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.

The Women’s Sports Column

What’s new in the world of women’s sport

Welcome to this, my inaugural Women’s Sports Column!  Its aim is to highlight just a few of the important, inspirational and interesting stories from the last week.  Let’s redress the balance, shall we, because if the national press and most other mainstream media outlets are to be believed, there is so little women’s sport out there it is not worth mentioning….

The Australian Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) starts on Saturday (December 5).   It is the first T20 women’s competition of its kind and will be trailblazing its way across Australia in parallel to the men’s BBL.  The ECB will be watching its progress with bated breath as it prepares to launch its equivalent in England in 2016.  Certainly the marketing and build-up have been impressive, with big sponsorship from Australian sports equipment and clothing brand, Rebel.

There will be 59 games in 50 days in a tournament of eight teams.  Some games will be played as double-headers before the men’s, while others will stand alone.  Both tournaments will culminate in a grand finals day in January.  Several England players have been signed up including Sarah Taylor, Charlotte Edwards, Kate Cross, Lauren Winfield, Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt, Nat Sciver, Katherine Brunt and Laura Marsh.  Other notable names include New Zealanders Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine and Sara McGlashan, West Indians Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin and South Africans Mignon du Preez and Marizanne Kapp. Former Aussie all-rounder, Lisa Sthalekar, has even come out of retirement to take part.  For more information check out Cricket Australia’s website.

While we’re on the subject of cricket, England’s 2016 fixtures against Pakistan have been released.  There will be three one-day internationals and three T20s.  Disappointing to see no test match, but it still promises to be an interesting and enjoyable series.

20.6.16 ODI Grace Road, Leicester
22.6.16 ODI New Road, Worcester
27.6.16 ODI The County Ground, Taunton
3.7.16 IT20 Bristol County Ground
5.7.16 IT20 Ageas Bowl, Southampton
7.7.16 IT20 The Essex County Ground, Chelmsford

Last, but not least when it comes to cricket, qualifying for the 2016 Women’s World T20 is well underway for associate nations.  The qualifying tournament, which is taking place in Thailand, has gone to form and the final will be between Bangladesh and Ireland on Saturday 5 December.  Both have now qualified for the World T20 proper, taking place in India in March 2016.

It’s also been a busy football week for the home nations in qualifying for the 2017 European Championships, with wins for England and Scotland and a hard-fought draw for Wales.  England beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 at Ashton Gate in Bristol on Sunday 29 November.  The headed goal, from Jill Scott, came well into the second half.  It was a difficult game, with the Bosnia-Herzegovina strategy seeming to be to keep 11 players behind the ball at all times.  England were patient and persistent, however, and deserved the win.  A crowd of over 13,000 braved a wet and windy Bristol Sunday evening to watch the game.

Things were much easier for Scotland as they put 10 past a weak Macedonia team at St Mirren Park.  Jane Ross scored four, Jo Love a hat-trick and Jennifer Beattie, Hayley Lauder and Lisa Evans got a goal each.  They are now three points clear at the top of Group 1.

Wales had to settle for a 2-2 draw away to Israel on 1 December. The home side went ahead early on, but two from Tash Harding looked to have sealed it for Wales, until a late equaliser from Israel ruined Wales’ night.  They are now five points behind leaders Austria in Group 8.

Women’s basketball has a way to go before it gets on the mainstream sporting radar.  Netball has been much in the news this year, with the World Cup in Sydney in August, but basketball has to fight for all the coverage it can get.  So although not strictly this week, this is the update for Great Britain’s attempt to qualify for EuroBasket 2017.  Unfortunately it has not been a good start, with two losses from two.   On 21 November GB lost 78-64 away to Montenegro and on 25 November at home to Italy 48-60.  GB currently sit third in Group C with two points.  The next round of qualifying will be in February 2016.

In the World Women’s 7s Series in Dubai, Australia took the title this afternoon against Russia by 31-12. The first half was tight, but Australia upped it in the second, with an inspirational Ellia Green performance taking it away from Russia.  England and France fought it out earlier for third place, with England coming out on top 10-5 in a pulsating game which went to extra time golden points.  It has been a while since neither New Zealand nor Canada featured in the final two games, and it is encouraging to see that European teams are making progress in this event.   England’s policy of playing its best side in Sevens events at the expense of the 15-a-side game has been controversial, but if this result is anything to go by, seems to be paying off.

And finally, it’s the awards season and this week the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) was announced.  It includes three women – yes three!  Obviously the BBC has learnt its lesson from the dark days of 2011 when the lack of any female athlete on the shortlist caused outrage (in my world, anyway).  Those shortlisted are cyclist Lizzie Armistead, England footballer Lucy Bronze and athlete Jess Ennis-Hill.

Also this week was the third BT Action Woman of the Year ceremony.  The winner, or actually winners, were the England Women’s Football team (Lionesses) who finished an outstanding third place in the World Cup this summer.  Runners–up were the England Women’s Hockey team, for their European Championship triumph in August.  Third place went to World Downhill Biking Champion and winner of the World Cup Series, Rachel Atherton.  It was an impressive shortlist that also included Nicola Adams, Lizzie Armistead, Georgina Hermitage, Jess Ennis-Hill, Johanna Konta, Sarah Outen and the Oxford Women’s Boat Race crew.

There’s so much more I could (and probably should) mention, but so little time.  If this has whetted your appetite for women’s sport, why don’t you check out some of the links in this article and join me next Friday for more.