Women’s Sports Column 11-17 May 2019

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Going to be a bit brief this week due to competing priorities.  But hopefully all that should be covered will be covered!

News and stories this week come from netball, golf, football, tennis, cricket and taekwondo.

Netball

The top two finishers in the league will contest the Super League Grand Final on…

Wasps Netball 74-54 Loughborough Lightning

Wasps showed why they finished the regular season so far ahead with a demolition of Loughborough at the University of Warwick Sports and Wellness Hub.

Wasps coach Mel Mansfield made no changes throughout the match and the team seemed to get stronger, possibly because of it.

Lightning actually made the better start and were one goal ahead after the first quarter.  In the second, Wasps came back and by half-time they were three ahead.

In the second-half Wasps found an extra gear and were dominant throughout.  They were soon ahead by six and then by nine at the end of quarter three.

They reinforced their dominance in the last fifteen minutes, taking the margin of victory out to an impressive 20 goals.

It was altogether tighter in the second semi-final.

Manchester Thunder 57-54 Team Bath

Bath started well, taking a four-goal lead after ten minutes, but Thunder got into their game and before the end of the first they were ahead and although Bath levelled it at various points, Thunder were never behind again in the match.

It was nip and tuck in the second and going into half-time Thunder were only one goal ahead.

Thunder started well in the third and although Bath came back, going into the last quarter Thunder were five in front.

Bath pulled it back while Thunder spent minutes just holding possession, but in the end Thunder were just too strong, maintaining their three goal lead until the final whistle.

The Grand Final is this weekend at the Copper Box in London.  The third-place play-off, between Loughborough Lightning and Team Bath starts at 3pm, with the final at 5.30pm, where Wasps will be going for their third title in a row.  I thought both games were going to be live on Sky, but it appears that they are now only showing the final, which is a shame.

England Roses

There was a blow this week for England as Beth Cobden ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament playing for Adelaide Thunderbirds on Sunday and is out of the World Cup.

She suffered the same injury during the Super League Grand Final in 2018 and had only just returned to competition.

Football

It was the final round of matches in both the Super League and Championship last weekend.  The results were as follows:

FAWSL

Yeovil Town 0-2 Birmingham City
Wellings 59’, Mason 64’ (OG)

Reading 2-3 Chelsea
Harding 50’, Williams 52’
So-yun Ji 8’, Carney 51’, England 64’

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City
Mitchell 88’

West Ham United 0-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Green 21’, Connolly 39’, Nilden 79’, Brazil 93’

Liverpool 3-1 Everton
Sweetman-Kirk 26’, Charles 31’, Rodgers 88’
Stringer 39’

Arsenal left it late to seal their win, but finished the season with 54 points from their 20 games, losing just two along the way.  Manchester City were second on 47 with Chelsea third on 42.

FAWC

Sheffield United 6-0 Millwall Lionesses
Gilliatt 11’, Rayner 17’, Salmon 36’ (Pen) 63’, Pennock 59’ 83’

Durham 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Filbey 60’ 90’

Manchester United 5-0 Lewes
James 11’, Sigsworth 33’, Galton 66’, Palmer 74’, Turner 78’

Charlton Athletic 4-0 Leicester City
Graham 1’ 63’ 92’, Ejupi 49’

Aston Villa 0-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United were confirmed as Champions, ending with 55 points from 20 matches, suffering just one draw and one defeat all season.  Tottenham were promoted in second on 46 with Charlton Athletic third on 41.

That’s the domestic season wrapped up.  Now just the small matter of a World Cup to come.  Speaking of which…..

Scotland World Cup Squad

Shelley Kerr named her squad on Wednesday.  Rachel Corsie will captain the team and the squad comprises:

Goalkeepers: Lee Alexander, Jenna Fife, Shannon Lynn

Defenders: Chloe Arthur, Jennifer Beattie, Rachel Corsie, Nicola Docherty, Sophie Howard, Hayley Lauder, Joelle Murray, Kirsty Smith.

Midfielders: Elizabeth Arnot, Leanne Crichton, Kim Little, Joanne Love, Christie Murray, Caroline Weir.

Forwards: Fiona Brown, Lana Clelland, Erin Cuthbert, Claire Emslie, Lisa Evans, Jane Ross.

Transfers

Ellen White has left Birmingham City to join Manchester City on a two-year contract.  This is very disappointing for the Blues who had a good season and will be looking to build on their progress in 2019-20.  In a statement she said,

“I want to be in an environment and with a group of players that have that same winning mentality, that same professionalism, that same commitment and passion, and I think that’s a great fit at City.”

I’m not quite sure why she thinks Birmingham don’t have a “winning mentality” or “that same professionalism” – I’m hoping this is not a euphemism for having a lot of money to throw at it.  Either way, Birmingham fans probably won’t be pleased at the comment.

Millwall Lionesses

What is going on at Millwall?  After nearly going into administration in April, it was saved by nearly £17,500 raised through crowdfunding.

Now the Lionesses’ board of directors and senior management have broken away from the parent club and plan to go it alone.

The FA, in its infinite wisdom, has apparently approved “in principle” the formation of a “new” club, the London City Lionesses, which could take Millwall’s place in the Championship if it fulfils all of the qualifying criteria.

There is obviously a lot going on behind the scenes here, but one of the FA’s aims in the latest restructuring of the women’s game was to make it stable and sustainable.  With Yeovil’s administration, Sunderland’s woes and Millwall’s complicated story, I think we can safely say it has a long way to go before we reach this point.

Champions League Final

This Saturday sees the final of the Champions League in Budapest.  In our most parochial manner it is Lucy Bronze and Jess Fishlock against Toni Duggan!  Kick-off is 5pm BST and there is live text commentary on the BBC website.

Taekwondo

The World Championships are taking place from 15-19 May in Manchester.

Bianca Walkden is through to the final in the +73kg category, having won two fights before beating Briseida Acosta of Mexico in the semi-final 19-9.

She faces Shuyin Zheng of China in the final on Friday 17 May – the same fighter who beat Walkden in the Rio Olympics semi-final.

Still to come over the weekend we have Jade Jones in the -57kg, Aaliyah Powell in the -53kg and Lauren Williams in the -67kg,

Tennis – on the Court

Madrid Open

Seventh seed Kiki Bertens pulled off a fine win to take the Madrid title, beating third seed Simona Halep in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Bertens had beaten eighth seed Sloane Stephens in her semi-final 6-2 7-5, while Halep overcame the unseeded Belinda Bencic in hers, 6-2 6-7 6-0.

In the doubles, fifth seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova beat sixth seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski in straight sets, 6-3 6-1.

Rome Open

It’s been an incident-packed tournament in Rome this week.  Serena Williams pulled out with a knee injury before her third round tie against sister Venus.  Jo Konta is still in the running, having had to complete two matches on Thursday.  First she beat seventh seed Sloane Stephens in three sets 6-7 6-4 6-1 and then an injury-hampered Venus Williams in straight sets 6-2 6-4.

After withdrawing from the Stuttgart Open through injury, top seed Naomi Osaka has again pulled out in Rome, before the start of her quarter-final with Kiki Bertens.  Bertens now receives a bye into the semis.

There are now only two seeds left standing; Bertens (6) and Pliskova (4).

The other quarter-finals looks like this:

Marketa Vonrousova v Jo Konta
Victoria Azarenka v Karolina Pliskova (4)
Kristina Mladenovic v Maria Sakkari

Tennis – off the Court

American player and world number 117, Nicole Gibbs, has been forced to withdraw from the French

Open after being diagnosed with salivary gland cancer.

The growth on the roof of her mouth was spotted by her dentist.  A biopsy showed it to be cancerous.

Gibbs will have surgery this Friday.  In a statement Gibbs said,

“Fortunately this form of cancer has a great prognosis and my surgeon is confident that surgery alone will be sufficient treatment.

“He even okayed me to play an extra couple of tournaments these past few weeks, which served as a nice distraction.”

She hopes to make a return at Wimbledon qualifying in June.

Golf

There was good news for women’s golf this week as the organisers of the Northern Ireland Open announced that men and women will compete for equal prize money.

It will be called the World Invitational and the $500,000 prize fund will be split equally between the men’s challenger event and the women’s event.

Cricket

T20 Challenge Final
Velocity 121/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas 125/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas won by 4 wickets with 0 balls remaining

It was a bad start for Velocity, whose top five mustered 30 between them, including a five-ball duck for Dani Wyatt.  They were rescued, somewhat, by Sushma Verma who scored 40 not out from 32 balls and 36 from New Zealander Amelia Kerr.

Lea Tahuhu took 2/21 from her four overs while the other wickets were shared around.

In response, Chamari Atapattu went early for just two, but fellow opener Priya Punia scored 29, Jemima Rodrigues 22 and Harmanpreet Kaur 55 from 37.  Both Punia and Rodrigues fell when the score was 53 and although Kaur steadied the ship, Supernovas wobbled again when the overseas stars Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine fell for two and three respectively.

Kaur was out in the last over with just four balls to go of the Amelia Kerr over and seven runs still to get.  They had Radha Yadav on strike and Lea Tahuhu at the other end.  Yadav scored two from the third ball, two from the fourth ball, two from the fifth ball and then Yadav drove the last ball for four and Supernovas took the match by four wickets.

County Cricket

Results from the fixtures on 12 May in the first and second divisions of the County Championship were as follows (home side first):

Division One
Hampshire 128 all out (45.4 overs) 6 points lost to Sussex 129/9 (46.4 overs) 16 points
Lancashire 241/6 (50 overs) 18 points beat Nottinghamshire 195/9 (50 overs) 5 points
Surrey 148 all out (44.1 overs) 3 points lost to Kent 152/3 (30.1 overs) 18 points
Warwickshire 108 all out (47.1 overs) 6 points lost to Yorkshire 112 all out (42.1 overs) 16 points

After three matches, Kent are top with 53 points.  Lancashire are one point behind and Sussex are way behind in third on 39.

Division Two
Berkshire 160 all out (43.3 overs) 17 points beat Somerset 86 all out (25.4 overs) 5 points
Cricket Wales 211 all out (50 overs) 17 points beat Essex 139/8 (50 overs) 6 points
Durham 171/6 (50 overs) 4 points lost to Middlesex 173/4 (44.3 overs) 15 points
Worcestershire 69 all out (32.1 overs) 0 points lost to Devon 70/1(16.4 overs) 18 points

We’re three games down in division two also, with Devon at the top on 52 points.  Behind them are Berkshire on 51 and Wales on 39.

More news and views next week as we hurtle headlong into this mad summer of top-class women’s sport!

 

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 May 2019

golf

Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through yet again this week.  So here we go.  Stories and news this week come from football, tennis, netball, squash, cricket, golf, rugby league, motorsport and cycling.

Let’s crack on.

 

Motorsport – the W Series

History was made last weekend as the women-only W Series began in Hockenheim.

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick won the first race with compatriot Alice Powell in second with Marta Garcia of Spain in third.  Chadwick had been on form all weekend; she was fastest in both rounds of qualifying and took pole by two seconds.

Races to come:

Round 2 – Belgium
Zolder, 17-19 May

Round 3 – Italy
Misano 7-9 June

Round 4 – Germany
Norisring, 5-7 July

Round 5 – Netherlands
Assen, 19-21 July

Round 6 – UK
Brands Hatch, 10-11 August

Tennis – on the Court

Prague Open

Jil Teichmann defeated Karolina Muchova in the final of the Prague Open.  It went to a deciding set and the final score was 7-6 3-6 6-4.

Rabat Open

Meanwhile in Rabat, Jo Konta missed out on a first title of 2019, losing in the final to Maria Sakkari of Greece 2-6 6-4 6-1.  Konta was a set and a break up, but Sakkari came back and in the end was too strong for Konta in the final set.

Madrid

This week the tennis world moves to Madrid.  Sam Stosur went out in the qualifiers.  Caroline Wozniacki retired during her first round match.  Fourteenth seed, Anett Kontaveit, went out Aliaksandra Sasnovich in three sets after taking the first set 6-0.  Thirteenth seed Madison Keys was also defeated in the round of 64, losing to Sorana Cirstea 3-6 6-4 6-1.

