the only goal of the game to take West Ham through to the semi-finals.
Manchester City v Chelsea
Reading v West Ham United
Ties will be played on Sunday 14 April.
I couldn’t let this go by without a mention. On Sunday, the crowd for the Liga Feminina match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid drew a crowd of 60,739. I feel like I should write that out in words, sixty thousand, seven hundred and thirty-nine people.
Barcelona won the game 2-0 with goals from Asisat Oshoala and England’s own Toni Duggan.
Atletico are top of the table with 66 points from 24 games. Barcelona are three points behind in second on 63. Levante are third, way back on 51.
Football – off the Pitch
Women’s Super League BIG News
I hope you’ve all heard and digested this news already, but I couldn’t leave it out, could I?
At last, I say at last, the Women’s Super League is to have its first ever title sponsor.
Barclays have committed to a deal to the tune of what is thought to be in excess of £10m over three years.
The FA is, unsurprisingly, pleased with itself, calling it “the biggest ever investment in UK women’s sport by a brand.”
The WSL will be known as the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and there will be £500,000 of prize money at the end of the season.
Barclays will also be the lead partner of the FA Girls Football School Partnerships which aims to improve the availability of football to girls in schools.
We’re always using the term “game changer”, but this probably is. Now trying telling us women’s football isn’t worth anything. No business invests in a “useless” product.
And backwards we go…
However, it’s not woo-hoo all the way this week:
It has been reported this week that Yeovil may go back to being part-time at the end of the season.
They have already made three off-field personnel redundant.
The FA is believed to be trying to support them through this crisis but even if they avoid relegation (they are currently bottom of the league and five points away from safety), they may be demoted if they cannot assure the FA that their financial future is secure.
I hope there’s an answer to all this – I don’t want to see Yeovil go the way of Notts County.
There was a second unwelcome story this week as Sheffield United forward Sophie Jones was found guilty of racially abusing Tottenham Hotspur’s Renee Hector.
Jones has consistently denied the allegations, but has had her contract terminated by Sheffield United. She has been suspended for five matches, fined £200 and must go on an educational course.
2023 World Cup
I know we’ve still got a World Cup to come this year, but the quest to hold the 2023 version is now underway. And does it seem that countries are seeing the potential of women’s football at last? A record nine countries have expressed an interest in hosting the event. They are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa. Apparently North and South Korea are also looking at making a joint bid.
The closing date for expressions of interest is 16 April. More news as it happens.
On Sunday Mikaela Shiffrin of the USA became the first skier to win World Cup titles in overall, slalom, giant slalom and super-G in the same season.
She completed the set in Andorra when she won the giant slalom in 23.17 seconds, beating Alice Robinson of New Zealand into second. She had already won the super-G earlier at the event.
Women’s Curling World Championships
The Championships which is currently taking place in Silkeborg in Denmark, runs from 16-24 March. We are currently at the round robin stage.
The defending champions are Canada and those taking part in addition to Canada are USA, Korea, Switzerland, Japan, China, Finland, Latvia, Scotland, hosts Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Germany.
We are nearly at the end of the round robin stage with the qualification games (3 v 6 and 4-5), semi-finals, bronze medal game and gold medal game taking place this weekend.
So far Sweden, Russia and Korea have qualified for the play-offs. There are three places still up for grabs with Switzerland, China and the United States in prime position. Scotland, unfortunately, will not be amongst them having won four and lost seven of their matches.
Para-cycling Track World championships
Great Britain’s para-cyclists had a good event.
Sophie Thornhill and pilot Helen Scott won two golds: in the B 500m Time Trial and the B sprint.
Kadeena Cox won gold in the C4 500m Time Trial and Sarah Storey took silver in the C5 version of this event. Katie Toft took silver in the C1 version, but only gold was awarded.
Sarah Storey also won two golds; in the C5 Individual Pursuit and C5 Scratch Race. Crystal lane-Wright took silver in the same Scratch Race.
Lora Fachie won bronze in the B Individual Pursuit.
