Women’s Sports Column 20-26 October 2018

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

Let’s crack on.

Tennis – on the Court

Kremlin Cup

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

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

Luxembourg Open

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

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

WTA Finals

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

Red Group:
Angelique Kerber
Naomi Osaka
Sloane Stephens
Kiki Bertens

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

White Group
Caroline Wozniacki
Petra Kvitova
Elina Svitolina
Karolina Pliskova

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

More news of who eventually triumphed next week.

Tennis – off the Court

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

She said,

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

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

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

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

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

Taekwondo

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

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

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

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

Volleyball

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

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

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

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

Football

Last weekend’s Super League results:

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

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

Birmingham City 0-0 Chelsea

West Ham 0-1 Liverpool
Sweetman-Kirk 7’

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

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

Championship results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup Build-up

More friendlies have been announced this week.

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

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

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

20 October
Surbiton 6-0 Bowdon

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Hockey – off the Pitch            

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

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

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

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

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

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

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

In a statement, the club somewhat disingenuously said,

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union – on the Pitch

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

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

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

Rugby Sevens

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

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

Canada beat France 28-0 in the bronze final.

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

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

Boxing

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

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

BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year

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

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

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

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

Athletics

Great South Run

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

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

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

Netball

England Netball Investment

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

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

Joanna Adams, Chief Executive of England Netball said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast 5 World Series

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

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

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

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

The whole event is live on Sky Sports.

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golf – on the Course

Indian Open

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

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

Golf – off the Course

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

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

We’re getting there, folks.

And Finally

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

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

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

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

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 October 2018

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

So let’s crack on.

Boxing

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis

China Open

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

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

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

This week sees tournaments in both Hong Kong and Tianjin.

Hong Kong Open

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

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

At time of publication we are at the quarter-final stage; two have been completed and two are yet to take place:

Zhang Shuai beat Daria Gavrilova (7) 6-1 6-3
Dayana Yastremka beat Kristina Kucova 7-6 6-2
Garbine Muguruza (4) v Luksika Kumkhum
Elina Svitolina (1) v Wang Qiang (6)

Tianjin Open

Meanwhile in Tianjin Britain’s Katie Boulter has had a storming week.  She reached the quarter-finals of the Tinajin Open, eventually falling to world number six, Karolina Pliskova 5-7 6-0 6-3.

After taking the tight first set, Pliskova asserted her authority in the second, taking it 6-0.  But Boulter rallied in the third and was 2-0 up before Pliskova re-asserted herself and took the set and the match.

Quarter-finals:

Caroline Garcia (2) beat Petra Martic (6) 6-2 1-0 (Martic retired with an injury)
Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Timea Bacsinsczky 7-6 7-6
Karlina Pliskova (1) beat Katie Boulter 5-7 6-0 6-3

Pliskova meets Bacsinsczky in the semi-final

Still to play:

Hsieh Su-wei (5) v Elise Mertens (3)

Tennis – off the Court

British number one Jo Konta has split with her coach Michael Joyce after less than a year.  She has struggled this year, particularly in the Grand Slams and has slipped to 45 in the world.

There is clearly something wrong in Konta’s world and it is not my job to speculate in this column.  Her rise over the last couple of seasons has been wonderful to watch and I really hope that she finds a coach who will restore the self-confidence she really should have, but shows so little.

More news as it happens.

Football

The shortlist for the first Women’s Ballon d’Or award has been announced.  There are two English players, Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby, on the list.

It’s a lot more representative of the current state of things than the Best Fifa Awards that took place last month.

Shortlist:
Lucy Bronze (Lyon and England)
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg and Denmark)
Ada Hegerberg (Lyon and Norway)
Amandine Henry (Lyon and France)
Lindsey Horan (Portland and USA)
Sam Kerr (Chicago and Australia)
Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England)
Saki Kumagai (Lyon and Japan)
Dzenifer Marozsan (Lyon and Germany)
Amel Majri (Lyon and France)
Marta (Orlando and Brazil)
Lieke Martens (Barcelona and Netherlands)
Megan Rapinoe (Seattle and USA)
Wendie Renard (Lyon and France)
Christine Sinclair (Portland and Canada)

Lionesses

There were two somewhat contrasting friendlies for the Lionesses this week.  The first, a dull affair played in rotten conditions against Brazil and the second, a much tighter effort enlivened by some incomprehensible refereeing decisions.

England 1-0

Brazil were clearly uncomfortable in the driving rain and wind at Meadow Lane.  England used it to their advantage and scored after just two minutes, an exquisitely placed header from Fran Kirby.

Nikita Parris caused mayhem down the wing, but was, perhaps, guilty of shooting selfishly on occasion when a cross or pass would have done a better job.

Marta went off with an injury in the first-half which didn’t help their cause.

England had several chances to increase their lead, but were profligate in front of goal.  But their attacking style was pleasing to the eye (23 shots, 8 on target), even if the quality of the end product was frustrating.

Brazil had a ten-minute period towards the end of the second-half when they seemed to finally come alive, but it would have been most unjust if they had scored the equaliser.

In the end England held out and were on the front foot at the final whistle.  It was a good performance under the circumstances, even though the opposition were disappointing.

England 1-1 Australia

The Matildas, by contrast, were up for the fight from the off.  And although the Lionesses were not made to pay for their carelessness in front of goal by Brazil, the Australians were not so forgiving,

Fran Kirby was on target again as England took the lead midway through the first-half.  Lucy Staniforth had a goal disallowed as she was (wrongly) adjudged offside.