We are now at the semi-final stage.  Number one seed and world number one Naomi Osaka crashed out at the quarter-final stage, losing out to Belinda Bencic in three sets 3-6 6-2 7-5.

Bencic faces third seed Simona Halep, while in the other semi, Sloane Stephens (8) plays Kiki Bertens (7).  More news on how it all panned out next week.

Tennis – off the Court

Britain’s number two, Katie Boulter, has withdrawn from the French Open.  She will miss the rest of the clay court season with a back injury.

Football – World Cup

Phil Neville has named his squad for the World Cup which begins on 7 June.

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Man City), Mary Earps (Wolfsburg), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Man Utd), Steph Houghton (captain, Man City), Abbie McManus (Man City), Demi Stokes (Man City) Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Jade Moore (Reading), Jill Scott (Man City), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), Georgia Stanway (Man City), Keira Walsh (Man City)

Forwards: Toni Duggan (Barcelona) Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Man City), Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

No sign of the Scotland squad announcement as yet.

FA Cup Final

Manchester City 3-0 West Ham United

In the end West Ham were well beaten, but they gave Manchester City a few scares along the way, fighting with every breath until the final whistle.

The first-half was tight with the underdogs matching City in every department.

But the pace and pressure told in the second-half as West Ham tired and Manchester City took advantage.

Keira Walsh hit City’s first from outside the penalty area on 52 minutes.  Georgia Stanway doubled the lead on 81 and Lauren Hemp hit the third two minutes from time.

With their win, City completed the domestic cup double, having won the Continental Cup final against Arsenal on penalties in February.

West Ham can certainly take great heart from their performance.  They competed well for the majority of the match and they have come a long way from those uncertain days when then manager Julian Dicks had to plead for every scrap of kit, every resource and any recognition at all.

One disappointment was that the crowd, although a good one at 43,264, was nearly two thousand down on that at last season’s final.  Not quite sure what went on there – I had heard 52k being bandied about in the days leading up to the match.

Nikita Parris

One player Manchester City will not have next season it seems is Nikita Parris.  She is out of contract at the end of the season, and the word is she is looking to follow England stars such as Lucy Bronze and Izzy Christiansen in a move abroad.  Both Lyon and Bayern Munich are thought to be interested in signing her.

FAWSL

Just one result to report and what a score!

Yeovil Town 0-8 Chelsea
England 4’ 27’ 47’, Cuthbert 16’ 51’, Engman 28’, Kirby 84’ 87’

Chelsea are now up to third in the table.  Bristol City have played their 20 games, everyone else has one game left to play, which takes place this Saturday, 11 May at 12.30pm.

FAWC

The final round of Championship matches also take place on Saturday, 11 May and start at 5.30pm.

Netball

After the eighteenth and final round of the regular season we now know the final four teams contesting the semi-finals this Saturday, 11 May.

Final round results:
Loughborough Lightning 67-56 Celtic Dragons
Saracens Mavericks 50-45 Strathclyde Sirens
Team Bath 72-50 London Pulse
Severn Stars 45-60 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 55-60 Manchester Thunder

Wasps finished six points ahead of the field with 45 points from 18 games.  Manchester Thunder, Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning all finished with 39 in second, third and fourth respectively on points difference.

As I said, the semi-finals are this Saturday and both are live on Sky Sports

Wasps Netball v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Warwick University Sport & Wellness Hub)
Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (7pm, Wright Robinson College)

The third-place play-off and grand final are on Saturday 18 May, at the Copper Box.  Both Games live on Sky Sports from 3pm.

I know it’s a bit redundant to say this to you knowledgeable sports-lovers out there, but don’t forget this is not the end of the netball for this year.  The World Cup is coming!  It all begins in Liverpool on Friday 12 July.

Cycling

Tour de Yorkshire

Marianne Vos ended the two-stage Tour de Yorkshire as overall victor as she won the second stage from Bridlington to Scarborough.

Lorena Wibes, also of the Netherlands, had won the first stage.  Christine Majerus of Luxembourg was second, with Alison Jackson (Can), Roxane Fournier (Fra) and Lisa Brennauer (Ger) third, fourth and fifth respectively.

Vos led a three-rider break with Mavi Garcia and Soraya Paladin during the second stage.  She eventually outsprinted them to take the stage and the overall title.

Second stage result: 1. Marianne Vos (Ned) 3hrs 59mins 16secs, 2. Mavi Garcia (Spa) Same time, 3. Soraya Paladin (Ita), 4. Christine Majerus (Lux), 5. Amanda Spratt (Aus).

This led to a final classification of:

  1. Marianne Vos (Ned) 7hrs 34mins 27secs
  2. Mavi Garcia (Spa) +7secs
  3. Soraya Paladin (Ita) +9secs
  4. Christine Majerus (Lux) +1min 28secs
  5. Amanda Spratt (Aus) +1min 35sec

Of the British riders, the top three finishers were Hannah Barnes in eighth, Elizabeth Banks ninth, and Georgi Pfeiffer eighteenth.  Lizzie Deignan, in her first competition since giving birth in September, finished twenty-ninth.

Rugby League

Coral Challenge Cup

It was the first round of the Challenge Cup at the weekend, with the big sides yet to enter the competition.  The results from Sunday were:

Rochdale Hornets 12-56 Barrow
Halifax 24-14 Hull KR
Featherstone Lionesses 18-48 Stanningley
Widnes Vikings 16-14 Oulton Raidettes
Keighley Albion 26-22 Hull FC
Army RL 34-12 Huddersfield Giants
RAF Ladies 28-18 Leigh Miners Rangers Ladies

The next round is on Sunday 26 May and we are back to league action this weekend.

Cricket

County Cricket

I hope you all took advantage of the Bank Holiday to get out and see some women’s county cricket.  Last weekend’s divisions one and two were as follows:

Division One
Hampshire 131 all out (6 pts) lost to Yorkshire 190 all out (17 pts)
Kent 233/3 (18 pts) beat Warwickshire 232 all out (5 pts)
Surrey 241/7 (8 pts) lost to Lancashire 242/9 (17 pts)
Sussex 127 all out (6 pts) lost to Nottinghamshire 150 all out (17 pts)

Division Two
Berkshire 296/4 (18 pts) beat Worcestershire 77 all out (2 pts)
Devon 136/7 (17 pts) beat Cricket Wales 132 all out (5 pts)
Somerset 269/6 (18 pts) beat Durham Cricket Board 103 all out (4 pts)

For all fixtures please check out here.

T20 Challenge

Three from four of the matches in Jaipur have been played with the results so far:

Trailblazers 140/5 (20 overs)
Supernovas 138/6 (20 overs)
Trailblazers won by two runs

Trailblazers lost Suzie Bates for just one but Smriti Mandhana showed her class to put on 90 from just 67 balls, ably supported by Harleen Deol, who scored 36 from 44.  Deol fell in the nineteenth over and Trailblazers suffered a mini-collapse, suffering the loss of three wickets in the last over.

Radha Yadav took 2/26 from her four overs.

Supernovas started equally poorly with Priya Punia falling for one in the second over.  Chamari Atapatthu and Jemima Rodrigues steadied the ship and the lower order all contributed except Nat Sciver who was out for just one.   Sophie Devine scored 32 from 22 balls.

Supernovas needed 19 from the last over and Harmanpreet Kaur was not going down without a fight.  She hit the first four balls, off Jhulan Goswami no less, for four.  They needed three from the last ball but Tahuhu was run out attempting a bye and Trailblazers had won by two runs.  Sophie Ecclestone contributed with a fine 2/11 from her four overs.

Trailblazers 112/6 (20 overs)
Velocity 113/7 (18/20 overs)
Velocity won by three wickets with 12 balls remaining

Although Bates this time got a start, it was Mandhana who failed on this occasion, falling for 10 in the third over.  Deol batted well again, top-scoring with 43, but there was little contribution from anyone else in the lower order and Trailblazers subsided to just 112 off their 20 overs.

Ekta Bisht and Amelia Kerr took two wickets each.

In response, Velocity lost Hayley Matthews early, for just five.  Shafali Verma (34) and Dani Wyatt (46) took it on before, I’d love to say it, the curse of Nelson struck and they lost no less than 5 wickets on 111.  Somehow they managed to sneak over the line though with two overs to spare.  Deepti Sharma took 4/14 off her four overs, including three in the eighteenth.

Supernovas 142/3 (20 overs)
Velocity 130/3 (20 overs)
Supernovas won by 12 runs

Rodrigues top-scored with 77 not out for Supernovas as they put a good score together against Velocity.  She was supported by Atapatthu who scored 31 and Punia 16.

Velocity fell well short.  Matthews went early for 11 and Shafali Verma for 2.  Despite Wyatt (43), Raj (40) and Krishnamurthy (30) scoring well, they could not overhauls the Supernovas’ total.  However, it has been suggested that Velocity played to up their net run rate to get themselves into the final, rather than aiming to win the match.

This they achieved and so the final will be between Velocity and Supernovas on Saturday 11 May.  News of how this went in next week’s column.

Golf

 Sei Young Kim of South Korea won the LPGA Mediheal Championship after a play-off with England’s Bronte Law.  Law came from 10 shots back to get herself into a three-way play-off with Kim and Jeongeun Lee, also of South Korea.

Final round leaderboard:
-7 S Y Kim (Kor), J Lee (Kor), B Law (Eng); -5 C Hull (Eng), L Thompson (US), EH Ji (Kor), A Yang (Kor)

Kim won the tournament with a par on the first play-off hole, while Law and Lee made bogeys.

Squash

Former world champion Laura Massaro will retire from squash at the end of this season.

In her distinguished career, Massaro became World Champion in 2014.  She won three Commonwealth Games silvers, two in doubles and one in singles and was world number one in January 2016.

She won the World Series Finals in 2016 and 2017, the US Open twice and the British Open twice.

More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 April 2019

tennis ballsWelcome to this week’s column.   Apologies for my prolonged absence, but hopefully you’ve been keeping up with the women’s sports news without me.  But also, hopefully, you’re still with me as I return to the weekly blog.

I can’t pretend to be able to go through everything I’ve missed, but there’s plenty write about just from this week, so let’s crack on.

Stories and news this week come from football, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, hockey, netball, tennis and motor sport.

Tennis

Fed Cup

Great Britain beat Kazakhstan 3-1 in the promotion play-off to get into World Group II for the first time in 26 years.

Jo Konta started with a hard-fought win over Zarina Diyas in her customary three sets, 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Kazakhstan took the second rubber as a heartbroken Katie Boulter went down in three sets to Yulia Putintseva 3-6 6-2 7-6.

Konta beat Putintseva in the third rubber, again in three sets, 4-6 6-2 7-5

to make it 2-1 to Great Britain.

Boulter came through in the fourth match against  6-7 6-4 6-1, which meant Great Britain took the tie 3-1 and didn’t have to play the doubles rubber.

World Group

Meanwhile, in the World Group, the final will be between Australia and France.

Semi-final results:

France 3-2 Romania

Romania took 1-0 lead in Rouen as Simona Halep defeated Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-1.

Caroline Garcia drew France level, beating Michaela Buzarnescu in straight sets, 6-3 6-3.

In the third rubber, Halep won again, beating Garcia in three sets, 6-7 6-3 6-4 to take Romania ahead again, but in the final singles rubber, Pauline Parmentier defeated Irinia-Camelia Begu 6-3 2-6 6-2.

The tie was 2-2 going into the doubles, which went the way of France as Garcia and Mladenovic defeated Halep and Niculescu 5-6 6-3 6-4.

Australia 3-2 Belarus

Australia reached their first Fed Cup final for 26 years after they defeated Belarus in Brisbane at the weekend.

Belarus won the first rubber with Aryna Sabalenka beating Sam Stosur in three sets, 7-5 5-7 6-3.

