Women’s Sports Column 11-17 November 2017

heartWelcome to this week’s column.  Only one top story this week and it’s not the one I was hoping for.  England were comprehensively outplayed by Australia in the first of their three T20s and Australia have, as a result, retained The Ashes with two games to spare.  Details to follow.  Hopefully this week’s offering will be a bit less controversial than last week’s, but there are still things to be said!

Stories this week come from cricket, football, rugby league, rugby union, hockey, winter sports and cycling.

Let’s crack on…

Cricket

The joy of the summer’s World Cup win is officially over and we England cricket fans are now in mourning once again as Australia retained the Ashes this week.

Test Match

The Test at the North Sydney Oval ended in a draw.  No space here to discuss the pros and cons of it, but suffice it to say, the surface was not conducive to producing a result, which was not fair to the excellent crowd present and viewing/listening.  Thus there then proceeded a raft of discussion about the merits (or otherwise) of Test match cricket in the women’s game.  “No appetite for it”, “Not going to be a major feature any time soon”, etc, etc, yelled the governing bodies.  Rubbish.  The players want it, the viewers want it, the crowds want it.  The only ones who don’t want it are the administrators.  They can’t be bothered to schedule it in.  And, crucially, they can’t be bothered to spend the money to host it.  I could go on – and I will at another time, but here are the match details:

England 280 all out
And 206/2

Australia 448/9 declared

Ellyse Perry was the standout superstar of this game.  She scored 213 not out in Australia’s first innings total of 448.  But the pitch did no-one any favours and it was always going to be hard for Australia to get 10 wickets in a day and an hour.  The England openers managed to see off a tricky night session to remain unbeaten going into day four.  Winfield (34) and Beaumont (37) built a platform that Knight and Elwiss took on, finishing undefeated on 79 and 41 respectively.

Points shared.

First T20 17 November
England 132/9 (20 overs)
Australia 134/4 (15.5 overs)

It was never enough.  England rallied late on but a score of 132 was never going to be enough to worry the Aussies. A disastrous opening saw England slump to 16/4.  Knight lasted two balls before she was caught behind by Healy.  Taylor was then given out to a ridiculous lbw decision – too high and possibly down leg side – apart from that it had everything going for it (!).  Brunt was culpable, though, a first ball slash and another catch for the excellent Healy.  Wyatt showed some resistance, building a partnership with Sciver.  But when she was run out on 50, it all went to pot again.  The Aussies also dropped five catches – things could have been much worse.

The batting was poor, not confident enough, not enough push and the Southern Stars would have been rubbing their hands and desperate to get out there to knock the total off.

And they did.  A fine 86 from Beth Mooney was enough to see them home.  The ball crashed to the boundary with monotonous regularity.  The bowlers huffed and puffed, but to no avail.  Brunt was off-key all day and suffered badly, conceding 33 in three overs.

Well done to Australia.  They outplayed England from the beginning of the game, and indeed, the beginning of the series.

The two remaining T20s are:

Sunday 19 November, Manuka Oval Canberra – 03.35 (GMT)

Tuesday 21 November, Manuka Oval Canberra – 8.10 (GMT)

Possibly as a distraction manoeuvre, the ECB released England’s fixtures for 2018 this week, so let’s look ahead to the summer:

Royal London ODIs v South Africa 

9 June: First ODI, New Road, Worcester (11am)
12 June: Second ODI, The 1st Central County Ground, Hove (D/N) (1pm)
15 June: Third ODI, Canterbury (D/N) (2pm)

IT20 Tri-Series – England, South Africa and New Zealand

20 June: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, South Africa v New Zealand, 1pm; England v South Africa, 5:40pm
23 June: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, England v South Africa, 1pm; England v New Zealand, 5:40pm
28 June: The Brightside Ground, Bristol, South Africa v New Zealand, 1pm; England v New Zealand, 5:40pm
1 July: Final, The Cloud FM County Ground, Chelmsford (3pm)

Royal London ODIs v New Zealand 

7 July: First ODI, Emerald Headingley (11am)
10 July: Second ODI, The 3aaa County Ground, Derby (D/N) (1pm)
13 July: Third ODI, The Fischer County Ground, Grace Road (D/N) (2pm)

Tickets on sale from 12 December

Rugby League

England’s women began their World Cup campaign with a fine win over the PNG Orchids.

England 36-18 PNG Orchids

Tries from Hoyle, Hardcastle, Stanley, Booth (2), Bound, Sutcliffe and goals from: Stanley (4) saw England home in their first match.  PNG’s scores came from tries from Kaupa and Oiufa.

In the other opening games Australia defeated Cook Islands 58-4 and New Zealand beat Canada 50-4.

England’s next game is against Australia on Sunday 19 November.

