Women’s Sports Column 12-18 January 2019

abstract-accuracy-accurate-262438Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week with updates on some of last week’s stories, plus all the results and news from last weekend and the rest of the week.  This week we look at darts, tennis, boxing, football, cycling, ultra-running, netball, rugby union and cricket.

Let’s crack on.

Darts

I don’t know why I start with the darts this week, but I have been very much taken with Mikuru Suzuki’s darts journey, which culminated last weekend in her becoming the first non-European to win the Women’s BDO World Championships.

Suzuki beat Maria O’Brien of England 2-0 in the semi-final, while Winstanley saw off Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia 2-1.

The unseeded Japanese player then proceeded to complete the biggest shock of the week as she beat top seed Lorraine Winstanley of England 3-0 to take the title.

Indeed, Winstanley took only two legs off Suzuki, who averaged 90.12 over the match.

Suzuki’s nickname is “The Miracle” and while I probably wouldn’t go that far, it was a very impressive, surprising win and she obviously has the potential to do much more.

Ultra-running

Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to win the Montane Spine Race.  The British ultra-runner completed the 268-mile competition in 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds, beating the old course record by no less than 12 hours.

The race is run along the length of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders and is open to both male and female runners.  Two-thirds of it is run in darkness.

And if running 268 miles, in winter, mostly in darkness was not enough, Paris stopped at the aid stations along the way to express breast milk for her baby daughter, Rowan.

I can’t even begin to understand what this kind of endurance event must be like to compete in.  She has my complete admiration.  What an achievement.

Tennis

Sydney International

Petra Kvitova took the Sydney title, defeating Ash Barty in the final in three sets, 1-6 7-5 7-6.

Hobart International

Sofia Kenin of the USA claimed the title in Hobart, defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in straight sets, 6-3 6-0.

Australian Open

As usual, there were mixed fortunes for Britain’s women in the first round at Melbourne.

Harriet Dart crashed out badly, admitting that she let the situation and nerves get to her in her hard-earned first round tie against Maria Sharapova.  She had worked so hard to come through qualifying, but lost 6-0 6-0 against the Russian in one hour and two minutes.

In an interview with BBC Sport she said,

“I think nerves got the best of me but I tried my best and that’s all I could do.

“She hits a huge ball and it comes at you quick. She doesn’t give you anything so it was always going to be difficult.

“I’m glad to have these experiences and hopefully get more of big experiences on big stages.”

Katie Boulter, on the other hand, had a fine win in her first round match against 2015 semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova.  She won 6-0 4-6 7-6 (10-6).  For the first time this year there is a tie-break in the final set, but it is first to 10 points rather than seven. Boulter apparently forgot this and celebrated at 7-4, but managed to maintain her composure to take the match, hitting 53 winners in the process.

She couldn’t, however, repeat the performance in the second round and went out to 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets 6-3 6-4.  Although she played well, she was clearly frustrated with her performance.  In her post-match interview she said,

“I didn’t feel like I put my best game on the court.

“I’ve learnt so much just from playing matches on courts I haven’t played on before. I feel a lot more settled now,” she said.

Heather Watson suffered another disappointing first round exit, losing 6-1 6-2 to 32nd seed Petra Martic.  Cue many, many Watson-haters on the BBC website/Facebook/Twitter.  Watson certainly suffered in the heat (as have others, causing retirements) and has cited this as among the reasons for her loss, but she has also indicated that her mental attitude is also a problem and she lacks confidence and self-belief.

There is no doubt that Watson has talent, but has she fulfilled her potential?  Perhaps sessions with a sports psychologist may do the trick.  It would take a major miracle to silence the haters, but her first priority should be to herself.

Johanna Konta won her first round match after a difficult battle with Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.  She won a final set tie-break to take the match 7-6 2-6 7-6 (10-7.

However, she was undone in the second by 18th seed Garbine Muguruza in a spectacular match which lasted two hours 42 minutes.  Unfortunately, only 250 fans were left in the arena to see it as the match started after midnight and finished at 3.12am.  Fabulous scheduling by the tournament organisers.

The final score was 6-4 6-7 7-5 to Muguruza.  Konta will feel heartened that she played a brilliant match in difficult circumstances.  And another point to make – I know the women’s matches generally take less time to complete, but would the organisers have started another men’s match at nearly 12.30am if there had been one to play? I don’t think so.

Other highlights so far:

Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 22, lost in the first round to Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Danielle Collins of the USA is having quite a tournament.  Having disposed of 14th seed Julia Goerges in the first round, she then saw off 19th seed Caroline Garcia in the third round 6-3 6-2.

Home favourite Sam Stosur also went out in the first round, losing 7-5 6-2 to Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.  Yastremska then put out 24th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second, 6-3 3-6 6-1.

Tenth seed Daria Kasastkina lost to the unseeded Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-0.

More seeds fell in the second round as we lost Donna Vekic (29), Lesia Tsurenko (24), Anett Kontaveit (20) and Kiki Bertens (9).

World number one and top seed Simona Halep survived a real scare, eventually winning her second round match 6-3 6-7 6-4 over Sofia Kenin of the USA.

We are now in the middle of the third round:

Maria Sharapova (30) beat defending champion Caroline Wozniacki (3) in the third round 6-4 4-6 6-3.

The unseeded Amanda Anisimova accounted for 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Football

Charlton v Manchester United

Hopeless FA Klaxon!  It had to happen.  The match between Manchester United and Charlton was abandoned on Sunday after Charlton player Charlotte Kerr was injured.

But why did they have to abandon the game?  Kerr was treated on the pitch for nearly an hour, but there was no ambulance on-site and one had to be called.  The ambulance did not arrive for 30 minutes and during that time the medical staff used up the available emergency oxygen.

As there is a legal requirement to have oxygen (but not an ambulance) at the game, the referee had to call it off.

The current rules state,

“Clubs shall ensure that emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each Competition Match. Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

If there had been an ambulance present, Kerr would have been treated quicker, taken off to hospital quicker and the game could have continued.

The good news is that the sternum and rib injury was heavy bruising and Kerr has been released from hospital, but at the time it was not clear that it was just bruising.

Whatever the critics of women’s football say, this is elite sport.  This is the highest level in the country but the FA does not seem able to see its way to ensuring, as far as it is able, the safety of the players.  There have been reports this week that the FA is now considering introducing a new rule on ambulances.  Let’s hope that this is the case, before something more serious happens and we lose a player for want of an ambulance.

Transfers

As predicted last week, Marc Skinner has now left Birmingham City to take up the role as head coach of Orlando Pride.  He has side a 2.5 year deal.

West Ham United have been busy in the transfer market this week.  They signed Canadian forward Adriana Leon from Seattle Reign at the weekend.  Leon has 54 caps for Canada and has scored 12 goals.  Then at the beginning of the week they signed South Korean captain Cho So-hyun from Avaldsnes of Norway, an experienced midfielder with 120 caps.

FAWSL

Results from 13 January were as follows:

Yeovil 1-2 Liverpool
Donovan 52’
Sweetman-Kirk 27’ (Pen) 93’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Everton

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Miedema 80’
Cuthbert 26’ 63’

West Ham Utd 1-3 Manchester City
Ross 58’
Weir 15’, Hemp 39’, Parris 86’

Birmingham City 0-1 Bristol City
Evans 15’

Manchester City are now top of the table with 31 points from 13 games.  Arsenal are one point behind and have played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 13 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 12 games with Everton above them on six points from twelve.

Championship

The Championship results from 13 January were:

London Bees 2-1 Crystal Palace
Wilkinson 6’, Pickett 24’
Georgiou 17’

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Lewes
Naz 31’, Dean 52’, Schillaci 60’

Leicester City 3-2 Millwall Lionesses
Johnson 2’, Smith 35’ (Pen), Franklin-Fraiture 53’
Clarke 30’ 76’ (Pen)

Durham 2-2 Aston Villa
Robertson 21’, Salicki 75’
Hutton 22’, Welsh 45’

Charlton Athletic v Manchester United
Suspended

Tottenham are top with 30 points from 12 games.  Manchester United are second with 28 from 11, having had their game on Sunday postponed.  Charlton are third on 26 from 12.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from twelve.  Crystal Palace are above them with seven points from 13.

Continental Cup

The draw has been made for the semi-finals of the Continental Cup:

Tuesday 5 February
Arsenal v Manchester United

Wednesday 6 February
Chelsea v Manchester City

Cricket

WBBL

We now know the four teams who will take part in the WBBL semi-finals.  Sydney Sixers finished top of the pile with 20 points from 14 games.  Sydney Thunder finished second on 19 with Brisbane Heat third on 18 and Melbourne Renegades fourth on 15.

Saturday 19 January
First semi-final
Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 11.40pm)

Second semi-final
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 2.50am, Sunday morning)

UK coverage via BT Sport and BBC 5 Live Sports Extra radio.

The final is next Saturday, 26 January.

England tour of India

The schedule for England’s tour of India has (finally) been released.

There will be three ODIs played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and three T20s to be played at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Guwahati.

The ODIs will each score two points towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

All UK times:
ODIs – 22, 25, 28 February, Mumbai, 3.30am
T20s – 4, 7, 9 March, Guwhati, 4.30am

Boxing

Nicola Adams will challenge for the WBO World Flyweight title on 8 March at the Royal Albert Hall.  She faces Arely Mucino of Mexico.

Mucino became world champion in February and her ten years as a professional boxer has seen her amass 27 wins, two draws and three defeats.

Rugby Union

Saturday’s Premier 15s results:
DMP Sharks 14-53 Loughborough Lightning
Saracens 31-28 Harlequins
Worcester Valkyries 7-27 Gloucester-Hartpury
Firwood Waterloo 0-14 Bristol Bears
Richmond 12-38 Wasps

All of the teams have played 14 games.  Saracens are top with 65 points.  They have opened up quite a gap now, with Harlequins second on 58.  Loughborough Lightning are third on 55.  At the bottom, Valkyries are marooned on just four points.  Above them are DMP Sharks on 13 and Firwood Waterloo on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:
Loughborough Lightning v Firwood Waterloo (12pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Worcester Valkyries (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Saracens (4.30pm, Gillman’s Ground)
Harlequins v Richmond (5.30pm, The Stoop)

Netball

Quad Series

The first weekend of the Quad series saw two excellent games:

England 54-41 New Zealand
After a tight first half, England did the job in the second to stretch the lead and take the game away from the Silver Ferns.  At half-time the Roses had just a one point lead, 25-24.  By the end of the third quarter the lead was up to 10 points and the Roses kept up that momentum to take the win by 13.  Jo Harten scored 27/32 and Helen Housby 25/31.  For New Zealand, Solonaima Maria Folau shot 29/32 and Ameliaranne Ekanasio 12/13.

Australia 62-45 South Africa
Australia, having to cope with the loss of their captain, Caitlin Bassett, who is sidelined with a broken arm, made a slow start.  South Africa, in contrast, were quick out of the blocks and took an early lead.  They managed to maintain this good form until well into the second-half, but the Diamonds went into the break 27-25 up.  They then upped their game in the third quarter, taking control by the end of it and pushing their advantage to extend the gap to 17.  For Australia, Gretel Tippett shot 30/32 and Caitlin Thwaites 17/18.  South Africa’s main shooters, Lenize Potgieter and Ine-Marie Venter scored 35/40 and 7/9 respectively.

This weekend sees rounds two and three at the Copper Box in London.  There is TV coverage on Sky Sports and on BBC 5Live Sports Extra on the radio.

Vitality Netball Super League

Last weekend’s results:

Friday 11 January
Strathclyde Sirens 45-55 Team Bath

Saturday 12 January
Loughborough Lightning 52-44 Team Bath
Surrey Storm 39-59 Saracens Mavericks
London Pulse 40-67 Celtic Dragons

There are no fixtures this weekend as we concentrate on the Quad Series.  It’s early days of course, and most teams have only played two games.  Team Bath are on top with two from two.  Wasps and Thunder are next, although they have only played one game each and have one win.

Volleyball

The Women’s Super League is now entering into the second half of its season.  The league has split into top five and Bottom four.  Fixtures get underway again this weekend.  More news in a couple of weeks when I’m back.

Cycling

Former Team GB cyclist Jess Varnish has failed in her attempt to prove that she was an employee of both British Cycling and UK Sport at an employment tribunal.

This means she will, in effect, be unable to sue the bodies for wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination.

Varnish had claimed that British Cycling’s control over her made it an employer-employee relationship, but the governing body said it was more like a university grant situation.

There is no doubt that UK Sport will be heaving a huge sigh of relief at this decision, but it may yet have to review its processes and attitude to athlete welfare.

For more on this story see this excellent piece in Cycling Weekly.

And Finally,

First “And finally” of the year must go to Imke Wubbenhorst.  I know many of you will be asking “Who?” as I was, to be honest.  But she’s top of my pile this week for her fantastic response to yet another puerile question from a journalist.