Ash Barty levelled it with a win over Victoria Azarenka 7-6 6-3.  Barty also played the third rubber, defeating Sabalenka 6-2 6-2.

In the fourth, Azarenka comprehensively defeated Stosur 6-1 6-1, to take it to a deciding doubles rubber.

Barty and Stosur came out on top, defeating Azarenka and Sabalenka in three sets, 7-5 3-6 6-2.

The final will be in Australia over the weekend of 9-10 November.

Stuttgart Open

We are at the quarter-final stage in Stuttgart and the matches look like this:

Anastasija Sevastova (7) v Petra Kvitova (3)
Kiki Bertens (6) v Angelique Kerber (5)
Naomi Osaka (1) v Donna Vekic
Victoria Azarenka v Anett Kontaveit (8)

News on how it all panned out next week.

Istanbul Open

We are at the same stage in Istanbul and the matches are as follows:

Barbora Strycova v Elena Rybakina
Petra Martic (6) v Kristina Mladenovic
Lara Arruabarrena v Marketa Vondrousova
Veronika Kudermetova v Margarita Gasparyan

Again, more news next week.

Football

Champions League – Semi-Finals

Lyon 2-1 Chelsea

Chelsea grabbed a potentially vital away goal on Sunday, but it could and perhaps should have been even better for the London side.

Lyon took the lead through a Magdalena Eriksson own goal on 27 minutes.  Eleven minutes later the home side were two up when Amandine Henry scored from a corner.

Chelsea had the chance to pull one back on half-time when they were awarded a penalty.  Fran Kirby took it, but it was saved by Sarah Bouhaddi in the Lyon goal.

In the second-half, Chelsea did pull one back through Erin Cuthbert.

The second leg, at Kingsmeadow, is this weekend, on Sunday 28 April.  Kick-off is at 2pm.

Bayern 0-1 Barcelona

The Spanish side take a one-nil lead into the second leg.  After a goalless first-half, the only score came in the 63rd minute, through Kheira Hamroaui.

The second leg is also on Sunday 28 April at 11am.

FAWSL

With just two games to go in the regular season, Arsenal are in the box seat.

They have a four point lead at the top over Manchester City.  Arsenal have 48 and City 44.  Chelsea are third, some way back, on 36.  At the bottom, Yeovil are already gone and lie on -3 having had points deducted for going into administration.

Last weekend’s results:

Reading 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Furness 49’

Arsenal 2-1 Everton
Quinn 4’, Miedema 28’
Boye-Hlorkah 61’

Liverpool 5-2 Bristol City
Babajide 11’ 41’ 65’, Daniels 45’ Hodson 90+1’
Kerkdijk 35’, Fahey 83’ (OG)

West Ham 1-2 Birmingham City
Leon 27’ (Moorhouse sent off on 41’)
Ladd 44, Arthur 75’

FAWC

Manchester United have been crowned champions and will next season compete in the WSL.  They beat Crystal Palace 7-0 on Saturday to claim the title.

Last weekend’s results:

Manchester United 7-0 Crystal Palace
James 9’ 83’ 85’ 90’, Arnott 33’, Galton 35’, Sigsworth 46’

Sheffield United 4-1 London Bees
Cox 36’, Sarri 52’, Rayner 76’, Pennock 88’
Littlejohn 50’

Durham 1-0 Millwall Lionesses
Roberts 69’

Charlton Athletic 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Ejupi 41’, Graham 46’
Dean 53’ (PEN), Neville 71’ 80’

Aston Villa 2-2 Lewes
Ale 4’, Hutton 34’
Rood 45’ 90+2’

Everyone has two games to go.

West Ham

The FA Cup finalists have had their plea to move their men’s home game against Southampton on May 4 rejected.  Their match is due to kick off at 3pm on Saturday, with the FA Cup final kicking off at 5.30pm.

PFA Women’s Team of the Year

The Professional Footballers’ Association Team of the Year has been announced and features nine players from Arsenal, Manchester City or Chelsea.

Sophie Baggaley (GK) (Bristol City), Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Demi Stokes (Man City), Ji Sun-Yun (Chelsea), Steph Houghton (Man City), Aoife Mannion (Birmingham City), Kim Little (Arsenal), Lia Walti (Arsenal), Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea), Nikita Parris (Man City), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal)

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019

The shortlist for the award, drawn up by the BBC World Service is:

Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg), Ada Hegerberg (Olympique Lyonnais), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars and Perth Glory), Saki Kumagai (Olympique Lyonnais)

You can vote via the BBC website and voting closes on Thursday 2 May.  The winner will be announced on 22 May.

Netball

Vitality Netball Superleague

Last weekend saw a double round of fixtures with rounds 15 and 16 being completed.  The results were as follows:

Round 15 – Saturday 20 April
Strathclyde Sirens 44 -59 Loughborough Lightning
London Pulse 42-71 Manchester Thunder
Wasps Netball 76-42 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 42-53 Team Bath
Saracens Mavericks 55-50 Celtic Dragons

Round 16 – Sunday 21 April
Wasps Netball 64-48 Celtic Dragons
Strathclyde Sirens 47-44 London Pulse
Surrey Storm 46-51 Severn Stars
Loughborough Lightning 60-57 Manchester Thunder
Team Bath 45-51 Saracens Mavericks

So with just two full rounds to go, Wasps are top with 39 points from 16 games.  The other three in the top four spots are Thunder (36), Team Bath (33) and Lightning (33).  Mavericks are fifth on 30 and could still qualify if results go their way.

Round 17 is this weekend:

Friday 26 April
Strathclyde Sirens v Wasps Netball (7.30pm)

Saturday 27 April
Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm (4pm)
London Pulse v Loughborough Lightning (4pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Severn Stars (4pm – Live on Sky Sports)
Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (5pm)

The Grand Final is at the Copper Box in London on Saturday 18 May with the third/fourth place play-off at 3pm and the final at 5pm.  Both matches will be live on Sky Sports and the link to buy tickets is here.

Rugby Union

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

The Premier 15s Grand Final will be between Harlequins and Saracens, who beat Loughborough Lightning (26-10) and Wasps (31-13) respectively in their semis.

In the regular season the two teams finished top and second with Saracens top on 17 wins from 18 with Harlequins seven points behind them and with 15 wins.  Should be a classic.

You can still buy tickets here.  Under 16s get in for free.

The final is on Saturday 27 April at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton.  Kick-off is at 17.45.  The match will be live on Sky Sports Action.

Sevens

It was the fourth of six rounds of the World Rugby HSBC Sevens series at the weekend in Kitakyushu.

England looked as if they were about to claim their first round title since 2016 when Canada pinched it right at the end.

Final

Canada 7-5 England

England scored a try through Amy Wilson Hardy late in the first-half.  It looked as if this was to be the decisive score until Canada captain Ghislaine Landry broke through the defence to score behind the posts, giving herself an easy conversion opportunity.  She kicked the extra points and the title went to Canada.  It was Canada’s first leg win since 2017.

USA finished with the bronze, defeating France 24-12.

New Zealand could only manage fifth, beating Australia in the play-off 34-26.

The Women’s Standings are as follows:

  1. New Zealand 72
  2. Canada 66
  3. USA 64
  4. Australia 56
  5. France 46

The fifth round is in Langford, Canada over the weekend of 11-12 May.

Rugby League

While I’ve been off, the rugby league season has started once more, so apologies for the lack of coverage so far.  All Super League teams have played two games.  Castleford Tigers are top on points difference, having won both of their games, including a hammering of York City Knights away 80-0.  Needless to say, this has given a bit of a fillip to their points for column.  Leeds Rhinos and St Helens have also won their first two matches.

This weekend there are four fixtures:

Sunday 28 April
Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos (13.00)
York City Knights v Wigan Warriors (14.00)
Bradford Bulls v Wakefield Trinity (14.00)
St Helens v Featherstone Rovers (17.45)

If you haven’t already had a look at the rugby league website, I would encourage you to do so.  It is very informative and kept up to date.  Check it out here:

Hockey

Apologies again, but it’s the time of year when I start to try to get my head around the hockey play-offs.  If you don’t know what happens at the end of the season, here are the regulations (thanks to the England Hockey website):

Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and European Qualification
At the end of the regular season the team who finishes top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division will receive an automatic place in the EuroHockey Club Championships as England’s second ranked team. They can improve on this ranking, and compete to be crowned English Champions, in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Finals tournament. 

The team who wins the Investec Women’s Hockey League Final will be crowned Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and will be England’s first ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships for the subsequent season. In the event that the team finishing top of the league at the end of the regular season also wins the Final, the runners-up in the Final will be England’s second ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships.

What are the Investec Women’s Hockey League Play-Offs?
There are two types of play-off that determine which teams are promoted and relegated in the Investec Women’s Hockey League.

Investec Premier Division Play-Off
Here the winners of the three Conferences join the ninth-placed team from the Premier Division to battle it out in a round robin tournament for two spaces in the top tier, with the tenth-placed side having been automatically relegated.

Investec Conference Play-Offs
Here the teams that finish ninth across the three Conferences fight it out for survival. The winner of this round robin tournament will stay up while the other two will be relegated to their respective regional league along with the teams that finished in 10th in each Conference. The fixtures are played across three weekend with each side play a home and an away tie. The five regional league winners are then promoted to fill the vacant spots.

Holcombe finished top of the table in the regular season with 41 points from 18 games.  Surbiton finished second on 38 and East Grinstead third on 34.  East Grinstead were also deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player.  Buckingham finished fourth on 29.

Canterbury finished tenth on just eight points and have been relegated.

Play-off dates are still to be announced.  More news when I have it (Yes Martin, I know it’s simple really).

EuroHockey Club Cup

Amsterdam were triumphant at the EuroHockey Club Cup last weekend.

It was the last edition of the competition before it becomes the EHL in 2020.  Amsterdam will take their place in that competition with this win.

The tournament, also held in Amsterdam, saw the hosts beat Real Sociedad in the final 7-0.

The places finished as follows;

Bronze went to Alster, who been Den Bosch 2-1 in the third place match.

Hamburg beat English representatives Surbiton 4-1 in the 5th/6th place match.

Loreto defeated Ritm Grodno 2-1 in the 7th/8th place play-off.

FIH Pro League

Great Britain are currently lying seventh in the table after losing their fourth match of six against Germany on Wednesday.  Hannah Grablach scored a double on 38’ and 58’ as they won 2-0.  Great Britain’s next match is against China on Friday 3 May.

Australia are top with six wins from seven matches and a win/loss percentage of 85.71.  Argentina lie second having played 10 matches.  They have a win/loss percentage of 83.33.  Great Britain’s win/loss percentage is 27.78 from six matches.

And Finally,

Don’t forget it’s Women’s County Cricket Day on 6 May.  Get down to see your local county in action if you can.  You can read all about in my piece published last week.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 February 2019

running track

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

Football

FAWSL

Last weekend’s results:

Sunday 10 February

Bristol City 0-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

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

FAWC

Sunday 10 February

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

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

FA Cup – Remaining Fourth Round Ties

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

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

The fifth round takes place this Sunday, 17 February.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

The league was back after its winter break last weekend:

9 February

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

10 February

Bowdon 4-1 Slough

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

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

16 February

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

Hockey – off the Pitch

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

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

Winter Sports

Speed Skating

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

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

Lindsey Vonn

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

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

Cricket

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

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

Rugby Union – Six Nations

England 41-26 France

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

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

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

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

Italy 3-3 Wales

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

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

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

Italy scorers:
Pen: Sillari

Wales
Pen: Wilkins

Scotland 5-22 Ireland

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

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

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

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

Scotland scorers:
Tries: Smith

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

Other Rugby News

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

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

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

Tennis – on the Court

Fed Cup

Group A

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

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

Group B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20-21 April

France v Romania
Australia v Belarus

Qatar Open

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis – off the Court

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

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

Volleyball

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

9 February

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

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

Women’s Super League Bottom 4:

9 February

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

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

Athletics

British Indoor Championships

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

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

Netball

Last weekend’s Vitality Superleague results were as follows:

Friday 8 February
Strathclyde Sirens 46-50 Celtic Dragons

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

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

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

This weekend’s round six fixtures:

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

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

And Finally,

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

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

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

Semenya herself says,

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

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

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

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

Women’s Sports Column 26 January – 1 February 2019

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

Better crack on…

Motorsport – W Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were:

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

27 January
Richmond 26-26 Gloucester-Hartpury

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

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

Six Nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volleyball

Women’s Super League Top 5

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

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

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

Basketball

WBBL Cup

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

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

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

Netball

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

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

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

Monday 28 January
Team Bath 50-56 Surrey Storm

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

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

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

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

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

Cycling

At the National Track Championships in Manchester last weekend:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis

Australian Open

Singles Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doubles

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

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

Thailand Open

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

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

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

St Petersburg Open

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

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

Still to come:

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

Cricket

Women’s Big Bash League Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T20 World Cup 2020 Draw

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

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

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

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

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

Football – on the Pitch

WSL

Last weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

Sunday 27 January

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

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

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

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

Monday 28 February

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

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

WC

Last weekend’s WC results were:

Sunday 27 February

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

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

Aston Villa 0-0 Leicester City

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

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

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

Football – Off the Pitch

Charlton v Manchester United

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

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

The FA has charged Charlton with breaching competition rule 14.5: “Clubs shall ensure emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each competition match.

“Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

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

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

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 12-18 January 2019

abstract-accuracy-accurate-262438Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week with updates on some of last week’s stories, plus all the results and news from last weekend and the rest of the week.  This week we look at darts, tennis, boxing, football, cycling, ultra-running, netball, rugby union and cricket.

Let’s crack on.

Darts

I don’t know why I start with the darts this week, but I have been very much taken with Mikuru Suzuki’s darts journey, which culminated last weekend in her becoming the first non-European to win the Women’s BDO World Championships.

Suzuki beat Maria O’Brien of England 2-0 in the semi-final, while Winstanley saw off Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia 2-1.

The unseeded Japanese player then proceeded to complete the biggest shock of the week as she beat top seed Lorraine Winstanley of England 3-0 to take the title.

Indeed, Winstanley took only two legs off Suzuki, who averaged 90.12 over the match.

Suzuki’s nickname is “The Miracle” and while I probably wouldn’t go that far, it was a very impressive, surprising win and she obviously has the potential to do much more.

Ultra-running

Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to win the Montane Spine Race.  The British ultra-runner completed the 268-mile competition in 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds, beating the old course record by no less than 12 hours.

The race is run along the length of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders and is open to both male and female runners.  Two-thirds of it is run in darkness.

And if running 268 miles, in winter, mostly in darkness was not enough, Paris stopped at the aid stations along the way to express breast milk for her baby daughter, Rowan.

I can’t even begin to understand what this kind of endurance event must be like to compete in.  She has my complete admiration.  What an achievement.

Tennis

Sydney International

Petra Kvitova took the Sydney title, defeating Ash Barty in the final in three sets, 1-6 7-5 7-6.

Hobart International

Sofia Kenin of the USA claimed the title in Hobart, defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in straight sets, 6-3 6-0.

Australian Open

As usual, there were mixed fortunes for Britain’s women in the first round at Melbourne.

Harriet Dart crashed out badly, admitting that she let the situation and nerves get to her in her hard-earned first round tie against Maria Sharapova.  She had worked so hard to come through qualifying, but lost 6-0 6-0 against the Russian in one hour and two minutes.

In an interview with BBC Sport she said,

“I think nerves got the best of me but I tried my best and that’s all I could do.

“She hits a huge ball and it comes at you quick. She doesn’t give you anything so it was always going to be difficult.

“I’m glad to have these experiences and hopefully get more of big experiences on big stages.”

Katie Boulter, on the other hand, had a fine win in her first round match against 2015 semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova.  She won 6-0 4-6 7-6 (10-6).  For the first time this year there is a tie-break in the final set, but it is first to 10 points rather than seven. Boulter apparently forgot this and celebrated at 7-4, but managed to maintain her composure to take the match, hitting 53 winners in the process.

She couldn’t, however, repeat the performance in the second round and went out to 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets 6-3 6-4.  Although she played well, she was clearly frustrated with her performance.  In her post-match interview she said,

“I didn’t feel like I put my best game on the court.

“I’ve learnt so much just from playing matches on courts I haven’t played on before. I feel a lot more settled now,” she said.

Heather Watson suffered another disappointing first round exit, losing 6-1 6-2 to 32nd seed Petra Martic.  Cue many, many Watson-haters on the BBC website/Facebook/Twitter.  Watson certainly suffered in the heat (as have others, causing retirements) and has cited this as among the reasons for her loss, but she has also indicated that her mental attitude is also a problem and she lacks confidence and self-belief.

There is no doubt that Watson has talent, but has she fulfilled her potential?  Perhaps sessions with a sports psychologist may do the trick.  It would take a major miracle to silence the haters, but her first priority should be to herself.

Johanna Konta won her first round match after a difficult battle with Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.  She won a final set tie-break to take the match 7-6 2-6 7-6 (10-7.

However, she was undone in the second by 18th seed Garbine Muguruza in a spectacular match which lasted two hours 42 minutes.  Unfortunately, only 250 fans were left in the arena to see it as the match started after midnight and finished at 3.12am.  Fabulous scheduling by the tournament organisers.

The final score was 6-4 6-7 7-5 to Muguruza.  Konta will feel heartened that she played a brilliant match in difficult circumstances.  And another point to make – I know the women’s matches generally take less time to complete, but would the organisers have started another men’s match at nearly 12.30am if there had been one to play? I don’t think so.

Other highlights so far:

Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 22, lost in the first round to Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Danielle Collins of the USA is having quite a tournament.  Having disposed of 14th seed Julia Goerges in the first round, she then saw off 19th seed Caroline Garcia in the third round 6-3 6-2.

Home favourite Sam Stosur also went out in the first round, losing 7-5 6-2 to Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.  Yastremska then put out 24th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second, 6-3 3-6 6-1.

Tenth seed Daria Kasastkina lost to the unseeded Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-0.

More seeds fell in the second round as we lost Donna Vekic (29), Lesia Tsurenko (24), Anett Kontaveit (20) and Kiki Bertens (9).

World number one and top seed Simona Halep survived a real scare, eventually winning her second round match 6-3 6-7 6-4 over Sofia Kenin of the USA.

We are now in the middle of the third round:

Maria Sharapova (30) beat defending champion Caroline Wozniacki (3) in the third round 6-4 4-6 6-3.

The unseeded Amanda Anisimova accounted for 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Football

Charlton v Manchester United

Hopeless FA Klaxon!  It had to happen.  The match between Manchester United and Charlton was abandoned on Sunday after Charlton player Charlotte Kerr was injured.

But why did they have to abandon the game?  Kerr was treated on the pitch for nearly an hour, but there was no ambulance on-site and one had to be called.  The ambulance did not arrive for 30 minutes and during that time the medical staff used up the available emergency oxygen.

As there is a legal requirement to have oxygen (but not an ambulance) at the game, the referee had to call it off.

The current rules state,

“Clubs shall ensure that emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each Competition Match. Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

If there had been an ambulance present, Kerr would have been treated quicker, taken off to hospital quicker and the game could have continued.

The good news is that the sternum and rib injury was heavy bruising and Kerr has been released from hospital, but at the time it was not clear that it was just bruising.

Whatever the critics of women’s football say, this is elite sport.  This is the highest level in the country but the FA does not seem able to see its way to ensuring, as far as it is able, the safety of the players.  There have been reports this week that the FA is now considering introducing a new rule on ambulances.  Let’s hope that this is the case, before something more serious happens and we lose a player for want of an ambulance.

Transfers

As predicted last week, Marc Skinner has now left Birmingham City to take up the role as head coach of Orlando Pride.  He has side a 2.5 year deal.

West Ham United have been busy in the transfer market this week.  They signed Canadian forward Adriana Leon from Seattle Reign at the weekend.  Leon has 54 caps for Canada and has scored 12 goals.  Then at the beginning of the week they signed South Korean captain Cho So-hyun from Avaldsnes of Norway, an experienced midfielder with 120 caps.

FAWSL

Results from 13 January were as follows:

Yeovil 1-2 Liverpool
Donovan 52’
Sweetman-Kirk 27’ (Pen) 93’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Everton

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Miedema 80’
Cuthbert 26’ 63’

West Ham Utd 1-3 Manchester City
Ross 58’
Weir 15’, Hemp 39’, Parris 86’

Birmingham City 0-1 Bristol City
Evans 15’

Manchester City are now top of the table with 31 points from 13 games.  Arsenal are one point behind and have played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 13 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 12 games with Everton above them on six points from twelve.

Championship

The Championship results from 13 January were:

London Bees 2-1 Crystal Palace
Wilkinson 6’, Pickett 24’
Georgiou 17’

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Lewes
Naz 31’, Dean 52’, Schillaci 60’

Leicester City 3-2 Millwall Lionesses
Johnson 2’, Smith 35’ (Pen), Franklin-Fraiture 53’
Clarke 30’ 76’ (Pen)

Durham 2-2 Aston Villa
Robertson 21’, Salicki 75’
Hutton 22’, Welsh 45’

Charlton Athletic v Manchester United
Suspended

Tottenham are top with 30 points from 12 games.  Manchester United are second with 28 from 11, having had their game on Sunday postponed.  Charlton are third on 26 from 12.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from twelve.  Crystal Palace are above them with seven points from 13.

Continental Cup

The draw has been made for the semi-finals of the Continental Cup:

Tuesday 5 February
Arsenal v Manchester United

Wednesday 6 February
Chelsea v Manchester City

Cricket

WBBL

We now know the four teams who will take part in the WBBL semi-finals.  Sydney Sixers finished top of the pile with 20 points from 14 games.  Sydney Thunder finished second on 19 with Brisbane Heat third on 18 and Melbourne Renegades fourth on 15.

Saturday 19 January
First semi-final
Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 11.40pm)

Second semi-final
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 2.50am, Sunday morning)

UK coverage via BT Sport and BBC 5 Live Sports Extra radio.

The final is next Saturday, 26 January.

England tour of India

The schedule for England’s tour of India has (finally) been released.

There will be three ODIs played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and three T20s to be played at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Guwahati.

The ODIs will each score two points towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

All UK times:
ODIs – 22, 25, 28 February, Mumbai, 3.30am
T20s – 4, 7, 9 March, Guwhati, 4.30am

Boxing

Nicola Adams will challenge for the WBO World Flyweight title on 8 March at the Royal Albert Hall.  She faces Arely Mucino of Mexico.

Mucino became world champion in February and her ten years as a professional boxer has seen her amass 27 wins, two draws and three defeats.

Rugby Union

Saturday’s Premier 15s results:
DMP Sharks 14-53 Loughborough Lightning
Saracens 31-28 Harlequins
Worcester Valkyries 7-27 Gloucester-Hartpury
Firwood Waterloo 0-14 Bristol Bears
Richmond 12-38 Wasps

All of the teams have played 14 games.  Saracens are top with 65 points.  They have opened up quite a gap now, with Harlequins second on 58.  Loughborough Lightning are third on 55.  At the bottom, Valkyries are marooned on just four points.  Above them are DMP Sharks on 13 and Firwood Waterloo on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:
Loughborough Lightning v Firwood Waterloo (12pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Worcester Valkyries (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Saracens (4.30pm, Gillman’s Ground)
Harlequins v Richmond (5.30pm, The Stoop)

Netball

Quad Series

The first weekend of the Quad series saw two excellent games:

England 54-41 New Zealand
After a tight first half, England did the job in the second to stretch the lead and take the game away from the Silver Ferns.  At half-time the Roses had just a one point lead, 25-24.  By the end of the third quarter the lead was up to 10 points and the Roses kept up that momentum to take the win by 13.  Jo Harten scored 27/32 and Helen Housby 25/31.  For New Zealand, Solonaima Maria Folau shot 29/32 and Ameliaranne Ekanasio 12/13.