Football

On the Pitch

It was back to league action last weekend with a full programme of WSL1 and WSL2 matches.  Here are the scores:

Saturday 11 November

WSL1
Yeovil Town 0-2 Everton Ladies
Liverpool Ladies 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Sunday 12 November

WSL1
Reading Women 2-2 Chelsea Ladies
Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland Ladies
Manchester City Women 4-0 Bristol City Women

WSL2
Durham Women 0-0 London Bees
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Sheffield FC
Aston Villa Ladies 4-0 Watford Ladies
Millwall Lionesses 1-0 Oxford United Women
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1-4 Doncaster Rovers Belles

So in WSL1 Chelsea drop their first points of the season at Reading.  They are replaced at the top of the table by unbeaten Manchester City with 15 points from five games.  Chelsea are second with 13 and Arsenal third on 10.  At the bottom Yeovil are still yet to claim a point.  One up from them are Everton with three, after taking their first points of the season in beating the bottom side on Saturday.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles lead the way with 11 points from five games.  Durham, Millwall and Brighton are just behind on 10.  At the bottom beleaguered Watford have just one point from five as do London Bees.  Aston Villa took their first points of the season against Watford.

Champions League

Manchester City and Chelsea eased into the Champions League quarter-finals this week.  And not to denigrate the earlier rounds, but here they cannot avoid meeting the big teams.

The round of 16 second leg results this week were:

15 November

Wolfsburg 3-3 Fiorentina
Wolfsburg through 7-3 on aggregate

Rosengård 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea through 4-0 on aggregate

No score at half-time but in the 53rd minute Crystal Dunn put Ji So-Yun through to score for Chelsea and confirm their passage into the quarter-finals.

Lyon 9 (nine)-0 BIIK Kazygurt
Lyon through 16-0 on aggregate

Linköping 3-0 Sparta Praha
Linköping through 4-0 on aggregate

Barcelona 3-0 Gintra
Barcelona through 9-0

Montpellier 6-0 Brescia
Montpellier through 9-2 on aggregate

16 November

Slavia Praha 0-0 Stjarnan
Slavia Praha through 2-1 on aggregate

Manchester City 2-1 LSK Kvinner
Manchester City through 7-1 on aggregate

LSK took the lead in the second leg through Marie Berget, but the comeback really was never on.  A minute into the second-half Izzy Christiansen and Nikita Parris scored the second for City to take the win and a place in the quarter-finals.  Defender Megan Campbell (she of the long throw) was stretchered off for City, which will be of some concern.

The quarter-final draw is on 24 November.  News next week.

Continental Cup

We’re coming to the business end of the Conti Cup with the quarter-finalists almost decided.  The teams already qualified are Sunderland, Arsenal, Reading and Liverpool.

This week the scores were:

15 November
Liverpool Ladies 5-1 Aston Villa Ladies
Reading Women 4-0 London Bees
Yeovil Town Ladies 0-2 Bristol City Women

16 November
Sheffield FC Ladies 1-1 Sunderland AFC Ladies
Everton Ladies 4-0 Oxford United Women
Watford Ladies 0-6 Arsenal

Special mention to Reading this week as their game, marketed brilliantly and played at the Madejski Stadium drew a crowd of 2,110.  Fabulous for a mid-week Conti Cup match.  Well done to all at Reading.

Off the Pitch

WSL Applications

After the doom and gloom of last week, it’s good to bring you details this week of some clubs who are going to apply for a WSL licence.

London Bees announced this week that it is to apply.   A club statement said,

“London Bees has strategic planning to achieve growth, sustainability, increased financial investment and the exponential support for its players and staff. Our approach will promote effective use of the Grade A facilities here at The Hive London with new and exciting developments to the infrastructure, including a brand new Medical Centre.

“London Bees are delighted that new developments to our match day experience has led to increased attendances thanks to direct links with our community projects which reach across the county. We are proud to continue working with our existing partners and FA sister clubs as well as sponsors Canons High School for the coming seasons as we push the club to the next level.”

And after it looked as if it was not going to happen, Yeovil Town Ladies are also putting in a bid,

“After a lengthy and very detailed process of collaborative thinking and working with a number of interested parties, Yeovil Town Ladies FC has today submitted what it considers to be a very strong submission for a Tier One application for the 2018/19 season, to continue to play football at the elite level of the women’s game.

“The collaborative approach will not only see full-time players training 19.25 hours per week (rising to 20.25 in the 2020 season), but it also has a strong mission and vision, for the new academy programme.

“With an already strong and established partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College, this will see the education partners not only become an essential part for the clubs future elite players, whereby players aged sixteen plus can study and play, but it also becomes the clubs full time training ground, with access to grass pitches, 3G, gym, performance lab, medical room, classrooms, analysis suite, plus more.

“Furthermore, the club has devised a strategic plan, which will focus on building its links even more in the community, with plans to engage with 20,000 children in the 2018/19 season.

