Women’s Sports Column 2-8 March 2019

the-ball-stadion-horn-corner-47343Welcome to this week’s column.  So much to get through this week and no prizes for guessing, with publication day due to be 8 March, that my “And Finally” may well have a flavour of IWD19 about it.  And why not – this column is all about celebrating the sporting achievement of women so let’s shout about it, enjoy it and be inspired!

Stories and news this week come from athletics, golf, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, tennis, football, volleyball, netball, hockey and cycling.

Let’s crack on….

Football

SheBelieves Cup

Only one place to start, this week!  England’s Lionesses have claimed their first SheBelieves Cup.  They finished top of the table on seven points with two wins over Brazil and Japan and a draw under their belts they went one better than the runners-up spot achieved last year.

One note of caution, though, before we all go “It’s Coming home” and Phil Neville starts donning a waistcoat and growing designer stubble; the Japan side was very young and without its established stars and Brazil will also undoubtedly come out stronger in the World Cup.

But let’s not deny England their moment.  It was an impressive tournament performance that bodes well for this summer in France.

USA 2-2 England
The home side took the lead in the first-half through a Megan Rapinoe volley.  The Lionesses hit back almost immediately.  They were awarded an indirect free-kick on the left-hand side of the penalty area.  Up stepped Steph Houghton, bending it prodigiously round the wall and into the far corner.

In the second-half, England stepped it up again and took the lead on 52 minutes when Nikita Parris hit home from a pinpoint Fran Kirby through ball.

But they couldn’t withstand the pressure of the USA’s set pieces and Tobin Heath scored from a corner.

Japan 3-1 Brazil
It looked to be heading for stalemate in the first-half until Yuka Momiki scored in the 44th minute to take Japan 1-0 up at the break.

On the resumption, Debinha equalised for Brazil, but two goals in the last ten minutes, from Rikako Kobayahi and Yui Hasegawa saw Japan take the points.

Japan 0-3 England
A blistering first-half performance by the Lionesses saw them go in three-nil up and cruising.  All that was left after the break was to defend the lead and take both the points and the trophy.

Lucy Staniforth scored the first after 12 minutes.  On 23, Karen Carney doubled the lead with a close range header.  On the half-hour, England scored their third, and pick of the goals, when Keira Walsh picked out the excellent Beth Mead with a fabulous long-range pinpoint cross-field pass (and it was, folks, not a “hit and hope” as some kind gentleman on the BBC comments called it).  Mead cut in field and produced a fine finish to seal it before half-time.

Japan pressed in the second-half and deserved a goal, but were unable to break through the England defence.

The only downside for England was a serious-looking injury to Izzy Christiansen, who limped off in the first-half.

USA 1-0 Brazil
A goal from Tobin Heath after 20 minutes was enough for the hosts to seal victory against Brazil, who ended the tournament pointless.

Brazil had marginally more possession in the match, but only three shots on target throughout.

Algarve Cup

Scotland 0-1 Canada
Scotland were 10 minutes away from what would have been a fine draw against Canada when Chloe Arthur brought down Ashley Lawrence in the box and Christine Sinclair scored from the resultant penalty.

Iceland 1-4 Scotland
After their narrow loss to Canada, Scotland won their second group match comfortably.  Lizzie Arnot started the scoring on 14 minutes.  Erin Cuthbert got a second on 33 and Kim Little made it three on 56 minutes.  Iceland pulled one back through Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir a minute later, but the comeback was never really on and Scotland made it certain with a fourth and Arnot’s second on 66 minutes.

The win ensured that Scotland finished second in their group and played for fifth place:

Scotland 1-0 Denmark
Scotland secured fifth place through a Jane Ross goal on 35 minutes.

The final:
Poland 0-3 Norway
Norway were convincing winners over Poland in the final.   They took the lead on 24 minutes through Isabell Herlovsen and went into half-time with that lead.  In the second-half Caroline Graham Hansen made it two on 65 minutes and the third came nine minutes later through Karina Saevik.

Norway dominated with 61 per cent possession and 26 shots to Poland’s eight.

Rugby Union

Just a quick reminder, if one were needed, that it’s round 4 of the Six Nations this weekend.  The fixtures and kick-off times are as follows:

Friday 8 March
Scotland v Wales (Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm)

Saturday 9 March
England v Italy (Sandy Park, 12.05pm)
Ireland v France (Donnybrook, 7pm)

Rugby League

The 2019 rugby league Super League, Championship and League 1 fixtures were all announced today, 8 March.

In the first round of the Super League, champions Wigan Warriors will be at home to St Helens.

Super League newcomers, Wakefield Trinity, will be away to Leeds Rhinos, while York City Knights will face Castleford Tigers and Bradford Bulls are at home to Featherstone Rovers.

All three leagues will start on 7 April and end on 29 September.  The Super League and Championship will then to into top four play-offs.

Rugby league is a great and much underrated product.  Check out https://www.rugby-league.com/leagues__competitions/womens_rugby_league

for more details of venues, kick-off times and live streaming.

Athletics

European Indoor Championships

There were some good performances by Great Britain’s female athletes over the weekend.

Laura Muir was star of the show completing her second successive European Indoors double claiming 3000m and 1500m gold.  Melissa Courtney took bronze in the 3000m.

Katerina Johnson-Thompson and Niamh Emerson made it a British one-two in the pentathlon.

Shelayne Oskan-Clarke won the 800m.

Holly Bradshaw took silver in the pole vault and the women’s 4 x400m team also took silver.

Asha Philip took bronze in the 60m.

Great Britain’s four golds were all won by women.

Cycling

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Race

I think the best we can call it is a massive failure in organisation.  You’ll all have seen the story, but it doesn’t get any better on re-reading.  The women’s part of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race in Belgium was halted last week after the breakaway leader Nicole Hanselmann almost caught up with the back of the men’s race.

The men started 10 minutes before the women.  Hanselmann caught up with the men’s support vehicles after 35km.

She was stopped and the race was, horrible term, “neutralised” so that the gap could be created again.  At that point she had a lead over the peloton of two minutes.

When she was finally allowed to carry on, she was allowed to build a lead before the peloton was released.  But she was soon caught and in the end could finish only 74th.

I’m not saying Hanselmann would have won the women’s race but stopping her certainly ended her momentum and gave the chasers hope.

There was also a real risk of injury to riders who were potentially coming into contact with support vehicles.

The cynic in me says it was highly embarrassing for the organisers to see the women so close.

Golf

Women’s World Championship

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed the World Championship title in Singapore on Sunday.  She finished on -15, two ahead of Minjee Lee of Australia, with J-Y Ko of South Korea in third, two shots further back.

World number one Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand was one shot ahead going into the final round, but finished with a 75 to end on -8 and in joint eighth place.

Top British finisher was Jodi Ewart Shadoff who carded a fourth round 73 to finish on -8, also in a share of eighth place.

Park was not on the leaderboard going into the final found, but came up with nine birdies and one bogey to storm to the title.

Of the other British players, Bronte Law finished on -1, Georgia Hall on +2, Charley Hull +10 and Catriona Matthew on +15.

Cricket

First T20
England 160/4 (20 overs)
India 119/6 (20 overs)
England won by 41 runs

England posted a good total thanks to 62 from Tammy Beaumont and an opening partnership of 89 with Danni Wyatt and a storming 40 from 20 balls from captain Heather Knight.

Shikha Pandey (1/18 from four) and Poonam Yadav (2/33 from four) were the pick of the Indian bowlers, but the rest of the bowling attack was poor.

In response, the England bowlers were lively with none of the first four batters getting into double figures with the home side at one stage 46/5.  Dipti Sharma and Shikha Pandey offered the only resistance, finishing on 22 not out and 23 not out respectively, but India were always going to fall well short.

Katherine Brunt took 2/21 in her four overs and Linsey Smith 2/22 from her allocation.

Second T20
India 111/8 (20 overs)
England 114/5 (19.1 overs)
England won by 5 wickets with 5 balls remaining

India have not been at the races in this T20 series.  They are, undoubtedly, missing injured captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana is yet to grow into captaincy.  And yet, to some extent England made hard work of the chase – sometimes an issue when the target is a low one.

A few players got a start for India, but no-one went on to make a telling score, neither was there a decent partnership.  Top scorer was Mithali Raj, who has come in for some criticism this series for appearing uninterested, with 20.

Katherine Brunt took 3/17 off her four overs and Linsey Smith an impressive 2/11 off three.

Danni Wyatt made a fine 64 from 55 balls, leading from the front for England.  Tammy Beaumont went cheaply for just eight, with Jones, Sciver and Knight all failing to get into double figures.  When Knight fell they were 56/4.