Australia 62-45 South Africa
Australia, having to cope with the loss of their captain, Caitlin Bassett, who is sidelined with a broken arm, made a slow start.  South Africa, in contrast, were quick out of the blocks and took an early lead.  They managed to maintain this good form until well into the second-half, but the Diamonds went into the break 27-25 up.  They then upped their game in the third quarter, taking control by the end of it and pushing their advantage to extend the gap to 17.  For Australia, Gretel Tippett shot 30/32 and Caitlin Thwaites 17/18.  South Africa’s main shooters, Lenize Potgieter and Ine-Marie Venter scored 35/40 and 7/9 respectively.

This weekend sees rounds two and three at the Copper Box in London.  There is TV coverage on Sky Sports and on BBC 5Live Sports Extra on the radio.

Vitality Netball Super League

Last weekend’s results:

Friday 11 January
Strathclyde Sirens 45-55 Team Bath

Saturday 12 January
Loughborough Lightning 52-44 Team Bath
Surrey Storm 39-59 Saracens Mavericks
London Pulse 40-67 Celtic Dragons

There are no fixtures this weekend as we concentrate on the Quad Series.  It’s early days of course, and most teams have only played two games.  Team Bath are on top with two from two.  Wasps and Thunder are next, although they have only played one game each and have one win.

Volleyball

The Women’s Super League is now entering into the second half of its season.  The league has split into top five and Bottom four.  Fixtures get underway again this weekend.  More news in a couple of weeks when I’m back.

Cycling

Former Team GB cyclist Jess Varnish has failed in her attempt to prove that she was an employee of both British Cycling and UK Sport at an employment tribunal.

This means she will, in effect, be unable to sue the bodies for wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination.

Varnish had claimed that British Cycling’s control over her made it an employer-employee relationship, but the governing body said it was more like a university grant situation.

There is no doubt that UK Sport will be heaving a huge sigh of relief at this decision, but it may yet have to review its processes and attitude to athlete welfare.

For more on this story see this excellent piece in Cycling Weekly.

And Finally,

First “And finally” of the year must go to Imke Wubbenhorst.  I know many of you will be asking “Who?” as I was, to be honest.  But she’s top of my pile this week for her fantastic response to yet another puerile question from a journalist.

Wubbenhorst is manager of BV Cloppenburg – a men’s fifth tier team in Germany.  She is the first woman to hold a managerial position at a men’s club at this level.

She was asked by a journalist whether she warned her players to make sure they put their pants on before she came into the changing room.

To which she replied,

“Of course not, I’m a professional; I pick my players based on their penis size.”

Love it.  No more need be said.

No column next week as I am out and about.

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 8-14 December 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the no-show last week.  I had it half-written, but felt so ill from Thursday onwards that I just couldn’t complete it.  Shame, because it was going to be a good one (but you’ll just have to take my word for that…)

Anyway, still plenty to get our teeth into this week with stories from football, cricket, volleyball, rugby, tennis, sports sponsorship, taekwondo, darts and sailing.  Plus, it was due to be my “And Finally” last week, but I just can’t let that twerking farrago go!

Let’s crack on.

Football

World Cup 2019 Draw

No doubt as to the top news story this week, as Saturday’s World Cup 2019 draw saw England and Scotland drawn in the same group.  It had a strange air of inevitability to it, I thought, as I watched the balls being pulled from the goldfish bowls.

The draw in full:

Group A
France, South Korea, Norway, Nigeria

Group B
Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Group C
Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Group D
England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan

Group E
Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands

Group F
United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

Group D fixtures:
(all local time)

9 June
England v Scotland, Allianz Riviera, Nice (6pm)

10 June
Argentina v Japan, Parc des Princes, Paris (6pm)

14 June
Japan v Scotland, Roazhon Park, Rennes (3pm)
England v Argentina, Stade Océane, Le Havre (9pm)

19 June
Japan v England, Allianz Riviera, Nice (9pm)
Scotland v Argentina, Parc des Princes, Paris (9pm)

My thoughts at this point could easily become a list of clichés, so I’ll keep it brief.  I’ll suggest that it is a truism rather than a cliché to say that there are no easy groups at the World Cup.  Scotland will be massively motivated to beat England and the Lionesses will not be able to afford to “warm up” as the group progresses.  They will need to be sharp from the start.  It’s not a gimme for England, that much is sure.  Japan will probably provide the toughest test, so ideally Neville will want his team to have made a positive start and have points in the bag by the time they play them.

France and Germany should have a fairly easy ride; Group C is anyone’s guess; it’s tough between Canada and Netherlands in Group E and also between United States and Sweden in Group F.

Looking forward to it immensely.  If any enterprising publication/website would like to send me over to cover it, just let me know.  Not looking forward to all the misogynist bile that goes with it (plenty going around already).

Jordan Nobbs

England have already received one blow to their chances as it has been confirmed that Jordan Nobbs will not make it to France 2019.  The Arsenal midfielder has had surgery for the anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in the match against Everton in November.

Nobbs had had a storming start to the season and will, without doubt, be missed.

Afghan National Team

Meanwhile, although we bemoan the status of women’s football in this country, we should, perhaps, consider ourselves lucky, when we see what others have had to go through in order to pursue their footballing passion.

I must admit I was doubtful that there would be any meaningful investigation into the allegations of sexual and physical abuse of members of the Afghan women’s team by Afghan Football Federation (AFF) staff.

But this week the Afghanistan Attorney General, Farid Hamidi, has suspended six members of the AFF, including the president, Keramuddin Karim while an investigation is carried out.

The Guardian reported in November that allegations of abuse taking place in Afghanistan as well as at a training camp in Jordan had been reported by senior officials.

In The Guardian’s report this week the team’s former coach, Kelly Lindsey, is quoted as saying,

“For years I have listened to stories of how women are treated in Afghanistan – seeing and hearing the disparity in our players’ voices. I have seen how these men have destroyed the bonds, trust, and unity these women built together through teamwork. For every step forward we went through a despairing step back at the hands of these men.

“I stopped in my tracks when I saw the news and felt for once in these women’s lives they can see that unity can lift them out of despair. That their voice has finally been heard and hopefully for their bigger mission to help all women and children of Afghanistan have a voice and live their dreams.”

And Mina Ahmadi, a player excluded from the team for refusing to sign a new contract, said

“I was in awe when I saw the news. When we started this whole movement I was hoping for a fundamental change but because so many people before us tried it as well, I wasn’t sure if we will be heard.

“The fact so many people joined us in our fight and we honestly brought some change just makes me feel so proud. I’m proud to know so many female fighters for justice and I just hope that it’s the beginning of a greater and brighter future for our country. It’s the biggest honour to be part of this mission and to show people that you should raise your voice when you are treated wrongly.”

I will follow up on this story as it progresses.

SheBelieves Cup 2019

The US will once again host the SheBelieves cup in February, which will serve as a useful World Cup warm-up tournament for those involved.  The teams will be US, Japan, Brazil and England.

The Lionesses will begin their campaign against Brazil in Philadelphia on 27 February.  They then move on to Nashville to play the US on 2 March and then to Tampa to play Japan on 5 March.

WSL

This weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

9 December
Yeovil Town 0-5 West Ham
Lehmann 19’ 27’, Simic 34’ 59’, Visalli 53’

Reading 2-2 Liverpool
Williams 62’ 84’
Sweetman-Kirk 10’ 68’

Manchester City 1-0 Birmingham
Stanway 12’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea
Ericsson 55’, England 69’ 91’, So-yun Ji 76’

Everton 0-2 Bristol City
Rutherford 65’, Rood 91’

Arsenal are now top on goal difference only (although it’s a healthy gap), but they have a game in hand over the chasing pack and have 27 points.  Man City are second, with Chelsea five points behind in third.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 matches, Brighton are just above them with four and Everton third from bottom with five from ten matches.

WC

This weekend’s WC results were as follows:

Aston Villa 5-1 Sheffield Utd
Hutton 40’ 63’ 73’, Haywood 42’, smith 82’
Jones 51’ (Pen)

Lewes 0-2 Charlton Athletic
Eupji 40’, Agg 69’

Durham 3-1 Manchester Utd
Salicki 22’, Hepple 60’, Ness 87’
Toone 42’

London Bees 2-1 Leicester City
Beckett 52’, Wilkinson 70’
Johnson 27’

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Crystal Palace
Dean 26’

Durham proved that Manchester United are beatable by doing just that at the weekend, but United stay top on 25 points from 10 games.  They are only ahead on goal difference from Charlton, who have played a game more with Durham in third a point behind, also having played 11.  At the bottom, Millwall still have two points from ten games and Crystal Palace are just above them with four.

Continental Cup

12 December
Reading 5-6 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur 0-5 Chelsea
Birmingham City 1-3 Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses 1-3 Arsenal
Yeovil Town 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield Utd 3-1 Leicester City
Charlton Athletic 0-2 West Ham Utd

13 December
Everton 0-3 Manchester Utd
Aston Villa 0-4 Manchester City
Crystal Palace 7-2 London Bees

The quarter-finalists are: Manchester City/Birmingham City (Group 1 North), Manchester Utd/Reading (Group 2 North), Chelsea/Brighton & Hove Albion (Group 1 South), Arsenal/West Ham Utd (Group 2 South).

Sports Sponsorship

There was good news and frustrating news in the world of women’s sports sponsorship this week.  Make no mistake, the good news is major.

Visa have signed a seven-year deal with UEFA to become women’s football’s first sole sponsor at all levels.

Visa will be the main partner for the Champions League and the Women’s Euros.  It will also sponsor the Women’s Under-19 and Under-17 Championships and the UEFA Women’s Futsal European Championships.

The deal runs until 2025.

By contrast, Guinness have just signed a six-year deal to sponsor the Six Nations Rugby – the men’s tournament that is, not the women’s.  For some reason the women’s Six Nations has not been included and this major tournament remains without a sponsor.

Sailing

British yachtswoman Susie Goodall was rescued by a 40,000-tonne cargo ship after capsizing in the Golden Globe Race.

Her boat went over 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn and she was picked up two days later by the Tian Fu which used one of its cranes to hoist her out of the water.

The Tian Fu was sailing from China to Argentina when it was diverted by the Chilean Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to make the rescue.

The accident was so violent that Goodall was knocked out and when she came to Goodall was able to raise a distress signal.  The conditions were so bad that the rescue ship could not put out a rib boat to pick her up, but had to try the difficult manoeuvre with the crane and hook.

Goodall was in fourth place in the race when the accident happened.

Tennis

Amelie Mauresmo has withdrawn as France’s Davis cup captain and instead will become coach to world number 32 Lucas Pouille.

She had been appointed in June to take over from Yannick Noah in 2019, and would have been France’s first female Davis Cup captain.

BT Action Woman of the Year

In case you missed it last week, the results of this year’s Awards bear repeating:

Dina Asher-Smith was named BT Action Woman of 2018.  There can be no doubting the appropriateness of the honour – this year she won gold in the 100m, 300m and 4x100m at the European Championships as well as gold in the 4 x100m and bronze in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games.

The England Netball team won the Team of the Year award after their gold medal-winning performance at the Commonwealth Games.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in encouraging both disabled and non-disabled youngsters into sport as well as recognising her role in leading a government review into the safety of sporting events.

Cricket

The WBBL is well underway and, thanks to my indisposition last week, I am way behind in reporting what has happened so far.  So here’s a quick re-cap:

All teams have now played three games.  The Sydney Sixers once again look like the team to beat.  After losing their first game to Melbourne Stars on the first day of the tournament, they have come back to win the next two and lie top of the table.  Ellyse Perry is on blistering form having hit a 59-ball hundred against the Perth Scorchers – the century coming from the last runs of the match.

But it was South African Lizelle Lee who hit the first century of this season’s WBBL.  She hit 102 from 56 balls against Sydney Sixers as they reached their target with 2.4 overs to spare.

Perth Scorchers also won well in the first part of the opening day double-header.  Elyse Villani hit 58 from 39 as they chased down the Hobart Hurricanes’ 144 with just three balls left of the match.  Hurricanes lost a key player just before the start as the West Indies’ Hayley Matthews broke a toe in training.