“The application relies solely on developing and growing its own financial resources and is based on long term self sustainability which the Club has always placed at the heart of its ethos. It is not reliant in any way on any investment from Yeovil Town Football Club, which is named as the parent Club in the application.”

England

Next week sees the first of two World Cup qualifiers for England.  They play Bosnia & Herzegovina at the Banks’s Stadium, Walsall on Friday 24 November.  Kick-off is 7.05pm.

On Tuesday 28 they play Kazakhstan at the Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester.  Kick- off is also 7.05pm.

Mo Marley has already named her squad:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading), Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Danielle Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal).

Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson have been handed their first senior call-ups.

Tickets are still available for both games.  See here for details.

Rugby Union

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

Richmond Women 5-43 Harlequins Ladies
Saracens Women 44-19 DMP Sharks
Worcester Valkyries 5-51Wasps Ladies
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 29-22 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
Bristol Ladies 8-12 Loughborough Lightning

England

England’s women will receive a match fee for the first time this autumn.  They have come to an agreement with the RFU and Rugby Players’ Association.

The figures have not been released but will apply to the three match series against Canada, which begins this Friday at Allianz Park.

Let’s face it, it won’t make up for the scrapping of contracts for the 15-a-side players, but it is a start.

The Old Mutual Wealth Series fixtures:

Game 1:  17 November, Aliianz Park 19.30
Game 2: 21 November, Twickenham Stoop 19.45
Game 3: 25 November, Twickenham 17.40 (after the men’s game against Samoa)

Coverage is via the England Rugby website, and allegedly, although it took me a long, long time to find it, the BBC will have radio coverage via their website.

Barbarians

Munster 0-19 Barbarians

Players from eight countries took part in the Barbarians’ first match in Limerick.  In the first-half the visitors took the lead through a penalty try as Munster stood up in the scrum and then prevented Kelly Russell from playing the ball.

In the second-half Irish prop Ailis Egan went over after a sustained drive.  It was converted by Player of the Match, Megan Goddard.

The Barbarians’ third came from the best move of the match.  The Baa-baas turned the ball over on their own 22, Nora Stapleton and Christelle LeDuff working the ball down the left wing to put England’s Georgina Roberts away to score.

Cycling

Track Cycling World Cup

Great Britain’s women won two golds and a silver at this, the second of five World Cup events, in Manchester last weekend.

Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald started the ball rolling on Saturday with a win in the madison.  The beat current world champions, Belgium, by two points with Italy third.  They then teamed up with  Emily Nelson and Neah Evans to take gold in the team pursuit, beating the Italian team in the final by almost five seconds.

Archibald also took silver in the omnium with American Jennifer Valente taking gold.

In other events Katy Marchant and Sophie Capewell reached the semi-final of the women’s team sprint, but lost to Germany.

Emily Kay was seventh in the scratch race, which was won by Rachele Barbieri of Italy.  Eleanor Dickinson finished eleventh and Hayley Jones of Wales twelfth.

Round three takes place in Milton, Canada from 1-3 December.

Winter Sports

Snowboarding

Katie Ormerod won silver at the first Big Air World Cup event of the season in Milan last weekend.

She had let going into the final round, but Anna Gasser of Austria snatched victory from her, pushing her into second.

Bobsleigh

But bad news from bobsleigh this week as Donna Creighton has announced her retirement from the sport.

Creighton was the pilot of the second team that was trying to raise £30,000 to compete at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February 2018.  Unfortunately, while Mica McNeill and Mica Moore succeeded in their bid, Creighton’s bid raised only £12,000 by the deadline.

With the failure of the crowdfunding bid, Creighton has taken the difficult and distressing decision to call it a day.

Speed Skating

Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin are both through to the semi-finals of the 1500m at the World Cup event in Seoul this weekend.  They are drawn in separate heats in the semis which take place on Friday 17 November.

Christie is also through to the quarter-final of the 500m and both are through to the quarter-final of the 100m where they are both drawn in heat two.

News of how they got on next week.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

11 November
University of Birmingham 4-1 Leicester
Surbiton 1-2 Buckingham

12 November
Canterbury 1-0 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 3-4 East Grinstead
Holcombe 3-0 Slough

After eight games Surbiton and University of Birmingham are joint top on 16 points.  They cannot even be separated on goal difference or goals scored!  Buckingham lie third, just a point behind.  Canterbury are at the bottom on five points from eight games, with Bowdon and Leicester above them on seven, with Leicester two better on goal difference.

And finally,

You will all know by now, that to me cricket is more dear to me than life, so I make no apologies for this: come on England (men), you have to beat those Aussies.  This is even more poignant now that the women have so horribly failed in their attempt to regain the women’s version.  So, Root, Cook, Anderson, et al, I am relying on you for this winter not to be a complete disaster.

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 February

netball 1140Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get our teeth into again this week as we see stories from golf, football, cricket, speed skating, Laureus Sports Awards, netball, cycling and rugby union.  Also, back to form in the “And finally” department.