But Lauren Winfield’s 29 steadied the ship and eventually England got over the line with five balls to spare.

They now have an unassailable 2-0 series lead, but will be looking to complete the whitewash in the last match, which is on Saturday 9 March.

Cricket – off the Pitch

England injuries

England, meanwhile are racking up a number of injuries, most of which seem to be stress fractures of the back.  Georgia Elwiss is the latest to be so diagnosed and is flying home from the tour.  This makes three players suffering with stress fractures, the other two being Kirstie Gordon and Katie George.  Sophie Ecclestone broke a hand whilst out in India and Laura Marsh is still doubtful with a side strain.

Lord’s Honours Board

Some good news.  There are now new honours boards at Lord’s for women’s performances in ODIs.

Centuries and five-wicket halls will be listed.

Anya Shrubsole’s 6/46 in the World Cup final in 2017 will be on.  Centuries by Claire Taylor, Sarah Taylor, Caroline Atkins and Lisa Keightley of Australia will be listed as will Katherine Brunt for her bowling.

Tennis

Mexico Open

In the semi-finals of the singles, the unseeded Wang Yafan defeated third seed Donna Vekic 2-6 6-3 6-1.  The other semi went to fifth seed Sofia Kenin, who overcame the unseeded Bianca Andreescu also in three sets 6-4 3-6 7-5.

Wang Yafan went on to beat Sofia Kenin in the final 2-6 6-3 7-5.

In the doubles, after a monster semi-final which went to 13-11 in the third against Maria Sanchez and Sharon Fichman, Zheng Saisai and Victoria Azarenka went on to a much easier win in the final, defeating Desirae Krawczyk and Giuliana Olmos 6-1 6-2.

Indian Wells

We’re still in the early stages at Indian Wells with some first round ties still to be completed.

There was a straight sets win for Jo Konta in the first round, beating Pauline Parmentier 6-2 6-3.  She plays 27th seed Hsieh Su-wei later on 8 March in the second round.

Netball

Last weekend’s Netball Super League results:

Friday 1 March
Team Bath 60-56 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 2 March
Surrey Storm 46-48 Celtic Dragons
Loughborough Lightning 56-51 London Pulse
Wasps Netball 61-34 Strathclyde Sirens

Monday 4 March
Severn Stars 46-64 Saracens Mavericks

Wasps remain top with seven wins from seven and 21 points.  Mavericks are second with 18 and Thunder and Lightning (!) on 15.  At the bottom, Pulse have three points.  Above them are the Sirens on 6.

This weekend’s round nine fixtures:

Saturday 9 March
Strathclyde Sirens v Saracens Mavericks (3pm)
Celtic Dragons v Loughborough Lightning (4pm)
Manchester Thunder v Surrey Storm (5pm)

Sunday 10 March
Wasps Netball v Severn Stars (4pm)

Monday 11 March
London Pulse v Team Bath (7.30pm, Live on Sky Sports)

Volleyball

Women’s Super League Top 5 result:
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 London Orcas (25-10, 25-22, 25-23)

Durham Palatinates are still top with 12 wins from 12 matches and 35 points.  Tendring VC Ladies are second on 30 from the same number of games.

Women’s Super League Bottom 4 results:

Sunday 3 March
Sheffield Hallam 3-0 Bristol VC1 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17)
Polonia SideOut London 3-1 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 25-20)

Sheffield Hallam are top with five wins and five losses from 10 games.  They have 15 points.  Behind them are Polonia SideOut London with nine points from 10 games.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

2 March
Buckingham 6-2 Canterbury
Nottingham 0-5 East Grinstead
University of Birmingham 1-0 Surbiton
Bowdon 1-2 Clifton Robinsons
Holcombe 4-1 Slough

Surbiton’s patchy form continues and Holcombe are top with 31 points, three points ahead of Surbiton.  East Grinstead are third on 25.  At the bottom, Canterbury have five points and Slough are just above them on nine.  All teams have played 14 games.

This weekend’s fixtures:

9 March
Slough v Clifton Robinsons (12.30pm Slough HC)
Bowdon v Holcombe (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Beeston v Buckingham (2pm, Nottingham Hockey P1)
East Grinstead v University of Birmingham (4pm, East Grinstead HC)
Surbiton v Canterbury (4pm, Surbiton HC Water)

Hockey – off the Pitch

There was disappointment for Irish hockey this week as women’s coach Graham Shaw resigned in order to take up a similar post with New Zealand.

Shaw was appointed in 2015 after serving as assistant to Darren Smith and took Ireland’s women to a stunning silver medal at the World Cup in 2018.

And Finally,

In case you missed it, today (Friday 8 March) is International Women’s Day.  Now there seems to be a day for just about everything, and I don’t tend to pay much attention, but this one I think is important and I’m so glad it falls on a Friday this year so that my blog can be my offering towards it.

I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t think things needed to change and I thought you could access your women’s sports fix in one place.  I wouldn’t be writing it if I thought all was fine and dandy in the world of women’s sport and we didn’t have to suffer vile levels of abuse just for daring to play/administrate/referee/write about/have views on the thing we love.

Similarly, I don’t suppose you’d be reading it if you felt you had adequate access to women’s sports stories elsewhere.

So to all of you who love sport of any kind, women’s or men’s (or both, for crying out loud), this is for you.  Stand up for women’s sport, shout down the abuse, be an advocate for those currently in sport and for those little girls looking for role models and careers in the future.

And one day, maybe, we’ll get there.

No column next week as I’m out and about. 

 

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Women’s Sports Column 23 February – 1 March 2019

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  With new and competing claims on my time during the week, it may mean that my future columns are somewhat contracted.  I will endeavour to keep up the breadth of coverage, but please bear with me if some of the items may be in less detail.

Having said that, no problems this week and there’s plenty to get through.  Stories this week come from netball, hockey, rugby union, golf, athletics, cycling, football, volleyball, tennis and cricket.

So let’s crack on…

Rugby Union

Another good win for England, plus a first win for Italy over Ireland and a better performance from France in the third round of the Six Nations.

Wales 12-51 England

England had claimed the bonus point by the 26 minute mark.  Prop Sarah Bern scored the first after just two minutes.  Jess Breach went over shortly afterwards making it 0-12.

Then Marlie Packer burst through from a maul after a lineout for the third and Bern went over again for her second and England’s fourth and the bonus point with the score 0-24.

On 30 minutes Breach claimed her second try taking it to 0-29.

Five minutes before half-time, Wales hit back with their first try against England since 2016.  Keira Bevan made the break before the ball got to Jess Kavanagh who crossed the whitewash to score.  The score at the break was 5-29.

The home side started the second-half with renewed vigour.  They applied pressure and had most of the possession in the first 15 minutes, but were unable to score.

When England finally got back into it, Bern went over but the try was disallowed for a knock-on.  Shortly afterwards, Cath O’Donnell went over to take the score to 5-34.

There were further England tries from Abby Dow and Sarah Beckett and the score was then 5-46.

But Wales still had something to add.  Cerys Hale went over after sustained pressure to make it 12-46.

England rounded it off with a Katy Daley-Mclean try to make the final score 12-51.

Italy 29-27 Ireland

Italy recorded their first ever win over Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

The home side took the lead after just three minutes through a Michela Sillari penalty.  Four minutes later they scored their first try though Aura Muzzo, which Sillari converted.

Ireland hit back on 11 minutes with a try from Eimear Considine.  But the come-back short-lived as Italy went over just three minutes later through Giada Franco, converted by Sillari to make it 17-5.

Then Ireland had a sustained period of pressure.  Considine went over for her second, which was converted by Nicole Fowley.  Just after the half-hour the visitors were awarded a penalty that Considine duly slotted.  And then with just five minutes to go before the break, Ireland scored another try, this time through Anna Caplice.  Fowley kicked the conversion and it seemed that Ireland were bound to go into the break 22-17 up.

But Italy were having none of it.  On 39 minutes Sofia Stefan went over to score Italy’s third and with Sillari missing the conversion, the half-time score was 22-22.

Five minutes into the second-half, Franco went over for her second try, which was converted by Sillari to take the score to 29-22.  Laura Sheehan scored for Ireland on 64, but the conversion was missed.  It was this miss that was to prove decisive and with no further scoring the result was 29-27.

France 41-10 Scotland

Could France hit back after their mauling by England in the last round?  Yes, they could.  They made a nervous start, but soon began to dominate up front with the Scottish scrum unable to cope with the power.

Gabrielle Vernier went over for France’s first, with Pauline Bourdon their second to make it 10-0.