England captain Heather Knight made 82 from 55 balls for Hobart Hurricanes in their defeat to Melbourne Stars.

So, it’s all very tight at the moment.  The two Sydney teams plus Melbourne Stars have four points from three games, with the Sixers top on net run rate.  Then come Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades with one win and one no-result and three points each, while Hobart Hurricanes, Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers all have one win and two losses and two points.

More scorecards and detailed match information from this weekend’s games in next week’s column.

Volleyball

Last weekend’s Women’s Super League results were as follows:

Saturday 8 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21. 18-25, 20-25, 25-15, 15-5)
Sheffield Hallam 1-3 TeamBU Wessex (23-25, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25)
London Orcas 0-3 Durham Palatinates (20-25, 15-25, 20-25)

Sunday 9 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-20, 25-16, 25-21)
Bristol VC1 0-3 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (22-25, 11-25, 16-25)

Durham Palatinates are still top with a clean eight wins from eight games and 23 points.  Tendring are second with 17 points from seven games and Malory Eagles third with the same number of points from eight games.  At the bottom, Polonia have only one win from eight games and three points.  Above them lie Birmingham with three points from seven games.

Rugby Union

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

8 December
Harlequins 43-7 Loughborough Lightning
Gloucester-Hartpury 53-7 Bristol Bears
Wasps 34-0 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens 59-0 DMP Sharks

9 December
Richmond 21-18 Worcester Valkyries

After 11 rounds of matches, Saracens are top with 10 wins and just one loss.  They have 50 points.  Harlequins are second on 46, with Loughborough Lightning third on 44.  At the bottom, Worcester still have four points, DMP Sharks are second from bottom on nine and Firwood Waterloo are just above them with 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:

15 December
Loughborough Lightning v Gloucester-Hartpury (12pm, Loughborough Uni)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Firwood Waterloo v Harlequins (2.15pm,Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Saracens v Richmond (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Bristol Bears (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Darts

Lisa Ashton fell in the first round of the PDC World Championships at Alexandra Palace this week.  She was beaten three sets to one by world number 43 Jan Dekker of Netherlands.

Ashton took the first set, but Dekker came back to take the next three to progress into the next round.

The second female qualifier, Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia, starts her campaign on Monday against Ryan Joyce.

Taekwondo

Grand Slam Champions Series

This second edition takes place in Wuxi, China from 12-16 December.

This really is the elite – the world’s top 16 fighters in each of the Olympic weight categories – four male and four female.

Great Britain is looking good for medals and there are some big prizes up for grabs.  Jade Jones and Lauren Williams are already through to the semi-finals of the -57kg and -67kg categories respectively.  They hope to be joined by Bianca Walkden, who is yet to fight.

Jones beat Zongshi Luo of China and will now face Maria Stetic of Croatia in the semi-final.

Williams beat Paige McPherson of the USA and will fight Ruth Gragbi of Ivory Coast in her semi-final.

News of who won what next week.

And Finally,

No apology for going ahead with this one, even though it’s “old news” (how I wish it was).  This is how I reacted to Twerkgate last week, before I was struck down by my miserable virus:

No prizes for guessing who the “One step forward, two steps back Award” goes to this week.  We finally see a Women’s Ballon d’Or Award (and goodness knows there are plenty of men out there that think that shouldn’t even be happening), when the DJ Martin Solveig, who was there for what purpose goodness only knows, asked the winner Ada Hegerberg, if she knew how to “twerk”.

She had collected the award and made a speech about inspiring the next generation of footballers, encouraging them to believe in themselves when she is asked if she can dance in a sexually provocative way!

Why would you do this, for crying out loud?  Every week I (and my fellow women’s sport enthusiasts) spend our time talking about and writing about the great things women are doing in sport.  Every week women everywhere are derided and dismissed for any role they play in sport.  It is also a particular problem in football.

So when you finally see a female Ballon d’Or winner, what do you do?  Do you a) congratulate her and say what a great year she has had and how women’s football is on the up all over Europe or do you b) ask her if she would like to dance in sexual manner in celebration of winning?

Well, apparently it’s b).  Suffice it to say, now that Solveig has had his error of judgement (if you can call it that) pointed out to him, he has apologised “to anyone who may have been offended.”

Great response by Andy Murray on Instagram, by the way,

“Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport.

“What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modric?  I’d imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks I’m overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t. I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

No more to add.

That’s all for this week.  Back next week with one last brief update before my Christmas break. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 17-23 November 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get into again this week, from England’s perhaps surprising progress into the final of the World T20 to the loss of Jordan Nobbs for Arsenal, and the possibility that she will miss next year’s World Cup.   Stories this week come from hockey, golf, football, netball, rugby, cricket, motor racing, volleyball and sailing.  Plus, another bout of rather miserable and somewhat predictable misogyny from the keyboard warriors living in their parents’ basements…

So let’s crack on.

Cricket – International

T20 World Cup

Well, we’re nearly there.  It seems to have passed in a flash and, to be honest, as much as I love my cricket (as you all know), I can’t say that I’ve been inspired by this tournament.  There have been no surprises, no shocks and no team has come through as a “dark horse”.  Australia were favourites at the start and have pretty much lived up to that status, although they proved against India that they are fallible.  West Indies fell very much short against Australia in the semi-final when they had a distinct chance of going through, and India lost disappointingly to England in the other semi-final.  I would have loved to have seen India win the World Cup and finally fulfil their potential.

It all comes down to Australia v England on Saturday – midnight start UK time.

How the semi-finals played out:

Australia 144/5 (20 overs)
West Indies 71 all out 17.3 overs)
Australia won by 71 runs

I actually thought West Indies had this until Deandra Dottin imploded in the 19th over and conceded 17 runs.  Up until that point, Australia had looked impressive but struggled to get away from a fairly efficient West Indies bowling side.

But in the 19th over Dottin lost it.  Two wides and three boundaries from Rachael Haynes left the Windies exasperated and Dottin mutinous.

Beth Mooney went early, but the restored Alyssa Healy took it on, scoring 46 from 38 balls.  Lanning was slow but steady, anchoring the innings as wickets fell around her.  But it was Rachael Haynes 25 from 15 at the back end of the innings, including the dismantling of Dottin that did the damage as the Aussies posted 144.

West Indies’ poor end to the innings seemed to infect their batting.  Hayley Matthews was first to go, run out for just five as the jitters went through the hosts.  Dottin never recovered her cool and went for six from 11 balls.  Stafanie Taylor tried to offer some resistance as all around her was chaos, but she was the only player to make double figures; 16 from 28 balls.

Australia shared the wickets round with Perry, Kimmince and Gardner taking two each and Schutt, Molineux and Wareham one apiece.

It was a sad end to a fine tournament for the defending champions.

India 112 all out (19.3 overs)
England 116/2 (17.1 overs)
England won by 8 wickets

The second semi-final was equally one-sided.  India won the toss and elected to bat.  They started well, scoring 43 before the fall of the first wicket.  But after the top four were out, no-one else got into double figures.  Three run-outs in the Indian innings didn’t help.

Captain Heather Knight (why doesn’t she bowl herself more often?) took 3/9 off two overs while Sophie Ecclestone and Kirstie Gordon took two each as India were reduced to 112 all out.

India would have taken heart with their start with the ball after the openers were out cheaply,  Tammy Beaumont for one and Danni Wyatt for eight.

But Amy Jones and Nat Sciver took hold of the situation, scoring 53 and 52 respectively as England cruised home.

Coverage of the final is via BBC TMS on the radio and Sky Sports on TV.

Cricket – Domestic

Meanwhile, the ECB seem to be on the verge of throwing away the biggest and best development in English women’s cricket in recent memory.  Perhaps it was a good time to “bury bad news” as England went into the final of the T20 World Cup?

It was already in the cards that the KSL would go with the advent of The Hundred, but it seems that the ECB needs to cut its costs in a big way and that could hit the women’s game.

The ECB has said that there will be no reduction in the number of teams or matches but that “efficiency savings” will come from cutting match-day costs and economising on flights for players coming from overseas.

Cuts could be in the region of 12-20 per cent.

If the cuts go ahead and the overseas players don’t come, it will be a huge backwards step for the women’s game and for the KSL in particular.

And, I’m afraid it’s yet another example of two steps forward, one back from a governing body, when it comes to the promotion of the women’s game.

For a more in-depth analysis of this latest news, see George Dobell’s excellent piece for Cricinfo:

http://www.espn.co.uk/cricket/story/_/id/25348712/funding-issues-mount-england-women-ksl-faces-budget-cut

Motor Racing

Most motorsport crashes are high profile, but if it’s a woman and she’s just 17, the column inches are going to stack up.

Last Sunday, Formula 3 driver, Sophia Florsch, crashed in the Macau Grand Prix and fractured her spine.

She hit the back of the car driven by Jehan Daruvala, went over the inside kerb and then hit the car of Sho Tsuboi and over the barriers.  She was travelling at approximately 171.6mph.

She has now been through 10 hours of surgery in which bone from her hip has been used to repair one her of vertebrae.

It is thought she will not suffer any paralysis.

See my “And finally” for more on this story.

Football

Injury

Arsenal’s Jordan Nobbs ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament last weekend at Everton – an injury that may not only put her out for the rest of the season, but may impact on her participation in next year’s World Cup in France.

Nobbs had been having a storming season, both for Arsenal and for England and this will be a big blow to both.

Every England fan will have to cross fingers and indeed toes in the hope that she will have recovered by next summer.

 Last weekend’s results:

Championship

London Bees 2-0 Sheffield United
Littlejohn 55’, Gibson 78’

Crystal Palace 0-5 Manchester United
Arnott 17’ 55’, Green 59’ 83’, Greenwood 75’ (Pen)

Milllwall Lionesses 1-5 Durham
Clarke 5’
Hepple 2 ’9’, Gears 4’, Wilson 37’, Ness 56’

Lewes 1-1 Aston Villa
Kempson 72’
Richards 16’

Tottenham 1-0 Charlton Athletic
Naz 24’

Tottenham are still top of the Championship with 21 points from eight games.  Manchester United have 19 in second, but have played a game fewer.  Millwall are still bottom with just a single point from eight games and Crystal Palace are just above them on four.

WSL

Chelsea 5-0 Yeovil Town
Bright 20’, So-yun Ji 27’, Cuthbert 42’, Bachmann 45’, England 79’

Birmingham City 3-0 West Ham Utd
Harrop 1’, Follis 40’, Staniforth 79’

Bristol City 2-1 Liverpool
Graham 16’. Rutherford 21’
Sweetman-Kirk 36’

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-4 Reading
Whelan 61’
Hourihan 20’ (OG), Chaplen 58’, Williams 65’, Davison 81’

Everton 0-4 Arsenal
Van de Donk 44’, Nobbs 49’, Miedema 50’ 65’

Arsenal are still yet to drop a point this season.  They lie top with 24 points from eight games.  Manchester City are second with 18 and Chelsea third with 16.  There was still no respite for Everton at the bottom.  They have two points, with Yeovil just above them on three.

This weekend sees a programme in the top two divisions plus the first round of the FA Cup.  For a complete list of FA Cup fixtures click here.

Hockey – International

Champions Trophy

 Netherlands have been a class apart so far in this tournament.  They are yet to be tested, having won four from four and are happily through to the final with a game to spare.  They will finish top by a mile.  Australia are second with two wins and a draw from four games.  China have six points, China 3, GB and Japan both have two.

Great Britain have had a poor event so far and need to win their last match against Argentina to make it into the bronze medal match.

They opened with a draw against hosts China, twice coming from behind.  Xu Wenyu scored China’s first in the first quarter, but Hannah Martin equalised at the end of the first period.

In the second quarter China took the lead again through Peng Yang, but Lily Owsley brought GB level again and that’s where the scoring ended.

In their second match, GB lost 2-0 to Australia.  Australia scored early in the first quarter through Brooke Peris and doubled their lead in the second through Kalindi Commerford.

