Women’s Sports Column 7-13 April 2018

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

So, to coin a phrase, let’s crack on.

Commonwealth Games

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

 Netball

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

Basketball

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

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

Hockey

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

Badminton

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

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

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

Rugby Sevens

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

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

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

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

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

Athletics

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

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

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

 Other medal highlights:

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

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

Football – World Cup Qualifiers

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

England 0-0 Wales

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

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

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

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

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

Bosnia-Herzegovina 0-2 England

England were back to goalscoring form in Sarajevo on Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

Scotland 3-0 Poland

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

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

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

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

Netherlands 7-0 Northern Ireland

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

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

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

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

Northern Ireland 0-3 Norway

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

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

Football – Domestic

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

FAWSL2

London Bees 2-1 Aston Villa

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

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

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

Lacrosse

Home Internationals 6-8 April, Edinburgh

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

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

Senior A team:

England 21-7 Wales

Scotland 6-14 England

Senior B team:

Wales 6-19 England

Scotland 6-19 England

England 17-2 Ireland

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

Cricket – on the pitch

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

Second ODI

India 113 all out (37.2 overs)

England 117/2 (29 overs)

England won by 8 wickets with 126 balls remaining

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

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

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

Third ODI

England 201/9 (50 overs)

India 202/2 (45.2 overs)

India won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining

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

Knight won the toss and chose to bat.

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

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

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

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

Cricket – off the pitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis – on the court

Monterrey

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

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

Volvo Car Open

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

Tennis – off the court

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

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

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

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

In a statement Brengle said,

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

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

News to follow as the case develops.

Rugby Union

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

Gloucester-Hartpury 0-62 Saracens

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

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

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

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

Wasps 19-25 Harlequins

It was an altogether tighter affair at Twyford Avenue.

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

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

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

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

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

Join me for more next week. 

 

 

Women’s Sports Column End-of-Year Review

loveWelcome to this, the last column of 2017.  And what a year it’s been!  Instead of the usual news this week, I thought I’d review the year – in terms of heroes and villains!  Everyone loves a listicle, particularly at Christmas, so here’s mine.  I’m sure the majority of my choices will come as no surprise to regular readers of the column.

So, for the final time this year, let’s crack on.

Heroes

1) Women’s Cricket World Cup Final

No prizes for guessing my number one in the heroes department this year.  The Cricket World Cup was a fabulous event from start to finish and I’m privileged to say I was at the final at Lord’s in July.  The media coverage was pretty good, the organisation at the group games was excellent and, of course, the standard of cricket was generally superb.  But the actual day was something else.  Twenty-eight thousand cricket lovers (MCC members not included) packed into Lord’s to experience the game, the occasion and the atmosphere.  And the game had everything; great batting, bowling, fielding (and that drop from Jenny Gunn), the threat of rain, competition down to nearly the last ball…..

It was a brilliant game between two well-matched teams, which leads me on to number two:

2) Indian Women’s Cricket Team

They’ve made fans and friends wherever they go.  They’re on a massive upward trajectory and are set to get even better. Captain Mithali Raj is rightfully considered one of India’s outstanding sports personalities.  One of the moments of the World Cup was when it was reported that a little girl in a Nike store asked for her Indian cricket shirt to have the name “Mandhana” (as in opener Sriti Mandhana) on the back.  And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

India will be out for revenge in the New Year when they face England again in the Women’s Tri Series.

3) Rugby union – heroes and villains

Rugby union is on the up.  And while it is, I’m reluctant to stick it in both the heroes and villains categories so, on balance, it’s in the heroes.  The Rugby World Cup was a fantastic tournament rounded off by a spectacular final.  Laurel wreaths all round to New Zealand and England for such an outstanding display, with the Black Ferns worthy winners.

But it’s not all plaudits for the administrators and organisers.  Before the tournament started we had the announcement that the RFU was not going to re-issue contracts for the 15s, but instead would concentrate on the Sevens squad ahead of next year’s World Cup.  Then the tournament itself threw up some strange scheduling that meant people missed out on seeing matches they wanted to see.  And this was followed by the announcement from the Irish Rugby Football Union that its new women’s head coach would be employed only on a part-time contract – it hosts a World Cup, then cuts its commitment to women’s rugby?  How does that work?

World Rugby has since redeemed rugby’s hero status with its new World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-25.

So, as I say, some hits, some misses in the rugby department, but, on the whole, it’s heading the right way.

 4) Mica McNeill and Mica Moore

When British bobsleighers Mica McNeill and Mica Moore had their funding withdrawn, their Winter Olympic dream could have been over.  But they were not going to give up that easily.  McNeill launched a Crowdfunding page to raise the £30k needed to field a team.  They did it with time to spare and will now be in Pyeongchang in February.

5) Advocates, volunteers and campaigners for women’s sport

Last, but by no means least, I’d like to celebrate the legions of people out there working tirelessly (and sometimes it’s the original thankless task) to promote women’s sport.  I’m going to name a few, but I know I will have missed a lot so apologies as there’s not enough room to mention you all.  If we could only become “mainstream”, how amazing that would be.  So here we go, in no particular order, three cheers for: Women in Sport, Women in Football, Suzy Wrack, WiSP, Scrumqueens, Women’s Elite Rugby website, England Netball, FAWSL website, CricketHer, Martin Whiteley, Martin Woodward, Tracey Neville, Shelley Alexander, Kieran Theivam, 4TLOS, Jen O’Neill and She Kicks, Girls on the Ball, Eleanor Oldroyd, The Magenta Project, Darren Gilham, Sarah Williams (Tough Girl), Female Coaching Network, Coach Annie Zaidi, The Offside Rule, Natalie Germanos, Jane Martinson and so it goes on…

Apologies to those I missed out.