Scotland hit back through Rhona Lloyd and with 12 minutes to go before half-time the arrears were reduced to 10-5.

France, however, had other ideas and went over twice more before the break.  Vernier went in for her second and right on half-time Doriane Constanty went in to secure the bonus point for the home side and a lead of 24-5.

Vernier scored her hat-trick try 13 minutes after the resumption.  Then replacement Caroline Boujard started a move in her own half and was then on the end to finish it to go over and take the score to 36-5.

Emma Wassell went over for Scotland on 67 minutes, but the last word went to France when Lea Murie went over again to take the final score to 41-10.

Round Four is in two weeks:

Friday 8 March
Scotland v Wales (19.35, Scotstoun Stadium, BBC Alba & BBC Wales)

Saturday 9 March
England v Italy (12.05, Sandy Park)
Ireland v France (19.00 GMT, Energia Park, Donnybrook)

Golf

The second round of the Women’s World Championship in Singapore has been completed.

Amy Olson of the US leads on -7.  She is two ahead of five players; Azahara Munoz (Esp), Inbee Park (Kor), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (Eng), Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), and Minjee Lee (Aus).

Of the other British players Georgia Hall (Eng) is level, Charley Hull (Eng) is +1, Bronte Law (Eng) 3+ and Catriona Matthew (Sco) +8.

Defending champion, Michelle Wie of the US, had to withdraw during the first round due to an ongoing wrist problem.

Athletics

The European Indoor Championships begin today (Friday 1 March) and continue through the weekend.   The event is taking place in Glasgow and there is plenty of coverage via the BBC on BBC2, BBC4 and online.  Results and stories in next week’s column.

Cycling

The Track World Championships are also in full swing in Pruszkow, Poland.

After GB took silver to Australia in the team pursuit, Laura Kenny, who was due to race in the omnium today (Friday), pulled out through illness.  Katie Archibald (not a bad replacement!) will take her place.

Scratch Race 10km

Elinor Barker took gold for Great Britain in a time of 12:49.000, Kirsten Wild of Netherlands took silver and Jolien D’hoore of Belgium, bronze.

Team Pursuit

Australia (Ashlee Ankudinoff, Georgia Baker, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson) took gold by two tenths of a second, Great Britain (Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson) took silver and New Zealand took bronze.

Team Sprint

Australia took gold, Russia the silver and Germany the bronze.

Netball

Last weekend’s Super League results:

Friday 22 February
Strathclyde Sirens 37-56 Severn Stars
Team Bath 46-57 Wasps Netball

Saturday 23 February
Surrey Storm 50-66 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 25 February
Saracens Mavericks 65-37 London Pulse
Celtic Dragons 56-83 Manchester Thunder

Wasps are yet to drop a point and lie top with six wins from six and 18 points.  Mavericks are second with 15 from seven, Thunder are just below them on 15 from 6 with an inferior goal average.  At the bottom, Pulse have three points.  Above them are the Sirens and Dragons with six.

Next weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 1 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 March
Surrey Storm v Celtic Dragons (6.00pm)
Loughborough Lightning v London Pulse (6.00pm)
Wasps Netball v Strathclyde Sirens (7.00pm)

Monday 4 March
Severn Stars v Saracens Mavericks (7.00pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Tennis – on the Court

Last weekend’s tournament results:

Dubai Open

Both semi-finals went to three sets, with one seed losing to their unseeded opponent, and one getting through. In the first, Belinda Bencic knocked out sixth seed Elina Svitolina 6-2 3-6 7-6, while in the second, Petra Kvitova, seeded two, defeated Hsieh Su-wei 3-6 6-2 6-4.

The final also went to three sets with the Swiss player, Bencic, defying the odds to take the victory against Kvitova 6-3 1-6 6-2.

Hungarian Open

Meanwhile, top seed Alison Van Uytvanck beat eighth seed Markéta Vondroušová in the final, 1-6 7-5 6-2.

There was also a welcome return to form and fitness for Heather Watson in the doubles.  She reached the final with partner Fanny Stollar, and were seeded three, but they lost the final to unseeded pairing Ekaterina Alexandrova and Vera Zvonareva 4-6 6-4 10-7.

This week some of the top players have been in action at the Mexican Open:

Jo Konta, seeded eight, had a good run, going out in the quarter-finals to third seed Donna Vekic 6-3 7-5.

We are now at the semi-final stage:

Wang Yafan v Donna Vekic (3)
Bianca Andreescu v Sofia Kenin (5)

The semi-finals of the doubles looks like this:

Renata Voráčová/Cornelia Lister v Giuliana Olmos/Desirae Krawczyk (3)
Zheng Saisai/Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sanchez/Sharon Fichman

Tennis – off the Court

Fed Cup

It was announced this week that GB’s World Group II play-off against Kazakhstan will be played at the Copper Box in London.

The tie takes place on 20 and 21 April.

If they win, GB will be in World Group II for the first time since 1993.

Tickets go on sale next week.  Check out https://www.lta.org.uk/major-tennis-events/international-events/fed-cup/tickets/ for details.

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova has had surgery on her troublesome right shoulder and withdrawn from the Miami Open.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 23 February:
East Grinstead 2-0 Buckingham
Canterbury 1-2 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 3-0 Beeston
Surbiton 2-0 Holcombe
Slough 2-2 University of Birmingham

Surbiton are top on goal difference.  They and Holcombe have 28 points from 13 games.  East Grinstead are third with 22.  At the bottom, Canterbury have just five points and Slough are above them on nine.

This weekend’s fixtures:

2 March
Beeston v East Grinstead (12 noon, Nottingham Hockey P1)
Buckingham v Canterbury (12 noon, Stowe School P1)
University of Birmingham v Surbiton (1.15pm, Birmingham University P1)
Bowdon v Clifton Robinsons (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Holcombe v Slough (4pm, Holcombe HC P1)

Volleyball

 Last weekend’s results from Women’s Super League Top 5:

Durham Palatinates 3-1 London Orcas (25-19, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16)
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-15, 25-14, 22-25, 23-25, 15-11)

Durham are still top with a perfect 11/11 record and 32 points.  Tendring are second on 27.  TeamBU Wessex are bottom, but have only played 9 games; they have 13 points.

Football

Continental Cup Final
Arsenal 0-0 Manchester city AET
City win 4-2 on penalties

Manchester City claimed their third Conti Cup title on Sunday.

It was a cagey affair with few chances in normal time.  Beth Mead headed wide for Arsenal in the first-half.  Steph Houghton had a header saved and Gemma Bonner couldn’t turn in the rebound.

In the second-half, City were on largely on top with Nikita Paris, Caroline Weir and Parris again all having chances to win it.  In the last minutes Janine Beckie had a great opportunity, but hit the bar with her shot.

And so it went to penalties.  Karen Bardsley saved from Leah Williamson and Danielle van de Donk, before Beckie stepped up to take the decisive spot kick, which she confidently put away and the win was City’s.

Lionesses

England are without Millie Bright and Jill Scott as they have withdrawn from the England squad for the SheBelieves Cup.  Scott was withdrawn, according to the FA, “in order to manage her return to full fitness ahead of this summer’s World Cup”.  Bright is injured.  Chioma Ubogagu of Orlando Pride has been called up as a replacement.

27 February

England 2-1 Brazil

England came from one goal down to claim a fine win against Brazil in their first SheBelieves 2019 match.

England made a slow start and although they had plenty of possession in the first-half, Marta was fouled in the box on 16 minutes and Andressa Alves put Brazil ahead.  Some have called it controversial, but I saw Lucy Bronze’s shoulder barge as a penalty.

In the second-half, the Lionesses were a good deal more on the ball.  Three minutes after the resumption, Ellen White slotted home to equalize.

Beth Mead scored the winner from what was obviously (yes, obviously you knuckle-draggers out there, it was and Mead admitted it) a cross.  Spectacular result and warranted after England’s second-half performance.

28 February

United States 2-2 Japan

It was honours even between the US and Japan in Pennsylvania.

Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring for the US on 23 minutes.  Japan drew level in the second-half through Emi Nakajima.

The US went back ahead on 76 minutes through Alex Morgan, but Japan came back for a second time, equalising in the first minute of injury time through Yuka Momiki.

England’s remaining games are against the USA on 2 March and Japan on 5 March.

It has also been announced that all of England’s World Cup warm-up matches will be broadcast in the UK on the BBC.

Algarve Cup

The Algarve Cup is also in its early stages.

Scores so far:

27 February
Canada 0-0 Iceland
Norway 2-1 Denmark
Sweden 4-1 Switzerland
Spain 2-0 Netherlands

Scotland are in Group A, alongside Canada and Iceland.