But it was the two penalties turned down by the referee that had both Head Coach Phil Neville and the rest us scratching our heads.

Both Beth Mead and Nikita Parris were clearly brought down in the box with neither penalty being given.

Even so, England had plenty of chances to score again, particularly through Mead, but the Matildas kept on with a tenacity that we didn’t see from Brazil and were impressive on the break.

Six minutes from the end, Australia equalised as Clare Polkinghorne headed in from a corner.

World Cup Play-offs

The last European place for next year’s World Cup in France will go to either European Champions Netherlands or Switzerland.

First leg – 5 October:

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
Beerensteyn 21’, Van de Sanden 42’

Belgium 2-2 Switzerland
Cayman 5’, De Neve 60’
Lehmann 55’, 87’

Second leg – 9 October

Denmark 1-2 Netherlands
Nadim 5’ (Pen)
Beerensteyn 7’ 90+2’

Switzerland 1-1 Belgium
Reuteler 23’
De Caigny 77’

So, Netherlands win 4-1 on aggregate and although the other tie finished 3-3, Switzerland go through on away goals.

The final is also a two-legged affair.  The first leg is on 5 November and the second on 13 November.  Netherlands are at home in the first leg.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Breaking news is that Doncaster Rovers Belles are in talks with Club Doncaster about a possible takeover.

Club Doncaster runs Doncaster Rovers men’s side, the rugby league side and several projects in the community.

Belles Chair, Faye Lygo told the BBC,

“We believe matters are moving forward positively,” Lygo told BBC Sport.

“We have had to take measures to stabilise the club at a time of change in the women’s game and believe the future of the Belles lies in Doncaster, with the Rovers.”

Let’s hope that the discussions go well as a fully integrated club will hopefully ensure the Belles’ survival and progress.

Rugby League

Woman of Steel

Georgia Roche of Castleford is the Rugby Football League’s first ever Woman of Steel.

Roche, who is just 17, is part of the Castleford team that got to the Challenge Cup final this year and the Super League play-off semi-finals.

Talking of which….

Super League Play-offs

Leeds 24-10 Castleford Tigers

The first-half was a tight affair with Castleford going in 6-0 up at the break.  But Rhiannon Marshall, player of the match, had other ideas.  She went in for a try and set up two more for Chloe Kerrigan and Frankie Townend.  Charlotte Booth scored a fourth.  Suze Hill added another and Castleford could only come back with a consolation try from Kelsey Gentles.  Courtney Hill hit a penalty to round off the scoring and see Leeds safely through.

Wigan Warriors 10-6 St Helens

Wigan led 10-2 at half-time.  St Helens took the lead through a Faye Gaskin penalty, but Wigan hit back through tries from Alison Burrows and Rachel Thompson with Michelle Davis converting the latter.

The second-half was intense as both sides tried to make the decisive breakthrough.  In the end, the only score was a try from Saints’ Katie-May Williams with just four minutes to go.  It made for an exciting end, but Wigan managed to hold out to get through to the final.

So it will be Leeds v Wigan in the Super League Grand Final which takes place this Saturday, 13 October at the Manchester Regional Arena.  1pm kick-off.  Admission is £5 with under-16s getting in for free.

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

Liza Burgess

Liza Burgess has become the 142nd member (and first Welsh woman) to be inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame.

She won 93 caps for Wales and Great Britain, captaining Wales 62 times.  She also played in four World Cups and

Domestically, she started at Loughborough University and Wasps and then co-founded Saracens in 1989, spending ten years at the club.

She ended her playing career at Clifton (now Bristol) and played her last game for Wales in the 2007 Six Nations against England at the age of 42.

Since her on-field retirement, she has coached extensively both domestically and with the Welsh national side and was Giselle Mather’s assistant coach of the inaugural Women’s Barbarians team in 2017.

Rugby Union – On the Pitch

The Premier 15s are back in action this weekend:

13 October
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Harlequins (2pm, Sixways Stadiium)
Loughborough v Bristol Bears (3pm, Loughborough University)
Saracens v Wasps (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Richmond (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 6 October were as follows:

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

Surbiton dropped their first points of the season in their draw with East Grinstead.  Holcombe were the beneficiaries as they beat Clifton Robinsons to go level with Surbiton at the top of the table.  Both lie on seven points, with Surbiton top on goal difference.  University of Birmingham are third on five points.  At the bottom Slough gained their first point of the season, but are still at the foot of the table, with Bowdon second from bottom on two points.

This weekend’s fixtures:

13 October
Buckingham v Bowdon (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Slough v East Grinstead (12.30pm, Slough HC)
Surbiton v University of Birmingham (1pm, Surbiton HC)
Beeston v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
Holcombe v Canterbury (6pm. Holcombe HC, P1)

Netball

This Saturday sees the second Fast5 All-Stars tournament at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Loughborough Lightning are the defending champions.  The eight teams taking part are Lightning, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, Wasps Netball, Manchester Thunder, Strathclyde Sirens, Severn Stars and benecosMavericks.

It will be a fast and furious five-hour session.  All eight teams play in a double elimination format; two wins and a team goes through to the semi finals.  Two losses and you’re out.  Teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches will play a deciding match for a place in the semis.

Matches are 12 minutes long.  There is a five-point line and a two-minute Power Play where points count double.

It’s the netball equivalent of T20 (not commenting either way).  But it will be fun, so if you’re in the vicinity of the Copper Box on Saturday, check it out – the tournament starts at 1pm and goes on until 6pm.   It is also live on Sky.