Golf

Oates Vic Open

After her storming start last week, Laura Davies was unable to maintain momentum over the weekend, eventually finishing back in the pack at three under.  However another Briton, Melissa Reid, won the tournament on 16 under, finally triumphing on the fourth play-off hole, claiming her sixth Ladies European Tour title.

She and Germany’s Sandra Gal were tied on 16 under after 72 holes.  They played the 18th three times, both parring each time, but on the fourth attempt Reid parred again while Gal bogeyed.

-16 M Reid (Eng), S Gal (Ger); -14 S-H Oh (Aus), A Yin (US); -12 HJ Choi (Kor)

Other Britons’ scores:

-7 F Parker (Eng); -5 H Burke (Eng), K Henry (Sco); -4C Booth (Sco); -3 L Davies (Eng)

Australian Open

The Australian Open is now underway in Adelaide.

Top of the leaderboard after round one is Katherine Kirk of Australia who carded an eight under 65.  Four players are currently tied second on six under; Chella Choi of Korea, Jane Park and Marissa Steen of USA and Min Lee of Taiwan.

Top placed Briton after one round is Michele Thomson who is tied for sixth on five under.  England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff is tied for 17th on three under.

Speed Skating

There was further success for short track skater Charlotte Gilmartin this week as she took her second consecutive World Cup bronze medal in Minsk.

She was third in the 1,000m.  China’s Han Yutong won gold in 1 minute 31.008 seconds, Rianne de Vries took silver, with Gilmartin 0.233 seconds behind the winner in third.

This is certainly looking like ideal preparation for Gilmartin for the World Championships next month in Rotterdam.

Cycling

Timely news this week after the “And finally” of last week which outlined why, according to Mr. Opinionated, women are no good at sport because they get pregnant.

Laura Kenny has announced that she is pregnant.  Not strictly a cycling story, but, if Mr Opinionated would like to suggest that Kenny has never been “any good” at sport I fear he might lose that one.  And, if he were to suggest, that she will never come back to be as good again, I daresay there may be a fair few who take on that bet……

Netball

Needless to say, after the sport took a pummelling last week, netball has come out fighting.  The best response I have seen is from former England netballer Tamsin Greenway.  Netball is cool after all, who knew?

Read the whole article (and cheer) here: Tamsin Greenway  (perhaps steer clear of the comments if you want to stay cheery though).

Football

Signings, signings everywhere this week as we draw nearer to the Spring Series.

Manchester City

Top of these (even making it on to mainstream news) is the signing of FIFA World Player of the Year, Carli Lloyd, by Manchester City on a short-term deal.

Lloyd has scored 96 goals in 232 appearances for the USA.

She will play in the Spring Series and also the Champions League and FA Cup.

The significance of this news certainly cannot be underestimated. Lloyd is only the third American player to move to England, following Crystal Dunn to Chelsea and Heather O’Reilly to Arsenal.

However, the move may also be a sign of the WSL’s “haves and have-nots” problem, mirroring the problems in the men’s league.  There does seem to be a very definite split developing between Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and the rest.  There are set to be many words written on this subject before the Spring Series starts so watch this space as the analysis continues.

Notts County

The Lady Pies have ventured into the transfer market again this week.  They have signed Republic of Ireland centre-back, Louise Quinn, from Swedish club Eskilstuna United.

Arsenal

The growth in Chinese football shows no sign of slowing.  They are now making bids for some of the world’s top female players.  This week Nigerian winger Asisat Oshoala left Arsenal to join Dalian Quanjian.

Sunderland

Despite going part-time, Sunderland have made two signings this week.   Goalkeeper Anke Preuss joins them from FFC Frankfurt and midfielder Dominique Bruinenberg from ASGM Verona.

Preuss is in line to replace England international goalkeeper Rachel Laws who left Sunderland this week to join WSL2 side Durham.

Chelsea

Chelsea have also dipped into the market again this week signing defender Deanna Cooper from London Bees.

Yeovil Town

Yeovil Town Ladies have decided to travel round Somerset to play their home games in the Spring Series.  The Lady Glovers were promoted as WSL2 champions and will play their debut games at three grounds; Huish Park, their usual home, Taunton Town FC and Bridgwater Town FC.

Not sure it will catch on as a concept, but anything that showcases the women’s game to a more widespread audience can’t be bad.

FA Cup

The FA Cup fourth round takes place on Sunday 19 February.  The fixtures are as follows:

Coventry Ladies v Aston Villa Ladies
Durham Women v Everton Ladies
Millwall Lionesses v Nottingham Forest Ladies
Sheffield Ladies v Doncaster Rovers Belles
Tottenham Ladies v Brighton Ladies
West Bromwich Albion WFC v Leicester City Ladies

Results next week.

Indian Women’s League

We have a winner in the inaugural Indian Women’s League!