Cricket

India claimed the three-match ODI series 2-1 at a canter and without Harmanpreet Kaur.

1st ODI
India 202 all out (49.4/50 overs)
England 136 all out (41/50 overs)
India won by 66 runs

Jemima Rodrigues top-scored with 48, captain Mithali Raj scored 40 and there were contributions from lower down the order Taniya Bhatia (25) and Jhulan Goswami (30)as India posted a decent score of 202.  The England bowlers shared the wickets, Sophie Ecclestone with 2/27 from her 10 overs, being the most economical.

In response, Jones fell early for just one.  Heather Knight and Nat Sciver held the innings together in the middle, scoring 39 not out and 44 respectively, but after Sciver fell, none of the last six got into double figures.  In fact England lost 7/25.  Spinner Ekta Bisht took 4/25 from eight overs.

2nd ODI
England 161 all out (43.3/50 overs)
India 162/3 (41.1/50 overs)
India won by seven wickets

India had no trouble chasing down a small England score in the second ODI.

Nat Sciver top-scored with 85, Lauren Winfield made 28 and Tammy Beaumont 20, but no-one else reached double figures.

The truly awesome Jhulan Goswami took 4/30 in 8.3 overs and Shikha Pandey 4/18 from ten.

India lost only three wickets in their chase.  Rodrigues went for a duck but Mandhana scored 63, Raut 32 and Raj 47 not out to see them home.

3rd ODI
India 205/8 (50 overs)
England 208/8 (48.5/50 overs)
England won by two wickets

England claimed two precious ICC Women’s Championship points in the third ODI, preventing a whitewash in the process.

After Rodgrigues was out for her second duck in two games, there was a stand of 129 between Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut before Mandhana fell for 66.  Katherine Brunt took the first five wickets of the innings and India subsided slightly, but  still managed to make the highest first innings score of the series.

In response, England made a better start even though it was only a partnership of 25 before Amy Jones fell for 13.  For once Nat Sciver (1) did not contribute, but captain Knight (47) and Danni Wyatt (56) made the bulk of the runs, before Georgia Elwiss (33 not out) and Katherine Brunt (18) got them nearly over the line.  Brunt was out with just two needed.  Anya Shrubsole came in and hit her one and only ball for four to win the game.

India deserved this series.  Several England players were significantly under par – most concerningly Sarah Taylor.  It’s on now to the three-match T20 series, which begins on 4 March.  Radio coverage via BBC 5 Live Sports Extra.

Sophie Ecclestone is on her way home with a broken hand.  This adds to a lengthening injury list that includes Laura Marsh (side strain) and Kirstie Gordon (stress fracture of the back).

And Finally,

There’s a fine interview with Kristina Vogel on the BBC website, where she talks with Sir Chris Hoy about the crash that ended her cycling career and how, as she puts it, “I’m in a wheelchair, but it’s not the end of my life.”  Don’t miss it.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/cycling/47407804

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 February 2019

running track

Welcome to this week’s column.  With news of Lindsey Vonn’s last race, the wonderful Six Nations, football, netball, hockey, athletics, volleyball, cricket, speed skating and tennis I’d better get on…

Football

FAWSL

Last weekend’s results:

Sunday 10 February

Bristol City 0-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Manchester City 2-2 Chelsea
Wullaert 12’, Stanway 24’
So-yun Ji 50’, 89’

FAWC

Sunday 10 February

London Bees 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Dean 14’ (Pen), Johnson 22’ (OG), Wiltshire 47’

Leicester City 2-3 Crystal Palace
James 68’, Dugmore 74’
Whinnett 57’, Bryan 64’, 84’

FA Cup – Remaining Fourth Round Ties

We now know the full fifth round line-up, after the fourth was completed at the weekend:

Durham 5-1 Cardiff City
Millwall Lionesses 1-0 Lewes
Reading 13-0 Keynsham Town
Liverpool 6-0 MK Dons
Loughborough Foxes 0-2 Sheffield United
Charlton 3-3 Huddersfield Town (Huddersfield won 5-4 on penalties)
Stoke City 1-2 Aston Villa
Yeovil Town 1-3 Birmingham City

The fifth round takes place this Sunday, 17 February.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

The league was back after its winter break last weekend:

9 February

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

10 February

Bowdon 4-1 Slough

All teams have played 11 now except Bowdon and Slough who have played 12.  With Surbiton suffering their third defeat of the season, Holcombe are now top with 25 points.  Surbiton are second on 22 with East Grinstead third on 19.  At the bottom, Canterbury have four points from 11, and Slough are just above them on eight, having played the extra game.

This weekend’s fixtures will take them all to 12 games played:

16 February

Clifton Robinsons v Buckingham (1pm, Coombe Dingle P1)
Holcombe v Beeston (2pm, Holcombe HC P1)
Canterbury v University of Birmingham (4pm, Polo Farm SC, P1)
Surbiton v East Grinstead (4pm, Surbiton HC Water)

Hockey – off the Pitch

Maddie Hinch has been named FIH Female Goalkeeper of the Year for the third year running.

Ayeisha McFerran (Ireland), Rachael Lynch (Australia), Maria Ruiz (Spain) and Ye Jiao (China) were also shortlisted.

Winter Sports

Speed Skating

Elise Christie won silver in the 500m at the last World Cup event of the season in Turin.

Martina Valcepina of Italy took gold and Maame Biney of the USA the bronze.

Lindsey Vonn

After crashing out in her penultimate race, the super-G at the Alpine World Championships in Are, Sweden the previous Tuesday, Vonn made amends in her last race, the downhill, winning bronze.  Defending champion Ilka Stuhec took gold and Corinne Soutar, silver.

In winning the bronze, Vonn became the first female skier to win a medal at six World Championships.  What a way to go out!

Cricket

Alyssa Healy scooped three prizes at the Australian Cricket Awards this week.  She won female ODI player of the year (6 matches, 329 runs at an average of 54.83), female T20I player of the year (17 matches, 578 runs at an average of 41.29) and also the Belinda Clark Award.

The Betty Wilson young cricketer of the year award went to Georgia Wareham and female domestic player of the year was Heather Graham.

Rugby Union – Six Nations

England 41-26 France

Quite surprisingly, this game was only ever going one way.  England were 24-0 up and coasting at half-time, and although France came back to put a good number of points on the scoreboard, it was never going to be enough to overhaul the Red Roses.

A record crowd of 4,674 were at Doncaster to see it.

England scorers:
Tries: Breach (2), Cleall (2), Smith, Botterman, O’Donnell
Conversions: Mclean (3)

France scorers:
Tries: Bourdon (2), N’Diaye, R Menager
Conversions Bourdon (3)

Italy 3-3 Wales

Stalemate in Lecce as neither side could make the decisive score to win the match.  Robyn Wilkins scored a penalty to give Wales the lead after 30 minutes.  In the second half, Michaela Sillari drew the home side level with a penalty on the hour.

Wales thought they had snatched it late on when Jasmine Joyce went over from a breakaway, but the visitors were pulled back for a forward pass.

The home side then had a chance to win it, but a second Sillari penalty went wide.

Italy scorers:
Pen: Sillari

Wales
Pen: Wilkins

Scotland 5-22 Ireland

Ireland opened the scoring through Aoife McDermott, but Scotland drew level through Hannah Smith.

It looked as if they would go into the break level, but Ireland had other ideas as Leah Lyons went over again to make it 10-5 to the away side at half-time.

Straight into the second-half Ireland were on the attack again and five minutes in Alison Miller grabbed their third try of the match.

Anna Caplice bagged the bonus point try just before the hour, picking up the ball from the back of a ruck to crash over.

Scotland scorers:
Tries: Smith

Ireland scorers:
Tries: McDermott, Lyons, Miller, Caplice
Conversions: Fowley

Other Rugby News

It was announced this week that England will play the Barbarians at Twickenham in June.  The Barbarians’ women’s side was only formed in October 2017.  This will be the first time they have played England.

They will play before the men’s team in a double-header on Sunday 2 June.

The game kicks off at 12.45pm with the men’s following at 3pm.

Tennis – on the Court

Fed Cup

Group A

Great Britain 2-0 Hungary
Katie Boulter triumphed in the first rubber against Dalma Galfi 6-4 6-7 7-6.  This was followed by another three set victory for Jo Konta 6-2 6-7 7-6.

Greece 2-1 Slovenia
Valentini Grammatikopoul beat Kaja Juvan 7-6 5-7 6-3.  Maria Sakkari defeated Dalila Jakupovic 4-6 6-4 6-3.  The doubles rubber was a walkover for Slovenia.