The winning team takes away £25k, so it’s not to be sniffed at.

One player who will be there – and it’s probably worth going just to see her – is Sharni Layton.  Somehow I missed the startling fact that Layton, who retired from international netball earlier on this year, will be one of the “All Stars” playing for Surrey Storm.  Layton (and I don’t doubt it for a moment) has also indicated that she will play AFLW for Collingwood in the new season. Top of Form

Cricket

No cricket reports this week, but just to let you know that Australia will playing a three-match ODI series against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur in the coming weeks.  The dates are 18, 20 and 22 October and I will have news and reports on their completion.

Winter Sports

Lindsey Vonn has announced she will retire at the end of the upcoming season.

She currently has 82 World Cup victories and is still aiming to break Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86.

There is no doubt that the sport has taken a physical toll on her and it is mainly for this reason that she has decided that this season will be her last:

“Physically, I’ve gotten to the point where it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“I really would like to be active when I’m older, so I have to look to the future and not just be so focused on what’s in front of me.”

And Finally – motor racing W Series

Is it a chance to “show what women are really capable of” (Catherine Bond-Muir, Chief Executive of the new W Series) or is it “a sad day for motorsport” and an “historic step backwards (Pippa Mann, British IndyCar driver)?  Is it “an important means to an end – a stepping stone for female drivers” (Alice Powell, sportscar driver) or is it “founded on segregation” (Charlie Martin, racing driver)?

The news that there is to be a new women-only motor racing competition, the “W Series”, has certainly divided opinion.  It is backed by some big names, both male and female, including former F1 driver David Coulthard, former Williams test driver Susie Wolff and Red Bull chief designer Adrian Newey.

It’s a tricky one and I can see both sides.  What we want to avoid is creating yet another opportunity for men to cry “inferior sport” when actually, the premise is that motor racing is a sport in which men and women can compete alongside each other.

There will be up to 20 drivers competing for a prize fund of $1.5m.  There will be six races around Europe, including one in the UK.   The cars will be identical and will be run by the W Series.

Competitors will be chosen by assessment of their capabilities.

So why do we need a women-only competition?  Newey states that brute strength is not a factor in the success of racing drivers and so, he says,

“That being the case, I believe the reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men is a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability.”

And surely that’s the issue.  It was the issue when all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats were introduced, and it’s the issue now.  I was a long-time opponent of so-called “positive discrimination” and of all-women shortlists.  But I came to see that they are a means to an end.  We want women in all areas of life to have equality of opportunity.  But it doesn’t happen.

It’s slightly different in motorsport as there is the karting route to come through.  But are women getting the opportunity in karting?   If, by the introduction of the W series, seeing women in motorsport becomes the norm, then hopefully the competition will do itself out of a job.  But until that happens, let’s give them the chance to compete and provide them with a different possible route into major motorsport and formula 1.

I’m against “ghettoising” women’s sport, but I’m all for extending opportunity, particularly in sports where, traditionally, the opportunities have been few.  Let me know what you think.

More news and views next week.      

Women’s Sports Column 30 June – 6 July 2018

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s unexpurgated rants, expect nothing but serenity and calm this time round (possibly).  Stories this week come from tennis, athletics, netball, badminton, winter sports, golf, cricket, rugby union and football.

Tennis

A Week is a long time in tennis – isn’t that what they say?  Well it certainly is for Caroline Wozniacki, who went from Eastbourne winner last week to out in the second round at Wimbledon this.

Eastbourne

Wozniacki came from a set down in her semi-final against Angelique Kerber to take it 2-6 7-6 6-4.  She was joined in the final by Aryna Sabalenka who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, just coming back into form after a long injury lay-off, 6-3 1-6 6-3.

The final was altogether a more straightforward, if tight, affair.  Top seed Wozniacki took the title in straight sets 7-5 7-6.

Wimbledon

Into Wimbledon fortnight and almost immediately the seeds in the women’s draw began to fall.

The biggest shock of the first round was a really limp display from fourth seed Sloane Stephens, who was easily beaten by Donna Vekic 6-1 6-3.

The second biggest shock of the first round was the exit of the fifth seed, Elina Svitolina, who went down in three sets to Tatjana Maria 7-6 4-6 6-1.

Petra Kvitova, seeded eight, lost in three sets to Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 4-6 6-0.

Sixteenth seed, Coco Vanderweghe, also went out in the first round, defeated in three sets by

Katerina Siniakova 6-7 6-3 8-6.   She had sustained an injury during the match and, although she completed it, later had to pull out of the doubles.

Twenty-first seed Anastasija Sevastova lost to Camila Giorgi 6-1 2-6 6-4, Maria Sharapova, seeded twenty-four, lost to Vitalia Diatchenko, Hsieh Su- Wei defeated thirtieth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 4-6 6-3  and Andrea Petkovic beat thirty-first seed Zhang Shuai 6-4 4-6 6-2.

Of the British players, Heather Watson went out in the first round to Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 7-5.  Katy Dunne lost to twelfth seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 7-6.  Gabi Taylor went out to qualifier Eugenie Bouchard 6-0 4-6 6-3.  Third seed Garbine Muguruza defeated Naomi Broady 6-2 7-5.  Harriet Dart took a set off seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, but went down 7-6 2-6 6-1.

British number one Jo Konta beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva 7-5 7-6 in a closely fought encounter and there were fine wins for Katie Boulter against Veronica Cepede Royg 6-4 5-7 6-4 and Katie Swan, who defeated Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2 6-2.