They still couldn’t catch a break in their third match, drawing 2-2 with Japan.  Japan were 2-0 down thanks to goals from Tessa Howard and Sophie Bray in the first quarter.  But they couldn’t maintain their superiority.  Japan were level by half-time with two goals from Hazuki Nagai.

Netherlands were comfortable victors against Great Britain in their fourth match 4-0.  They were 2-0 up by half-time with goals from Marijn Veen and Margot Zuidhof.  Ginella Zerbo got the third in the third quarter and Zuidhof scored her second in the fourth quarter to complete the win.

Most worryingly for Great Britain, they had only three shots in the match.

They play Argentina in the last group match on Saturday 24 November.

Hockey – Domestic

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

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

Surbiton are still top with seven wins and one draw from nine and 22 points. Holcombe lie second with 19 and East Grinstead third with 16.  At the bottom, Canterbury have three points, and Bowdon are just above them on seven.

This weekend’s fixtures are the last before the winter break.  The league recommences on 9 February 2019:

24 November
Clifton Robinsons v Canterbury (1pm, Coombe Dingle, P1)
Bowdon v Buckingham (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Holcombe v University of Birmingham (2pm, Holcombe HC, P1)
East Grinstead v Slough (4pm, East Grinstead HC)
Surbiton v Beeston (4pm Surbiton HC Water)

Rugby Union – International

France 20-27 New Zealand

A crowd of 17,102 saw France beat the Black Ferns in Grenoble in a pulsating game.

France opened the scoring through Julie Duval but the away side were soon level through Stacey Waaka.

Then France made a double strike; Maëlle Filopon with the first and Romane Menager with the second had France pulling away.  After half an hour France had a 19-7 lead.

But before half-time New Zealand were back in it.  Fiao’o Faamausili scored a try that was converted to make it 19-14.

After the break France extended their lead again through Caroline Drouin, but New Zealand hit back through Selica Winiata after a lineout on the French 5m line.  Then, out of nowhere, New Zealand were level as Kendra Cocksedge kicked a penalty to make it 24-24 with 26 minutes to go.

Just one minute later Ruahei Demant was yellow-carded and France took advantage as Drouin converted the penalty to put them back ahead.

Drouin kicked another penalty on 70 minutes, but Cocksedge did likewise almost directly afterwards, 30-27.

The Black Ferns had the pressure in the last 10 minutes to take the game, but France were defending for their lives.  Both teams had chances, but neither could score and France held on for a memorable win.

England 27-19 Canada

England continued their winning form with five tries against Canada in Doncaster.

The Roses went ahead early through pack dominance with tries from Lark Davies with her first and international try, Poppy Cleall bagged England’s second and Davies went in again for the third.  All three went unconverted.

Canada struck back before the break as Alex Tassier crossed the line after picking up Anaïs Holly’s kick.  The score was converted by Brianna Miller, taking it to 15-7 at half-time.

In the second-half Canada came quickly out of the blocks, scoring their second try through Elissa Alarie.

But England were not done.  They brought on Katy Daley-Mclean and the difference was evident.  Kelly Smith went over in the corner to score England’s fourth try and soon afterwards the fifth came through Abbie Scott.

Canada had the last word though, with Courtney Holtkamp going over from close range and Magali Harvey converting to take the score to 27-19.

Ireland 10-19 USA

USA Eagles claimed their first test win since the World Cup with their defeat of Ireland at Donnybrook.

Ireland started well, but despite having all the early pressure, they couldn’t convert it into points.

Eventually USA took the lead as Kimber Rozier went in, converting her own try to make it 7-0 in the 13th minute.

Each side then had some pressure, but no added points were scored until Kaitlyn Broughton went down the right wing to score and make it 12-0 to the Eagles.

Ireland struck back before half-time as Laura Sheehan went over on the left but it was unconverted and the home side went in 12-5 down.

On the resumption each side again had a period of pressure, but it was the USA who took their chance as Meya Bizer went over the line and the try was converted by Rozier.

Ireland worked tirelessly and hard until Eimear Considine finally crossed the whitewash for the home side’s second try.  The conversion was again missed and the visitors took the win.

This week’s fixtures:

24 November
England v Ireland (5.40pm, Twickenham)
Wales v Canada (11.30am, Cardiff Arms Park)

27 November
Scotland v Canada (7pm, Scotstoun)

Rugby Union – Domestic

Premier 15s is back this weekend.  The fixtures, all on 24 November, are:

Richmond v Bristol Bears (2pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Worcester Valkyries v Firwood Waterloo (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Wasps v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
DMP Sharks v Harlequins (3pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Saracens v Loughborough Lightning (3.45pm, Allianz Park)

Volleyball

Women’s Super League

There were a full set of fixtures in the Super League last weekend:

17 November
London Orcas 3-0 TeamBU Wessex (25-16, 25-21, 25-13)
Sheffield Hallam 0-3 Mallory Eagles UEL (19-25, 14-25, 19-25)
Durham Palatinates 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club 1 (25-5, 25-12, 25-17)

18 November
Bristol VC1 3-1 Polonia SideOut London (25-22, 12-25, 25-21, 25-21)
Sheffield Hallam 0-3 Durham Palatintes (18-25, 20-25, 17-25)

Durham are top, but they have played more than everyone else.  They have 20 points from seven games.  London Orcas are second with 11 from five games.  Mallory Eagles are one point behind them but have played only four.  At the bottom, Birmingham are the only team still to get off the mark and have played four games.

Golf – Solheim Cup

European Captain Catriona Matthew has named her final Vice Captain for the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles; Dame Laura Davies really needs no introduction, but suffice it to say that she has played in 12 Solheim Cups and is the event’s leading points scorer, with 25.  She has featured in four winning teams, in 1992, 2000, 2003 and 2011.

This means that her three vice captains, Davies, Suzann Petterson and Kathryn Imrie, have the grand total of 21 Solheim Cup appearances between them and have scored 45½ points for Europe.  If experience has any bearing on the outcome, Europe should be well-placed!

Tickets for the event, which takes place from 9-15 September 2019 are already on sale.  Check out the website, www.solheimcup2019.com.

Netball

The England Roses v Uganda series starts on Tuesday 27 November.  There are three matches – the first is at the Liverpool Echo Arena on Tuesday.  The other two, at the Copper Box in London are on

Friday 30 November and Sunday 2 December.

It should be an exciting and tight series.  Tickets are still available.  Click here for information.  If you can’t be there in person, it’s all live on Sky Sports.

And Finally,

In the immortal words of Britney Spears (!), “oops, I did it again.”  In other words, yes I looked at some of the comments on the BBC sports Facebook and Twitter pages.  In particular, I looked at what “people” had to say on the Florsch crash and on the Nobbs injury.  I was pretty sickened by both.

Florsch, who could easily have lost her life or been paralysed was offered little in the way of either sympathy or respect, with many (yes, many) comments along the lines of “typical of women drivers”.  Crass, rude, and not acceptable in any way.  There were a few males coming in telling the Neanderthals their comments were not acceptable, but they were few, and unfortunately far between.

The comments on the Nobbs injury were, possibly, more insidious.  Several dismissed it as “an irrelevance” – well not to Nobbs, her teammates, friends, family and England Lionesses’ supporters everywhere.  How can you dismiss someone’s possibly dashed hopes of a World Cup appearance as an irrelevance?  It’s a pitiful attitude, chaps.

I realise it’s a reflex action with most of them – it’s a story about a woman in sport, therefore we have to demean it, insult it and dismiss it, but it’s pretty damned infuriating to read it all the time.

 Rant over.  That’s all for this week. Sorry, no column next week as I am busy elsewhere.  I’d just like to wish England good luck in the World T20 final on Saturday night.  I hope you’ll all be listening/watching.  

Women’s Sports Column 27 October – 2 November 2018

bikini-two-piece-swimwear-women-two-parter-54265Welcome to this week’s column.  I realise that, of late, the column seems to have been getting longer and longer.  While this obviously means that there is a lot of women’s sport out there, it also means that it’s taking me a long time to compile.  At the moment it’s taking me a day and half to write and post.  I enjoy it very much and I hope you do too.  But sometimes it’s a bit of a strain.

Towards Christmas and the end of the year, the column may become more sporadic as I have other commitments to fulfil.  I hope you’ll bear with me and read on.

So, here we go.  Stories this week come from football, hockey, cycling, rugby union, volleyball, cricket, gymnastics, sports politics, netball, sailing and tennis.  Plus the only possible “And Finally” and if you haven’t heard about it it’s a corker – if you have, it’s worth another read.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

Fast5 World Series

New Zealand claimed the Fast5 World Series 2018 title in Melbourne, defeating Jamaica in the final by a single point 34-33.  Ironically, Jamaica were the only team to beat New Zealand in the rounds stage.

In the table, Australia finished third, Malawi fourth, England fifth and South Africa sixth.

Defending champions England had a difficult tournament winning only one of the games in the rounds, losing all three games on day one and gaining their one win against Australia on day two, 29-28.

Australia claimed bronze, defeating Malawi in the play-off 38-15.

England finished fifth, defeating South Africa in the fifth/sixth place play-off 35-33.

Tennis

WTA Finals – Singapore

Elina Svitolina took the WTA Finals singles title in Singapore.  She defeated Sloane Stephens in the final 3-6 6-2 6-2.

It was a miracle that Stephens actually made it to the final.  She lost the first eight games of her semi-final against Karolina Pliskova.  She eventually took the match 0-6 6-4 6-1.

The second semi-final also went to three sets, with Svitolina triumphing over Kiki Bertens 7-5 6-7 6-4.

The doubles title went to second seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos as they defeated top seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková 6-4 7-5.

WTA Elite Trophy

The second-tier end of season tournament is taking place this week in Zhuhai.

We are currently only at the group stage.  Keep up with events here:

http://www.wtatennis.com/scores

Cycling

UCI Track World Cup

Great Britain won eight medals at the Cup in Milton, Canada last weekend, of which three golds went to women riders.

The Pursuit team comprising Katie Archibald, Eleanor Dickinson, Laura Kenny and Elinor Barker took gold, defeating Italy in the final.  New Zealand beat Germany to take bronze.

Archibald and Barker also took gold in the madison with Denmark in silver and Canada in bronze.

Laura Kenny won gold in the omnium with Lizbeth Salazar of Mexico in silver and Jennifer Valente of USA in bronze.

Australia took gold in the team sprint, defeating Germany in the final.  Gazprom-Rusvelo took bronze, defeating Netherlands in the bronze medal final.

Alexandra Goncharova of Russia won the scratch race.  Olivija Baleisyte of Lithuania finished second and Jennifer Valente of USA was third.  Eleanor Dickinson was twelfth.

Madalyn Godby of the USA won the keirin.  Stephanie Morton of Australia took silver and Martha Bayona Pineda of Colombia the bronze.

The event comprises six stages with Olympic qualifying points at stake.  The next round is in Berlin at the end of November.

Trek-Drops

There was bad news for women’s cycling this week as British team Trek-Drops announced their new sponsorship deal has fallen through and unless they can find backing they will fold.

In a press release the team said:

“The title sponsor in a cycling team invests the largest proportion of budget and the company pulling out leaves us with a large deficit in our budget for 2019,” said the press release.

“This leaves the future of 12 riders and a number of staff, uncertain.”

Although sponsors Trek had announced in July that they would be forming their own team, Trek-Segafredo, it was thought that their sponsorship of Drops would continue.

But this is no longer the case and Drops have turned to crowdfunding to try to secure their 2019 future.

The campaign was launched on Tuesday morning and the team’s crowdfunding page invites contributions from £50 through to £250,000.  It is time-limited to 15 days.  If you can help check out the page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/be-part-of-drops-cycling-team#/

Football

England Lionesses

The England squad for the friendlies against Sweden and Austria has been announced.  Neville has included the former USA Under -23 forward Chioma Ubogagu.

Ubogagu was born in London but emigrated to the USA as a child.  She made her professional debut for Arsenal in 2015 and now plays for Brisbane Roar.