I’ve not included the links to the individuals and organisations above, but if anyone would like any more information, just message me.

villainsVillains

1) The FA

As we all know, some sports governing bodies are better than others.  But the nadir of the governing body world has to the Football Association (FA).  It easily makes it to the top of my villainous tree this year.  First we had the scandal surrounding Mark Sampson and his behaviour towards Eni Aluko and Drew Spence in particular.  Its attempts to sweep the “problem” under the carpet backfired spectacularly and when asked to account for its actions by a House of Commons Select Committee, was unable to come up with the faintest useful answer.  So much for the organisation’s duty of care, vetting process and grievance procedures.

If that wasn’t enough it then decides to restructure the women’s elite game once again.  Just when we were getting used to the current structure the FA, in its wisdom, decides that WSL1 has to be organised to a “stronger commercial model” to “improve the performance of the women’s game on and off the pitch.”  In doing so it immediately put immense pressure on some of the less well-equipped teams, who are currently in their position on merit, to come up with £350k, amongst other things, in order to be able to apply for a licence.  Unfortunately, this has meant that Sunderland and Watford (with probably more to come) have taken the chance not to press forward with their investment in the women’s game, but to scale it back.  Yes, the teams may have been looking for an “out”, or as they euphemistically put it “becoming more community-focussed”, but the FA needn’t have handed it to them on a plate need they?

2) Neanderthal Man

As ever, ‘Neanderthal man’ is pretty much at the top of my list too.  These are the knuckle-draggers who think their views on absolutely everything are required reading – particularly their views on women’s sport.  The “Women’s sport will never be as popular”, “women aren’t as fast/strong/good/add your own adjective, as men”, the “the only way women would get equality would be to compete against men”, the “she looks like a man, anyway”, the “get back to the kitchen” comments, even “they’re all lesbians” is still doing the rounds after all these years.  I have reported a few in my “and finally” section this year and, I’m afraid it doesn’t look as if I’m going to run out of examples any time soon.

Get over it chaps!  Katie Taylor doesn’t have to fight Amir Khan to be a good boxer, Sarah Taylor doesn’t have to keep wicket to the bowling of Jimmy Anderson to be a good cricketer and Nikita Parris doesn’t have score for Manchester City’s men’s side to be a good footballer.

3) The ECB

The ECB was due to be in my “heroes” section, but I’m afraid the news of the last couple of days means that it also makes it into my “Villains” list too.

It appears that the Kia Super League will be no more after 2019.  It looks like it will be rebranded in line with the new city-based men’s competition.  So no more Western Storm, Loughborough Lightning et al…  Each of the current franchises (yes, I have deigned to utter the word) has tried so hard to develop its USP, expand its fan-base and facilities.  The tournament is still in its infancy, but the teams are already recognisable and have their own following.  It did have a good sponsor and commitment to TV and radio coverage.  But we have to start again.

So, yet again, a governing body has seen fit to “fix it” when it hasn’t been “broke”.  We’re yet to see the details of what’s to come, but I haven’t yet got past “why?”

4) BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think the event is a good thing.  I find the whole evening a bit cringe-worthy, but the idea is a sound one.  But it was beyond disappointing this year that the four women nominated came in the last four places after the public vote.  Obviously there has been a lot of mansplaining on this issue – the women weren’t “good” enough, it’s a public vote so people vote for who they want to, some of the women are from minority sports, etc.

But they’re missing the point.

Women’s sport still consistently flies under the radar.

The popularity and media profile of Women’s cricket is at an all-time high, and yet this was not enough for Anya Shrubsole to finish higher than eighth from twelve nominees in the individual category.  How do we know these women are so good if we rarely see their achievements celebrated in the media?  And if their achievements are denigrated by the “usual” sport-watching public so much, how are we to know that taking six wickets in a Women’s World Cup final is worth rewarding?

How do these women ever raise their profile sufficiently to make a dent in the minds of the general public?   I’m afraid to say that at the moment they still don’t.  They are coming from such a low level of coverage, investment, support and recognition that it’s still a mountain to climb, all of which leads me on to my fifth villain:

5) Anyone who says it’s been a “watershed year” for women’s sport

Sorry to throw such a dampener on things, but while there’s been so much to celebrate this year (see heroes!), there is still so much work to do that I really don’t think it has been a “watershed” year.  There have been countless fantastic achievements, tournaments, records, performances, but in the eyes of the general public it counts for nothing until the “mindset” (ugh horrid word) of the sport-loving public is changed beyond recognition.  So while there has been undoubted progress and I personally have loved every minute of it this year, it’s not a “watershed year”.

But let’s not end on a negative note.  No, I’m not going to “look for the positives” (ugh again), but there has been so much to celebrate this year and we should ensure that 2018 builds on this.  As well as the usual annual tournaments, we have the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Rugby World Cup Sevens, the Hockey World Cup at Surrey Sports Park, two teams still in the Champions League, and so it goes on.  And we sports-lovers will be there to see it all.  So let’s make every week of 2018 Women’s Sports Week and let’s cheer every extra televised fixture, every column inch and every interview.

Thank you for reading the column this year.  I’ve loved writing it, which I hope comes out in every word.  I’m having a couple of weeks off now, but will back in the New Year with more news, features, reports and interviews and I hope you’ll join me. 