Wubbenhorst is manager of BV Cloppenburg – a men’s fifth tier team in Germany.  She is the first woman to hold a managerial position at a men’s club at this level.

She was asked by a journalist whether she warned her players to make sure they put their pants on before she came into the changing room.

To which she replied,

“Of course not, I’m a professional; I pick my players based on their penis size.”

Love it.  No more need be said.

No column next week as I am out and about.

 

 

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Women’s Sports Column 5-11 January 2019

new tennisSo here it is – 2019!  I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all my followers and, if I might be so bold, suggest that this is going to be a mammoth year for women’s sport.  I’m rather chuffed to say that my husband came up with the goods for my “big” birthday, giving me Netball World Cup tickets.  We have one session that should, all being equal, include an England Roses game.  So what with that, the football World Cup and Women’s Ashes coming up this summer, it’s going to be all systems go.

But there’s still plenty to get our teeth into this winter.  Stories for the first column of 2019 come from football, cricket, rugby union, netball, darts and tennis.

So for the first time this year, let’s crack on…

Tennis

After what seems a miniscule couple of weeks off, the WTA season has begun again with tournaments in the Far East and Australia, leading up the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, which begins on 14 January.  This week sees two tournaments in Australia:

Sydney International

It has been a bad week for British number one Jo Konta who was forced to withdraw from the Sydney International twice in two days.  She was working her way through qualifying when she had to retire in the second round with a neck injury.  She still went through to the main draw as a lucky loser and was due to Kiki Bertens in the first round, but withdrew again.

World number one Simona Halep fared no better as she was beaten in the second round after a first round bye, losing to Ash Barty 6-4 6-4.  It was Halep’s first competitive match in three months after she ended last season early with a back injury.

Quarter-finals
Petra Kvitova (5) beat Angelique Kerber (2) 6-4 6-1
Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-3
Ash Barty beat Elise Mertens (10) 6-3 6-3
Kiki Bertens (7) beat Yulia Putintseva 6-2 6-2

Semi-finals
Ash Barty is into the final, having defeated Kiki Bertens 6-7 6-5 7-5.  Sasnovich v Kvitova is still to take place at time of publishing.

Hobart International

No better news for British number two Heather Watson as she crashed out of the Hobart International in the first round, losing in straight sets to Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-1 6-4.

Quarter-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Kirsten Flipkens (7) 7-5 7-5
Alize Cornet (6) beat Greet Minnen 6-1 6-4
Belinda Bencic beat Dayana Yastremska 7-6 6-3
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5 7-5

Semi-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Alize Cornet (6) 6-2 6-4
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Belinda Bencic 7-6 4-6 6-2

The final is tomorrow, Saturday 12 January

Australian Open Qualifying

There are 16 spots up for grabs in Qualifying.  Of the British players, Naomi Broady lost in the first round, beaten by Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-4 3-6 6-3.  Gabriella Taylor also departed in the first round, losing to Kirstie Ahn of USA 6-1 6-1.

But Harriet Dart is through to the first round proper of the Australian Open.  She beat her first qualifying round opponent, Chloe Paquet of France 6-3 4-6 6-2.  She then defeated Ivana Jorovic of Serbia 1-6 6-3 6-1.  No easy draw for Dart though.  She now faces Maria Sharapova in the first round.

There are four British women in the main draw as Jo Konta seems to have declared herself fit: Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart.

Heather Watson faces 31st seed Petra Martic, Katie Boulter also has a tough one against Ekaterina Makarova (all Monday 14 January).  Jo Konta has an extra day to recover; her first match is on Tuesday against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.

Fed Cup

Great Britain have named a full-strength team for February’s matches in Bath.

The team, along with their world rankings, is Jo Konta (38th), Heather Watson (93rd). Katie Boulter (99th), Harriet Dart (132nd) and Katie Swan (181st).

It is the first time in 26 years that Great Britain has hosted a Fed Cup event.

The Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 event will comprise eight teams.  The teams will be in two groups of four, the draw for which is on 14 January.  The winners of each group will then play each other to determine who will go into the World Group II play-off, which takes place in April.

The event from 6-9 February is at the University of Bath.  Check out the ticket situation here.

Football

Racism Allegation

Tottenham Hotspur defender Renee Hector used social media to allege that she was the subject of racist abuse by a Sheffield United player during their game on Sunday 6 January.

She tweeted:

“Such a shame that racism seems to be rising up again in football.  I received some monkey noises from an opposition player. The only reaction was to let football do the talking.”

Sheffield United Women have made a statement that they:

“are aware of the post on social media and have already begun an investigation to determine the full facts”.

Hector also reported the incident to the referee during the game and Tottenham reported it to the Football Association.

There will be more on this as the situation progresses.

FA Cup Third Round Results:
Billericay Town 3-4 Loughborough Foxes
Coventry United 1-2 Crawley Wasps
Derby 1-2 Stoke
Huddersfield 4-1 Leeds
Hull City 0-3 AFC Wimbledon
Keynsham 2-1 Fylde
Middlesbrough 2-7 Watford
Cardiff 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest 0-1 MK Dons
Oxford United 1-2 Blackburn

FA Cup Fourth Round Draw

The FA Cup fourth-round draw has been made.  Crawley Wasps, AFC Wimbledon and Keynsham Town are the lowest ranked sides left in the competition – they all play in the fourth tier of women’s football.  This is the point at which the Super League and Championship teams make their first appearance:

Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United
West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Manchester City v Watford
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
AFC Wimbledon v Bristol City
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses v Lewes
Durham v Cardiff City
Everton v Chelsea
Crawley Wasps v Arsenal
Leicester City v London Bees
Reading v Keynsham Town
Liverpool v Milton Keynes Dons

Ties will be played on Sunday 3 February.

Continental Cup

We now know the semi-final line-up after the quarter-finals were completed this week.

Manchester City 7-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 6’, Hemp 23’ 86’, Weir 59’, Emslie 88’, Stanway 90’, Beckie 92’
Buet 9’

Manchester Utd 2-0 West Ham Utd
Sigsworth 17’ 53’

Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham City
Van de Donk 83’, Miedema 90’
Quinn 61’

Chelsea 4-0 Reading
Kirby 3’ 86’, Asante 37’, Riley 90+1

WSL

Sunday 6 January
Bristol City 1-1 Manchester City
Graham 62’ (pen)
Parris 36’

Chelsea 3-0 Everton
England 6’, Spence 60’, Blundell 69’

Liverpool 0-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Rafferty 34’, Umotong 49’

Birmingham City 2-1 Reading
Harrop 72’, Sargeant 89’
Hampton 88’ (OG)

West Ham Utd 2-4 Arsenal
Ross 11’, 43’
Williamson 26’, Arnth-Jensen 31’, van de Donk 59’ 65’

Arsenal are top with 30 points from 11 games.  Manchester City are second, two points behind and having played a game more.  Chelsea are third on 25 points from 12 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 games and above them are Everton with 5 points from 11.

Championship

Sunday 6 January
Sheffield Utd 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Schillaci 6’ (OG)
Dean 5’, Wiltshire 51’

Leicester City 4-0 Lewes
M Johnson 41’, Worts 50’ 55’, L Johnson 89’

Manchester Utd 9-0 London Bees
Devlin 2’ 57’, Toone 28’ 66’, Arnott 39’, Green 40’, James 68’ 73’, Zelem 80’ (Pen)

Crystal Palace 3-1 Millwall
Burr 6’, Mackenzie 52’, Bryan 63’
Ravenscroft 53’

Charlton Athletic 2-2 Durham
Bailes 20’, Gurr 85’
Ness 42’ 45’

With their thumping win over the Bees, Manchester United are top by one point.   They have 28 points from 11 games.  Just behind them are Tottenham with 27 from 11 and Charlton Athletic are third on 26 from 12. At the bottom, Millwall Lionesses have just two points from 11 games and Crystal Palace have seven from 12.

Transfers

The transfer window is upon us.  Pick of the transfers so far:

Ann-Katrin Berger has signed for Chelsea from Birmingham on a contract which takes her up to 2022.  Best bit of transfer business so far?  Probably.  Don’t forget Berger was still battling with thyroid cancer in November 2017.  Her comeback has been nothing short of stunning and she is bound to be a real asset to Chelsea.

Danish winger Katrine Veje has signed for Arsenal from Montpellier. Veje has already won more than 100 caps for Denmark.

Jade Bailey has signed for Reading from Chelsea on loan until the end of the current season.

Scottish forward Abbi Grant has left Glasgow City to play for Anderlecht.  Her aim is to make the Scotland World Cup squad and she believes the only way to do that was to leave Glasgow.  So far she has just one cap.

I’m not one to repeat gossip (often), but rumour has it that Birmingham City head coach Marc Skinner has been approached by Orlando Pride with respect to joining them as their head coach.  No confirmation or denial on either website, but just what I’ve heard from fans’ forums.  If it does turn out to be true, this will be a massive loss for Birmingham.  More news when I get it.

Finally, can I add my congratulations to Annie Zaidi, who has been named as the new Solihull Moors Ladies coach.  I have met Annie on several occasions and she is a brilliant example to any woman wanting to become a football (or any sports) coach.  In addition to the new role she will continue as the Under 16s boys.  If you don’t know her story, check it out here.

Netball – off the Court

When are Benecos Mavericks not Benecos Mavericks?  When they’re Saracens Mavericks, of course!

Having just got used to calling them Benecos Mavericks, as opposed to Hertfordshire Mavericks, they’ve gone and changed their names again.  With good reason.  Saracens Rugby Club have bought a 50% stake in the Mavericks.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Kathryn Ratnapala, Mavericks’ Director of Netball said,

“This has been a fantastic opportunity to join forces with Saracens and continue to push to be the standout, ultimate franchise within Vitality Superleague.”

“Saracens have proved to be role models and leaders in their field and merging with this high-performance culture and club is a great step forward for Mavericks.

“We would like to thank Benecos for their support for the last two years as we continue to work with them as our title sponsor this season.”

Tim Hunt, who oversees the commercial operation at Saracens said,

“Netball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and we are excited to be joining forces with Mavericks. Part of our growth strategy is to collaborate with others that share our ethos and help widen our audience reach.”

“To achieve this, the dual-priority is to create an environment where our elite teams continually strive for sporting excellence and to inspire our local communities to lead healthier, happier lives through the positive power of sport. Mavericks mirror our culture making them a perfect match for Saracens.”

Seriously, it is great to see another sport realise the potential that surrounds netball.  I hope it’s a beneficial relationship for both clubs.

Netball – on the Court

The Vitality Netball Super League 2019 is underway in this huge year for netball!

Last weekend saw the Super 10 opening extravaganza at the Birmingham Arena.  All ten Super League teams were in action over the course of the day.  The scores were as follows:

Celtic Dragons 41-58 Team Bath
Wasps Netball 72-42 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 49-51 London Pulse
Strathclyde Sirens 56-38 Surrey Storm
Manchester Thunder 58-61 Saracens Mavericks

The second round is this weekend and then there is a break for the Quad Series.

11 January
Strathclyde Sirens v Team Bath (7.30pm) (Live on Sky)

12 January
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Saracens Mavericks (6pm)
London Pulse v Celtic Dragons (7pm)

Quad Series aka Vitality International Series

The latest Quad series takes place in Liverpool and London between 13-20 January.

Sunday 13 January (Liverpool)
South Africa v Australia (3.15pm)
England v New Zealand (5.30pm)

Saturday 19 January (London)
Australia v New Zealand (4.15pm)
England v south Africa (6.30pm)

Sunday 20 January (London)
South Africa v New Zealand (3.15pm)
England v Australia (6pm)

All games live on Sky Sports

England have already named a 12-strong squad. There is no place for captain Ama Agbeze as she is still recovering from injury.

Roses squad: Helen Housby, Chelsea Pitman, Geva Mentor, Jo Harten, Jade Clarke, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Serena Guthrie, Layla Guscoth, Rachel Dunn, Razia Quashie, Fran Williams

Darts

We are at the semi-final stage of the BDO Darts Professional Ladies Championships at Lakeside.

The semi-finals take place today, Friday 11 January.

Lorraine Winstanley of England takes on doubles partner Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia while Mikuru Suzuki of Japan faces Maria O’Brien of England.

More news next week.

Cricket

WBBL

With just one round of matches to go, Sydney Thunder are still on top with 19 points (nine wins).  Both they and the Hurricanes have played 13 matches, one more than everyone else.  Just behind them, on 18 points and also with nine wins are Sydney Sixers.

The other two finals day qualifying places are currently held by Brisbane Heat on 14 points and Melbourne Renegades on 13.  At the bottom, the luckless Hobart Hurricanes still have only two wins from 13 and are on four points.  Perth Scorchers are currently in fifth, just one point behind fourth place.

The two standouts over the past couple of weeks have both involved New Zealand all-rounder Sophie Devine.  Her display with both bat and ball for the Adelaide Strikers on 23 December against the Melbourne Stars led them to a fine win and she was at it again as the Strikers triumphed in a Super Over win over the unlucky Hobart Hurricanes on 8 January.