Group B

Serbia 2-1 Croatia
Olga Danilovic defeated Jana Fett in the first rubber 2-6 6-2 7-6.  The second went to Croatia as Donna Vekic beat Aleksandra Krunic 1-6 7-5 6-1.  The deciding doubles went to Danilovi and Krunic as they beat Jurak and Konjuh 1-6 6-1 6-4

Turkey 3-0 Georgia
Cagla Buyukakcay defeated Mariam Bolkvadze in the first rubber 6-4 6-1.  In the second, Pemra Ozgen beat Ekaterine Gorgodze 7-6 6-3.  The doubles were a walkover to Turkey.

Great Britain and Serbia finished top of their respective groups, each winning three from thee ties.  They faced each other in the promotion play-off

GB 2-0 Serbia
In the play-off, both Boulter and Konta kept up their tremendous run of form:

Boulter beat Ivana Jorovic in the first rubber 6-4 6-3 Konta struggled in her match and was visibly distressed at the end through physical exhaustion.  She came through her match against Aleksandra Krunic 7-6 3-6 6-2.  The doubles rubber was not played.

The World Cup Group II play-off draw was also made this week and GB have a home tie.

They will play Kazakhstan in April with the venue yet to be announced, although it may well be at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Meanwhile, the World Group semi-finals look like this:

20-21 April

France v Romania
Australia v Belarus

Qatar Open

Having seen off Sam Stosur in qualifying (7-6 3-6 6-4), unseeded Anna Blinkova then put out seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova 7-6 6-4.  She finally succumbed in the next round, to Barbora Strycova in a bizarrely scored match, 6-0 3-6 6-0 to the unseeded Strycova.

We are now at the semi-final stage, which will be completed today, Friday 15 February:

Simona Halep (1) v Elina Svitolina (4)
Angelique Kerber (3) v Elise Mertens

We are also at the semi-final stage in the doubles, with only one seeded pairing left in the competition.  Both games again today, 15 February:

Chan Hao-Ching/Latisha Chan v Jelena Ostapenko/Veronika Kudermetova
Alison Riske/Ons Jabeur v Demi Schuurs/Anna-Lena Grönefeld (4)

Tennis – off the Court

Maria Sharapova had withdrawn from next month’s Indian Wells tournament.

She is suffering ongoing problems from a shoulder injury that has forced her to withdraw or retire from two of her last three events since playing in the US Open in September.

Volleyball

Last weekend’s results from the Women’s Super League Top 5 were:

9 February

Durham Palatinates 3-0 Malory Eagles UEL (25-16, 25-18, 25-22)
London Orcas 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (17-25, 14-25, 15-25)

Durham are top with 29 points from 10 games.  Tendring are second with22 from nine.

Women’s Super League Bottom 4:

9 February

Sheffield Hallam 3-1 Birmingham Volley Club1 (25-17, 25-22, 25-27, 25-16)

All teams have played nine games.  Sheffield are top with 12 points, then come Polonia SideOut London (6), Bristol VC1 (4) and Birmingham Volley Club1 (3).

Athletics

British Indoor Championships

More team GB places have been booked as we build up to the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March.

Results in full:
Pole vault: 1. Holly Bradshaw (4,80m), 2. Jade Ive (4.40m), 3. Sophie Cook 4.30m)
Triple Jump: 1. Naomi Ogbeta (14.05m), 2. Laura Samuel (13.61m), 3. Alexandra Russell (13.27m)
60m hurdles: 1. Cindy Ofili (8.16), 2. Katarina Johnson-Thompson (8.27), 3. Gabriella Ade-Onojobi *13.21)
60m: 1. Asha Philip (7.19), 2. Rachel Miller (7.20), 3. Kristal Awuah (7.35)
3000m: 1. Laura Muir (8:48.03), 2. Melissa Courtney (8:50.61), 3. Amy Eloise Neale (8:59.86)
Shot Put: 1. Sophie McKinna (17.97m), 2. Amelia Strickler (17.28m), 3. Adele Nicoll (15.58m)
5000m walk: 1. Heather Lewis (22:55.15), 2. Madeline Shott (25:15.58), 3. Pagen Spooner (26:43.74)
Long Jump: 1. Katarina Johnson-Thompson (6.46m), 2. Jahisha Thomas (6.36m), Abigail Irozuru (6.35m)
High jump: 1. Morgan Lake (1.94m), 2. Bethan Partridge (1.87m), 3. Nikki Manson (1.80m)
400m: 1. Zoey Clark (52.85), 2. Amber Anning (53.00), 3. Laviai Nielsen (53.03)
200m: 1. Hayley Mills (23.59), 2. Kiah Dubarry-Gay (24.01), 3. Melissa Roberts (24.28)
800m: 1. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (2:05.04), 2. Mari Smith (2:05.68), 3. Adelle Tracey (2:05.72)
1500m: 1. Jemma Reekie (4:17.08), 2. Sarah McDonald (4:18.10), 3. Katie Snowden ( 4:19.34)

Netball

Last weekend’s Vitality Superleague results were as follows:

Friday 8 February
Strathclyde Sirens 46-50 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 9 February
Severn Stars 49-62 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning 50-75 Team Bath

Monday 11 February
London Pulse 49-69 Surrey Storm
Wasps Netball 54-50 Saracens Mavericks

Wasps are still top with four wins from four.  Manchester Thunder are second on the same points but with an inferior goal average.  Team Bath are third on nine points from four games.  At the bottom, there are two teams with three points from five games; London Pulse and Strathclyde Sirens.

This weekend’s round six fixtures:

Saturday 16 February
Manchester Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (5pm)
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm (6pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Team Bath (6pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Monday 18 February
Celtic Dragons v Wasps Netball (7pm)
London Pulse v Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm)

And Finally,

Is she a woman?  Is she a man?  It still seems that no-one can agree.  While they debate her physical make-up, what happens to Caster Semenya’s mental health?  How does she feel having her gender debated in this way?  Will she have to undergo treatment to lower her testosterone levels?  If so, when tested she will have show the lower levels six months before competition.

Earlier this week it was reported that the IAAF’s lawyers will say Semenya is a “biological male”.  The organisation has denied this.

Now Semenya’s lawyer has said that she is “unquestionably a woman”.

Semenya herself says,

“It is not fair. I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.

“It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am.”

I’m not arguing with her.  I just want her to be able to run – where she wants to run.

Not here next week, so more news and views in a fortnight. 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 February 2019

new tennisWelcome to this week’s column. Top has to be news from the first Fed Cup ties to be held in Great Britain for 26 years.  But there’s plenty of other stuff for us to get our teeth into.  Stories this week come from netball, football, cricket, hockey, tennis, volleyball, rugby union plus a bumper selection of winter sports stories.

Let’s crack on.

Tennis

Fed Cup

A quick recap on what GB are aiming to do at this four-day tournament in Bath:

Eight teams split into two groups for the Europe/Africa round robin event.  Eventually just one team will go on to the play-off event in April which will decide who wins promotion to the second tier of the Fed Cup structure.

Wednesday 6 February

Group A: GB, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia

Great Britain 3-0 Slovenia. 

Katie Boulter started it all off with a straight sets win over Kaja Juvan 6-4 6-2.  Then Jo Konta beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 6-2.

The win was sealed by GB’s doubles team of Harriet Dart and Katie Swan who beat Jakupovic and Juvan 6-4 6-2.

Hungary 2-1 Greece
Dalma Galfi beat Valentini Grammatikopoulou 6-0 6-3
Maria Sakkari beat Anna Bondar 6-3 6-2
Dalma Galfi and Reka-Luca Jani beat Maria Sakkari and Despina Papamichail 6-3 6-4.

Group B: Croatia, Georgia, Serbia, Turkey

Croatia 2-1 Turkey
Cagla Buyukakcay beat Ana Konjuh 7-6 2-6 6-3
Donna Vekic beat Pemra Ozgen 7-6 6-3
Jana Fett and Darija Jurak beat Cagla Buyukakcay and Pemra Ozgen 6-4 6-4

Serbia 2-1 Georgia
Ivana Jorovic beat Mariam Bolkvadze 6-3 6-1
Olga Danilovic beat Ekaterine Gorgodze 7-5 6-3
Mariam Bolkvadze and Oksana Kalashnikova beat Olga Danilovic and Ivana Jorovic 6-3 7-5

On Saturday, the two group winners will play each other, with the winners progressing to the April play-offs.

Thursday 7 February

Group A

Great Britain 3-0 Greece

Boulter started it again, beating Valentini Grammatikopoulou in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-3.