The semi-finals took place on 11 February and produced the following results:

Eastern Sporting Union FC 4-1 Alakhpura FC

Rising Student FC 2-0 FC Pune City

The final was on 14 February:

Rising Student FC 0-3 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi

I’m glad to tell you that All India Football Federation published a good report of the final.

ESU pressed from the off but were unable to score until the 32nd minute when Kamala Devi tapped in from close range from a Prameshowri Devi cross.  This was the score at half-time.

When Prameshwori Devi added a second on 57 minutes the game was effectively killed off.  Kamala Devi added ESU’s third and her second on 66 minutes to seal it.

Jabamani Tudu won the “Emerging Player Award”

Umapati Devi was “Most Valuable Player”

Kamal Devi was the tournament’s top scorer with 11 goals.

It all seems to have been a success, so let’s hope it continues and expands.

For a more in-depth report read here

 Cricket      

We are now at the Super 6s stage in the Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka.  As you will all know by now it is not in the ICC’s remit to make it easy, so we now have six teams fighting for four places in the World Cup in England later this year.

Three games took place on 15 February:

India 205/8
South Africa 156 all out
India won by 49 runs

South Africa put India in to bat.  Raj scored 64 and opener Meshram 55 as India posted a middling total of 205.  But in reply South Africa were on the back foot from the off as openers Lee and Wolvaardt were dismissed for 1 and 0 respectively.  Chetty top scored with 52, but Pandey took four wickets for 34 and Bisht three for 22 as South Africa were all out for 156 and India had won by 49 runs.

Pakistan 212/7
Sri Lanka 216/5 (47.4 overs)
Sri Lanka won by 5 wickets

Sri Lanka won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat.  They made a poor start when opener Ayesha Zafar was dismissed in the second over for just one.  But a partnership of 119 between Nahida Khan and Javeria Khan steadied the ship.   Good contributions lower down the order led to Pakistan posting a decent score of 212.

The Sri Lankan response was good all the way down the order as all batters contributed.  Kaushalya top scored with 65 off 75 balls and in the end the win was comfortable.

Bangladesh 145/3 (39.1 overs)
Ireland 144 all out (47.1 overs)
Bangladesh won by 7 wickets

Bangladesh won the toss and chose to field.  Shillington top scored in the Ireland innings with 37, but a regular clatter of wickets meant that they were only able to post 144, committing the cardinal sin of not using all their overs.

Bangladesh made light work of the chase, losing only three wickets in the process and knocking off the runs with more than 10 overs left to spare.  Sharmin Akhtar top scored for Bangladesh with 52.

Three games took place on 17 February:

Bangladesh 155/8 (50 overs)
India 158/1 (33.3 overs)
India won by 9 wickets

India ran out easy winners against Bangladesh as they won the toss and chose to field.  Hoque top scored with 50 for Bangladesh and Akhter made 35, but although they managed to bat out their innings they were not scoring in a hurry and 155 never looked like enough.  Joshi was the stand out bowler for India with 3/25 from her 10 overs.

India knocked off the runs in just under 34 overs.  Meshram and Raj again combined after Sharma was out for one to score 78 and 73 not out respectively.

Sri Lanka 142/9 (50 overs)
South Africa 145/1 (36.1 overs)
South Africa won by 9 wickets

Sri Lanka won the toss and surprisingly chose to bat.  Opener Hansika scored 48, but the total of 142 was never likely to be enough.  Sune Luus took 3/40 in her 10 overs with van Niekerk taking 2 for a miserly 14 from her 10.

Lizelle Lee scored 35 off 29 balls before she was out, but then Wolvaardt and Luus each scored half centuries to get to the target with ease.

Pakistan 271/5 (50 overs)
Ireland 185 all out (48.5 overs)
Pakistan won by 86 runs

Pakistan will be very satisfied with this performance after they won the toss and chose to bat.

Javeria Khan top scored with 90.  Nahida Khan scored 72 and Nain Abidi 44.  Opener Ayesha Zafar will be disappointed that she was out for 11!

It was always going to be a monumental task for Ireland to put together any kind of meaningful response.  Cecilia Joyce top scored with 41 with Garth and Isobel Joyce making 33 each, but in the end the chase was too tough and they subsided to 185 all out off 48.5 overs.  Ireland can no longer qualify for the World Cup.

There is one more round of games which takes place on 19 February with the final on Tuesday 21, but don’t forget four countries actually qualify.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It was round two of the Six Nations last weekend and there were some pretty big scores.

11 February

Wales 0-63 England

England ran in 11 tries on Saturday as they destroyed Wales with a thrilling performance.

Amy Wilson-Hardy, Amy Cockayne, Natasha Hunt and Lydia Thompson had all over by the 23rd minute and the bonus point was already in the bag.

By half-time the lead was 38-0.  In addition to the first four tries further scores came from Katy McLean and Sarah Hunter, with Emily Scarratt putting over four conversions.