I’d also like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a lovely sport-filled New Year. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 December 2017

DSCN2151Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week in a short, but perfectly formed story of the week.  It’s the time of year when we see one awards ceremony after another, but the two biggies have to be BT Action Woman of the Year (women are winning that one!) and, of course, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (somewhat less of a chance of a woman winning that one).  The BT awards have been and gone – news below, but the opportunity to vote for your BBC SPOTY is still to come. I cover the runners and riders, so to speak, in this week’s “and finally”.  Other news comes from cycling, tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, horse racing, taekwondo, curling and football.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s results in the Premier 15s were:

2 December

Loughborough Lightning 43-33 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

DMP Sharks 3-26 Bristol Ladies

Firwood Waterloo Ladies 12-12 Worcester Valkyries

3 December

Richmond Women 0-44 Wasps Ladies

Harlequins Ladies 19-28 Saracens Women

After nine games, Saracens are top with 44 points, winning all of their games and missing out on just one bonus point.  Harlequins are second with 40, with Wasps seven points further back on 33.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries are marooned on two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on seven, with DMP Sharks one place above them on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures sees second placed Quins take on Wasps at Surrey Sports Park, while Saracens are at home to struggling Firwood Waterloo.  Here are the fixtures in full:

9 December

Harlequins Ladies v Wasps: Surrey Sports Park 1pm

Saracens Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies: Allianz Park 2pm

Worcester Valkyries v Loughborough Lightning: Sixways Stadium 2pm

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v DMP Sharks: TBC 4pm

10 December

Richmond Women v Bristol Ladies: Richmond Athletic Ground 2.30pm

Rugby union coverage

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of good news stories regarding the TV coverage of women’s rugby this week.  Firstly, Sky showed their first Tyrell’s 15 Premiership match last weekend.  Secondly came the news that England Roses’ Six Nations games will also be shown on Sky.  At last, some recognition for the progress the women’s game has made, particularly with the excellent staging and standard of the World Cup this summer.

Women’s Six Nations

Saturday 4 February

19:35: England v France – Twickenham (Sky Sports Mix)

Saturday 11 February

11:30: Wales v England– Cardiff Arms Park (Sky Sports 3)

Saturday 25 February

13:00: England v Italy – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday 11 March

20:00: England v Scotland – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2, delayed coverage, KO 13:00)

Friday 17 March

20:00: Ireland v England – Donnybrook, Dublin (Sky Sports Mix)

Taekwondo

There was double success for Britain’s women at the Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Ivory Coast this week.

Bianca Walkden won her fifth major title of the year when she took the +67kg category, beating Da- Bin Lee of South Korea in the final 16-9.  She won all four Grand Prix events in this calendar year as well as taking gold in the World Championships in June – the first fighter to do so.

Then Britain’s Jade Jones also took gold in the -57kg category.   She beat Marta Calvo-Gomez of Spain 26-7 in the final and ends the year as world number one in the -57kg category.

They now go on to compete for Britain the inaugural Taekwondo Grand Slam in China.

BT Action Woman

England footballer Jodie Taylor was named BT Action Woman of 2017 this week.  She beat off competition from Tammy Beaumont, Elise Christie, Hannah Cockcroft, Mallory Franklin, Johanna Konta, Katy McLean and Anya Shrubsole to take the award in a public vote.

Franklin was second, with Konta third.

Unsurprisingly the England Cricket Team took the team of the year award, while Judy Murray was given a Lifetime Achievement award for her contribution to tennis.

Rugby League World Cup

Semi-finals

England 4-52 New Zealand

England were well beaten by New Zealand at the Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney.

In truth, they were never really in it as the Kiwi Ferns took the lead in the second minute with a try from Maitua Feterika.  Shontelle Woodman and Krystal Murray added further scores before England could reply with a try of their own from Tara-Jane Stanley in the 21st minute.

England were only 14-4 down at half-time and would have been hoping for better in the second period, but it was not to be as New Zealand put on the afterburners and England had no response.

They scored seven tries in the second-half, Honey Hireme ending with a hat-trick and Krystal Murray with two.

Australia 58-6 Canada

Australia were dominant over Canada from the off.  They scored 42 unanswered points in the first-half.

The second period was more even as Australia eased through.  Natasha Smith scored Canada’s only try, while Ali Brigginshaw, Steph Hancock, Isabelle Kelly and Karina Brown all scored two tries, while Talesha Quinn, Ruan Sims and Nakia Davis-Welsh bagged one each.

Final – 2 December

Australia 23-17 New Zealand

It was an altogether tighter, and exciting, affair.  Australia took the lead on eight minutes with a try from Isabelle Kelly, with the extra points kicked by Caitlin Moran.  Four minutes later, New Zealand were level through Honey Hireme, extra points kicked by Kimiora Nati.

Hireme got her second on 20 minutes to send the Ferns into the lead.  But the Jillaroos were not to be outdone and on 36 minutes Moran scored a brilliant solo effort under the posts, converting it to give them a half-time lead of 12-10.

The second-half belonged to Australia.  Kelly scored her second try on 53, while just four minutes later Elianna Walton went over to take the game away from the Kiwi Ferns; 22-10 with just 20 minutes left.

New Zealand made a fight of it with Raecene McGregor going over in the 69th minute to take them back within a converted score of the lead.

But the Jillaroos were to have the last word.  Moran kicked a field goal in the final minute and Australia had won their second successive World Cup.

Cricket

The WBBL starts this weekend with many of the cricketing world’s biggest stars on show. Representing England are Tammy Beaumont (Adelaide Strikers) with Charlotte Edwards coaching, Georgia Elwiss (Melbourne Stars), Lauren Winfield (Hobart Hurricanes).

Coverage is on BT Sport at unholy times.  Check your TV listings for details.

Cycling

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the Track Cycling Cup in Milton, Canada, last week.

Katie Archibald won gold in the points race, winning the first four sprints and gaining a lap to take the title.  Jasmin Duehring of Canada finished second, nine points behind, with Jarmila Machacova of the Czech Republic, third.

Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson also then took gold in the madison with 29 points.  France came second on 24 and New Zealand third on 15.

Katy Marchant took silver in the keirin.  Kristina Vogel of Germany took gold, with Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands finishing in bronze position.

Curling

Scotland’s women’s Team, led by Eve Muirhead won the European Curling Championship in St Gallen, Switzerland, this week.  They beat Sweden, unbeaten up to this point, 6-3, on Saturday.

The team, Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray went behind early on, and were 2-1 down after the third end.  They took a double in the sixth end and one in each of the last three to take the match and the title.

Tennis

Serena Williams has entered the Australian Open in January.  She has returned to training after giving birth to a daughter in September and, if she takes part, this will be her first tournament back. There is no doubt that she’s still looking to equal (and break) Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles titles record of 24.  At the moment she has 23.  Who can bet against it?  Whatever happens, it will be great to see her in action again.

Horse Racing

Jockey Hayley Turner is to face a British Horseracing Authority inquiry after she was charged with a breach of betting rules.

The hearing will be on 14 December.

Football

Continental Cup

The final round of group matches took place this week:

Saturday 2 December

Bristol City Women 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Chelsea Ladies 8-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Sunday 3 December

Manchester City Women 2-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies 3-2 Durham Women

London Bees 1-1 Watford Ladies

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Reading FC Women

Oxford United Women 1-5 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Tuesday 5 December

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Liverpool Ladies

Wednesday 6 December

Chelsea Ladies 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-3 Manchester City Women

The quarter-final draw was made on 7 December:

Bristol City v Manchester City

Chelsea v Liverpool

Arsenal v Sunderland

Everton v Reading

Ties will be played over the weekend of 16/17 December.

And finally,

It’s that time again – the time when we look at the SPOTY shortlist and go, “seriously?  How many women?”  And this year is no exception.  In this year’s field of 12 twelve shortlisted, we have four women.  In the year of the Cricket World Cup, the Women’s Euros, the Rugby World Cup etc, etc, the BBC, in its wisdom, has managed to come up with four names.  Hey ho.  ‘Twas ever thus.  So the women to vote for (I’m not going to curse you if you vote for one of the men) are Elise Christie, Jo Konta, Anya Shrubsole and Bianca Walkden.

Voting has already closed in the Overseas SPOTY category.  The women shortlisted are Katie Ledecky (swimming), Tatyana McFadden (Para-athletics) and Sally Pearson (athletics).

No prizes for guessing who I’ll be voting for in the main event.  I’ve already said as much on social media – Anya Shrubsole gets my vote.  She made my summer and my year with her performance in the World Cup final.  I’m hoping the England team is nailed on for the Team of the Year award, but it would really be something special if Anya was at least close to winning it.

The programme is on Sunday 17 December and you will be able to vote by telephone on the night.

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 September 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column and it’s good to be back!  I don’t know about you, but I often think that following women’s sport must be one of the most frustrating things you can do.  Two steps forward, one back and throughout everything there still permeates the hideous whiff of misogyny.

In this summer that some are calling a “watershed moment” for women’s sport, I can’t help thinking that some will never ever be able to view women’s sport with an unjaundiced eye.  And while this is the case, will those in a position to make the biggest changes needed, i.e., the companies and marketers with the money for sponsorship and the high-ups in the media to report on it ever do what is needed?

Sorry, let’s crack on before the pall of doom becomes too overwhelming!  More than a tinge of autumn this week as cricket fades and football and rugby begin to take centre stage.  Stories this week come from football, cricket, tennis, cycling, boxing, netball and basketball.  Plus a humorous but poignant “And finally”, in case you haven’t already caught it elsewhere.  Here we go.

Football

Lots of football news this week.

England

With everything that’s going on off the pitch it’s easy to forget that England are about to embark on a new World Cup qualifying campaign next week.  Up first is Russia at Prenton Park, Merseyside, on 19 September.

Mark Sampson

As I said a couple of weeks ago, this one is going to run and run.  I get the feeling Sampson is now on borrowed time.  I don’t propose to go into the finer details as you’ve probably all been following it – ironically it’s the one women’s sports story that has garnered plenty of column inches.  The situation is developing and changing every day so whatever I write here is likely to be out of date by the time you read it.  So, as I say, keep up with it via other means and when a conclusion is finally reached, perhaps I’ll dissect it further.  The only thing I would say is that it could be a game-changer, now that Drew Spence has come out to say that it was she who was asked by Sampson “How many times have you been arrested?”

Scotland

New Scotland Head Coach, Shelley Kerr, announced this week that Seattle Reign defender Rachel Corsie will take over the captaincy of the Scottish national side after the retirement of Gemma Fay.  Arsenal midfielder, Kim Little, will be Vice-captain.  Little missed Scotland’s Euros campaign with a cruciate ligament injury.

Lorraine Watson has become the first woman to referee a senior men’s match in Scottish football. She took charge of Edinburgh City v Berwick Rangers in League Two on 9 September.

After the game, in an interview with BBC Scotland, Watson said,

“It was brilliant. There was absolutely no reaction, they just treated me the same as they would any other referee.

“When they disagreed [with decisions], they shouted at me just the same as if it was a male in the middle.”

FA’s Women’s Football Awards

Jodie Taylor was named England’s player of the year at the FA Women’s Football Awards on Friday 8 September.

Taylor took the Golden Boot at this summer’s Euros with 5 goals.

Jordan Nobbs took the WSL Players’ Player of the Year award and Fran Kirby was also rewarded for finishing as top scorer in the WSL Spring Series.

Transfers

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk has joined Everton from Doncaster Belles on a two-year deal.