The second round was just as bloody.  Second seed Wozniacki lost in three to Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 1-6 7-5.Third seed Muguruza was beaten by Alison Van Uytvanck 5-7  6-2 6-1.

Thirty-second seed Radwanska lost to Lucie Safarova 7-5 6-4.

All of the remaining British players lost, including twenty-second seed Konta who succumbed to Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 6-4.  Cue the haters on social media, including one particularly pernicious chap who repeatedly called Konta an “LTA funding leech”.  Ugh.

Boulter lost to Naomi Osaka (eighteenth seed), 6-3 6-4 and Swan to Mihaela Buzarnescu (twenty-ninth seed) 6-0 6-3.

And that’s just after the first four days!  Will there be any seeds left by the business end of the tournament next week?  Is it opening up for Serena (and have I just jinxed her by saying it?)  News and updates next Friday.

Cricket

England were triumphant in the T20 Tri-Series against New Zealand on Sunday.

In truth it was a bit of an anti-climax as New Zealand batting first could only muster 137 in their 20 overs:

New Zealand 137/9 (20 overs)
England 141/3 (17.1 overs)
England won by seven wickets with 17 balls to spare

Openers Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates began well, making 31 apiece, but after that it all fell apart as New Zealand limped to a below par 137.  Dani Hazell, Katherine Brunt and Sophie Ecclestone took two wickets each.

In response the England openers Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont made a stand of 81 before Beaumont was out for 35.  The visitors had no answer to Wyatt’s strength and style as she scored 50.

Sarah Taylor was bowled by young star Amelia Kerr, but Nat Sciver and Heather Knight took it on and saw England home, scoring 21 and 17 not out respectively.

England squad to play ODI series against New Zealand

Dani Hazell has been left out of the ODI squad.  In comes Alex Hartley, while young fast bowler Katie George keeps her place:

Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Laura Marsh (Kent), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Sarah Taylor (Sussex, wk), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

The three-match series starts tomorrow (7 July) at Headingley (11am start), with the second match at Derby on 10 July (1pm start) and the third at Leicester on 13 July (2pm start).  There are ICC Women’s Championship points at stake in all three games.

All matches are live on Sky Sports and radio coverage is on BBC TMS on 5 Live Sports Extra.

 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

The qualifying tournament begins on Saturday 7 July in Rotterdam.

Group A comprises Bangladesh, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and UAE
Group B comprises Ireland, Scotland, Thailand and Uganda

Ireland begin on 7 July against Thailand.  They then play Scotland on 8 July and Uganda on 10 July.

Scotland’s first match is against Uganda on 7 July and their last against Thailand on 10 July.

Athletics

There were some big performances by Team GB’s women at the British Athletics Championships last weekend.

On the track:

Laura Muir won the 800m in 2:01.22 seconds with Shelayna Oskan-Ckarke second (2:01.94) and Adelle Tracey in third (2:02.00).

Beth Dobbin won the 200m in 22.75, her second personal best time of the weekend.

Rosie Clarke won the 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 9:45.83 which was good enough to get her to the European Championships.

Bethan Davies won the 5,000m walk.

Steph Twell won the 5,000m with Melissa Courtney in second and Eilish McColgan in third.

Meghan Beesley won the 400m hurdles in 55.73 with Kirsten McAslan second (56.48) and Jessica Turner third (57.10).

In the field:

Lorraine Ugen maintained her good form in the long jump, which she won with a jump of 7.05m with Jazmin Sawyers in second (6.86m).

Holly Bradshaw won the pole vault with a height of 4.60m, Sophie Cook in second (4.25m, PB) and Sally Peake in third (4.15m)

Morgan Lake won the high jump (1.97m), Katrina Johnson-Thompson second (1.90) and Nikki Manson third (1.87, PB).

Jade Lally won the discus with 56.61.

Laura Whittingham won the javelin with 55.55m.

Sophie Hitchon won the hammer with a championship record throw of 72.02.

Other Athletics News

British 400m runner, Christine Ohuruogu has retired at the age of 34.  Ohuruogu became World Champion in 2007 and won gold the following year at the Beijing Olympics.

She won silver at the London Olympics and a second world title in Moscow in 2013.

She was also a stalwart member of the 4 x 400m relay team, winning two Olympic bronzes (2008, 2016), one World Championship silver (2013) and no less than five bronze medals (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015).

Polish sprinter, Irena Szewinska has died at the age of 72.

She won three Olympic golds medals; in the 4x100m relay in Tokyo (1964), in the 200m in Mexico City (1968) and in the 400m eight years later in Montreal (1976).

She was the first woman to break 50 seconds for the 400m and set 10 career world records.

In 1998 she became a member of the International Olympic Committee and in 2005 became only the third woman to serve on the IAAF Council.

Golf

Women’s PGA Championship

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea won the PGA at Kemper Lakes near Chicago at the weekend.

Three golfers finished on -10, Park, Nasa Hataoka of Japan and Ryu So-yeon, also of South Korea and went into a play-off.

Park and Ryu both birdied the first play-off hole, while Hataoka was eliminated as she made only par.  Play was then suspended for 20 minutes due to the weather and on the resumption, Park birdied the second play-off hole, while Ryu could only make par.

Best British finishers were Charley Hull tied for sixth on -6, Bronte Law tied 18th on -2 and Jodie Ewart Shadoff tied 25th on -1.

Netball

Vitality Super League Grand Final

It will be a repeat of last year’s Grand Final at the Copper Box in London this Saturday as Loughborough Lightning take on Wasps Netball for the title.