Konta also took three sets to beat Maria Sakkari 4-6 6-2 6-3 and the doubles pairing of Dart and Swan made it 3-0 winning over Anna Arkadianou and Despina Papamichail 6-1 6-4.

Hungary 3-0 Slovenia
Dalma Galfi beat Kaja Juvan 6-1 6-4
Anna Bondar beat Dalila Jakupovic 4-6 6-1 6-4
Reka-Luca Jani and Adrienn Nagy beat Nina Potocnik and Nika Radisic 7-4 4-6 6-2

Group B

Croatia 2-1 Georgia
Ana Konjuh beat Mariam Bolkvadze 6-4 6-3
Ekaterine Gorgodze beat Jana Fett 4-6 6-3 7-5
Darija Jurak and Ana Konjuh beat Ekaterine Gorgodze and Oksana Kalashnikova 7-5 6-1

Serbia 3-0 Turkey
Ivana Jorovic beat Cagla Buyukakcay 6-2 6-3
Aleksandra Krunic beat Pemra Ogzen 3-6 6-4 6-2
Olga Danilovic and Aleksandra Krunic beat Berfu Cengiz and Ipek Soylu 6-2 6-3

Still to come:

Friday, 8 February

Group A
Great Britain v Hungary (16:30)
Greece v Slovenia (16:30)

Group B
Serbia v Croatia (10:00)
Turkey v Georgia (10:00)

On Saturday, the two group winners will play each other, with the winners progressing to the April play-offs.

Saturday, 9 February

Play-off: TBC v TBC (16:30)

St Petersburg Open

In the semi-finals, eighth seed Donna Vekic saw off the challenge of Vera Zvonareva 6-2 6-2 and second seed Kiki Bertens beat fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 6-2.

Bertens then went on to win the final against Vekic 7-6 6-4.

Thailand Open

In the semi-finals, eighth seed Dayana Yastremska defeated Magda Linette 6-4 6-3 and sixth seed Ajla Tomljanovic beat Tamara Zidansek 6-4 6-1.

Yastremeska went on to win an exciting final 6-2 2-6 7-6.

She took a 5-0 lead in the first set, eventually taking it 6-2.  Tomljanovic roared back in the second to take it by the same score.  It looked as though the momentum was with Tomljanovic, as she went into 5-2 lead in the final set, but Yastremska came back to take it to a tiebreak, which she won to three.

Rugby Union

Six Nations Championships

There were wins for England, France and Italy in the first round at the weekend.

Ireland 7-51 England

There were eight different try scorers for England as they made a great start to the championship.  Katy Daley-McLean also scored 16 points including a try.  Ireland’s score came through a penalty try on the hour when England were penalised for deliberately collapsing the drive after a series of five metre scrums.

England tries: Breach, Bern, Davies, Daley-McLean, Harrison, Scott, B Cleall
Conversions: Daley-McLean (4)
Penalty: Daley-McLean

France 52-3 Wales

Nine tries for France saw them get off to an impressive start.

France tries: Thomas (3), Murie (2), Menager (2), N’Diaye, Constanty
Conversions: Imart (2)
Penalty: Imart

Wales penalty: Wilkins

Scotland 7-28 Italy

Italy also managed a bonus point win over Scotland at Scotstoun.

Scotland try: Bonar
Conversion: Skeldon

Italy tries: Arrighetti, Franco, Rigoni, Giordano
Conversions: Madia, Sillari (3)

This weekend’s fixtures:

Friday 8 February: Scotland v Ireland (19.35, live on BBC Alba and RTE)
Saturday 9 February: Italy v Wales (19.00, live on Eurosport IT and BBC Wales)
Sunday 10 February: England v France (12.45pm, Sky Sports and France 2)

Hockey – Off the Pitch

Sophie Bray has announced her retirement from international hockey.

The 28-year old won 134 caps for England and Great Britain.  She won Olympic gold with Britain in 2916, European gold in 2015 and bronze in 2017 and Commonwealth Games silver and bronze (dates).

She was awarded an MBE in 2017, with the rest of the 2016 Olympic hockey team.

She announced her decision on Instagram:

“After a very tough couple of months it is with great sadness that I have taken the difficult decision to step down from international hockey.

“It has been a huge honour to represent Great Britain and England, and I will be forever grateful for all the incredible memories in an international shirt.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has supported and believed in me and made the amazing journey so special.

“I still have a lot to give the sport I love and I am looking forward to what the future holds.”

Hockey – On the Pitch

FIH Pro League

New Zealand 5-1 Great Britain

Great Britain began their FIH Pro League campaign with a defeat to the Black Sticks.  Olivia Merry opened the scoring for New Zealand in the fifth minute.  It was 1-1 at the end of the first quarter as Giselle Ansley equalised from a penalty stroke on 11 minutes.

There was only one goal in the second quarter, scored by Ella Gunson from a penalty corner and New Zealand went into the break 2-1 up.

In the third, Merry scored her second on 35, and from then on New Zealand were in control.  Merry sealed her hat-trick from a penalty corner on 51 and Amy Robson made it 5-1 on 59.

The other scores so far:

6 January
Argentina 2-0 Belgium

27 January
New Zealand 0-1 Netherlands

1 February
New Zealand 0-1 Belgium

2 February
Australia 1-0 Netherlands

Argentina 2-2 United States
(Argentina won 3-1 on penalties)

3 February
Australia 1-2 Belgium

The next fixtures:

15 February
New Zealand v Germany (Christchurch)

16 February
Australia v GB (Perth)
US v Netherlands (Winston-Salem)

17 February
New Zealand v China (Christchurch)

Netball

Last weekend’s Vitality Netball Super League results were:

Saturday 2 February
Surrey Storm 47-70 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 60-49 Strathclyde Sirens

Monday 4 February
Celtic Dragons 44-66 Saracens Mavericks
Manchester Thunder 62-47 London Pulse

Wasps are top with three wins from three, nine points and a goal average of 1.46.  Manchester Thunder are second with an inferior goal average (1.33) and Mavericks are third, again with an inferior goal average (1.25), and have played a game more.

This weekend’s round five fixtures are:

Friday 8 February
Strathclyde Sirens v Celtic Dragons (7.30pm)

Saturday 9 February
Severn Stars v Manchester Thunder (6.00pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath (6.00pm)
London Pulse v Surrey Storm (7.00pm)

Monday 11 February
Wasps Netball v Saracens Mavericks (7.00pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Winter Sports – off the Snow

Lindsey Vonn

This week Lindsey Vonn announced her retirement, saying her “body is broken beyond repair”.

She had been trying to surpass Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins, but will retire on 82.

In a quite outstanding career, the 34-year old won downhill Winter Olympics gold at Vancouver in 2010, bronze in the super-G and a downhill bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018.

She has comeback from several career-threatening injuries, but the knee injury sustained at Lake Louise last year has proved the final straw.

Like many sportswomen she has had more than her fair share of haters, particularly when she raced against the men and even after all her achievements it is quite telling that her announcement, released on Instagram, ended,

“So please let my story be of comebacks, victories and even injuries, but do not tell my story as one of failures or unreached goals.”

Winter Sports – on the Snow/ice

Lindsey Vonn – Again

However, it did not all go to plan for Vonn in her penultimate race.

She crashed spectacularly in the super-G at the World Championships in Are, Sweden.  She hit a gate and ended up in the safety nets.  She was treated by medics before getting up and skiing down to the end of the course.

Her final race will be in the downhill on Sunday.

Speed Skating

Great Britain claimed mixed relay bronze last weekend at the Short Track World Cup in Dresden.

Although Korea initially won the race, they were afterwards disqualified and Russia awarded the gold.  Hungary won the silver and the GB team of Elise Christie, Farrell Treacy, Jack Burrows and Kathryn Thomson the bronze.

Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships

Charlotte Bankes won Britain’s first ever World Championship snowboard medal when she took silver in the snowboard cross in Utah.  Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic took gold.

Izzy Atkin won bronze in the freestyle skiing big air category at the same event.  Gold went to Tess Ledeux of France and silver to Julia Crass.  Atkin was just five points behind in third.

Telemark World Cup Ladies Classic

Meanwhile, in Pra Loup, France Jasmin Taylor won World Cup silver.  She finished 7.84 seconds behind the gold medal winner Amelie Reymond of Switzerland.  Argeline Tan Bouquet of France finished third.

I know my coverage of winter sports is quite patchy – my knowledge, I confess, is a bit thin on the subject, but it seems that Great Britain’s women are whipping up a storm across several different disciplines at the moment.  If any of you out there have specialist knowledge in this area and would like to contribute to the column, please let me know!