The other squad debutantes are Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck.

England squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Wolfsburg), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Manchester United), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Abbie McManus (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Lyon), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City)

Forwards: Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Chioma Ubogagu (Brisbane Roar, on loan from Orlando Pride)

Champions League

After a tense first leg two weeks ago, Chelsea turned on the style in Florence to go through to the Champions League quarter-finals.  The other British side left in the competition, however, Glasgow City, bowed out as they were well beaten by Barcelona.

Fiorentina 0-6 Chelsea
Chelsea win 7-0 on aggregate

A hat-trick from Fran Kirby was the highlight of a fine Chelsea performance that saw them through to the next round.  Chelsea opened the scoring in the 24th minute through Drew Spence.  Fran Kirby scored her first and Chelsea’s second in the 38th and they went in two-up at the break.  In the second-half Kirby got her second through a penalty and Erin Cuthbert scored the fourth.  Kirby grabbed her hat-trick just past the half-hour and Ramona Bachmann bagged the sixth on 67 minutes.  Chelsea had to play the last fifteen minutes with ten players as Millie Bright was sent off for a professional foul, but by then the tie was effectively over.

Glasgow City 0-3 Barcelona
Barcelona win 8-0 on aggregate

The damage had already been done in Barcelona and the chances of Glasgow pulling off a shock win were slim.  But they gave it everything they had from beginning to end.  England striker Toni Duggan bagged two, in the 13th and 51st minute while Alexia Putellas scored in the 48th, between the two Duggan goals, to take Barcelona through 8-0.

Brondby 0-2 LSK
LSK win 3-1 on aggregate

Bayern 3-0 Zurich
Bayern win 5-0 on aggregate

Paris 3-2 Linkoping
Paris win 5-2 on aggregate

Slavia Praha 0-0 Rosengard
Slavia Praha win 3-2 on aggregate

Lyon 9-0 Ajax
Lyon win 13-0 on aggregate

Atletico Madrid 0-6 Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg win 10-0 on aggregate

The quarter-final draw is on 9 November.

FAWSL

Friday 26 October

Manchester City 1-1 Reading
Stanway 33’
Moore 50’

Sunday 28 October

Bristol City 0-4 Arsenal
Nobbs 14’, Miedema 41’ 88’, van de Donk 90’

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Yeovil Town
Brett 13’, Williams 32’
Mason 69’

Everton 1-2 West Ham
Walker 5’
Ross 27’, Lehmann 45’

Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
Ericsson 27’

So at the top, Arsenal go romping on with six wins from six games and a goal difference of +31.  As Manchester City could only draw, they are now three points behind in second on 15, having played a game more, with Birmingham City in third with 13 points from six games.

At the bottom, there was still no joy for Yeovil and they remain pointless.  Everton are just above them with two and Brighton third from bottom on four points.

FAWC

Sunday 28 October

Leicester City v Manchester Utd
Postponed due to the dreadful events in Leicester on Saturday evening

Millwall Lionesses 0-8 Charlton Athletic
Ejupi 24’ 31’ 44’ 59’, Agg 26’, Gur 45’, Bowers 58’, Graham 87’

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Aston Villa
Neville 41’, Dean 82’ (PEN)
Welsh 7’

Crystal Palace 0-1 Sheffield United
Pennock 34’

London Bees 0-1 Durham
Hepple 19’

Tottenham keep up their 100% record in the Championship, with six wins from six games.  Manchester United are second with 13 points from five and Charlton are third on the same points but having played a game more.

At the bottom, Millwall have only one point and Aston Villa are just above them with two.  Both teams have played six games.

Football – off the Pitch

Liverpool Women’s new manager is Vicky Jepson.  Former England goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, will be assistant coach and goalkeeping coach.

Jepson takes over from Neil Redfearn, who resigned in September.  She has been caretaker manager since then.

Jepson has been with Liverpool since 2009, and has, up to this point, been development squad manager.

There was more good news for Arsenal this week as Joe Montemurro signed a new long-term contract with the club.

The length of the contract has not been disclosed, but the buzz around the club is palpable and this news is another boon for the Gunners.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results looked like this:

Beeston 1-3 Surbiton
Canterbury 0-4 Buckingham
East Grinstead 1-0 Clifton Robinsons
Bowdon 2-2 University of Birmingham
Slough 2-1 Holcombe

Surbiton are now five points ahead at the top with five wins from six games.  Buckingham lie second with 11 points and East Grinstead third on ten.

At the bottom, Bowdon and Canterbury both have three points from six games with Bowdon at the foot on goal difference.

This weekend’s fixtures:

3 November
Clifton Robinsons v Bowdon (1pm, Coombe Dingle P1)
University of Birmingham v Holcombe (1.30pm, Birmingham Uni, P1)
Beeston v Slough (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
East Grinstead v Canterbury (4pm, East Grinstead HC)
Surbiton v Buckingham (4pm, Surbiton HC Water)

Rugby Union – off the Pitch

Heather Fisher has signed for Gloucester-Hartpury Women on a short-term contract.  Fisher had recently announced she is to take a break from international rugby.

In an interview featured on the excellent website womenseliterugby.com Fisher said,

“I think everyone’s aware that I’ve taken a few months out of the game just to get my physical and mental state back to where it needed to be to get back to international level.

“I came here to Hartpury to do commentary last weekend, and I realised that I missed that team environment. I watched them playing and I thought to myself that I could see myself playing a few games.

“Part of the love for playing rugby is playing with your mates. I know the likes of Kelly Smith and Millie Wood from Sevens, and a few of the Welshies and some girls who used to play for Worcester.

“I watched them last weekend and they play with a bit of dog, they don’t give up, they keep going right until the very end, I like the style they play. I left thinking ‘Could I play?’ You know what, let’s just see what happens.”

Rugby Union – on the Pitch

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results:

27 October
Firwood Waterloo 20-51 Loughborough Lightning
Worcester Valkyries 10-50 Bristol Bears
DMP Sharks 0-38 Wasps

28 October
Richmond 10-40 Harlequins
Saracens 48-24 Gloucester-Hartpury

It’s played seven, won seven for Loughborough Lightning and they sit top with 34 points.  Saracens are second with 30 and Harlequins three further back on 27.

At the bottom, Worcester still only have two points and will not be buoyed by the thought of facing Lightning in Loughborough on Saturday.  Just above them are Firwood Waterloo with five points from seven games.

This weekend’s fixtures:

3 November
Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Valkyries (12pm Loughborough Uni)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Richmond (2pm)
Firwood Waterloo v DMP Sharks (2pm, Firwood Waterloo RFC)
Bristol Bears v Saracens (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)

4 November
Harlequins v Wasps (4.30pm, The Stoop)

Volleyball

Last week’s Women’s Super League results:

 27 October
London Orcas 3-0 Sheffield Hallam (25-24, 25-18, 25-23)
Durham Palatinates 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-14, 25-12, 25-19)
Birmingham Volleyball Club1 1-3 TeamBU Wessex (25-23, 25-17, 24-26, 25-19)

 28 October
Bristol VC1 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (25-16, 25-12, 25-17)

Durham have won three from three and are top with nine points.  London Orcas are second on eight.

At the bottom Polonia and Birmingham have yet to register a point, Polonia from three games and Birmingham from two.

Sports Politics

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has resigned over the delay to introducing a cut in the maximum stakes for fixed-odds betting machines from £100 to £2.

In Monday’s budget Chancellor Philip Hammond said the cut would now be enforced in October 2019.

Crouch said that pushing back the date was “unjustifiable” and has resigned.

I may not be of Crouch’s political colours, but she has been a good Sports Minister and it has been excellent to have a woman in the role.  I also admire her stand over this issue.  I discussed the stance of Scotland’s women’s football a few weeks ago when they stated they were not going to accept sponsorship or advertising from betting sites.  It’s a plague in this country.  But while we have those willing to stick to their principles let’s hope that eventually the constant bombardment that we receive when watching (or listening to) sport may at some point have had its day.

Gymnastics –World Championships

Simone Biles does it again.  She won her fourth all-around title at the world Championships in Doha.

Not only did she do this, but she did it falling twice in the process and while suffering with a kidney stone.

Biles fluffed her landing in the vault and fell from the beam but still took the title with 57.491 points, 1.693 points ahead of Mai Mukarami of Japan, who took silver.  Morgan Hurd of the USA took the bronze.

Britain’s Ellie Downie finished 11th after a long lay-off with an ankle injury.

The individual apparatus finals take place this weekend.

Sunday Times Women’s Sportswoman of the Year

Last night (Thursday 2 November) saw the SWOTY awards.

Dina Asher-Smith won the main award.  Lizzy Yarnold was second and Katie Archibald, third.  Also nominated were Georgia Hall, Rachel Atherton and Vicky Holland.

The England Roses Commonwealth Games winning team won Team of the Year.

Georgia Hall, winner of this year’s Women’s British Open was named Young Sportswoman of the Year.

Menna Fitzpatrick (thanks Sunday Times for tweeting that “Mina” Fitzpatrick” had won), along with guide Jen Kehoe won the Disability Sportswoman of the Year award.

Jennie Price, the outgoing Chief Executive of Sport England, was given the Lifetime Achievement award.

Triathlete Trish Deykin won the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration and Alex Paske the Grassroots Award.  Paske, from Stamford in Lincolnshire, founded MIntridge Events when she was just 24.  It aims to increase young people’s sports participation, enhance their life skills and promote their knowledge of health and wellbeing.

Cricket

Don’t forget the Women’s T20 World Cup begins next Friday, 9 November.  You can follow it on Sky Sports and via BBC Radio Test Match Special.  I’m away next week, but there will be plenty of news and results in a fortnight.

And Finally,

It had to be, didn’t it?  In a way I hope you’ve all seen this already, but if you haven’t, it’s possibly the classic to end all classics as regards sexism in sport, why so many women give up on sport so early and why they are reluctant to return later on.

Many thanks to journalist and campaigner Anna Kessel (@Anna_Kessel) for tweeting about this and, of course, to Simone Webb (@SimoneWebbUCL), who had to bring it to Swim England’s attention in the first place.

Hats off to Swim England – you really are the “best”.

Swim England, the governing body for swimming in England, has a campaign to get people swimming.  It’s called “Just Swim”.  So far, so good.  However, when Simone Webb was considering taking up swimming after a long period away from the sport, when she consulted “Just Swim”, she found that some of the advice was, how shall we put it?  Less than helpful, perhaps?

In a piece entitled “Guide to Choosing Swimwear for Women” she found the following juicy morsels;

“If your body is short in proportion to your legs, you will want a swimsuit that gives the impression of litheness”

“A pear shape has often been the plague of women, but it no longer needs to be so.”

“…try pairing an eye-catching bikini or tankini top with subdued bottoms in a dark colour.  This type of swimsuit will draw attention toward your more appealing characteristics.”

“To add curves and subtle cleavage to a small bust, look for a bikini top with triangle-shaped cups and a tie-front.”

“Boyish body.  Try push-up cups and twisted bandeaux to enhance your cleavage.”

Perhaps all this means if I get it right I’ll be able to swim like Becky Adlington?  Perhaps not.

Unfortunately, by the time I’d got there the piece had been taken down – I would have loved to have read it in full.  Swim England’s response was somewhat bizarre; apparently the piece had been there since 2010, but they were unaware of it.  They have since apologised.

And, and finally,

Congratulations to one of my favourite contacts in sailing, Dee Caffari, for being shortlisted for the Pro Sailor of the Year award in the British Yachting Awards 2018.  It’s a formidable shortlist as Dee is up against Carolijn Brouwer, Charlie Crumbly, Phil Sharp, Sophie Weguelin & Sophie Ainsworth and Wendy Tuck (5 women in the shortlist!).  If sailing’s your thing and you would like to vote check it out here https://www.britishyachtingawards.com/pro-sailor-of-the-year/

I’m away next week, but I’ll be back in a fortnight, by which time the World T20 will be in full swing.  Can anybody stop the Southern Stars?

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?

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