Last season, if you remember, Lightning finished top and Wasps second.  They defeated their semi-final opponents and met in the final where Wasps came out on top 55-51.

So this season Lightning will be out for revenge.  Their finishing places were reversed this year and they both had good wins in their respective semi-finals, Loughborough defeating Manchester Thunder 59-50 and Wasps beating Team Bath 54-39.

Who will come out on top at the Copper Box?  If you can’t get there, full coverage is on Sky Sports and the match starts at 5pm.

England Roses

The Roses have moved up to second in the world rankings for the first time.

Since rankings began in 2008, Australia and New Zealand have filled the top two places, but England have overtaken the Silver Ferns in the latest table.

Top 10:

  1. Australia
  2. England
  3. New Zealand
  4. Jamaica
  5. South Africa
  6. Malawi
  7. Uganda
  8. Northern Ireland
  9. Scotland
  10. Trinidad & Tobago

Wales have dropped out of the top ten and stand at 11, while Ireland are 19th.

England qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup as hosts and are joined in automatic qualification by Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, South Africa and Malawi.

“Interesting” that in the 15 comments I saw when I looked at this story on the BBC Sports page, eight were from men with variations of “It’s not a proper sport”, “sexist if men can’t play”, “who cares?”, three were removed because they broke the house rules (makes you wonder what they actually said) and the grand total of four were actually positive comments about the Roses’ achievement.  So it seems that women shouldn’t be allowed to participate in “men’s sport”, i.e., football, but neither should we have what is perceived, incorrectly, to be a “women’s sport”, i.e., netball.  I think that leaves us with what is called Hobson’s choice……

Winter Sports

UK Sport has announced increased funding for curling running up to the Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing in 2022.  But four winter sports have had their funding cut:

  2014-2018 funding 2018-22 funding
Bobsleigh  £5m (men’s only) £0
Curling £5.66m £6.35m
Figure Skating £1.24m £0
Short-track speed skating £4.76m £0 (extra support for Elise Christie)
Skeleton £6.55m £7.2m
Ski & snowboard £5m £6.75m
Para-ski & Snowboard £2.77m £3.5m
Wheelchair curling £1.14m 0

This is broadly in line with UK Sport policy of only funding where the prospect of medals is a real one, a policy which you will know, if you are a regular reader of this column, is not something with which I necessarily agree.  Even stranger than that, UK Sport has made special provision for short-track speed skater Elise Christie, who they consider has made “significant and consistent world-level success.”  This has drawn criticism from some quarters, especially as Christie did not win a medal in Pyeongchang.

Rugby Union – Sevens

France won the first leg of the European Grand Prix Series in Marcoussis.  They defeated Russia in the final 17-12.

Ireland finished third, beating England by 39-7, their biggest ever win against England in either 7s or 15s.

Wales finished fifth and newly promoted Scotland had a great weekend, making it to the quarter-finals before they were beaten by Russia.

This weekend sees the second leg in Kazan.  News and results next week.

Badminton

Chris and Gabby Adcock reached the semi-finals of the Malaysia Open last weekend before they fell to eventual champions and fourth seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong.  They lost 21-17, 18-21, 19-21.

Zheng and Huang then went on to defeat second seeds Wang Yiiu and Huang Dongping in the final 21-19, 21-18.

Football

The Welsh FA have announced that the Wales v England World Cup qualifier will be played at Newport’s ground, Rodney Parade.

The game, scheduled for 31 August, will kick-off at 7.45pm.

It is between England and Wales as to who finishes top – the runner-up will probably go into a play-off, while the group winner will qualify automatically.

Signings 

  • Arsenal have signed Swiss international midfielder Lia Walti and German international Tabea Kemme.
  • Former Lioness Rachel Yankey has joined the coaching staff at London Bees.
  • Reading have signed goalkeeper Rachael Laws from Sunderland and midfielder Remi Allen has signed a new contract with the Berkshire club.
  • Chelsea are about to sign Finnish international forward Adelina Engm
  • Liverpool have made two singing s from Bristol City; forward Yana Daniels and defender jasmine Matthews.
  • Everton have signed Sunderland midfielder Dominique Bruinenberg.
  • Bristol City Women have named their new manager; she is former Birmingham City assistant coach Tanya Oxtoby. She was previously assistant coach at Perth Glory Women and the Australia Under-20s.

Birmingham City Ladies have changed their name to Birmingham City Women.  In a statement the club called it “an important and progressive step.”

The FA has released its new logos for the rebranded women’s leagues.  Needless to say, as with pretty much all things FA-related, I’m not totally convinced.  Take a look for yourselves and let me know what you think: http://www.thefa.com/news/2018/jun/06/fa-womens-leagues-new-brand-identity-060618

And finally,

I gather there’s some men’s football going on this weekend?  I will actually miss it as I’ll be at the theatre in Stratford!  For those of you old enough to understand this reference, my husband and I will be re-enacting that Likely Lads episode until we can get home and watch the recording!  Good luck to England’s men against Sweden on Saturday.  Let’s hope it’s a better and much less tetchy and miserable match than the one against Colombia.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 January 2018

gavelWelcome to this week’s column.  No prizes for guessing what’s been bugging me beyond endurance this week.  But actually there’s a bigger story that should be given prominence – the conviction of US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.  But there is plenty of news from other sports this week – news that, thanks to Mr Neville, has received even less (if that were possible) coverage than usual.

Stories this week come from netball, cricket, rugby union, football, Winter Olympics, tennis, bowls and Commonwealth Games.