Sophie Devine

Devine became the first WBBL player to hit a half-century and take five wickets in a match.  She hit 95 off 66 balls (5 sixes, 8 fours) for the Strikers and was out in the penultimate over as they posted a total of 172/3.  She then took the wickets of Lizelle Lee, Angela Reakes, Erin Osborne, Georgia Elwiss and Nicola Hancock as the Stars fell 19 runs short in their chase.

On 8 January, the Strikers posted 189/5 with Devine scoring 99 not out from 53 balls, an innings that included 10 fours and four sixes.  Tahlia McGrath also made 63.  In chasing 190, the Hurricanes always looked to be up against it.  Smriti Mandhana made 52 at the top of the order, but she lost three partners in quick succession.  The lower order took it on though and the Hurricanes managed to end on 189/8, which took it to a Super Over.

The Hurricanes could only post 12/1 from their one over, hampered by the wicket of Mandhana second ball.  The Strikers, needless to say in the form of Devine, hit six, six, four to win the game and end as player of the match yet again.

Rugby Union

England Roses
I know I’m a bit late to this, but I think it bears repeating: the RFU have awarded 28 full-time 15s contracts.  There are also seven EPS agreements where players will take part in camps and England training, but not the full-time programme.

England Women Elite Player Squad 2019

Forwards
Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women), Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women), Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)*, Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies), Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women)*, Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women), Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies), Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Justine Lucas (Loughborough Lightning), Cath O’ Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens Women), Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)*, Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

Backs
Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies), Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies), Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning), Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women), Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies)*, Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Lagi Tuima (Bristol Bears Women), Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

* EPS agreement

It is great news and shows England Rugby’s commitment to women’s and girls’ rugby.

Premier 15s

Premier 15s rugby is back this weekend.  The fixtures are as follows:

12 January
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol Bears (1pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Richmond v Wasps (3pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Harlequins (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Get out there and support them if you can.

That’s all for this week.  More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 15-21 December 2018

IMG-20160720-00581Welcome to the last Women’s Sports Column of 2018.  It’s been an invigorating, strange, frustrating, air-punching year, punctuated by big highs and fairly rotten lows.  On the whole, I’d say women’s sport (with some exceptions) is on the up.  The respect for female athletes is improving and attendances and viewing figures are improving.

But it only takes me a minute to cast my eye over some of my “And finally” sections this year to realise that there is still work to do, attitudes to change and sexism to rigorously call out.

Anyway, for the final time this year, here are stories from football, cricket, darts, rugby union, taekwondo, SPOTY, sailing and cycling.

Let’s crack on…

Sports Personality of the Year

I’ve honestly never seen so much hot air in my life as that generated by the SPOTY shortlist/winners/event.  Really folks if you are so outraged about this as a subject, you must have had a very easy life not noticing the things in the real world that are going on around you.

Is it disappointing that Georgia Hall was not shortlisted?  Yes.  Is it disappointing that neither of the two women shortlisted made it into the top three?  Yes.  Is it the end of life as we know it because Harry Kane didn’t win?  No.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all so subjective that it’s not worth worrying about.  The contenders’ accomplishments are facts, but when it comes to voting, if you don’t like athletics or cycling or perhaps, women, then you’re not going to vote for them.  Football supporters are particularly one-eyed, as we all know.

The shortlist: Harry Kane, Geraint Thomas, Lewis Hamilton, Dina Asher-Smith, Lizzy Yarnold, James Anderson.

The top three:
Geraint Thomas
Lewis Hamilton
Harry Kane

I have my own preferences, as I’m sure you all do.  I would have liked to have seen Dina Asher- Smith win it, but it was always, I’m afraid, unlikely.

But the women did well elsewhere.  Two awards for the England Roses; Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year for their Commonwealth Games win against Australia and Team of the Year.  It’s a pity that Tracey Neville didn’t win Coach of the Year, but that was always going to be Gareth Southgate (perfectly nice man and nothing against him) for winning nothing and wearing a waistcoat.

The Unsung Hero award went to 28-year old Kirsty Ewen, swimming coach with Inverness ASC.  Kirsty had issues with her mental health since her teenage years and was reluctant to become a volunteer.  Now she says, “volunteering in sport saved my life” and although she still experiences difficult patches, her swimming coaching lessens the effects and gives her joy and the chance to inspire others.  There’s a great short film about her on the BBC website.  Check it out here.

The Lifetime Achievement award went to Billie Jean King.  As you will all know, King no only had an outstanding tennis career (35 singles and doubles Grand Slam titles, including 20 Wimbledon titles), but has spent her whole life fighting for equality in sports for women.  She founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and was its first president.  She and then husband Larry King also founded the Women’s Sports Foundation, specifically aimed at ensuring that all girls and women have access to sport.

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and was awarded the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama in 2009.

Football

Continental Cup Draw

The quarter-final draw was made this week:
Manchester United v West Ham United
Chelsea v Reading
Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal v Birmingham City

Ties will take place 9-10 January 2019

Sailing

British Yachting Awards

I am most happy to say that Dee Caffari duly won the Pro Sailor of the Year award at the British Yachting Awards last week.  It was a good night all round for female sailors:

Maria Stanley was awarded Amateur Sailor of the Year, Emily Mueller was Youth Sailor of the Year, while the Outstanding Achievement Award went to Tracy Edwards MBE.

Cricket

Ireland Women

There was excellent news from Cricket Ireland this week as it announced it is to offer professional contracts to some women players in 2019.  The number has not been specified and the contracts will be part-time, but it is a veritable step forward for Irish cricket.

Cricket Ireland chief executive, Warren Deutrom, said,

“We are delighted to become one of a very select number of sports in Ireland to offer professional contracts to women players.  It has been an ambition of ours for a number of years, and we now find ourselves in the position to push ahead with this much-needed improvement to our sport.

“The professionalism shown by our senior women’s team during preparation, qualification and performance at the recent ICC T20 World Cup was a demonstration that this side of our sport is ready to progress and grow.

“Like we did with the men’s side a number of years ago, we will now bring a measured approach to player contracts. A small number of part-time contracts will be offered in early 2019, with the plan to expand this programme over subsequent years.”

WBBL

December 15
Hobart Hurricanes 133/5 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 155/3 (14.4 /15 overs – target 152)
Sixers won by 7 wickets (DLS)

The Hurricanes had reached 112/4 off 14 when the rain came, causing the match to be reduced to 15 overs.  England captain Heather Knight scored 51 not out off 35 balls.  The target was revised to 152 via DLS.

The Sixers openers for once went cheaply, Alyssa Healy for 8 and Ellyse Perry for 10.  But Ash Gardner powered her way to 79 not out from 50 balls, supported ably by Erin Burns with 43 from just 20 balls.   When Burns was out, Sara McGlashan came in and she and Gardner squeaked home with two balls remaining, McGlashan hitting a four to win it.

Adelaide Strikers 132 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 134/4 (17.3 overs)
Thunder won by six wickets

If it hadn’t been for captain Suzie Bates, this might have been much, much worse for the Strikers.  Opening the innings with Tahlia McGrath, she anchored the innings, scoring 79 not out from 60 balls.

But the support was not there.  The only other Strikers player to reach double figures was Alex Price, coming in at number 10.  Rene Farrell took 3/12 from four overs, Stafanie Taylor 3/36 from her four and Maisy Gibson 3/23 from four.

The chase was measured and untroubled.  Rachel Priest opening scored 58 not out and although Taylor was run out for a duck, Stalenberg (19) and Kaur (33) broke the back of the target and it was left to Nicola Carey to score the winning runs, ending the game with a boundary.

Melbourne Stars 124/9 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 125/2 (19 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets

Stars lost wickets disappointingly regularly in this innings and their top-scorer was Georgia Elwiss with just 26.  The wickets were shared across seven bowlers.

The Scorchers took their time with the chase, anchored by captain Elyse Villani, who scored 52 not out from 49 balls.  Amy Jones went for just five, but Nicole Bolton (23) and Heather Graham (39 not out) steered it home with one over remaining.

December 16
Brisbane Heat 174/8 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 153/7 (20 overs)
Heat won by 21 runs

Sammy-Jo Johnson top-scored for the Heat with 31 and there were other solid contributions from Beth Mooney (25), Jess Jonassen (26) and Laura Harris (29) as they posted a good 174.  Molly Strano was pick of the bowlers for the Renegades, taking 4/21 off her four overs.

The Renegades’ response began well with an opening stand between Danni Wyatt and Amy Satterthwaite of 75.  But after those two were out, Satterthwaite first for 38 and Wyatt for 32, only one other batter made double figures.  They fell behind the run-rate and fell 21 short of their target.

Sydney Sixers 158/3 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 141 all out (19.1 overs)
Sixers won by 17 runs

Ellyse Perry was at it again on Saturday as she scored 72 not out to lead the Sixers to another win.  Alyssa Healy contributed 30 and Erin Burns 44 as they posted 158.

In response, Fazackerley went for just four and the Hurricanes found it hard to build partnerships, regularly losing wickets.  Georgia Redmayne provided the only stiff resistance for the Hurricanes, scoring 47 not out from 36 balls.  But they were always going to be short.  Marizanne Kapp took 4/27 off her four overs and Alex Hartley was the last wicket to fall, run out without facing a ball as the Hurricanes finished well short.

Adelaide Strikers 145/4 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 146/5 (18.2 overs)
Thunder won by five wickets

Bridget Patterson top-scored for the Strikers with 36 from 40 balls as they posted a decent 145.  The Thunder used seven bowlers, the pick of whom was Stafanie Taylor, who took 2/33 from her four overs.

Rachel Priest went for a first ball duck with Stalenberg following for just one in the second over, but Stafanie Taylor provided the anchor, scoring 55 from 42 balls before she was run out in the fifteenth over.  Harmanpreet Kaur took it on further down the order and was 52 not out from 34 balls at the end.  She hit two fours off the first two balls of the penultimate over, bowled by Devine, but the winning run came from a wide and the Thunder had won with 10 balls to spare.

Perth Scorchers 90/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 91/6 (15.3 overs)
Stars won by 4 wickets

The Scorchers had a nightmare against the Stars, scoring a paltry 90 from their 20 overs and although the Stars lost wickets in the chase, they still won with 27 balls to spare.

Nicole Bolton made 36, but took 44 balls in doing it.  The only other player to get into double figures was Hayley Jensen who scored 12 from 15 balls.  All of the bowling figures looked impressive with Kristen Beams taking 3/13 from three overs and Georgia Elwiss 2/10 from three.

Stars never looked in any trouble in their chase.  Opener Lizelle Lee scored 26 from 19 and Katie Mack 33 from 31. Nicola Hancock hit the winning run in the sixteenth over.

December 18
Hobart Hurricanes 173/7 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 173/6 (20 overs)
Match tied – Scorchers won in the Super Over

Hobart got off to a good start, with a partnership of 59 between Smriti Mandhana and Erin Fazackerley, before Mandhana fell to Heather Graham for 38.  She was top scorer, Fazackerley made 36 and Stefanie Daffara 31 as they posted a decent total for the Scorchers to chase.

Amy Jones and Elyse Villani also got off to a good start.  Jones was the first to go for 21.  Heather Graham top-scored with 44 and Villani made 41.  The two sides couldn’t be separated over 20 overs and so the game went to a Super Over.

The Hurricanes recorded 10/2 in the Super Over, but the Scorchers made 16/0 and took the two points.

19 December
Melbourne Stars 132/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 138/0 (10.5 overs)
Heat won by 10 wickets

Move over Ellyse Perry, there’s a new kid in town.  Grace Harris stole the show in Brisbane as she smashed a 42-ball 100 as the home side chased down their target with more than nine overs to spare.  With her team needing one to win and with Harris on 95, she hit her sixth six of the innings to win the match and to take her to her century.

The Stars started badly with Lizelle Lee out for just one in the second over.  The rest of the middle order got a start but no-one could put together the big innings needed.  Angela Reakes top scored for the Stars with 30 as they posted 132/7 off their 20 overs.

Enter the Heat openers.  No-one else got a look-in as Harris and Mooney took it on and cruised to victory.  Mooney played the steady back-up, scoring 28 from 25 balls, but it was Harris and her stunning 101, containing 13 fours and six sixes who will remain in the memory.

21 December
Hobart Hurricanes 153/9 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 156/4 (17.2 overs)
Thunder won 6 wickets

Hurricanes again got off to a good start with an opening stand of 43. Fazackerley was out for 35 and was top-scorer.  The top five batters all got into double figures, but none was able to push on to a big score.  None of the next five batters scored over seven and so although the score was competitive, it did tail away towards the end.  Stafanie Taylor was pick of the bowlers for the Thunder, taking 3/24 from her four overs.

By contrast, the Thunder got off to a poor start in their chase with Rachael Haynes perishing in the first over for five.  But Rachel Priest (40) and Naomi Stalenberg (55) with Kaur, Blackwell and Taylor all contributing as they reached their target with 16 balls to spare.