Chelsea Ladies have signed Norwegian international defender Maria Thorisdottir in a contract until 2019.

Wales internationals Laura O’Sullivan (Goalkeeper) and Hannah Miles (full-back) have signed for Yeovil Town Ladies.

Sunderland

Not sure what’s happening at Sunderland.  Having announced earlier in the year that they have gone part-time again, now they have been moved from their ground and training ground due to “scheduling conflicts”.

The club has put a good spin on it, I have to admit. The Lady Black Cats will now play their home games at South Shields’ Mariners Park, moving from the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground.  They will train at the Northumbria University in Newcastle, leaving the Academy of Light, Sunderland’s men’s training facility.

The clashes have come about due to the WSL moving to a winter season.  And while I can see the value in training at Northumbria University, which is one of eight designated FA Women’s High Performance Football Centres, I am seriously worried if they have been ejected from Eppleton so that under-8s don’t have to.

FA WSL 1 & 2

Needless to say, without a ball being kicked, there is already talk that the FA is planning to restructure elite women’s football (yet again –everyone got that guinea pig feeling?).  There is an exploration of what the FA may (or may not) be planning on the BBC website.  I suggest you all read it and pick the bones out of it yourselves – and good luck with that.  Here’s the link.

The new winter season begins on Friday 22 September.

Friday 22 September

FA WSL1

19:45 Everton Ladies FC v Liverpool Ladies FC (Select Security Stadium)

Sunday 24 September

FA WSL1

12:30 Chelsea Ladies FC v Bristol City Women (Kingsmeadow Stadium)
14:00 Arsenal v Birmingham City Ladies (Boreham Wood FC)
14:00 Reading FC Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies (Wycombe Wanderers FC)
14:00 Yeovil Town Ladies FC v Manchester City Women (Yeovil Town FC)

FA WSL2

12:00 Durham Women FC v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies FC (New Ferens Park)
14:00 Aston Villa Ladies FC v Brighton & Hove Albion (Tamworth FC)
14:00 London Bees v Doncaster Rovers Belles (The Hive)
14:00 Millwall Lionesses v Watford Ladies FC (St Paul’s Sports Ground)
14:00Oxford United Women v Sheffield FC Ladies (Oxford City FC)

Friday 29 September

FA WSL1

19:00Liverpool Ladies FC v Reading FC Women (Select Security Stadium)

TV and radio coverage is set to be more comprehensive than ever with games on the BBC Sport website, BBC 5 Live Sports Extra, the BBC Red Button and BT Sport.  14 games will be broadcast in some format before 12 November.

WSL One on the BBC

Friday, 22 September
Everton Ladies v Liverpool Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 24 September
Chelsea Ladies v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online
Saturday, 30 September
Manchester City Women v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 1 October
Birmingham City Ladies v Everton Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 8 October
Reading Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Arsenal Women v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 29 October
Manchester City Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Everton Ladies v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 12 November
Reading Women v Chelsea Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button

I would like to have done the same for BT Sport, but couldn’t find for the life of me which fixtures are being covered.  Apologies.

Cricket

Jan Brittin

We start the cricket news with some sad news.  Jan Brittin, England’s top female Test run scorer died this week, from cancer, aged just 58.

Brittin scored 1,935 runs in 27 Test matches, including five centuries.

She was part of the World Cup-winning squad in 1993, top-scoring with 410 runs in eight innings.

Her entire domestic career was spent at Surrey and she is still their leading female run scorer.

Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, said,

“She was a legend and a class apart… For girls of my generation, she was our first real female role model. JB was born to play Test cricket and it’s unlikely that her record in this format will ever be beaten.”

England

Car makers Kia have announced it is to extend its sponsorship of the England women’s cricket team until 2020.

It will also continue its sponsorship of the Kia Super League for another two years.

Kia is one of the few (currently) companies actively looking to sponsor women’s sport.  Earlier in 2017 they bought the rights to sponsor the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA), covering seven tour events annually, including two majors – the ANA Inspiration and the KPMG Women’s PGA.

Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Award

It was one of the most reproduced images of the Women’s World Cup this summer.  And it has now led to Anya Shrubsole being given the CMJ Spirit of Cricket Award for 2017.

When England defeated South Africa in the semi-final with only two balls left, captain Dane van Niekerk was so devastated that she remained crouched at the edge of the pitch, clearly in tears.

England bowler Anya Shrubsole’s first move, before any celebrating, was to go to van Niekerk, put a hand on her shoulder and offered her commiserations.

It’s the first time a female cricketer has won the award.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway from 17-24 September.  Britain is fielding a full team of women for the road race and the time trial.  As I suggested a few weeks ago, Lizzie Deignan has recovered sufficiently from her appendectomy to take part in the road race.  The full team is as follows:

Time Trial
Elinor Barker
Hannah Barnes

Road Race
Elinor Barker
Alice Barnes
Hannah Barnes
Lizzie Deignan
Dani King
Mel Lowther
Hayley Simmonds

Tennis

US Open Singles Final

It was a fitting end to a bizarre US Open that the women’s semi-finals should be between four players from the USA.

The final was between unseeded Sloane Stephens and 15th seed Madison Keys.

To be honest, it was a bit of a damp squib (as was the men’s the next day).

Stephens dismantled the Keys game admirably and won 6-3 6-0.

Both of them were making their Gran Slam final debuts and it showed, especially in Keys whose unforced error-count – 30 to Stephens’ six was a telling factor.

The result, and the semi-final line-up will certainly serve as a fillip for US women’s tennis and let’s hope that both finalists go on to more Grand Slam success as they have promised so much for so long.