Larry Nassar 

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years imprisonment for the abuse of girls and young women he was supposed to be caring for in his role as US Olympic gymnastics team doctor.

Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault.

The 54-year old had already been sentenced to 60 years for the possession of child pornography.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina delivered a devastating speech in sentencing Nassar.

“As much as it was my honour and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it was my honour and privilege to sentence you.

“Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.”

156 girls and women accused Nasser and the court heard seven days of testimony.

In response to the accusations Nassar said,

“What I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling.

“There are no words to describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred.”

 Football

Now let’s just get the next subject over with so we can move on other things as there is a lot to get through.

 FA appoints Phil Neville as new England Women’s Head Coach

It’s all been said.  I can add nothing new, but it won’t stop me putting my two penn’orth in.  The FA’s job advert said it was looking for:

“an outstanding football coach with a track record of consistent and successful management and development of elite players and coaches to high-performance levels.”

Or, alternatively, we can hire Phil Neville.  As I said last week, I’m ready to be converted, but if things do go well, will it because of Neville or in spite of him?

And, it never ceases to amaze me that hundreds of men who have never given a second’s consideration to women’s football unless it is to dismiss it as irrelevant, now feel it is their right, nay their duty, to give their opinion on this topic.  Should I be grateful that the “great and the good” of the men’s game now have an opinion – largely that the appointment is wrong?  No, I should not.  You’ve never shown any interest before – don’t pretend you’re commenting because you feel outrage at this appointment.  Can’t quite believe I’m going to say this, but at the moment those saying “who cares?” are the ones I want to read – at least they’re consistent……

Many of the social media comments over the last few days have been unpleasant and personal about Neville and have no place in any reasoned argument.  Neville’s tweets from way back have been a distraction from the real issues.  I don’t have much of an opinion either way on Neville as a person, but if the FA couldn’t find anyone better qualified for this role they are doing something wrong and Baroness Sue Campbell coming out and saying that the other candidates were “nervous” about the media grilling they would receive is not going to convince me otherwise.

Right, enough and onwards.

FAWSL

We’re up and running again in the WSL this weekend.  These are the fixtures:

Saturday 27 January

FAWSL1

Liverpool v Bristol City (5.30pm, Select Security Stadium)

FAWLS2

London Bees v Watford FC (2pm, The Hive)

Sunday 28 January

FAWSL1

Chelsea v Everton (12.30pm, Kingsmeadow Stadium)

Birmingham City v Yeovil Town (2pm, Solihull Moors)

Reading v Arsenal (2pm, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

Sunderland v Manchester City (2pm, Mariners Park)

FAWSL2

Millwall Lionesses v Durham (12 noon, St Paul’s Sports Ground)

Sheffield v Tottenham Hotspur (1pm, Sheffield FC)

Doncaster Rovers Belles v Brighton & Hove Albion (2pm, Keepmoat Stadium)

Oxford United v Aston Villa (2pm, Oxford City FC)

Other Football News

There has been a mixture of good and bad in the other news this week; I’m afraid it’s been one step forward, at least two back:

Manchester City

Manchester City are signalling their clear commitment to women’s football by launching their new “Same City, Same Passion” campaign.

As part of this they are merging their men’s and women’s social media channels and say that the campaign is,

“Focused on promoting women’s football by demonstrating that the same skills, same excitement and same passion exist wherever a ball is kicked”.

The club statement went on to say,

“Despite the rapid growth the sport has experienced since then, the general public perception of women’s football does not always match the reality of what can be seen on the pitch.

“In 2014, FIFA’s women’s football survey found that only 13 per cent of its member associations believed women’s football was perceived as a quality sport.

“Same City, Same Passion has been created to combat this misconception and to show that the similarities to the men’s game are far greater than the differences, and that men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ football can be enjoyed by everyone.”

“Same City, Same Passion aims to highlight that the similarities between men’s and women’s football are far greater than the differences and, regardless of who’s playing, it’s just football.

“Merging social media channels as part of this campaign offers us a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of our women’s team and to offer our supporters the chance to enjoy the excitement and passion that defines every Manchester City team.”

Let’s face it, the club is often accused of “buying” success, but, to be honest I say let them buy it if they are going to put this much faith in their women’s team.  Let it show the others how it’s done.  Hopefully, others will follow suit with similar commitment.  I’m not holding my breath, but it’s a definite step forward.

Boston Breakers

Bad news from the US this week as it has been announced that Boston Breakers have gone out of business.

The details are still sketchy, but it is believed that the players were told by email on Thursday.

England striker Natasha Dowie plays for the Breakers and the manager is former Liverpool boss Matt Beard.

More news in next week’s column.

Yeovil Town

It was announced today that Yeovil manager Jamie Sherwood will leave the club at the end of the season.  Sherwood has been doing the job part-time and with the league going fully professional from next season, he cannot carry on his other job in Wales and this one.  So he has opted to stand down from his role at Yeovil.

In a similar position is Ellie Curson, who is also to leave Yeovil to concentrate on her teaching career as she does not want to commit to a full-time professional team.

 Transfers

  • Chloe Kelly and Taylor Hinds have left Arsenal for Everton
  • England under-20 forward, Rinsola Babajide, has signed for Liverpool from Watford.

Netball

World Cup Qualifying

Scotland and Northern Ireland have qualified for the 2019 World Cup after the qualifying tournament at the weekend.