Adelaide Strikers 144/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/6 (19.3 overs)
Stars won by four wickets

Two batters stood out for the Strikers.  Opener Sophie Devine hit 46 from 36 balls and towards the end of the innings Tegan McPharlin 41from 34.  In between there were a lot of single-figure scores.  Erin Osborne took 2/16 from her four overs.

The Stars went well in response until they lost two wickets in the tenth over as Dani Hazell got Du Preez went for 17 and Mack for a duck.   It was a tight finish, but the Stars got home with three balls to spare.  Erin Osborne top-scored for the Stars with 54 not out from 45 balls.

As it stands, Sydney Thunder are top with 10 points from six matches.  Sydney Sixers are second with eight from five and Melbourne Stars are third with eight from seven matches and an inferior net run-rate.  At the bottom, Hobart Hurricanes have only one win from seven games and have two points.  Melbourne Renegades are just above them on three, but from only four matches.

In the UK, there is coverage of some WBBL matches on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra and BT Sport.

Rugby Union

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

15 December
Loughborough Lightning 29-10 Gloucester-Hartpury

16 December
Firwood Waterloo 0-65 Harlequins
Saracens 48-0 Richmond
DMP Sharks 7-5 Bristol Bears
Worcester Valkyries 5-48 Wasps

After 12 games, Saracens are top with 55 points.  Harlequins are second on 51 and Loughborough Lightning are third with 49.  At the bottom, the Worcester Valkyries have just four points, DMP Sharks are just above them on 13 and Firwood Waterloo are one point ahead of them and third from bottom.

This weekend’s fixtures, the last of 2018, are:

22 December
Harlequins v Worcester Valkyries (1.30pm, Surrey Sport Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Firwood Waterloo (2pm,)
Wasps v Saracens (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Richmond v DMP Sharks (5pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Bristol Bears v Loughborough Lightning (5.30pm, Shaftesbury Park)

Volleyball

There were just two games in the Women’s Super League last weekend:

TeamBU Wessex 2-3 Tendring VC Ladies (25-23, 25-23, 17-25, 13-25, 12-25)
Birmingham Volleyball Club1 0-3 London Orcas (15-25, 12-25, 16-25)

All nine teams have now played eight games.  Durham Palatinates are top with 23 points, Tendring VC Ladies are second with 19 and London Orcas are third on 17.  At the bottom, Polonia SideOut London and Birmingham VC1 have three points each.

Cycling

Track Cycling World Cup IV – London

Team GB’s women riders claimed two golds at the fourth event in the Track Cycling World Cup in London at the weekend.

Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald won gold in the madison and they were also part of the team, along with Neah Evans and Ellie Dickinson, that took gold in the team pursuit.

Results:

Sprint: Stephanie Morton (Aus) beat Emma Hinze (Ger) in the final.  Laurine van Riessen (Ned) took bronze.

Keirin: Stephanie Morton (Aus) took gold, Daria Shmeleva (Rus) silver and Urszula Los (Pol), bronze.  Katy Marchant finished fourth.

Omnium: Kirsten Wild (NED) won gold, Jennifer Valente (USA) silver and Allison Beveridge (CAN), bronze.  Elinor Barker was fifth.

Team sprint: China won gold, Germany the silver and Netherlands the bronze.

Team Pursuit: Great Britain took gold, USA silver and Italy the bronze.

Madison: Great Britain (Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald) won gold, Australia (Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson took silver and, Belgium (Julien D’Hoore and Lotte Kopecky) took bronze.

Taekwondo

It was two out of three golds for Great Britain’s female finalists at the World Taekwondo Grand Slam finals in China.

Bianca Walkden defeated Madelynn Gorman-Shore of the United States to win the +67kg category.

Lauren Williams overcame Nur Tatar Askari of Turkey to win the -67kg category.

Jade Jones took a silver, losing out in the final to Lijun Zhou of China in the -57kg class, while Rebecca McGowan just missed out on bronze in the +67kg category.

Each winner took home over £54,000, the largest prize even given in the sport.

Darts

The second female qualifier for the PDC World Darts Championship, Anastasia Dobromyslova, lost in straight sets in the first round to Ryan Joyce of England.

And Finally,

I hope you have enjoyed the column this year.  I have enjoyed writing it!  I love getting the stories together, to see just how much women all over the world are contributing to the sporting landscape, very often for little but personal satisfaction in return.

2019 promises to be a storming year with the football World Cup in France, netball World Cup in Liverpool and the Ashes during the English summer to look forward to.

Hopefully I’ll be about to bring it all to you (hopefully I’ll get to see some of it in person!).

But until then, I would like to wish you all a happy sport-filled Christmas and New year and I look forward to writing for you and interacting with you all again in 2019.

Penny

Women’s Sports Column 8-14 December 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the no-show last week.  I had it half-written, but felt so ill from Thursday onwards that I just couldn’t complete it.  Shame, because it was going to be a good one (but you’ll just have to take my word for that…)

Anyway, still plenty to get our teeth into this week with stories from football, cricket, volleyball, rugby, tennis, sports sponsorship, taekwondo, darts and sailing.  Plus, it was due to be my “And Finally” last week, but I just can’t let that twerking farrago go!

Let’s crack on.

Football

World Cup 2019 Draw

No doubt as to the top news story this week, as Saturday’s World Cup 2019 draw saw England and Scotland drawn in the same group.  It had a strange air of inevitability to it, I thought, as I watched the balls being pulled from the goldfish bowls.

The draw in full:

Group A
France, South Korea, Norway, Nigeria

Group B
Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Group C
Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Group D
England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan

Group E
Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands

Group F
United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

Group D fixtures:
(all local time)

9 June
England v Scotland, Allianz Riviera, Nice (6pm)

10 June
Argentina v Japan, Parc des Princes, Paris (6pm)

14 June
Japan v Scotland, Roazhon Park, Rennes (3pm)
England v Argentina, Stade Océane, Le Havre (9pm)

19 June
Japan v England, Allianz Riviera, Nice (9pm)
Scotland v Argentina, Parc des Princes, Paris (9pm)

My thoughts at this point could easily become a list of clichés, so I’ll keep it brief.  I’ll suggest that it is a truism rather than a cliché to say that there are no easy groups at the World Cup.  Scotland will be massively motivated to beat England and the Lionesses will not be able to afford to “warm up” as the group progresses.  They will need to be sharp from the start.  It’s not a gimme for England, that much is sure.  Japan will probably provide the toughest test, so ideally Neville will want his team to have made a positive start and have points in the bag by the time they play them.

France and Germany should have a fairly easy ride; Group C is anyone’s guess; it’s tough between Canada and Netherlands in Group E and also between United States and Sweden in Group F.

Looking forward to it immensely.  If any enterprising publication/website would like to send me over to cover it, just let me know.  Not looking forward to all the misogynist bile that goes with it (plenty going around already).

Jordan Nobbs

England have already received one blow to their chances as it has been confirmed that Jordan Nobbs will not make it to France 2019.  The Arsenal midfielder has had surgery for the anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in the match against Everton in November.

Nobbs had had a storming start to the season and will, without doubt, be missed.

Afghan National Team

Meanwhile, although we bemoan the status of women’s football in this country, we should, perhaps, consider ourselves lucky, when we see what others have had to go through in order to pursue their footballing passion.

I must admit I was doubtful that there would be any meaningful investigation into the allegations of sexual and physical abuse of members of the Afghan women’s team by Afghan Football Federation (AFF) staff.

But this week the Afghanistan Attorney General, Farid Hamidi, has suspended six members of the AFF, including the president, Keramuddin Karim while an investigation is carried out.

The Guardian reported in November that allegations of abuse taking place in Afghanistan as well as at a training camp in Jordan had been reported by senior officials.

In The Guardian’s report this week the team’s former coach, Kelly Lindsey, is quoted as saying,

“For years I have listened to stories of how women are treated in Afghanistan – seeing and hearing the disparity in our players’ voices. I have seen how these men have destroyed the bonds, trust, and unity these women built together through teamwork. For every step forward we went through a despairing step back at the hands of these men.

“I stopped in my tracks when I saw the news and felt for once in these women’s lives they can see that unity can lift them out of despair. That their voice has finally been heard and hopefully for their bigger mission to help all women and children of Afghanistan have a voice and live their dreams.”

And Mina Ahmadi, a player excluded from the team for refusing to sign a new contract, said

“I was in awe when I saw the news. When we started this whole movement I was hoping for a fundamental change but because so many people before us tried it as well, I wasn’t sure if we will be heard.

“The fact so many people joined us in our fight and we honestly brought some change just makes me feel so proud. I’m proud to know so many female fighters for justice and I just hope that it’s the beginning of a greater and brighter future for our country. It’s the biggest honour to be part of this mission and to show people that you should raise your voice when you are treated wrongly.”

I will follow up on this story as it progresses.

SheBelieves Cup 2019

The US will once again host the SheBelieves cup in February, which will serve as a useful World Cup warm-up tournament for those involved.  The teams will be US, Japan, Brazil and England.

The Lionesses will begin their campaign against Brazil in Philadelphia on 27 February.  They then move on to Nashville to play the US on 2 March and then to Tampa to play Japan on 5 March.

WSL

This weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

9 December
Yeovil Town 0-5 West Ham
Lehmann 19’ 27’, Simic 34’ 59’, Visalli 53’

Reading 2-2 Liverpool
Williams 62’ 84’
Sweetman-Kirk 10’ 68’

Manchester City 1-0 Birmingham
Stanway 12’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea
Ericsson 55’, England 69’ 91’, So-yun Ji 76’

Everton 0-2 Bristol City
Rutherford 65’, Rood 91’

Arsenal are now top on goal difference only (although it’s a healthy gap), but they have a game in hand over the chasing pack and have 27 points.  Man City are second, with Chelsea five points behind in third.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 matches, Brighton are just above them with four and Everton third from bottom with five from ten matches.

WC

This weekend’s WC results were as follows:

Aston Villa 5-1 Sheffield Utd
Hutton 40’ 63’ 73’, Haywood 42’, smith 82’
Jones 51’ (Pen)

Lewes 0-2 Charlton Athletic
Eupji 40’, Agg 69’

Durham 3-1 Manchester Utd
Salicki 22’, Hepple 60’, Ness 87’
Toone 42’

London Bees 2-1 Leicester City
Beckett 52’, Wilkinson 70’
Johnson 27’

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Crystal Palace
Dean 26’

Durham proved that Manchester United are beatable by doing just that at the weekend, but United stay top on 25 points from 10 games.  They are only ahead on goal difference from Charlton, who have played a game more with Durham in third a point behind, also having played 11.  At the bottom, Millwall still have two points from ten games and Crystal Palace are just above them with four.

Continental Cup

12 December
Reading 5-6 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur 0-5 Chelsea
Birmingham City 1-3 Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses 1-3 Arsenal
Yeovil Town 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield Utd 3-1 Leicester City
Charlton Athletic 0-2 West Ham Utd

13 December
Everton 0-3 Manchester Utd
Aston Villa 0-4 Manchester City
Crystal Palace 7-2 London Bees

The quarter-finalists are: Manchester City/Birmingham City (Group 1 North), Manchester Utd/Reading (Group 2 North), Chelsea/Brighton & Hove Albion (Group 1 South), Arsenal/West Ham Utd (Group 2 South).

Sports Sponsorship

There was good news and frustrating news in the world of women’s sports sponsorship this week.  Make no mistake, the good news is major.

Visa have signed a seven-year deal with UEFA to become women’s football’s first sole sponsor at all levels.

Visa will be the main partner for the Champions League and the Women’s Euros.  It will also sponsor the Women’s Under-19 and Under-17 Championships and the UEFA Women’s Futsal European Championships.

The deal runs until 2025.

By contrast, Guinness have just signed a six-year deal to sponsor the Six Nations Rugby – the men’s tournament that is, not the women’s.  For some reason the women’s Six Nations has not been included and this major tournament remains without a sponsor.

Sailing

British yachtswoman Susie Goodall was rescued by a 40,000-tonne cargo ship after capsizing in the Golden Globe Race.

Her boat went over 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn and she was picked up two days later by the Tian Fu which used one of its cranes to hoist her out of the water.

The Tian Fu was sailing from China to Argentina when it was diverted by the Chilean Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to make the rescue.

The accident was so violent that Goodall was knocked out and when she came to Goodall was able to raise a distress signal.  The conditions were so bad that the rescue ship could not put out a rib boat to pick her up, but had to try the difficult manoeuvre with the crane and hook.

Goodall was in fourth place in the race when the accident happened.

Tennis

Amelie Mauresmo has withdrawn as France’s Davis cup captain and instead will become coach to world number 32 Lucas Pouille.

She had been appointed in June to take over from Yannick Noah in 2019, and would have been France’s first female Davis Cup captain.