US Open Mixed Doubles

The doubles phenomenon that is Martina Hingis again took centre stage at Flushing Meadows.  She and Britain’s Jamie Murray, seeded one at this championships, took the Mixed Doubles title 6-1 4-6 10-8 against third seeds Michael Venus and Hao-Ching Chan.

US Open Women’s Doubles

Hingis then completed a stunning double of doubles when she and partner Chan Yung-jan, seeded second took the Women’s Doubles title, defeating Lucie Hradecká and Kateřina Siniaková of the Czech Republic, who were seeded seven, 6-3 6-2.

Hingis now has 24 Grand Slam titles over singles and doubles.

Rugby

As I said in my introduction, winter cannot be far away and this weekend sees the start of the new Premier 15s competition. I’m really hoping the buzz caused by the World Cup translates into bigger crowds and more media coverage for this excellent product.  The lower two divisions – Championship 1 North and Championship 1 South – are already underway.  Checkout www.womenseliterugby.co.uk for details.

The first round of Premier 15s fixtures is as follows:

16 September

Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Valkyries – 12.00pm
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Saracens 2.30pm
Wasps Ladies v Harlequins Ladies 3.00pm
DMP Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury Women 4.00pm

17 September

Bristol Ladies v Richmond Women 2.00pm

Boxing

Out of the Ring

The Inspiration Awards for Women

Katie Taylor has won the Sky Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport in 2017.

Taylor has won all six of her professional bouts since turning professional 10 months ago.

The Inspiration Awards were founded by Sky Andrew, who said that they were about

“Giving the next generation role models that show it is possible to have a sense of status, achievement and success by conducting oneself in a manner that is inspirational.”

In the Ring

It was also announced this week that Katie Taylor will fight for the WBA World Lightweight title on 28 October at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.  She will take on Anahi Sanchez and the fight will be on the Anthony Joshua undercard.

Nicola Adams, meanwhile, fights this weekend in Las Vegas – the first time she has competed in the USA.  She fights Alexandra Vlajk of Hungary.

Netball

Taini Jamison Trophy

England Roses went down 2-1 in the three-match series to decide the Taini Jamison trophy in New Zealand.

Game One – 7 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

The Silver Ferns had only a two goal lead going into the final quarter, but eased away in the last 15, England’s woes compounded by a series of handling errors.  Top scorer for New Zealand was Maria Tutaia who netted 31 as did Jo Harten for England.

Game Two – 10 September
New Zealand 46-49 England

The Roses drew level in the series in dramatic fashion in Napier.  England had a four-goal cushion at half-time but the Ferns brought it back to lead by one going into the fourth quarter.  With three minutes to go it was all square on 45-45, until goals from Jo Harten took it away from the home side.

Game Three – 13 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

Unfortunately for the Roses, the third and deciding game was to go the way of the first, even down to the score!

England were four ahead at half-time, but again the Ferns roared back as England tired.  By the end of the third they were one-up, and although with ten minutes to go the teams were level, the Silver Ferns then drew ahead again to win, in the end, fairly comfortably.

With England defeating New Zealand in the Quad Series, they would have been confident of competing well in this competition.  On the whole they were three good performances and Geva Mentor was outstanding at GK, but Tracey Neville will have to tackle the handling error-count.

Basketball

There was an excellent piece on women’s basketball in Somalia last week in the most unlikely of places – New Yorker magazine.  It’s a good read and here is the link.  It’s a timely reminder that however bad we think women have it here, having to fight off the “back to the kitchen” and “who cares?” crowd, we have it easy compared to other women in the world.

And finally,

Thanks to all those who pointed out this video to me – I actually came to it first through George Takei’s Twitter feed!  (I love all the unexpected sources this week).  So here it is – enjoy.

England win a thrilling World Cup Final – and I was there!

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What a day!  I know thousands of words have already been published on the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final which, in itself, is a miracle, but it won’t stop me adding my few hundred.  But if you’re looking for a straight up-and-down account of the match you will be out of luck.  My little Joe Friday voice keeps saying “just the facts ma’am, just the facts”, but if I stuck the facts it would only be half the story.  So, read on for my account of one of the best days of my sporting life.

The day dawned bright and clear.  Actually it was largely mucky and grey and the threat of prolonged rain was a real one.  I did wonder whether I was about to make it four from four washouts (see previous blog entries), but someone somewhere was obviously not going to let that happen and we got through relatively unscathed.

Top marks for the organisation skills of Lord’s – I suppose they have been doing it for a while (!), but although there were queues the staff and cricketeers were helpful, polite and largely smiling.  The queues moved at a pace and everything seemed to go like clockwork.  Not like Edgbaston, I might add, which seemed understaffed and underprepared in comparison.

Anyway, we were in and seated before the toss.  And that’s when it got a little bit much for me.  Either I had multiple pieces of grit in my eye or I found myself crying.  The crowds of people, the atmosphere, the very occasion just got to me.  I should have realised what sort of crowd it was going to be with the size of the cheer greeting Heather Knight winning the toss!

My occasional tear developed into full-blown sobbing when Eileen Ash (Whelan) was revealed as the ringer of the five-minute bell.  This small, wiry 105-year-old woman stood there with composure and grace as her list of achievements was read out and the sense of history being made was palpable throughout the ground.

And then to business.

I thought it was vital that Heather won the toss and that England batted.  England are, generally, not good at chasing.  I thought the batters would settle the side down, calm heads and all that.  But it was not to be.  In truth the batting performance was not good.  After Winfield and Beaumont were out there were a series of poor shot selections as England proceeded to lose wickets regularly.  Jhulan Goswami was pounding in with purpose and venom, scaring the life out of me and I was not 22 yards away.