The second-half went pretty much the way of the first.  Thompson scored two more tries while Wilson-Hardy bagged a second and Danielle Waterman two to complete the scoring.

France 55-0 Scotland

Although France were only up 17-0 at half-time, they eventually ran in nine tries to beat Scotland on Saturday.

The home side took the lead after 18 minutes with a try from Safi N’Diaye.  Shannon Izar made it two on the half-hour.  Lenaig Corson scored a third before half-time with Christelle Le Duff adding the extras to make it 17-0 at the break.

Just into the second-half France secured the bonus point with a try from Elodie Poublan.

Elodie Guiglion, Jade Le Pesg with two, Caroline Ladagnous and Lisa Martin were the other try scorers.  Le Duff hit two conversions and Cabalou, three.

12 February

Italy 3-27 Ireland

Ireland left it late to secure their bonus point in L’Aquila.

The away side pressed consistently until they were given a penalty which was slotted over by Nora Stapleton.

Italy were then awarded a penalty and Michela Sillari kicked it to make it 3-3 at half-time.

Hooker Leah Lyons went over for the first try for Ireland just after the resumption, with Stapleton converting.  Sophie Spence scored Ireland’s second and Paula Fitzpatrick the third, but it was not until the dying moments that Hannah Tyrell popped over for Ireland’s fourth and the bonus point to take them above England in the table.

Laureus Sports Awards

Rachel Atherton’s mantelpiece must be starting to buckle under the weight of the awards she has won recently.  And this week she received another, the Laureus Action Sportsperson of the Year.

Simone Biles won the Sportswoman of the Year award.

Sportsperson of the Year with a disability went to Beatrice Vio, Italian wheelchair fencer who won gold at the Rio Paralympics.

And a special mention for me goes to the Refugee Olympic Team who won the Sport for Good Award for Sporting Inspiration.

And finally, we all know that women are responsible for just about everything bad in the world; famine, poverty, climate change, corruption etc ., but the nadir has now been reached.  This week a Hearts fan has blamed the poor atmosphere at Tynecastle as being down to “too many women” attending games.   In his considered opinion:

“As a follow on from the atmos thread I think a contributing factor is the make up of our support – too many women.

“I’ve no idea what the % of female fans is here compared to other SPL clubs, but what I do know is that we do have a lot of women and this has noticeably increased over the past years.

“It is also no coincidence that as their presence has increased our fan base has become more muted and feminised.

“This then bleeds into other aspects of the club, we have a completely girly away kit that makes PHM cringe any time we see the players run out in it.”

He went on (yes I’m afraid he did),

“If women want to go to games then fine. If I flipped it around and thought about following a ladies netball team it would feel a bit odd to me.

“Even going around watching women’s football every week would feel odd to me.

“I genuinely and honestly have no idea why women would even want to be involved in a culture and sport that is absolutely a man’s thing.

“I would take zero enjoyment from following something that was always historically a female thing.”

So there you have it.  Needless to say this comment has received somewhat of a backlash (male and female).  As several people have pointed out, if it weren’t for the (female) Chair of Hearts, Ann Budge, there would be no club, as she saved them from liquidation when she took over…..

Women’s Sports Column 21-27 January 2017

stumps2Welcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for there being no column last week, but I’m back with a vengeance this week with stories from cricket, football, swimming, winter sports, rugby, tennis, boxing, golf, hockey and cycling.  Plus back to one of my hobby horses for “And finally”, but unfortunately it has to be said (again).

So let’s crack on.

Rachael Heyhoe-Flint 

Although I missed the chance to feature Rachael last week, I couldn’t let the chance go by to pay tribute to a true pioneer of women’s cricket.  Every cliché has been said, broadcast and printed over the last couple of weeks, but in this case you cannot help but say “trailblazer”, “pioneer”, “innovator” etc.

There isn’t space to do her justice here, but to capture the highlights of a fabulous career:

England Cricket Captain 1966- 1978

Played in the first ever women’s test match at Lords v Australia in 1976

22 Test matches

23 One-day internationals

Inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2010

First woman to go onto MCC committee in 2004 and the ECB Board

This was just the cricket.  She also was devoted to Wolverhampton Wanderers, including time as vice-president and the city of Wolverhampton, including being president of.

She was awarded an MBE in 1972, OBE in 2008 and made a life peer in 2011.

I think we can safely say women’s cricket wouldn’t be where it is today without her.

 Golf

Muirfield will take another vote on allowing women members after the first one fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the move.

The result is expected some time in March.  The R&A has indicated that the course will be unable to stage another Open Championship until its policy is reversed.

Hockey

 World Hockey League

 Ireland have won the first section of Round Two of the World Hockey League in Kuala Lumpur.

They beat Malaysia 3-0 in the final on Sunday.

Anna O’Flanagan, Katie Mullan and Zoe Wilson were the goalscorers.