BT Action Woman of the Year

In case you missed it last week, the results of this year’s Awards bear repeating:

Dina Asher-Smith was named BT Action Woman of 2018.  There can be no doubting the appropriateness of the honour – this year she won gold in the 100m, 300m and 4x100m at the European Championships as well as gold in the 4 x100m and bronze in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games.

The England Netball team won the Team of the Year award after their gold medal-winning performance at the Commonwealth Games.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in encouraging both disabled and non-disabled youngsters into sport as well as recognising her role in leading a government review into the safety of sporting events.

Cricket

The WBBL is well underway and, thanks to my indisposition last week, I am way behind in reporting what has happened so far.  So here’s a quick re-cap:

All teams have now played three games.  The Sydney Sixers once again look like the team to beat.  After losing their first game to Melbourne Stars on the first day of the tournament, they have come back to win the next two and lie top of the table.  Ellyse Perry is on blistering form having hit a 59-ball hundred against the Perth Scorchers – the century coming from the last runs of the match.

But it was South African Lizelle Lee who hit the first century of this season’s WBBL.  She hit 102 from 56 balls against Sydney Sixers as they reached their target with 2.4 overs to spare.

Perth Scorchers also won well in the first part of the opening day double-header.  Elyse Villani hit 58 from 39 as they chased down the Hobart Hurricanes’ 144 with just three balls left of the match.  Hurricanes lost a key player just before the start as the West Indies’ Hayley Matthews broke a toe in training.

England captain Heather Knight made 82 from 55 balls for Hobart Hurricanes in their defeat to Melbourne Stars.

So, it’s all very tight at the moment.  The two Sydney teams plus Melbourne Stars have four points from three games, with the Sixers top on net run rate.  Then come Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades with one win and one no-result and three points each, while Hobart Hurricanes, Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers all have one win and two losses and two points.

More scorecards and detailed match information from this weekend’s games in next week’s column.

Volleyball

Last weekend’s Women’s Super League results were as follows:

Saturday 8 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21. 18-25, 20-25, 25-15, 15-5)
Sheffield Hallam 1-3 TeamBU Wessex (23-25, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25)
London Orcas 0-3 Durham Palatinates (20-25, 15-25, 20-25)

Sunday 9 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-20, 25-16, 25-21)
Bristol VC1 0-3 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (22-25, 11-25, 16-25)

Durham Palatinates are still top with a clean eight wins from eight games and 23 points.  Tendring are second with 17 points from seven games and Malory Eagles third with the same number of points from eight games.  At the bottom, Polonia have only one win from eight games and three points.  Above them lie Birmingham with three points from seven games.

Rugby Union

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

8 December
Harlequins 43-7 Loughborough Lightning
Gloucester-Hartpury 53-7 Bristol Bears
Wasps 34-0 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens 59-0 DMP Sharks

9 December
Richmond 21-18 Worcester Valkyries

After 11 rounds of matches, Saracens are top with 10 wins and just one loss.  They have 50 points.  Harlequins are second on 46, with Loughborough Lightning third on 44.  At the bottom, Worcester still have four points, DMP Sharks are second from bottom on nine and Firwood Waterloo are just above them with 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:

15 December
Loughborough Lightning v Gloucester-Hartpury (12pm, Loughborough Uni)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Firwood Waterloo v Harlequins (2.15pm,Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Saracens v Richmond (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Bristol Bears (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Darts

Lisa Ashton fell in the first round of the PDC World Championships at Alexandra Palace this week.  She was beaten three sets to one by world number 43 Jan Dekker of Netherlands.

Ashton took the first set, but Dekker came back to take the next three to progress into the next round.

The second female qualifier, Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia, starts her campaign on Monday against Ryan Joyce.

Taekwondo

Grand Slam Champions Series

This second edition takes place in Wuxi, China from 12-16 December.

This really is the elite – the world’s top 16 fighters in each of the Olympic weight categories – four male and four female.

Great Britain is looking good for medals and there are some big prizes up for grabs.  Jade Jones and Lauren Williams are already through to the semi-finals of the -57kg and -67kg categories respectively.  They hope to be joined by Bianca Walkden, who is yet to fight.

Jones beat Zongshi Luo of China and will now face Maria Stetic of Croatia in the semi-final.

Williams beat Paige McPherson of the USA and will fight Ruth Gragbi of Ivory Coast in her semi-final.

News of who won what next week.

And Finally,

No apology for going ahead with this one, even though it’s “old news” (how I wish it was).  This is how I reacted to Twerkgate last week, before I was struck down by my miserable virus:

No prizes for guessing who the “One step forward, two steps back Award” goes to this week.  We finally see a Women’s Ballon d’Or Award (and goodness knows there are plenty of men out there that think that shouldn’t even be happening), when the DJ Martin Solveig, who was there for what purpose goodness only knows, asked the winner Ada Hegerberg, if she knew how to “twerk”.

She had collected the award and made a speech about inspiring the next generation of footballers, encouraging them to believe in themselves when she is asked if she can dance in a sexually provocative way!

Why would you do this, for crying out loud?  Every week I (and my fellow women’s sport enthusiasts) spend our time talking about and writing about the great things women are doing in sport.  Every week women everywhere are derided and dismissed for any role they play in sport.  It is also a particular problem in football.

So when you finally see a female Ballon d’Or winner, what do you do?  Do you a) congratulate her and say what a great year she has had and how women’s football is on the up all over Europe or do you b) ask her if she would like to dance in sexual manner in celebration of winning?

Well, apparently it’s b).  Suffice it to say, now that Solveig has had his error of judgement (if you can call it that) pointed out to him, he has apologised “to anyone who may have been offended.”

Great response by Andy Murray on Instagram, by the way,

“Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport.

“What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modric?  I’d imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks I’m overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t. I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

No more to add.

That’s all for this week.  Back next week with one last brief update before my Christmas break. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 17-23 November 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get into again this week, from England’s perhaps surprising progress into the final of the World T20 to the loss of Jordan Nobbs for Arsenal, and the possibility that she will miss next year’s World Cup.   Stories this week come from hockey, golf, football, netball, rugby, cricket, motor racing, volleyball and sailing.  Plus, another bout of rather miserable and somewhat predictable misogyny from the keyboard warriors living in their parents’ basements…

So let’s crack on.

Cricket – International

T20 World Cup

Well, we’re nearly there.  It seems to have passed in a flash and, to be honest, as much as I love my cricket (as you all know), I can’t say that I’ve been inspired by this tournament.  There have been no surprises, no shocks and no team has come through as a “dark horse”.  Australia were favourites at the start and have pretty much lived up to that status, although they proved against India that they are fallible.  West Indies fell very much short against Australia in the semi-final when they had a distinct chance of going through, and India lost disappointingly to England in the other semi-final.  I would have loved to have seen India win the World Cup and finally fulfil their potential.

It all comes down to Australia v England on Saturday – midnight start UK time.

How the semi-finals played out:

Australia 144/5 (20 overs)
West Indies 71 all out 17.3 overs)
Australia won by 71 runs

I actually thought West Indies had this until Deandra Dottin imploded in the 19th over and conceded 17 runs.  Up until that point, Australia had looked impressive but struggled to get away from a fairly efficient West Indies bowling side.

But in the 19th over Dottin lost it.  Two wides and three boundaries from Rachael Haynes left the Windies exasperated and Dottin mutinous.

Beth Mooney went early, but the restored Alyssa Healy took it on, scoring 46 from 38 balls.  Lanning was slow but steady, anchoring the innings as wickets fell around her.  But it was Rachael Haynes 25 from 15 at the back end of the innings, including the dismantling of Dottin that did the damage as the Aussies posted 144.

West Indies’ poor end to the innings seemed to infect their batting.  Hayley Matthews was first to go, run out for just five as the jitters went through the hosts.  Dottin never recovered her cool and went for six from 11 balls.  Stafanie Taylor tried to offer some resistance as all around her was chaos, but she was the only player to make double figures; 16 from 28 balls.

Australia shared the wickets round with Perry, Kimmince and Gardner taking two each and Schutt, Molineux and Wareham one apiece.

It was a sad end to a fine tournament for the defending champions.

India 112 all out (19.3 overs)
England 116/2 (17.1 overs)
England won by 8 wickets

The second semi-final was equally one-sided.  India won the toss and elected to bat.  They started well, scoring 43 before the fall of the first wicket.  But after the top four were out, no-one else got into double figures.  Three run-outs in the Indian innings didn’t help.

Captain Heather Knight (why doesn’t she bowl herself more often?) took 3/9 off two overs while Sophie Ecclestone and Kirstie Gordon took two each as India were reduced to 112 all out.

India would have taken heart with their start with the ball after the openers were out cheaply,  Tammy Beaumont for one and Danni Wyatt for eight.

But Amy Jones and Nat Sciver took hold of the situation, scoring 53 and 52 respectively as England cruised home.

Coverage of the final is via BBC TMS on the radio and Sky Sports on TV.

Cricket – Domestic

Meanwhile, the ECB seem to be on the verge of throwing away the biggest and best development in English women’s cricket in recent memory.  Perhaps it was a good time to “bury bad news” as England went into the final of the T20 World Cup?

It was already in the cards that the KSL would go with the advent of The Hundred, but it seems that the ECB needs to cut its costs in a big way and that could hit the women’s game.

The ECB has said that there will be no reduction in the number of teams or matches but that “efficiency savings” will come from cutting match-day costs and economising on flights for players coming from overseas.

Cuts could be in the region of 12-20 per cent.

If the cuts go ahead and the overseas players don’t come, it will be a huge backwards step for the women’s game and for the KSL in particular.

And, I’m afraid it’s yet another example of two steps forward, one back from a governing body, when it comes to the promotion of the women’s game.

For a more in-depth analysis of this latest news, see George Dobell’s excellent piece for Cricinfo:

http://www.espn.co.uk/cricket/story/_/id/25348712/funding-issues-mount-england-women-ksl-faces-budget-cut

Motor Racing

Most motorsport crashes are high profile, but if it’s a woman and she’s just 17, the column inches are going to stack up.

Last Sunday, Formula 3 driver, Sophia Florsch, crashed in the Macau Grand Prix and fractured her spine.

She hit the back of the car driven by Jehan Daruvala, went over the inside kerb and then hit the car of Sho Tsuboi and over the barriers.  She was travelling at approximately 171.6mph.

She has now been through 10 hours of surgery in which bone from her hip has been used to repair one her of vertebrae.

It is thought she will not suffer any paralysis.

See my “And finally” for more on this story.

Football

Injury

Arsenal’s Jordan Nobbs ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament last weekend at Everton – an injury that may not only put her out for the rest of the season, but may impact on her participation in next year’s World Cup in France.

Nobbs had been having a storming season, both for Arsenal and for England and this will be a big blow to both.

Every England fan will have to cross fingers and indeed toes in the hope that she will have recovered by next summer.

 Last weekend’s results:

Championship

London Bees 2-0 Sheffield United
Littlejohn 55’, Gibson 78’

Crystal Palace 0-5 Manchester United
Arnott 17’ 55’, Green 59’ 83’, Greenwood 75’ (Pen)

Milllwall Lionesses 1-5 Durham
Clarke 5’
Hepple 2 ’9’, Gears 4’, Wilson 37’, Ness 56’

Lewes 1-1 Aston Villa
Kempson 72’
Richards 16’

Tottenham 1-0 Charlton Athletic
Naz 24’

Tottenham are still top of the Championship with 21 points from eight games.  Manchester United have 19 in second, but have played a game fewer.  Millwall are still bottom with just a single point from eight games and Crystal Palace are just above them on four.

WSL

Chelsea 5-0 Yeovil Town
Bright 20’, So-yun Ji 27’, Cuthbert 42’, Bachmann 45’, England 79’

Birmingham City 3-0 West Ham Utd
Harrop 1’, Follis 40’, Staniforth 79’

Bristol City 2-1 Liverpool
Graham 16’. Rutherford 21’
Sweetman-Kirk 36’

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-4 Reading
Whelan 61’
Hourihan 20’ (OG), Chaplen 58’, Williams 65’, Davison 81’

Everton 0-4 Arsenal
Van de Donk 44’, Nobbs 49’, Miedema 50’ 65’

Arsenal are still yet to drop a point this season.  They lie top with 24 points from eight games.  Manchester City are second with 18 and Chelsea third with 16.  There was still no respite for Everton at the bottom.  They have two points, with Yeovil just above them on three.

This weekend sees a programme in the top two divisions plus the first round of the FA Cup.  For a complete list of FA Cup fixtures click here.

Hockey – International

Champions Trophy

 Netherlands have been a class apart so far in this tournament.  They are yet to be tested, having won four from four and are happily through to the final with a game to spare.  They will finish top by a mile.  Australia are second with two wins and a draw from four games.  China have six points, China 3, GB and Japan both have two.

Great Britain have had a poor event so far and need to win their last match against Argentina to make it into the bronze medal match.

They opened with a draw against hosts China, twice coming from behind.  Xu Wenyu scored China’s first in the first quarter, but Hannah Martin equalised at the end of the first period.