One pairing I do know a bit about is Menna Fitzpatrick and Jen Kehoe.  And last week they were in action at the Para Alpine Skiing World Championships in Italy.

And once again they were in great form.  They claimed gold in both the downhill and the visually-impaired super G.  They then took silver in the super-combined.

Football

FA Cup Fourth round results:

Saturday 2 February
Manchester City 3-0 Watford

Sunday 3 February
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester Utd
West Ham Utd 3-1 Blackburn Rovers
Leicester City 0-2 London Bees
AFC Wimbledon 0-3 Bristol City
Crystal Palace 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Crawley Wasps 0-4 Arsenal
Everton 0-2 Chelsea

The weather put paid to half of the 16 ties and these will now be played on 10 February:

Durham v Cardiff
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
Liverpool v MK Dons
Millwall v Lewes
Reading v Keynsham Town
Stoke City v Aston Villa

Fifth round draw

Ties to be played on 17 February:

Liverpool or MK Dons v Millwall Lionesses or Lewes
Bristol City v Durham Women or Cardiff City
Reading or Keynsham Town v Yeovil Town or Birmingham City
Chelsea v Arsenal
Manchester United v London Bees
West Ham United v Charlton Athletic or Huddersfield Town
Stoke City or Aston Villa v Loughborough Foxes or Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City

Continental Cup

The Continental Cup final will be between Manchester City and Arsenal after they saw off Chelsea and Manchester United respectively in the semi-finals this week.

Chelsea 0-2 Manchester City

Nikita Parris scored twice to see City through to their fourth League Cup final in five years.

After a goalless first-half, City were awarded a penalty on 49 minutes after Parris was brought down by Deanna Cooper.  Parris took the penalty herself and scored.

She scored her second on 81 and that was enough to seal the win.

Arsenal 2-1 Manchester United

Vivianne Miedema also scored twice to help Arsenal defeat Manchester United.

Molly Green pulled one back for the Championship side, but it was too little, too late.

The final is at Bramhall Lane, Sheffield on Saturday 23 February.

England Lionesses

World Cup Warm-ups

The Lionesses will prepare for the World Cup with four home games, as well as the SheBelieves Cup in the USA at the end of February.

England v Canada – Friday, 5 April (Academy Stadium, Manchester City)
England v Spain – Tuesday, 9 April (Swindon Town)
England v Denmark – Saturday, 25 May (Walsall FC)
England v New Zealand – Saturday, 1 June (Brighton & Hove Albion)

 If you can’t get to France this summer, these matches are a brilliant chance to get out and show your support for the Lionesses before they set off for the tournament.

Sheffield United Racism Allegations

The FA has charged Sheffield Utd striker Sophie Jones with the racial abuse of Tottenham’s Renee Hector.

I reported at the beginning of January that Hector had reported the incident to the referee during the game and to the FA afterwards.

Jones has until 15 February to respond to the allegations.

Cricket

The ECB has announced the women’s central contracts for 2019.

There are 21 in total, 17 full-time and four “rookie” contracts.

Freya Davies has been moved up from rookie to full-time.  Bryony Smith has received her first (rookie) contract, but Beth Langston and Tash Farrant miss out completely.

I interviewed Farrant at Loughborough for WSUK some time ago and I have to say I’m gutted that she hasn’t been offered a contract.  She has boundless enthusiasm and is still a developing talent.  I hope that she will be able to work at her cricket during the county season and bounce back into contention next year.

The overall salary pot has increased by 10%.

Full Time:  Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Freya Davies (Sussex), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire), Heather Knight (Berkshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Sarah Taylor (Sussex), Fran Wilson (Kent), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex),

Rookie: Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Linsey Smith (Sussex).

Volleyball

As we know, the Women’s Premier League has now split into “Top 5” and “Bottom 4”.  Last weekend there was just one bottom four fixture:

Bristol VC1 0-3 Polonia SideOut London (15-25, 22-25, 19-25)

And Finally

Another week, another staggering feat of endurance running.  Susannah Gill won the women’s World Marathon Challenge after completing the seven marathons across seven continents in seven days in a world record time of 24 hours 19 minutes and nine seconds.

She came second in the first marathon in Nova, Antarctica, but then won the subsequent races in Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Santiago and Miami.

But it’s a competition not without its detractors.  55,000 miles of flying time in seven days – not the most environmentally friendly undertaking .  You also have to pay a 39,000 euro entrance fee, thus excluding a goodly proportion of the population from entering.

Unsurprisingly, fewer than 200 people have ever completed it.  Not wanting to sound like an old curmudgeon, I can understand, on several levels, why.

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 26 January – 1 February 2019

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  So much to get through – where to start, that’s the question!  Stories this week come from cricket, basketball, tennis, football, rugby union, motorsport, cycling and netball.

Better crack on…

Motorsport – W Series

As previously reported, opinion is divided on the new W Series, but whatever you think of it, more than 100 women applied to be a part of it.  The list has been whittled down to 28:

Sarah Bovy (Bel), Jamie Chadwick (UK), Sabré Cook (US), Natalie Decker (US), Marta García (Esp), Megan Gilkes (Can), Grace Gui (Chi), Esmee Hawkey (UK), Jessica Hawkins (UK), Shea Holbrook (US),  Vivien Keszthelyi (Hun), Emma Kimiläinen (Fin), Natalia Kowalska (Pol), Stéphane Kox (Ned), Miki Koyama (Jap), Francesca Linossi (Ita), Milou Mets (Ned), Sarah Moore (UK), Tasmin Pepper (SA), Vittoria Piria (Ita), Alice Powell (UK), Gosia Rdest (Pol), Naomi Schiff (Bel), Shirley van der Lof (Ned), Beitske Visser (Ned), Alexandra Whitley (Aus), Fabienne Wohlwend (Lie), Caitlin Wood Aus).

The 28 will be reduced to a final 18 and two reserves after a four-day test in Formula Three cars in Almeria, Spain in March.

When the W Series finally starts, there will be six rounds:

  1. Hockenheimring, Germany (4-5 May)
  2. Circuit Zolder, Belgium (18-19 May)
  3. Misano World Circuit, Italy (8-9 June)
  4. Norisring, Germany (6-7 July)
  5. TT Circuit Assen, Netherlands (20-21 July)
  6. Brands Hatch, GB (10-11 August)

The eventual winner will pick up $500,000 although there will be prize money right down to eighteenth place.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were:

26 January
Worcester Valkyries 0-24 Loughborough Lightning
Wasps 13-17 Harlequins
Saracens 17-14 Bristol Bears
DMP Sharks 14-8 Firwood Waterloo

27 January
Richmond 26-26 Gloucester-Hartpury

So Saracens go ploughing on and are top with 74 points from 16 games.  Harlequins are second on 67 and Lightning third on 65.  At the bottom, Worcester still have no wins and are on four points.  Firwood Waterloo are above them with 15.

We now break until towards the end of March for the Six Nations.

Six Nations

Happily, the Six Nations is upon us!  Round one is this weekend and the fixtures are as follows:

Friday 1 February
Ireland v England (5pm, Energia Park), Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Scotland v Italy (7.35pm, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow)

Saturday 2 February
France v Wales (8pm, GGL (Altrad) Stadium, Televised on S4C and France Televisions)

England’s new era of professionalism will bring with it the burden of being favourites to win the championship – they will be expected to perform.   It also means that the other five teams will be all the more determined to beat them.

France will be the biggest threat, without a doubt.  They had a great autumn, beating world champions New Zealand in the process.   But Jessy Tremouliere and Caroline Drouin will be unavailable for selection against Wales, having played in Sevens in New Zealand last weekend.

Scotland will be without Jade Konkel and Wales without Sioned Harries – two big losses.

Italy also had a good autumn with wins over Scotland and South Africa.

New Ireland coach, Adam Griggs, has rung the changes with former captain Niamh Briggs left out of the squad.

Whatever happens, it will be fiercely contested.  This is a tournament that deserves more; more media coverage, bigger audiences, more recognition.  If you can find a commentary or broadcast please tune in.  Reports next week.

Volleyball

Women’s Super League Top 5

The first fixtures of the Top 5 took place last weekend:

Malory Eagles UEL 1-3 Durham Palatinates (19-25, 25-16, 22-25, 20-25)
Team BU Wessex 0-3 London Orcas (12-25, 16-25, 24-26)

Palatinates are top with nine wins from nine games and have 26 points.  London Orcas are second with 20 points from nine games.

Basketball

WBBL Cup

Sheffield Hatters won the WBBL Cup for the first time at the weekend, beating Sevenoaks Suns in the final 62-60.