They had beaten Wales in the semi-finals.

The next section of round 2 takes place in Valencia from 4-12 February.

 Football

 England Lionesses

England played two friendlies in Spain this week.

England 0-1 Norway

England lost their first match of 2017 and in doing so their 10-match unbeaten run came to an end.

Ada Hegerberg scored the only goal of the game half way through the first half, heading home from a cross from her sister, Andrine.

England did have chances to equalise with both Fara Williams and Lucy Bronze shooting over and a shot from Steph Houghton cleared off the line.

England also had a claim for a penalty, after Ellen White appeared to be pushed in the box, but the appeal was dismissed.

England 0-0 Sweden

Siobhan Chamberlain saved a second-half penalty to earn England a draw in Murcia on Tuesday.

Sweden also had the ball in the back of the net in the first-half, but it was ruled out for offside.

It was a game of few chances, and although manager Mark Sampson will be pleased at the clean sheet, he may be concerned at his side’s inability to score in either game.

England’s next fixtures are against France, USA and Germany in the She Believes Cup in March.

Indian Football

There was a big announcement in Indian football this week.  The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has launched a six-team women’s league.  It is small steps indeed, as the league will take place over two weeks and all games will be played at the Ambedkar Stadium in Dehli.

The project has taken two years to come to fruition and the teams taking part are FC Alakhpura, Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC, Aizawl FC, FC Pune City, Rising Student Club and Eastern Sporting Union.

There will be a round robin stage with the top four going into semi-finals.

The first game takes place on 28 January.

As I say, it may seem small steps to us, but in terms of the development of women’s football in India, this is a giant stride.  Watch this space for results and more news as the tournament progresses.

National Football Museum

The National Football Museum in Manchester has been given a grant to maintain and enlarge its collection of women’s football memorabilia.

Interim director of the museum, Kevin Haygarth, said,

“We’re delighted this grant will help us significantly document the history of one of the world’s most participated sports – women’s football.

“The museum has always told the story of the women’s game throughout its main galleries and Hall Of Fame, but we’re grateful and excited by the opportunity to create a dedicated gallery where we can finally piece together the lost history of women’s football.”

Tennis

The Australian Open final is going to be a stunner.  It will be between Serena and Venus Williams.  It is Venus’s first major final since 2009 and Serena is going for her 23rd grand slam so it is bound to be well fought.

Venus, seeded 13. Beat fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-7 6-2 6-2 in her semi-final while Serena had far too much for the unseeded Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2 6-1.

Johanna Konta came up against Serena in the quarter-final.  This was the first time the two had met.  Konta was in a prodigious run of form and had not lost a set during the championships.  But she could not live with Williams and was beaten 6-2 6-3.

With the men’s final possibly heading for a Federer v Nadal showdown, we seem to have gone back in time!

The women’s doubles title was won by second seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Šafářová.  They beat Andrea Hlaváčková and Peng Shuai in three sets 6-7 6-3 6-3.  This is their second grand slam win in a row.

Winter Sports

Skiing

You can’t keep a phenomenal skier down.

Lindsey Vonn claimed her first win in almost a year this week when she won the downhill at Garmisch, Germany on Saturday.

She beat Swiss skier, Lara Gut, by 0.15 seconds.  The win was Vonn’s 77th World Cup race win.

Para-skiing

It was a great start to competition for Britain at the World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Italy as Britain’s Millie Knight and guide Brett Wild won downhill gold in a time of 13.42 seconds.

The 18-year old beat five time champion Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia into second.

Knight’s run was not without its moments though, as she hit the barrier at the end and became stuck under it.  She was treated by doctors after she complained of feeling dizzy and sick afterwards.

In the same event Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jennifer Kehoe finished fifth.

It was bad news for Paralympic champion Kelly Gallagher, though, as she misses the event after crashing in training.  She suffered a dislocated elbow and three fractured ribs in the accident.  She was testing the championship course, and although she landed her jump correctly, she then slid into the barrier net which caused the injury.

The Championships take place from 25-31 January and 130 skiers from 30 countries are taking part.

Speed skating

Britain’s Charlotte Gilmartin took 500m bronze at the European Short Track Championships in Turin this week.  She did not qualify for the 1500m final but recovered well to finish third in the shorter distance with a time of 44.074 seconds.  Gold went to Rianne de Vries of Holland and Italy’s Martina Valcepina took silver.

Cricket

WBBL

The Women’s Big Bash League final will be between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers (as will the men’s final!).

Semi-final details:

Sydney Sixers 169-6 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 66 all out (14.1 overs)
Sixers won by 103 runs

Alyssa Healy starred with the bat for the Sixers, scoring 77 from 45 balls.

The Hurricanes were never at the races.  England captain, Heather Knight, was run out for three and the Hurricanes were bowled out for just 66.  Dane van Niekerk was pick of the bowlers with 3 for 15.