Super League Top 5
London Orcas 3-0 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21, 25-16, 25-12)
TeamBU Wessex 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (18-25, 17-25, 21-25)
Tendring are top with 36 points from 14 matches. Durham Palatinates are a point behind with 35 from 13.
Super League Bottom 4
Sheffield Hallam 2-3 Polonia SideOut London (25-21, 17-25, 25-20, 14-25, 7-15)
Sheffield top the bottom four table with 16 points from 12 matches.
Bristol VC1 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (25-19, 25-23, 26-24)
What a fixture to be live on Sky this week! Lightning beat leaders Wasps in a thrilling match, by one point. The winner was scored by Mary Cholhok with just four seconds remaining on the clock. Brilliant stuff from Loughborough as Wasps suffered only their second defeat of the season.
Last weekend’s Vitality Super League were as follows:
Saturday 16 March
Team Bath 56-50 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 53-44 Strathclyde Sirens
Saracens Mavericks 49-57 Manchester Thunder
Monday 18 March
Loughborough Lightning 60-59 Wasps Netball
Manchester Thunder have taken over at the top and are in ominous form. They have the slightest goal average advantage over Wasps in second. Both teams have 24 points from 10 games. Saracens Mavericks are third with 21 and Loughborough Lightning are fourth, also on 21. At the bottom, London Pulse still have only one win and three points. Strathclyde Sirens are above them with six points and two wins.
Round 11 is this weekend:
Friday 22 March
Team Bath v Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm)
Saturday 23 March
Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball (5pm)
Severn Stars v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Surrey Storm (6pm)
Monday 25 March
Celtic Dragons v London Pulse (7pm, Live on Sky Sports)
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division
16 March results:
Canterbury 2-1 East Grinstead
University of Birmingham 0-1 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 1-4 Surbiton
Slough 0-0 Beeston
Buckingham 0-2 Holcombe
All teams have played 16 games. Holcombe are top with 35 points, Surbiton second a point behind and East Grinstead are third with 28. At the bottom, Canterbury have eight points. Just above them are Slough on 13.
This weekend’s fixtures:
Buckingham v University of Birmingham (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Surbiton v Slough (1pm, Surbiton HC, water)
Beeston v Canterbury (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
East Grinstead v Bowdon (2pm, East Grinstead HC)
Holcombe v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Holcombe HC, P1)
FIH Pro League
There have been four games over the last week:
Saturday 16 March
Australia 0-1 Argentina
Sunday 17 March
Australia 1-3 New Zealand
Thursday 21 March
China 0-1 Argentina
Friday 22 March
China 5-3 New Zealand
Different teams have played different numbers of games, but currently Netherlands are top with a points percentage of 80.0 from five games. Argentina are second with 76.2 from seven games and Belgium are third on 66.7, but have played only three games. Great Britain are eighth with a points percentage of 22.2 from just three games.
Big, big news in sports media this week as the Daily Telegraph finally put its money where its mouth is and announced its first Women’s Sports Editor, the completely excellent Anna Kessel. It’s not often I have cause to praise the Telegraph, but this move is a brilliant one and will hopefully cause many other news outlets to follow suit. It has already signed up Dina Asher-Smith as a columnist.
You can read the full story, and its “manifesto” here
You will know that I have an issue with the “ghettoising” of women’s sport – do we give it its own space, far away from everything else, so those offended (and there are still plenty), do not have to view it (although they will still comment anyway)? Or do we mix it in with everything else because essentially “sport is sport”. It’s a difficult one, but at the moment the issue is that there’s little coverage at all. Not in a ghetto, not on its own page, not anywhere (starting to sound a bit like Dr Seuss there). So, let’s get it in there first. Let’s get it its own pages, web page and identity and see where we go from there.
Come on, all you other media outlets, get with it. You know it’s going to be big – AT LONG LAST. Don’t get left behind. If consumers don’t get what they want from their coverage of women’s sport, they will vote with their paper-buying, website-viewing feet.
And, and Finally,
Go for it, Tayla Harris. Need I say more?