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Nat Sciver was the pick of the batters, with a good 51.  Sarah Taylor probably deserved more – my but she looks fabulous when she strokes that ball!  But it was only a late flourish from former opener Laura Marsh and Jenny Gunn that saw them reach a half-decent total.  Even then I thought they were 30 or so light.

The wonderful Goswami took 3/23 off her 10 overs and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

At the break I ventured out to answer a call of nature (as you do).  The queue for the ladies’ was beyond imagining.  I tweeted that I would have taken a photo of the queue but would have needed a panoramic lens!  The facilities at Lord’s are good, but I don’t suppose they’d ever seen this many women at one game before.  Still, the atmosphere was good-natured – I feel sometimes I may be overstating it – but it really seemed that everyone was aware they were part of something special.

Then it was time for tears again as Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s son, Ben, rang the bell for the second innings.  There were nerves aplenty, at least in our stand, as the Indian innings began.

These lessened somewhat as England made the perfect start when Smriti Mandhana was lbw to Anya Shrubsole for a duck.  But Raut and Raj rallied beautifully until the captain was run out unnecessarily for 17.  In came Harmanpreet Kaur.  Could she repeat her performance of the semi-final?  For a while it seemed she could as she hit three fours and two sixes (there wasn’t a six in the whole of the England innings), but all at once she tried one big shot too many as she swept Alex Hartley and was caught by Tammy Beaumont on the boundary.  A big wicket.   Shall I say it again – a big wicket.

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But we all knew there was more to come with Raut still playing beautifully, now joined by Krishnamurthy.  India were always just behind the rate, but never out of the game.

When Raut went there were murmurs around the ground as England fans dared to hope.  Then three more wickets went in quick succession.  The last of these was Goswami and with Deepti Sharma the only recognised bat left England sniffed victory.  Pandey was then run out.  England needed two wickets but India only needed 11 off 12 balls to win.

Enter Anya Shrubsole bowling the penultimate over.  Ball one and Sharma has gone, caught beautifully by Sciver.  Five wickets to Shrubsole.

But it’s not over.  Ball three, Poonam Yadav spoons it straight to Jenny Gunn at mid-off.  The crowd is on its feet roaring with delight (and relief) and Gunn – drops it!

But it’s not over.  Ball four and Shrubsole steams in.  Gayakwad is bowled.  Full and straight and the tail-ender plays down the wrong line.

Now it’s over.

And, to coin a phrase, the crowd goes wild.

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All the way through it had been India’s to lose – what a game they played.  And at the last minute Anya Shrubsole had taken it from them.  A great match and a fitting finale to a fine tournament.  As I said at the beginning, many words have already been written – some going into ridiculous hyperbole.  Will this tournament change the face, the perception, of women’s cricket?  I don’t know.  But if that crowd, the TV and radio audience are anything to go by, it will.   Already we now know that there will be new honours boards for women at Lord’s.  What else is to come?

0 out of 10 for the MCC Members, by the way, who couldn’t be bothered to turn out – so startlingly obvious in a full ground.  Where were you “chaps”?

We stayed for quite a while afterwards to watch the celebrations and to see the team greet friends and family in the stands.  The joy is something I will never forget.

And finally, many congratulations to England’s Lacrosse team who won a brilliant bronze medal at the Lacrosse World Cup at the weekend, beating Australia in overtime through a golden goal from Megan Whittle.

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 May

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Welcome to the column. This week’s stories from football, cricket, swimming, canoeing, tennis and netball, with the only possible “And finally” that there can be.

The SSE Women’s FA Cup Final took place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 14 May. It was the second year that the BBC had televised it live. A crowd of 32,912 saw Arsenal defeat the holders, Chelsea with a stunning goal from Dan Carter. I wrote a report for Women’s Sports UK. You can read it here: http://www.womenssportsuk.com/football/match-report/arsenal-win-sse-fa-cup-with-spectacular-carter-goal

There were also some league matches this week:

13 May

Chelsea Ladies 0-2 Manchester City Women
Staines

Manchester City remain unbeaten in the FAWSL after completing an impressive away win over Chelsea. Demi Stokes scored the first in the first half with Jennifer Beattie doubling the score in the second. It capped a miserable week for Chelsea who lost out to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Sunderland Ladies 0-4 Liverpool Ladies
Hetton Centre

A comprehensive win for Liverpool saw them move up to third in the table. Rosie White scored the first with Alex Greenwood putting away a penalty for the second. An unfortunate own goal from Steph Bannon made it three and Katie Zelem got the fourth. Sunderland are still looking for their first win of the season.

Birmingham City Ladies 0-0 Reading Ladies
Solihull Moors

Reading were also looking for their first win of the season, and although they couldn’t secure all three points, they were happy to leave with the draw. In a disappointing televised game, chances were few and far between and the close control was poor. Birmingham are now unbeaten in four games, but were left rueing the few chances they had.

Did you know the women’s under 17 European Championships have been happening over the last couple of weeks? Not if you only look in the mainstream media. England’s women finished third after winning the play-off for bronze against Norway.

They had been beaten in the semi-final by, yes you guessed it, Germany, 3-4, but came back well to triumph against the Norwegians to claim a place at the Under 17s World Cup in Jordan later this year.

Eventual winners, Germany, and runners-up, Spain, also qualified.

Niamh Charles scored both goals to take the win.

In a turn of amazing news, FIFA has appointed Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura from Senegal as its new Secretary General. She has plenty of high-level experience, having spent 21 years at the United Nations. She replaces Jerome Valke, who was banned from football for 12 years after his conviction for corruption.

“She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, and improve the way organisations perform. Importantly for Fifa, she also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organisation,” said FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino.