In the second quarter China took the lead again through Peng Yang, but Lily Owsley brought GB level again and that’s where the scoring ended.

In their second match, GB lost 2-0 to Australia.  Australia scored early in the first quarter through Brooke Peris and doubled their lead in the second through Kalindi Commerford.

They still couldn’t catch a break in their third match, drawing 2-2 with Japan.  Japan were 2-0 down thanks to goals from Tessa Howard and Sophie Bray in the first quarter.  But they couldn’t maintain their superiority.  Japan were level by half-time with two goals from Hazuki Nagai.

Netherlands were comfortable victors against Great Britain in their fourth match 4-0.  They were 2-0 up by half-time with goals from Marijn Veen and Margot Zuidhof.  Ginella Zerbo got the third in the third quarter and Zuidhof scored her second in the fourth quarter to complete the win.

Most worryingly for Great Britain, they had only three shots in the match.

They play Argentina in the last group match on Saturday 24 November.

Hockey – Domestic

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

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

Surbiton are still top with seven wins and one draw from nine and 22 points. Holcombe lie second with 19 and East Grinstead third with 16.  At the bottom, Canterbury have three points, and Bowdon are just above them on seven.

This weekend’s fixtures are the last before the winter break.  The league recommences on 9 February 2019:

24 November
Clifton Robinsons v Canterbury (1pm, Coombe Dingle, P1)
Bowdon v Buckingham (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Holcombe v University of Birmingham (2pm, Holcombe HC, P1)
East Grinstead v Slough (4pm, East Grinstead HC)
Surbiton v Beeston (4pm Surbiton HC Water)

Rugby Union – International

France 20-27 New Zealand

A crowd of 17,102 saw France beat the Black Ferns in Grenoble in a pulsating game.

France opened the scoring through Julie Duval but the away side were soon level through Stacey Waaka.

Then France made a double strike; Maëlle Filopon with the first and Romane Menager with the second had France pulling away.  After half an hour France had a 19-7 lead.

But before half-time New Zealand were back in it.  Fiao’o Faamausili scored a try that was converted to make it 19-14.

After the break France extended their lead again through Caroline Drouin, but New Zealand hit back through Selica Winiata after a lineout on the French 5m line.  Then, out of nowhere, New Zealand were level as Kendra Cocksedge kicked a penalty to make it 24-24 with 26 minutes to go.

Just one minute later Ruahei Demant was yellow-carded and France took advantage as Drouin converted the penalty to put them back ahead.

Drouin kicked another penalty on 70 minutes, but Cocksedge did likewise almost directly afterwards, 30-27.

The Black Ferns had the pressure in the last 10 minutes to take the game, but France were defending for their lives.  Both teams had chances, but neither could score and France held on for a memorable win.

England 27-19 Canada

England continued their winning form with five tries against Canada in Doncaster.

The Roses went ahead early through pack dominance with tries from Lark Davies with her first and international try, Poppy Cleall bagged England’s second and Davies went in again for the third.  All three went unconverted.

Canada struck back before the break as Alex Tassier crossed the line after picking up Anaïs Holly’s kick.  The score was converted by Brianna Miller, taking it to 15-7 at half-time.

In the second-half Canada came quickly out of the blocks, scoring their second try through Elissa Alarie.

But England were not done.  They brought on Katy Daley-Mclean and the difference was evident.  Kelly Smith went over in the corner to score England’s fourth try and soon afterwards the fifth came through Abbie Scott.

Canada had the last word though, with Courtney Holtkamp going over from close range and Magali Harvey converting to take the score to 27-19.

Ireland 10-19 USA

USA Eagles claimed their first test win since the World Cup with their defeat of Ireland at Donnybrook.

Ireland started well, but despite having all the early pressure, they couldn’t convert it into points.

Eventually USA took the lead as Kimber Rozier went in, converting her own try to make it 7-0 in the 13th minute.

Each side then had some pressure, but no added points were scored until Kaitlyn Broughton went down the right wing to score and make it 12-0 to the Eagles.

Ireland struck back before half-time as Laura Sheehan went over on the left but it was unconverted and the home side went in 12-5 down.

On the resumption each side again had a period of pressure, but it was the USA who took their chance as Meya Bizer went over the line and the try was converted by Rozier.

Ireland worked tirelessly and hard until Eimear Considine finally crossed the whitewash for the home side’s second try.  The conversion was again missed and the visitors took the win.

This week’s fixtures:

24 November
England v Ireland (5.40pm, Twickenham)
Wales v Canada (11.30am, Cardiff Arms Park)

27 November
Scotland v Canada (7pm, Scotstoun)

Rugby Union – Domestic

Premier 15s is back this weekend.  The fixtures, all on 24 November, are:

Richmond v Bristol Bears (2pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Worcester Valkyries v Firwood Waterloo (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Wasps v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
DMP Sharks v Harlequins (3pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Saracens v Loughborough Lightning (3.45pm, Allianz Park)

Volleyball

Women’s Super League

There were a full set of fixtures in the Super League last weekend:

17 November
London Orcas 3-0 TeamBU Wessex (25-16, 25-21, 25-13)
Sheffield Hallam 0-3 Mallory Eagles UEL (19-25, 14-25, 19-25)
Durham Palatinates 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club 1 (25-5, 25-12, 25-17)

18 November
Bristol VC1 3-1 Polonia SideOut London (25-22, 12-25, 25-21, 25-21)
Sheffield Hallam 0-3 Durham Palatintes (18-25, 20-25, 17-25)

Durham are top, but they have played more than everyone else.  They have 20 points from seven games.  London Orcas are second with 11 from five games.  Mallory Eagles are one point behind them but have played only four.  At the bottom, Birmingham are the only team still to get off the mark and have played four games.

Golf – Solheim Cup

European Captain Catriona Matthew has named her final Vice Captain for the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles; Dame Laura Davies really needs no introduction, but suffice it to say that she has played in 12 Solheim Cups and is the event’s leading points scorer, with 25.  She has featured in four winning teams, in 1992, 2000, 2003 and 2011.

This means that her three vice captains, Davies, Suzann Petterson and Kathryn Imrie, have the grand total of 21 Solheim Cup appearances between them and have scored 45½ points for Europe.  If experience has any bearing on the outcome, Europe should be well-placed!

Tickets for the event, which takes place from 9-15 September 2019 are already on sale.  Check out the website, www.solheimcup2019.com.

Netball

The England Roses v Uganda series starts on Tuesday 27 November.  There are three matches – the first is at the Liverpool Echo Arena on Tuesday.  The other two, at the Copper Box in London are on

Friday 30 November and Sunday 2 December.

It should be an exciting and tight series.  Tickets are still available.  Click here for information.  If you can’t be there in person, it’s all live on Sky Sports.

And Finally,

In the immortal words of Britney Spears (!), “oops, I did it again.”  In other words, yes I looked at some of the comments on the BBC sports Facebook and Twitter pages.  In particular, I looked at what “people” had to say on the Florsch crash and on the Nobbs injury.  I was pretty sickened by both.

Florsch, who could easily have lost her life or been paralysed was offered little in the way of either sympathy or respect, with many (yes, many) comments along the lines of “typical of women drivers”.  Crass, rude, and not acceptable in any way.  There were a few males coming in telling the Neanderthals their comments were not acceptable, but they were few, and unfortunately far between.

The comments on the Nobbs injury were, possibly, more insidious.  Several dismissed it as “an irrelevance” – well not to Nobbs, her teammates, friends, family and England Lionesses’ supporters everywhere.  How can you dismiss someone’s possibly dashed hopes of a World Cup appearance as an irrelevance?  It’s a pitiful attitude, chaps.

I realise it’s a reflex action with most of them – it’s a story about a woman in sport, therefore we have to demean it, insult it and dismiss it, but it’s pretty damned infuriating to read it all the time.

 Rant over.  That’s all for this week. Sorry, no column next week as I am busy elsewhere.  I’d just like to wish England good luck in the World T20 final on Saturday night.  I hope you’ll all be listening/watching.  

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 November 2018

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to this week’s column.  This week’s stories range from a wet West Indies to Rotherham with plenty in between.  There is so much going on including one high-profile administrator steps down while another takes up a massive challenge.

So, stories this week come from cricket, football, rugby, hockey, volleyball, sports admin, tennis and modern pentathlon.

Cricket T20 World Cup

At one stage it the ICC seemed to be considering moving group A from St Lucia because of the persistent bad weather, but it looks like we’re sticking with it now.  From what I’ve seen, I have no reason to change my view that Australia are the team to beat.  Here’s where we are at the moment:

Group A

It’s tight in Group B, where the weather could yet play a deciding part.  West Indies are two from two at the top with wins against South Africa and Bangladesh and are looking good.  England are second, a point behind with one win against Bangladesh (via DLS)and a washout against Sri Lanka.  England still have to play the two strongest teams in the group, South Africa and West Indies and need to take points from both.

Bangladesh 76/9 (20 overs)
England 64/3 (9.3 overs)
England won by seven wickets (DLS method)

Kirstie Gordon took 3/16 on debut as England beat Bangladesh in a rain-affected match at St Lucia.  Anya Shrubsole and Nat Sciver both took early wickets to leave Bangladesh 3/2 after three overs.  But Ayasha Rahman showed resolve, scoring 39.

In reply, Danni Wyatt went first ball, but when England’s target was revised towards the end of the innings after a spell of drizzle, they cruised home with 39 balls to spare.

Amy Jones made 28 and Nat Sciver 23.

Group B

Australia are three from three with wins against Ireland, Pakistan and New Zealand and have already qualified for the semi-finals.  India are second on net run-rate.  They play each other to see who finishes top of the table.  New Zealand are third with only one win from three matches and cannot qualify.

Pakistan have flattered to deceive once again and should have done better.  They beat Ireland, but could have done so much more.

Ireland, also, will be frustrated.  They targeted the game against Pakistan as a possible win, but fell badly short.  Their bowling has been excellent in patches, particularly from Lisa O’Reilly, but the batting has been poor.  They even had a chance against India as they restricted them to just 145, but, in truth, I’m not sure there were many watching and listening who were convinced they could chase the target down.  In the end they had a fine aggressive power play, but once again tailed off and could only reach 98/8 at the end of their 20 overs.

You can listen to and watch all of the action via Sky Sports and BBC Radio Test Match Special.  There are also video clips on the BBC website if you don’t have Sky.

Women in Sports Administration

Liz Nicholl will step down from her role as CEO of UK Sport next summer, after eight years in post.   She had worked at UK Sport, in its various incarnations, for 20 years.

“This really is the best job in sport and I have enjoyed every minute of it,” she said.

“My successor will find British sport in a good position to realise our vision of inspiring the nation in Tokyo and beyond.”

Meanwhile, the football Premier League has appointed Susanna Dinnage as its new chief executive.

Dinnage’s background is in media, including roles at MTV, Channel  5 and Discovery.

“I am excited at the prospect of taking on this fantastic role. The Premier League means so much to so many people,” she said.

“It represents the pinnacle of professional sport and the opportunity to lead such a dynamic and inspirational organisation is a great privilege.

“With the support of clubs and the team, I look forward to extending the success of the league for many years to come.”

This experience will likely be invaluable when negotiating new broadcast deals, but there will be many other issues she will have to face.  Whatever happens, it is good to see a woman reach such a high-level post in such a traditionally male, stale and pale environment.

Modern Pentathlon

British modern pentathlete, Samantha Murray, has retired from the sport at the age of 29.

She won silver at the London 2012 Olympics and gold at the World Championships in 2014.

Football – International

England Lionesses

After putting in a fine away performance to beat Austria 3-0 last week, the Lionesses were looking to celebrate captain Steph Houghton’s 100th cap with an equally good game against Sweden in Rotherham.   But football, as we know, is fickle and it didn’t go to plan.

Austria 0-3 England

England were dominant throughout, even though the team was an inexperienced one.  Former USA under-23 player Chioma Ubogagu scored the first on her debut and Georgia Stanway, also making her first appearance, bagged the second.

Rachel Daly scored the third in the second-half.

England 0-2 Sweden

The Lionesses suffered a shock defeat to Sweden at Rotherham on Sunday.  It was the first time they had lost at home since 2015.

Sofia Jakobsson scored Sweden’s first and Anna Anvegard the second to spoil the Steph Houghton party.

The game was a sellout with 9,561 fans packed into the New York Stadium.

From Phil Neville’s first 12 games in charge, England have won seven, drawn three and lost just two.  I’ll never be his greatest fan, but the women are clearly enjoying their football and I am impressed by his comments and commitment to the role.

Scotland 0-1 USA

Scotland were unlucky not to scrape a draw from this match.  They had defended well up until the 39th minutes, when Alex Morgan took advantage of some poor marking to volley in a cross from Mallory Pugh.

The USA were also awarded a penalty in the second-half but Carli Lloyd hit the bar.

Scotland’s best chance came through Lana Clelland but it her shot was turned around the post.