Brisbane Heat 124-5 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 125-1 (15.4 overs)
Scorchers won by nine wickets

The Brisbane score was competitive but the Heat didn’t reckon with Elyse Villani.  The opener made 52 not out and Nicole Bolton 36 to take the home side to the final.

England fast bowling duo of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole were unable to make a mark in the semi-final, but will hoping to contribute for the Scorchers at the Waca (The Furnace) on Saturday.

The final will be played on Saturday 28 in a double-header with the men’s.  Full coverage will be on BT Sport.

Boxing

Nicola Adams has left the GB Boxing programme to turn professional.

She has signed with promoter Frank Warren and will make her professional debut in Manchester on 8 April.  Her second fight will be in Leeds, her home town, on 13 May.

Warren was initially sceptical about the concept of women boxing, but appears to have changed his mind (could it be he knows when he’s on to a good thing?)

In an interview with the BBC he said,

“Of all of all the signings I have made in my 35 years in the sport of boxing, this is among the most I have been excited about.

“I think Nicola will be challenging for world titles within a year. We intend to lead her to become a multiple world champion.”

Ireland’s Katie Taylor has already shown it can be done.  Let’s hope Adams can have similar successes.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

The Six Nations begins next week. The first round of matches is:

Friday 3 February

Scotland Women v Ireland Women (6.35pm Broadwood Stadium)

Saturday 4 February

Italy Women v Wales Women (3pm Stadio Comunale Pacifico Carotti)

En gland Women v France Women (7.30pm Twickenham)

Check out the squads and match details here: http://www.rbs6nations.com/en/women/#Jas1vHmPQWwEKguy.97

Sevens

England has named its squad for the Sydney Sevens, the second leg of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, which takes place on 3-4 February.  England finished a creditable fourth in the first round in Dubai.

Rachael Woosey and Chantelle Miell make their debut.

The squad is:

  1. Natasha Brennan, 2. Abbie Brown (C), 3. Alice Richardson-Watmore, 4. Millie Wood, 5. Lauren Cattell, 6. Rachael Woosey, 7. Heather Fisher, 8. Kelly Smith, 9. Fran Matthews, 10. Jo Richardson-Watmore, 11. Katie Mason, 12. Chantelle Miell

They play in pool C and this is the pool schedule (all times GMT):

Friday 3 February

England v Spain, KO 1.30am

England v USA, KO 4.12am

England v Russia, 7.16am

All games are available to see on the World Rugby website

http://www.worldrugby.org/womens-sevens-series/videoTop of Form

Swimming

Open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne has announced her retirement this week.

Payne, 29, was a two-time open water world champion and Olympic silver medallist.  She represented Great Britain for over 12 years.

Cycling

The rumblings of discontent with British Cycling and cycling in general, continue.  Nicole Cooke, who always speaks her mind, was again in the press this week.

She was giving evidence to a Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday.

She said that she is “sceptical” of Team Sky’s attitude to drug use and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ TUE use.

But this was just one of her points.  She also said that British Cycling is run “by men for men”.

The committee was meeting to discuss doping in sport, but that didn’t stop Cooke expressing opinions on other aspects of the governing body’s capabilities.

She gave examples of the sexism she had seen during her career and said that BC shows “discrimination and favouritism” because it is only “answerable to itself”.

She was asked outright whether she though sexism was culturally embedded in British Cycling.

“Yes I do,” she replied.

British Cycling has since released a statement in which it says,

“While there is still a way to go, British Cycling is absolutely committed to resolving the historic gender imbalance in our sport.”

UK Sport has also launched an independent review to look into some of Cooke’s claims.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – sadly, this one will run and run.

And finally,

I make no apologies for this although I know it’s something I keep banging on about.  Serena Williams is about to go for her 23rd grand slam title on Saturday.  Her talent, skill and fitness should all be beyond doubt.  I have already made a vow to stop reading the comments sections on news site articles, but, unfortunately I slipped and read the ones after the BBC’s report on the Williams v Konta match.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Konta fan, and I would have been happy for her to have won the tie.  She has a great future and is improving all the time.  But the level of abuse, invective, racism and misogyny levelled at Serena in these comments was appalling.

So many (men) called Serena a man – well I don’t know any men who look like that.  But the one that stuck in my mind was (again a man) the description of her as a “monster in a skirt”.  Really?  Monster?

The comment reminded me of that Facebook comment about Michelle Obama, “chimp in heels”.  Both comments totally unwarranted and totally offensive.

I know I’m fighting for a Serena who doesn’t need my help – she’s probably as immune to negative comment as she’s ever going to be right now, but I’m not necessarily speaking on her behalf.  I was offended.  I was angry that some person had thought it was appropriate to air this view on a public platform.

I think I’m trying to say, if you can’t stop having these thoughts, just spare the rest of us and keep them to yourself.