Unhappy news from cricket this week as Sarah Taylor has announced an indefinite break from cricket for “personal reasons”. Hot on the heels of Charlotte Edwards’ forced retirement last week, this is a blow for Head of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor and coach Mark Robinson. It is not known whether she will be back for the visit of Pakistan in June or Sri Lanka later in the summer. She is also due to be an essential part of Lancashire Thunder’s quest to win the inaugural Kia Super League.

In better news, the ECB awards were held this week. Women’s Cricketer of the Year Award went to Anya Shrubsole. Last season she took 32 wickets for England and has put herself forward to replace Charlotte Edwards as Captain. And talking of Edwards, she was voted fans’ Women’s Player of the Year.

There were some interesting league fixtures last weekend. Kent continue to set the pace:

Berkshire v Warwickshire
Wokingham

Berkshire 186 all out (48.1 overs)
Warwickshire 200/9
Warwickshire win by 14 runs

Warwickshire won the toss and elected to bat. They put on an impressive 200/9 with Anna Lanning the pick of the batters with 54. Best bowling came from putative England captain, Heather Knight, who took two for 13 off her 10 overs, bowling seven maidens in the process.

Berkshire’s reply started well as the first wicket didn’t fall until 97 was on the board, when Linsey Smith was bowled by Georgia Davis for 40. However the next five wickets fell for just 39 runs with only Knight holding the fort. They were lucky to get as close to their target as they did with Hennessey pick of the bowlers taking four for 32 off her 10 overs.

Kent v Middlesex
Canterbury

Kent 94/4 (20.2 overs)
Middlesex 92 all out (38.5 overs)
Kent win by 6 wickets

Easy win for Kent at Canterbury as they dismissed Middlesex for just 92 and went on to reach their target in just over 20 overs.

The top five batters only scored 21 between them with a lethal spell from Tash Farrant doing the damage as she got Sophia Dunkley (2), Natasha Miles (4) and Catherine Dalton (0) with Alice Davidson- Richards taking Anna Nicholls’ (9) wicket in between the latter two.

Kent are a class outfit with superstars at every turn. It seemed inevitable, after the horror show of a week for Charlotte Edwards, that she should play a decisive innings. She was 30 not out at the end and Kent won at a canter.

Somerset v Sussex
Bath

Somerset 126 all out (38.5 overs)
Sussex 127/3 (28.1 overs)
Sussex win by 7 wickets

Somerset opener Gwenan Davies went for a four-ball duck, bowled all ends up by Izi Noakes. There was a semblance of a recovery from Georgina Adcock (28), Sophie Luff (26) and Anya Shrubsole (14) as they took the score to 94/4, but after that the lower order collapsed with only Kate Randall, coming in at nine, getting into double figures. The destroyer of the innings was Georgia Elwiss who took a stunning six for 17 off eight overs.

Elwiss, who is becoming a useful all-rounder, then did her bit with the bat. She opened the innings and scored 45 before she was caught by Sophie Luff off the bowling of Nicole Richards. But Sussex never looked in trouble, seeing it home in just over 28 overs.

I published my interview with Salliann Briggs, Head Coach of Loughborough Lightning cricket, this week.  Here’s the link if you would like to read it:

http://www.womenssportsuk.com/cricket/news/loughborough-lightning-not-just-a-flash-in-the-pan

There were some good performances by British swimmers at the European Swimming Championships in London this week.

Among the best were:

Great Britain’s mixed relay team gold in the 4 x 100m

Fran Halsall grabbing bronze in the 50m butterfly

Jazz Carlin’s silver in the 800m freestyle

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and Hannah Miley – silver and bronze respectively in the 200m individual medley

Chloe Tutton’s bronze in the 100m breaststroke behind Lithuania’s amazing Ruta Meilutyte.

 

Canoeing doesn’t get featured much in this column, but I’m always looking to expand the number of sports covered.

It was the European Championships in Liptovsky, Slovakia this week. The women’s K1 trio of Fiona Pennie, Lizzie Neave and Kimberley Woods took gold, beating Germany by more than four seconds. Mallory Franklin also took gold in the C1. She originally finished in second to Australia’s Jess Fox, but Fox was later penalised 50 points and Franklin moved up into the gold position.

 

Serena Williams beat Madison Keys in straight sets, 76 63, to win the Italian Open this week. It was her first WTA title for nine months. It was her 70th career title.

The French Open begins next week and the British players have tough draws:

Johanna Konta v Julia Goerges

Heather Watston v Nicole Gibbs

Laura Robson v Andrea Petkovic (very tough)

Naomi Broady v Coco Vandeweghe

 

There was a feast of netball at Northumbria University this week as Netball Europe’s Open Championship took place. The tournament winners were the England Roses.

The Championship was contested by England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

England started the action against Northern Ireland and put in a dazzling display to take the game 83-32. England then beat Scotland Thistles 70-26. The deciding game came against Wales, who were also unbeaten up to this point, beating Scotland 49-36 and Northern Ireland 54-38.

After the first quarter England were just 17-14 up, but by half-time England were beginning to pull away, stretching their lead to 38-23. In the latter two quarters England began to put on the style, eventually coming out victorious by 81-42 and taking the title of Netball Europe Open Champions.

 

And finally, this week Muirfield Golf Club, in its wisdom, failed to secure the two-thirds majority vote it needed to allow it to begin to admit women members. Consequently the R&A stripped it of the right to host The Open. Just about everyone has seen the sense of this sanction. Of course, Peter Alliss suggested that if women wanted to use the facilities of members, they should marry one of the current members….. Must give a mention to a tweet I saw, can’t remember who it was, but it was excellent, who said that the decision would also include a change of name for the club….. to Jurassic Park.