Champions League

Chelsea will play Paris St-Germain in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  If they manage to overcome PSG they will face Wolfsburg in the semis, who have knocked them out of the competition at the quarter-final stage for the last three years.

Quarter-final draw:

Slavia Praha v Bayern Munich
Barcelona v LSK Kvinner
Lyon v Wolfsburg
Chelsea v PSG

First leg to be played on 20 and 21 March 2019, with return leg the following week.

Semi-final draw

Lyon or Wolfsburg v Chelsea or PSG
Slavia Praha or Bayern Munich v Barcelona or LSK Kvinner

Semi-finals will be played towards the end of April 2019.

Managerial Casualties

There have been two manager sackings this week; WSL side Everton dispensed with the services of head coach Andy Spence and Championship club Lewes sacked John Donoghue.

Everton have only one game this season and that was against Reading in the Continental Cup.  They are currently bottom of the WSL table, having been beaten by previous bottom side Yeovil Town last weekend.  Goalkeeping coach Jennifer Herst has been put in interim charge.

Donoghue had been with Lewes since 2014.  He helped to establish Lewes in the National League (South) before they were allocated a spot in the newly revamped Championship for 2018-19.

Hockey

Champions Trophy 2018

The Champions Trophy takes place in Changzhou, China from 17-25 November.

The six teams involved are Great Britain, hosts China, defending champions Argentina, 2018 World Cup winners Netherlands, Oceania champions Australia and Asian Games champions Japan.

Group games schedule
17: Great Britain v China (06:00), Australia v Argentina (08:00), Netherlands v Japan (10:00)
18: Australia v Great Britain (06:00), China v Japan (08:00), Netherlands v Argentina (10:00)
20: Australia v Netherlands (06:00), Argentina v China (08:00), Japan v Great Britain (10:00)
22: Argentina v Japan (06:00), China v Australia (08:00), Great Britain v Netherlands (10:00)
24: Japan v Australia (06:00), Netherlands v China (08:00), Great Britain v Argentina (10:00)

Finals schedule
25: 5th v 6th (06:00), 3rd v 4th (08:15), Final (10:30)

TV coverage is via BT Sport.

Last weekend’s Investec Women’s Hockey Premier Division results:

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

Surbiton dropped points at the weekend, but are still top of the table on 19 points from eight games.  Holcombe are second on 16 and Buckingham third on 14.  East Grinstead have also been deducted three points for fielding an illegible player and are now fourth with 13.  At the bottom, Canterbury have three from eight games, with Bowdon just above them on six.

This weekend’s fixtures:

17 November
Buckingham v Clifton Robinsons (12pm, Stowe School P1)
Slough v Bowdon (12.30pm, Slough HC)
Beeston v Holcombe (2pm, Nottingham Hockey P1)
Canterbury v Surbiton (4pm, Polo Farm SC, P1)
University of Birmingham v East Grinstead (4pm, Birmingham Uni P1)

Volleyball

Just one result from the Women’s Super League from last weekend:

Durham Palatinates 3-1 Tendring VC Ladies (16-25, 25-16, 25-17, 26-24)

Durham are top with five wins from five games and 14 points.  Tendring are second with three wins from four games and nine points.  At the bottom, Birmingham have no wins from three games and have no points.  Bristol VC 1 are just above them on one point from five games.

Rugby union

England 57-5 USA

There was a record win for England against USA last weekend as they won 57-5 at Allianz Park.

The score did not reflect USA’s contribution and they will perhaps feel aggrieved that prop Megan Rom was sent off in the 14th minute for a high tackle, an event that made the visitors’ task that much harder.

England started the scoring with a try through Leanne Riley.  Sarah McKenna got a second under the post, making it 14-0.

Ten minutes later England were awarded a penalty try and Kate Zachery was yellow-carded.  England scored two more tries before half-time, including one for Katy Daley-McLean, winning her 100th cap for England and racing 50m to go over the whitewash.  The score was 33-0 at the break.

In the second-half England soon made it 40-0 but then took their foot off the gas.  Sarah Hunter scored another to make it 47-0 after 53 minutes and then there were 20 minutes of even play culminating in a try for USA through Jennine Duncan.

England had the final word, though, with time for two more tries, one from Kelly Smith and one from Carys Williams.

Wales 19-5 South Africa

Wales also began their autumn internationals with a win, beating South Africa at Cardiff Arms Park.

The Welsh tries came through Jasmine Joyce, Sioned Harries and Carys Phillips, with Robyn Wilkins converting two.

The Welsh pack was dominant throughout and South Africa’s only score came through a try from Lusanda Dumke.

This weekend’s fixtures see Wales take on Hong Kong on Friday 16, while England play Canada and Ireland face USA on Sunday 18.

Tennis

Agnieszka Radwanska has announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 29.

She has admitted that her body is beginning to let her down and feels that now is the right time ,

“Unfortunately I am no longer able to train and play the way I used to, and recently my body can’t live up to my expectations,” she added.

“Taking into consideration my health and the heavy burdens of professional tennis, I have to concede that I’m not able to push my body to the limits required,” she said.

Always a fine player to watch with plenty of subtlety to her game and possibly the best drop-shot out there, she will be missed from the WTA Tour.

At her peak she was world number two to Serena Williams in 2012.  She reached a Wimbledon final and won 20 WTA titles in her 13-year career.

And Finally,

The BT Action Woman 2018 shortlist has been announced: Dina Asher-Smith, Lizzy Yarnold, Fran Kirby, Georgia Hall, Vicky Holland, Laura Kenny, Menna Fitzpatrick & Jen Kehoe and Lucy Bronze.

Voting closes at 11.59pm on 25 November and the ceremony is live on BT Sport on Monday 3 December.

Check out the link here to vote: https://sport.bt.com/action-woman-2018-01364108169407

That’s all for this week.  More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 27 October – 2 November 2018

bikini-two-piece-swimwear-women-two-parter-54265Welcome to this week’s column.  I realise that, of late, the column seems to have been getting longer and longer.  While this obviously means that there is a lot of women’s sport out there, it also means that it’s taking me a long time to compile.  At the moment it’s taking me a day and half to write and post.  I enjoy it very much and I hope you do too.  But sometimes it’s a bit of a strain.

Towards Christmas and the end of the year, the column may become more sporadic as I have other commitments to fulfil.  I hope you’ll bear with me and read on.

So, here we go.  Stories this week come from football, hockey, cycling, rugby union, volleyball, cricket, gymnastics, sports politics, netball, sailing and tennis.  Plus the only possible “And Finally” and if you haven’t heard about it it’s a corker – if you have, it’s worth another read.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

Fast5 World Series

New Zealand claimed the Fast5 World Series 2018 title in Melbourne, defeating Jamaica in the final by a single point 34-33.  Ironically, Jamaica were the only team to beat New Zealand in the rounds stage.

In the table, Australia finished third, Malawi fourth, England fifth and South Africa sixth.

Defending champions England had a difficult tournament winning only one of the games in the rounds, losing all three games on day one and gaining their one win against Australia on day two, 29-28.

Australia claimed bronze, defeating Malawi in the play-off 38-15.

England finished fifth, defeating South Africa in the fifth/sixth place play-off 35-33.

Tennis

WTA Finals – Singapore

Elina Svitolina took the WTA Finals singles title in Singapore.  She defeated Sloane Stephens in the final 3-6 6-2 6-2.

It was a miracle that Stephens actually made it to the final.  She lost the first eight games of her semi-final against Karolina Pliskova.  She eventually took the match 0-6 6-4 6-1.

The second semi-final also went to three sets, with Svitolina triumphing over Kiki Bertens 7-5 6-7 6-4.

The doubles title went to second seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos as they defeated top seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková 6-4 7-5.

WTA Elite Trophy

The second-tier end of season tournament is taking place this week in Zhuhai.

We are currently only at the group stage.  Keep up with events here:

http://www.wtatennis.com/scores

Cycling

UCI Track World Cup

Great Britain won eight medals at the Cup in Milton, Canada last weekend, of which three golds went to women riders.

The Pursuit team comprising Katie Archibald, Eleanor Dickinson, Laura Kenny and Elinor Barker took gold, defeating Italy in the final.  New Zealand beat Germany to take bronze.

Archibald and Barker also took gold in the madison with Denmark in silver and Canada in bronze.

Laura Kenny won gold in the omnium with Lizbeth Salazar of Mexico in silver and Jennifer Valente of USA in bronze.

Australia took gold in the team sprint, defeating Germany in the final.  Gazprom-Rusvelo took bronze, defeating Netherlands in the bronze medal final.

Alexandra Goncharova of Russia won the scratch race.  Olivija Baleisyte of Lithuania finished second and Jennifer Valente of USA was third.  Eleanor Dickinson was twelfth.

Madalyn Godby of the USA won the keirin.  Stephanie Morton of Australia took silver and Martha Bayona Pineda of Colombia the bronze.

The event comprises six stages with Olympic qualifying points at stake.  The next round is in Berlin at the end of November.

Trek-Drops

There was bad news for women’s cycling this week as British team Trek-Drops announced their new sponsorship deal has fallen through and unless they can find backing they will fold.

In a press release the team said:

“The title sponsor in a cycling team invests the largest proportion of budget and the company pulling out leaves us with a large deficit in our budget for 2019,” said the press release.

“This leaves the future of 12 riders and a number of staff, uncertain.”

Although sponsors Trek had announced in July that they would be forming their own team, Trek-Segafredo, it was thought that their sponsorship of Drops would continue.

But this is no longer the case and Drops have turned to crowdfunding to try to secure their 2019 future.

The campaign was launched on Tuesday morning and the team’s crowdfunding page invites contributions from £50 through to £250,000.  It is time-limited to 15 days.  If you can help check out the page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/be-part-of-drops-cycling-team#/

Football

England Lionesses

The England squad for the friendlies against Sweden and Austria has been announced.  Neville has included the former USA Under -23 forward Chioma Ubogagu.

Ubogagu was born in London but emigrated to the USA as a child.  She made her professional debut for Arsenal in 2015 and now plays for Brisbane Roar.

The other squad debutantes are Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck.

England squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Wolfsburg), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Manchester United), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Abbie McManus (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Lyon), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City)

Forwards: Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Chioma Ubogagu (Brisbane Roar, on loan from Orlando Pride)

Champions League

After a tense first leg two weeks ago, Chelsea turned on the style in Florence to go through to the Champions League quarter-finals.  The other British side left in the competition, however, Glasgow City, bowed out as they were well beaten by Barcelona.

Fiorentina 0-6 Chelsea
Chelsea win 7-0 on aggregate

A hat-trick from Fran Kirby was the highlight of a fine Chelsea performance that saw them through to the next round.  Chelsea opened the scoring in the 24th minute through Drew Spence.  Fran Kirby scored her first and Chelsea’s second in the 38th and they went in two-up at the break.  In the second-half Kirby got her second through a penalty and Erin Cuthbert scored the fourth.  Kirby grabbed her hat-trick just past the half-hour and Ramona Bachmann bagged the sixth on 67 minutes.  Chelsea had to play the last fifteen minutes with ten players as Millie Bright was sent off for a professional foul, but by then the tie was effectively over.

Glasgow City 0-3 Barcelona
Barcelona win 8-0 on aggregate

The damage had already been done in Barcelona and the chances of Glasgow pulling off a shock win were slim.  But they gave it everything they had from beginning to end.  England striker Toni Duggan bagged two, in the 13th and 51st minute while Alexia Putellas scored in the 48th, between the two Duggan goals, to take Barcelona through 8-0.

Brondby 0-2 LSK
LSK win 3-1 on aggregate

Bayern 3-0 Zurich
Bayern win 5-0 on aggregate

Paris 3-2 Linkoping
Paris win 5-2 on aggregate

Slavia Praha 0-0 Rosengard
Slavia Praha win 3-2 on aggregate

Lyon 9-0 Ajax
Lyon win 13-0 on aggregate

Atletico Madrid 0-6 Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg win 10-0 on aggregate

The quarter-final draw is on 9 November.

FAWSL

Friday 26 October

Manchester City 1-1 Reading
Stanway 33’
Moore 50’

Sunday 28 October

Bristol City 0-4 Arsenal
Nobbs 14’, Miedema 41’ 88’, van de Donk 90’

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Yeovil Town
Brett 13’, Williams 32’
Mason 69’

Everton 1-2 West Ham
Walker 5’
Ross 27’, Lehmann 45’

Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
Ericsson 27’

So at the top, Arsenal go romping on with six wins from six games and a goal difference of +31.  As Manchester City could only draw, they are now three points behind in second on 15, having played a game more, with Birmingham City in third with 13 points from six games.

At the bottom, there was still no joy for Yeovil and they remain pointless.  Everton are just above them with two and Brighton third from bottom on four points.