Friday, 19 January

Wales 40-52 Scotland

Wales were ahead at half-time 23-21, but the Scots came back and by the end of the third quarter were 32-31 up.  Then Nia Jones was sent off for Wales, the match had turned for good, Scotland extended their lead and took the match by 12.

 Saturday, 20 January

Northern Ireland 57-42 Wales

Northern Ireland were always ahead in this game.  They led 16-11 after the first quarter and 28-21 at half-time.  They were never headed and they took the match comfortably.

Sunday, 21 January

Scotland 52-31 Northern Ireland

Both sides had already qualified by beating Wales.  Scotland went on the offensive early and were 14-6 ahead at the end of the first quarter.  By half-time they were 27-14 up.

Scotland’s defence was stronger and their attackers more accurate as they stretched away to make the final gap 21 points.

Wales

The Welsh coach, Trish Wilcox, has already paid the price for failing to qualify for the World Cup as she was sacked this week.  She also leaves her role as Celtic Dragons coach.

Wales are now looking to appoint an interim head coach for the Commonwealth Games, before they make a permanent appointment later on in the year.

Wilcox had been in post for three and a half years.

Quad Series

 20 January (Copper Box)

South Africa 50-54 Australia

The Diamonds’ shooting was the difference in this match.  And yet, it could all have been different.  At half-time South Africa were one point ahead.

But they couldn’t maintain their form as Australia found theirs.  Going into the final quarter the Diamonds had reversed the deficit and were one point ahead 39-38.

The gap was stretched to four points by the end, but it was a whole lot tighter than expected.

England 64-57 New Zealand

What a game!  What a comeback from the Roses!

England came back from six down as the fourth quarter started, to tie the game 49-49 at the final hooter.  And so into extra time.

But it needn’t even have got that far, as Kadeen Corbin missed a shot in the last seconds which would have won the game in normal time.

The Roses powered through extra-time, forcing the Silver Ferns into mistakes and turning the ball over.  New Zealand seemed to visibly wilt as England got stronger and there was only going to be ne winner by the end.

Player of the match was Serena Guthrie, a ball of furious energy throughout.

 22 January (Copper Box)

England 46-50 Australia

But it was the same old story against Australia as England fell short.

The Roses were 28-21 down at half-time, a gap too large to come back from against the World’s number one side.

They brought it back to 37-34 at the end of the third, but Australia held on for the win.

25 January (Johannesburg)

South Africa 46-51 New Zealand

The Silver Ferns led by five after the first quarter, 14-9.  They maintained the gap with the score at 25-21 at half-time.

The gap was five 39-34 going into the final quarter, and although the Proteas fought in the fourth, New Zealand took the game by five.

There are two games to go: 28 January (Johannesburg)

Australia v New Zealand

South Africa v England

Tennis

The Australian Open final will be between the top seed, Simona Halep and second seed, Caroline Wozniacki.

Halep overcame 21st seed Angelique Kerber in a semi-final epic, 6-3 4-6 9-7

Wozniacki defeated Elise Mertens in straight sets, 6-3 7-6

The final is on Saturday 26 January.

Winter Olympics

The GB team for Pyeongchang has been announced.  The games begin on 9 February.  It’s great to see the crowdfunded “Micas” on the list.  The women taking part are:

Skeleton

Lizzy Yarnold, Laura Deas

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill (Pilot), Mica Moore (Brakewoman)

Curling

Team Muirhead (In with a great chance of a medal)

Eve Muirhead (Skip), Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer

Figure skating

Penny Coomes (with partner Nick Buckland) (ice dancing)

Short Track Speed Skating

Elise Christie (500m, 1000m, 1500m) – (Great chance of a medal if she can stay out of trouble)

Charlotte Gilmartin (500m, 1000m, 1500m) (outside chance of a medal)

Kathryn Thomson (500m, 1000m, 1500m)

Biathlon

Amanda Lightfoot (7.5km Sprint)

Alpine skiing

Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley

Cross-country skiing

Annika Taylor

Freestyle skiing

Izzy Atkin, Rowan Cheshire, Emily Sarsfield, Katie Summerhayes, Molly Summerhayes

Snowboarding

Aimee Fuller, Zoe Gillings-Brier, Katie Ormerod.

Bowls

The World Indoor Bowls tournament is underway at Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk and the women’s singles has been won by Katherine Rednall from Ipswich.

This is Rednall’s third title.  She beat Rebecca Field from Norwich in the final 13-3 13-6.

She now goes on to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Commonwealth Games

Wales have already announced their team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which take place 4-15 April 2018.  Included is 11-year old Anna Hursey, who be representing the Principality in table tennis.

The hockey, sevens and netball squads are still be finalised.

Aquatics: Jazz Carlin, Georgia Davies, Kathryn Greenslade, Ellena Jones, Harriet Jones,  Beth Sloan, Alys Thomas, Chloe Tutton, Harriet West.

 Athletics: Hollie Arnold (para), Olivia Breen (para), Rebecca Chapman, Melissa Courtney, Bethan Davies, Seren Bundy Davies (still to reach qualifying standard), Caryl Granville, Beverley Jones (para), Caryl Jones, Elinor Kirk, Heather Lewis, Carys Parry-Evans, Sally Peake,

Boxing: Rosie Eccles, Lynsey Holdaway, Lauren Price.

Cycling: Elinor Barker, Eleanor Coster, Joe Holt, Ciara Horne, Rachel James, Manon Lloyd,  Dani Rowe (having switched from representing England to representing Wales),

Lawn bowls: Anwen Butten, Laura Daniels, Jess Sims, Caroline Taylor, Julie Thomas (para), Pauline Wilson (para), Emma Woodcock.