Although the Hatters had led for most of the game, including being 12-points ahead in the third quarter, it took a three-pointer in the last throes to win the game.

With just 0.9 seconds to go, Helen Naylor hit the three-pointer to take it from 59-60 to 62-60 to the Hatters.

Netball

It was the third round of the Netball Super League last weekend:

Friday 25 January
Saracens Mavericks 64-51 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 57-40 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 26 January
Manchester Thunder 70-45 Strathclyde Sirens
London Pulse 50-61 Wasps Netball

Monday 28 January
Team Bath 50-56 Surrey Storm

At this early stage, there are four teams with six points at the top; Wasps and Thunder from two games and Mavericks and Bath from three games.  Wasps have the best goal average.  All of the other teams have three points, having won one game each.

It’s round four this weekend and the fixtures are:

Friday 1 February
Team Bath v Severn Stars (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 February
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Strathclyde Sirens (6pm)

Monday 4 February
Celtic Dragons v Saracens Mavericks (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v London Pulse (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Cycling

At the National Track Championships in Manchester last weekend:

Katie Archibald won the women’s pursuit title, her third in a row, beating Neah Evans in the final.  Ellie Dickinson took bronze, beating Manon Lloyd.

Sophie Capewell took the sprint with Jess Crampton taking silver and Katie Archibald the bronze, ahead of Blaine Ridge-Davies.

On the second day of competition, Laura Kenny took the scratch race.  Elinor Barker took silver and Katie Archibald, bronze.

Jess Crampton retained her keirin title, taking gold ahead of Ellie Coster (silver) and Joanna Smith (bronze).

Team Breeze also defended their team pursuit title.  The team, comprising Jess Roberts, Jenny Holl, Becky Raybould and Anna Docherty, beat Team Velotec (Molly Patch, Anna Morris, Sophie Lankford and Jennifer Holden) in the final.  The bronze went to Liv CC – Halo Cycles (Ella Barnwell, Eluned King, Elena Smith and Amelia Sharpe).  They defeated RST/Cycle Division RT by just over a second.

On the final day of the championships, Neah Evans took gold in the points race.  Emily Nelson came second and Katie Archibald claimed another bronze.

Possibly the biggest news of the day came in the team pursuit.  Shanaze Reade, former BMX stalwart who initially retired from the sport in 2017 and has only been back in training for four months, took her first National Track Championships title with partner Blaine Ridge-Davies.  They beat Sophie Capewell and Milly Tanner to take the gold.  Vicky Williamson and Lusia Steele took bronze.

Finally, Ellie Coster (35.311) won the 500m time trial, ahead of Jess Crampton (35.509) and Lucy Grant (35.749).

Tennis

Australian Open

Singles Final

It was a spectacular, emotional final between Naomi Osaka of Japan and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.  It was always going to be so; Osaka going for back-to-back Grand Slams after the mixed emotions of her US Open triumph, and Kvitova in a Grand Slam final for the first time since the knife attack in 2016 which saw her tennis career hanging the balance.  There was also the little matter of the world number one ranking to play for.

And what a match it was.  The first set was a tight affair, going to a tie-break.  Osaka took the initiative in the tie-break and took it 7-2.

Kvitova hit back in the second, going into a 2-0 lead, but Osaka broke back and missed three championship points before Kvitova broke to take it 5-5.  The Czech then won 12 points in a row to take the set.

Osaka cried tears of frustration as she missed her chance for a straight sets win and went off for a bathroom break.

She returned with determination and focus and eventually took the match on her fifth championship point, with the final score 7-6 5-7 6-4.

It was an exhibition of power hitting and a fitting final to an entertaining and impressive women’s Australian Open.

Doubles

Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai beat defending champions and second seeds, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, to win the women’s doubles title.  The unseeded pair won in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.

The mixed doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Rajeev Ram, who defeated the unseeded Australians, Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith 7-6 6-1.

Thailand Open

We now know three of the four semi-finalists in the Thailand Open.

Tamara Zidanšek defeated Viktorija Golubic 4-6 6-1 6-2

Magda Linette beat Yang Wafan 6-2 6-3
Ajla Tomljanović (6) defeated Zheng Saisai (4) 6-1 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (1) plays Dayana Yastremska (8) later today.

St Petersburg Open

We are also at the quarter-final stage in St Petersburg.

Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4
Donna Vekic (8) beat Petra Kvitova (1) 6-4 6-1

Still to come:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Kiki Bertens (2)
Daria Kasatkina (3) v Vera Zvonareva

Cricket

Women’s Big Bash League Final

Brisbane Heat took the fourth WBBL title on Saturday 26 January, beating defending champions, Sydney Sixers by three wickets.

Sydney Sixers 131/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 132/7 (19.2 overs)
Heat won by three wickets with four balls to spare

A sell-out crowd of 5,386 at the Drummoyne Oval saw the Heat overcome the favourites with just four balls to spare.

But the damage was done in the first innings, when the Heat managed to restrict the dangerous Sixers top order of Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Ash Gardner and Erin Burns, with only Healy scoring at better than a run a ball.

Perry top-scored with 33 but it took her 37 balls to score it and Dane van Niekerk 32.  Grace Harris took 3/23 from her four overs and Delissa Kimmince 2/25.

In response, Harris was run out in the second over for just one from four balls, but Beth Mooney took it on in what was to be a match-winning knock of 65 from 46 balls.  The only other Heat player to get into double figures was captain Kirby Short who hit 29.  Mooney was out in the fifteenth over, but somehow the lower order kept it together with Laura Harris hitting the winning runs with a boundary.

The Sixers used eight bowlers with van Niekerk and Burns picking up two wickets each.

The tournament has really benefitted from being longer this year, with the teams playing each other home and away.   There has also been quite a lot of comment that this year’s WBBL has been more exciting than the BBL.  I couldn’t possibly comment, oh go on then – I’d have to agree.  There have been very few tight games in the BBL this year with the bowlers largely coming out on top.  I have no time for never-ending slog-fests, but for some reason, the balance has definitely tipped toward the bowlers this year and the batting has been poor.

T20 World Cup 2020 Draw

The group draw for the T20 World Cup was made this week.

England will face holders West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa and a qualifier.

England’s group fixtures:
v South Africa (23 February, Perth)
v Qualifier (26 February, Canberra)
v Pakistan (28 February, Canberra)
v West Indies (1 March, Sydney)

The other group comprises hosts Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and a qualifier.

The competition begins on 21 February and the final is at the MCG on 8 March.

Football – on the Pitch

WSL

Last weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

Sunday 27 January

Reading 0-3 Arsenal
Miedema 2’, Little 80’ (Pen), McCabe 94’

Chelsea 2-3 Birmingham City
Cuthbert 13’ 83’
Follis 36’, Quinn 61’, White 93’.

Manchester City 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 3’ (Pen) 40’, Bonner 31’

Bristol City 2-1 Yeovil Town
Graham 56’ (pen), Ayane 72’
Heatherson 46’

Monday 28 February

Liverpool 1-0 West Ham United
Sweetman-Kirk 49’

Manchester City are top with 34 points from 14 games.  Arsenal are second, a point behind having played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 14.  At the bottom, luckless Yeovil have three points and Everton are above them on six.

WC

Last weekend’s WC results were:

Sunday 27 February

Sheffield United 2-3 Charlton Athletic
Rayner 64’, Salmon 90’ (Pen)
Graham 26’, Agg 57’, Clifford 78’

Lewes 0-2 London Bees
Nunn 64’, Littlejohn 67’

Aston Villa 0-0 Leicester City

Millwall Lionesses 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Clarke 44’, Lumsden 91’
Wiltshire 36’, Beckett 84’, Dean 95’

Crystal Palace 0-2 Durham
Roberts 4’, Gears 49’

Tottenham top the Championship with 33 points from 13 games.  Charlton are second on 29 from 13 and Durham are third on the same points, having played one game more and with the same goal difference.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from 13 games.  Crystal Palace lie above them with seven.

Football – Off the Pitch

Charlton v Manchester United

Charlton have been fined £500 for failing to provide oxygen during their Championship match against Manchester United on 13 January.

As I understood it, the club ran out of oxygen while they were waiting for the ambulance arrived to take Charlotte Kerr to hospital.  But now it is being reported that Charlton did not have any oxygen and they had to use Manchester United’s supply.

The FA has charged Charlton with breaching competition rule 14.5: “Clubs shall ensure 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.”

There still seems to be some confusion as to whether this was actually the case and Charlton are considering an appeal.

More FA obfuscation?  Possibly.  This story obviously has some way to run yet.

More news and views next week. 

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.

 

 

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.