FAWC

Sunday 28 October

Leicester City v Manchester Utd
Postponed due to the dreadful events in Leicester on Saturday evening

Millwall Lionesses 0-8 Charlton Athletic
Ejupi 24’ 31’ 44’ 59’, Agg 26’, Gur 45’, Bowers 58’, Graham 87’

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Aston Villa
Neville 41’, Dean 82’ (PEN)
Welsh 7’

Crystal Palace 0-1 Sheffield United
Pennock 34’

London Bees 0-1 Durham
Hepple 19’

Tottenham keep up their 100% record in the Championship, with six wins from six games.  Manchester United are second with 13 points from five and Charlton are third on the same points but having played a game more.

At the bottom, Millwall have only one point and Aston Villa are just above them with two.  Both teams have played six games.

Football – off the Pitch

Liverpool Women’s new manager is Vicky Jepson.  Former England goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, will be assistant coach and goalkeeping coach.

Jepson takes over from Neil Redfearn, who resigned in September.  She has been caretaker manager since then.

Jepson has been with Liverpool since 2009, and has, up to this point, been development squad manager.

There was more good news for Arsenal this week as Joe Montemurro signed a new long-term contract with the club.

The length of the contract has not been disclosed, but the buzz around the club is palpable and this news is another boon for the Gunners.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results looked like this:

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

Surbiton are now five points ahead at the top with five wins from six games.  Buckingham lie second with 11 points and East Grinstead third on ten.

At the bottom, Bowdon and Canterbury both have three points from six games with Bowdon at the foot on goal difference.

This weekend’s fixtures:

3 November
Clifton Robinsons v Bowdon (1pm, Coombe Dingle P1)
University of Birmingham v Holcombe (1.30pm, Birmingham Uni, P1)
Beeston v Slough (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
East Grinstead v Canterbury (4pm, East Grinstead HC)
Surbiton v Buckingham (4pm, Surbiton HC Water)

Rugby Union – off the Pitch

Heather Fisher has signed for Gloucester-Hartpury Women on a short-term contract.  Fisher had recently announced she is to take a break from international rugby.

In an interview featured on the excellent website womenseliterugby.com Fisher said,

“I think everyone’s aware that I’ve taken a few months out of the game just to get my physical and mental state back to where it needed to be to get back to international level.

“I came here to Hartpury to do commentary last weekend, and I realised that I missed that team environment. I watched them playing and I thought to myself that I could see myself playing a few games.

“Part of the love for playing rugby is playing with your mates. I know the likes of Kelly Smith and Millie Wood from Sevens, and a few of the Welshies and some girls who used to play for Worcester.

“I watched them last weekend and they play with a bit of dog, they don’t give up, they keep going right until the very end, I like the style they play. I left thinking ‘Could I play?’ You know what, let’s just see what happens.”

Rugby Union – on the Pitch

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results:

27 October
Firwood Waterloo 20-51 Loughborough Lightning
Worcester Valkyries 10-50 Bristol Bears
DMP Sharks 0-38 Wasps

28 October
Richmond 10-40 Harlequins
Saracens 48-24 Gloucester-Hartpury

It’s played seven, won seven for Loughborough Lightning and they sit top with 34 points.  Saracens are second with 30 and Harlequins three further back on 27.

At the bottom, Worcester still only have two points and will not be buoyed by the thought of facing Lightning in Loughborough on Saturday.  Just above them are Firwood Waterloo with five points from seven games.

This weekend’s fixtures:

3 November
Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Valkyries (12pm Loughborough Uni)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Richmond (2pm)
Firwood Waterloo v DMP Sharks (2pm, Firwood Waterloo RFC)
Bristol Bears v Saracens (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)

4 November
Harlequins v Wasps (4.30pm, The Stoop)

Volleyball

Last week’s Women’s Super League results:

 27 October
London Orcas 3-0 Sheffield Hallam (25-24, 25-18, 25-23)
Durham Palatinates 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-14, 25-12, 25-19)
Birmingham Volleyball Club1 1-3 TeamBU Wessex (25-23, 25-17, 24-26, 25-19)

 28 October
Bristol VC1 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (25-16, 25-12, 25-17)

Durham have won three from three and are top with nine points.  London Orcas are second on eight.

At the bottom Polonia and Birmingham have yet to register a point, Polonia from three games and Birmingham from two.

Sports Politics

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has resigned over the delay to introducing a cut in the maximum stakes for fixed-odds betting machines from £100 to £2.

In Monday’s budget Chancellor Philip Hammond said the cut would now be enforced in October 2019.

Crouch said that pushing back the date was “unjustifiable” and has resigned.

I may not be of Crouch’s political colours, but she has been a good Sports Minister and it has been excellent to have a woman in the role.  I also admire her stand over this issue.  I discussed the stance of Scotland’s women’s football a few weeks ago when they stated they were not going to accept sponsorship or advertising from betting sites.  It’s a plague in this country.  But while we have those willing to stick to their principles let’s hope that eventually the constant bombardment that we receive when watching (or listening to) sport may at some point have had its day.

Gymnastics –World Championships

Simone Biles does it again.  She won her fourth all-around title at the world Championships in Doha.

Not only did she do this, but she did it falling twice in the process and while suffering with a kidney stone.

Biles fluffed her landing in the vault and fell from the beam but still took the title with 57.491 points, 1.693 points ahead of Mai Mukarami of Japan, who took silver.  Morgan Hurd of the USA took the bronze.

Britain’s Ellie Downie finished 11th after a long lay-off with an ankle injury.

The individual apparatus finals take place this weekend.

Sunday Times Women’s Sportswoman of the Year

Last night (Thursday 2 November) saw the SWOTY awards.

Dina Asher-Smith won the main award.  Lizzy Yarnold was second and Katie Archibald, third.  Also nominated were Georgia Hall, Rachel Atherton and Vicky Holland.

The England Roses Commonwealth Games winning team won Team of the Year.

Georgia Hall, winner of this year’s Women’s British Open was named Young Sportswoman of the Year.

Menna Fitzpatrick (thanks Sunday Times for tweeting that “Mina” Fitzpatrick” had won), along with guide Jen Kehoe won the Disability Sportswoman of the Year award.

Jennie Price, the outgoing Chief Executive of Sport England, was given the Lifetime Achievement award.

Triathlete Trish Deykin won the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration and Alex Paske the Grassroots Award.  Paske, from Stamford in Lincolnshire, founded MIntridge Events when she was just 24.  It aims to increase young people’s sports participation, enhance their life skills and promote their knowledge of health and wellbeing.

Cricket

Don’t forget the Women’s T20 World Cup begins next Friday, 9 November.  You can follow it on Sky Sports and via BBC Radio Test Match Special.  I’m away next week, but there will be plenty of news and results in a fortnight.

And Finally,

It had to be, didn’t it?  In a way I hope you’ve all seen this already, but if you haven’t, it’s possibly the classic to end all classics as regards sexism in sport, why so many women give up on sport so early and why they are reluctant to return later on.

Many thanks to journalist and campaigner Anna Kessel (@Anna_Kessel) for tweeting about this and, of course, to Simone Webb (@SimoneWebbUCL), who had to bring it to Swim England’s attention in the first place.

Hats off to Swim England – you really are the “best”.

Swim England, the governing body for swimming in England, has a campaign to get people swimming.  It’s called “Just Swim”.  So far, so good.  However, when Simone Webb was considering taking up swimming after a long period away from the sport, when she consulted “Just Swim”, she found that some of the advice was, how shall we put it?  Less than helpful, perhaps?

In a piece entitled “Guide to Choosing Swimwear for Women” she found the following juicy morsels;

“If your body is short in proportion to your legs, you will want a swimsuit that gives the impression of litheness”

“A pear shape has often been the plague of women, but it no longer needs to be so.”

“…try pairing an eye-catching bikini or tankini top with subdued bottoms in a dark colour.  This type of swimsuit will draw attention toward your more appealing characteristics.”

“To add curves and subtle cleavage to a small bust, look for a bikini top with triangle-shaped cups and a tie-front.”

“Boyish body.  Try push-up cups and twisted bandeaux to enhance your cleavage.”

Perhaps all this means if I get it right I’ll be able to swim like Becky Adlington?  Perhaps not.

Unfortunately, by the time I’d got there the piece had been taken down – I would have loved to have read it in full.  Swim England’s response was somewhat bizarre; apparently the piece had been there since 2010, but they were unaware of it.  They have since apologised.

And, and finally,

Congratulations to one of my favourite contacts in sailing, Dee Caffari, for being shortlisted for the Pro Sailor of the Year award in the British Yachting Awards 2018.  It’s a formidable shortlist as Dee is up against Carolijn Brouwer, Charlie Crumbly, Phil Sharp, Sophie Weguelin & Sophie Ainsworth and Wendy Tuck (5 women in the shortlist!).  If sailing’s your thing and you would like to vote check it out here https://www.britishyachtingawards.com/pro-sailor-of-the-year/

I’m away next week, but I’ll be back in a fortnight, by which time the World T20 will be in full swing.  Can anybody stop the Southern Stars?

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 October 2018

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

Let’s crack on.

Tennis – on the Court

Kremlin Cup

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

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

Luxembourg Open

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

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

WTA Finals

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

Red Group:
Angelique Kerber
Naomi Osaka
Sloane Stephens
Kiki Bertens

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

White Group
Caroline Wozniacki
Petra Kvitova
Elina Svitolina
Karolina Pliskova

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

More news of who eventually triumphed next week.

Tennis – off the Court

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

She said,

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

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

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

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

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

Taekwondo

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

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

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

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

Volleyball

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

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

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

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

Football

Last weekend’s Super League results:

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

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

Birmingham City 0-0 Chelsea

West Ham 0-1 Liverpool
Sweetman-Kirk 7’

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

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

Championship results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup Build-up

More friendlies have been announced this week.

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

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

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

20 October
Surbiton 6-0 Bowdon

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Hockey – off the Pitch            

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

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

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

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

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

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

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

In a statement, the club somewhat disingenuously said,

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union – on the Pitch

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

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

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

Rugby Sevens

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

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

Canada beat France 28-0 in the bronze final.

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

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

Boxing

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

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

BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year

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

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

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

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

Athletics

Great South Run

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

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

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

Netball

England Netball Investment

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

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

Joanna Adams, Chief Executive of England Netball said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast 5 World Series

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

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

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

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

The whole event is live on Sky Sports.

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golf – on the Course

Indian Open

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

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

Golf – off the Course

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

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

We’re getting there, folks.

And Finally

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

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

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

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

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 October 2018

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

So let’s crack on….

Winter Sports

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby League – Super League Grand Final

Leeds Rhinos 16-18 Wigan Warriors

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis – on the court

Kremlin Cup

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

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

Luxembourg Open

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

Tennis – off the court

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

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

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

Race to Singapore

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

(1. Simona Halep)

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

Gymnastics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for USA Gymnastics to think again.

Football

World Cup Qualifying

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

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

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

Champions League

Chelsea 1-0 Fiorentina

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

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

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

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

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

Barcelona 5-0 Glasgow City

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

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

Other Champions League scores:

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

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

Football – English Domestic

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

Super League Results from Sunday 14 October:

Bristol City 0-1 Birmingham City
Mannion 75’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Championship results from 14 October:

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

Crystal Palace 1-0 London Bees
Hincks 21’

Aston Villa 0-0 Durham

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

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

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

Athletics

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

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

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

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

More to come as it happens.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey league Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

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

Rugby Union

Premier 15s

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

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures are:

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

Young Sports Personality of the Year

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

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

Check out the credentials of the contenders here

Netball

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

The series of results were as follows:

Double elimination stage

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

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

The Final
Wasps Netball 42-32 benecosMavericks

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

Sunshine Series

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

First Test
Jamaica 55-43 England

Second Test
Jamaica 58-39 England

Third Test
Jamaica 58-43 England

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

Reports from the rest of the series next week.

Golf

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

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

And Finally,

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full story of the death of Marbella Ibarra here

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

More news and views next week.   

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 October 2018

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

So let’s crack on.

Boxing

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis

China Open

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

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

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

This week sees tournaments in both Hong Kong and Tianjin.

Hong Kong Open

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

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

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

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

Tianjin Open

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

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

Quarter-finals:

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

Pliskova meets Bacsinsczky in the semi-final

Still to play:

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

Tennis – off the Court

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

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

More news as it happens.

Football

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

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

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

Lionesses

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

England 1-0

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

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

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

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

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

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

England 1-1 Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup Play-offs

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

First leg – 5 October:

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

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

Second leg – 9 October

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

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

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

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

Doncaster Rovers Belles

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

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

Belles Chair, Faye Lygo told the BBC,

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

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

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

Rugby League

Woman of Steel

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

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

Talking of which….

Super League Play-offs

Leeds 24-10 Castleford Tigers

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

Wigan Warriors 10-6 St Helens

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

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

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

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

Liza Burgess

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union – On the Pitch

The Premier 15s are back in action this weekend:

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

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 6 October were as follows:

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Netball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

Winter Sports

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

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

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

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

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

And Finally – motor racing W Series

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

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

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

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

Competitors will be chosen by assessment of their capabilities.

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

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

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

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

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

More news and views next week.