Shooting: Sian Corish, Coral Kennerley, Sarah Wixey.

Squash: Tesni Evans, Deon Saffery.

Table Tennis: Charlotte Carey, Anna Hursey, Chloe Thomas.

Triathlon: Olivia Mathias, Non Stanford.

Weighlifting & Powerlifting: Tayla Howe, Laura Hughes, Catrin Jones, Holly Knowles, Nerys Pearce (para), Faye Pittman, Hannah Powell, Christie Williams.

Rugby Union

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

20 January

Firwood Waterloo 0-29 Loughborough Lightning

Gloucester-Hartpury 34-17 Bristol

Wasps 5-0 Saracens

DMP Sharks v Harlequins Postponed

Worcester Valkyries 5-22 Richmond

Just the one fixture this weekend:

27 January

DMP Sharks v Richmond (4pm, Northern Echo Arena)

So Saracens lose their unbeaten record at Wasps.  They are still top on 60 points from 13 games.  Harlequins are second on 54, with Wasps third on 47.  At the bottom, luckless Worcester lie on two points with Firwood Waterloo above them on seven.

Sevens

It’s the Sydney round of the World Sevens this weekend.  Check out http://www.sydney7s.com.au/ for details.

Standings: Australia are top on 20 points, USA are second on 18, Russia third on 16 with Canada next on 14 and New Zealand fifth on 12.

England lie eighth on six points and Ireland are one further back on four.

Cricket – off the Pitch

 History will be made this year as Anya Shrubsole will become the first woman to appear on the cover of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.  It is the bible for cricket fans worldwide and this will be the 155th edition of the book.  Another small step in the right direction for women’s cricket.

Cricket – on the Pitch

WBBL

20 January

Melbourne Stars 118/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 118/6 (20 overs)

Stars won in Super Over

It was a thriller at the MCG as the teams finished dead level after 20 over and the game went into Super Over.

Stars won the toss and elected to bat.  Lizelle Lee top-scored with 31, with contributions from Alana King (22), Anna Lanning (21 not out) and Georgia Elwiss (18).  The wickets were evenly distributed between the Renegades bowlers.

In response, Amy Satterthwaite scored 31 not out, Sophie Molineux 25 and Claire Koski 19 as the Renegades managed to finish on exactly the same score.

In their Super Over, the Renegades scored a healthy 10 runs, but lost four wickets in the process, including ducks for Molineux, Brown and Satterthwaite.

Lee and du Preez took it on for the Stars.  Lee scored seven and du Preez, three and won the game having lost fewer wickets.

Sydney Thunder 148/4 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 111 all out (19.2 overs)

Thunder won by 37 runs

Rachel Priest scored 51 from 27 balls and Naomi Stalenberg 41 from 30 as the Thunder put on a good total of 148.

The Strikers lost wickets at regular intervals with Bridget Patterson scoring 30 from 20 balls.  But it wasn’t enough.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 from four overs and Stafanie Taylor and Nicola Carey two each.

Hobart Hurricanes 122/4 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 126/1 (16 overs)

Scorchers won by 9 wickets

Isobel Joyce top-scored for the Hurricanes with 52 not out and Georgia Redmayne 43, but no-one else made a significant contribution.  Katherine Brunt continued her good form with 2/22 off her four overs.

Elyse Villani attacked in response with 70 not out from 48 balls, Nicole Bolton scored 34 and Nat Sciver 18 not out as the Scorchers won with four overs to spare.

21 January

Sydney Thunder 114/5 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 114/4 (20 overs)

Strikers won by 1 in the Super Over

Strikers won the toss and chose to bat.  They struggled to 114 with Suzie Bates top-scoring on 40.  The Thunder top four all got into the twenties, but were unable to get over the line and the game went to a super over.

Sophie Devine bowled for the Strikers, conceding just six runs and taking one wicket. She then opened the batting for the Strikers – she scored six and Suzie Bates one and Adelaide had won by one run.

Melbourne Stars 106/7 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 107/5 (18 overs)

Sixers won by five wickets

The Stars’ top four managed only 15 between them, but Erin Osborne scored 39 and Anna Lanning 18 as they limped to 106.  Marizanne Kapp took 2/13 from her four overs.

Alyssa Healy scored 21 from 16 and Ellyse Perry 39 not out from 45 as the Sixers took the win.

Hobart Hurricanes 130/7 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 134/4 (18.5 overs)

Scorchers won by six wickets

Georgia Redmayne scored 53 from 49 before she was caught and bowled by Katherine Brunt.

But 60 not out from Nicole Bolton, 21 from Elyse Villani and 24 from Nat Sciver were the telling innings for the Scorchers who got home with seven balls to spare.

24 January

Melbourne Renegades 68 all out (15.5 overs)

Sydney Thunder 69/6 (16 overs)

Thunder won by four wickets

Renegades were skittled by the Thunder as five players scored only one and Amy Satterthwaite top-scored with 17.  Nicola Carey took 3/10 off 3.5 overs, while Rene Farrell and Stafanie Taylor chipped in with two each.

Thunder took it easy in response and lost wickets along the way.  Rachel Haynes scored 37, keeping her head as wickets fell.  She was fifth wicket to fall and it was up to Stafanie Taylor and Rene Farrell to see it home.

After 12 matches, Sydney Thunder are top on 18 points.  The Sixers and Strikers are second and third respectively on 16 and Perth Scorchers lie fourth on 14.