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 23 February – 1 March 2019

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  With new and competing claims on my time during the week, it may mean that my future columns are somewhat contracted.  I will endeavour to keep up the breadth of coverage, but please bear with me if some of the items may be in less detail.

Having said that, no problems this week and there’s plenty to get through.  Stories this week come from netball, hockey, rugby union, golf, athletics, cycling, football, volleyball, tennis and cricket.

So let’s crack on…

Rugby Union

Another good win for England, plus a first win for Italy over Ireland and a better performance from France in the third round of the Six Nations.

Wales 12-51 England

England had claimed the bonus point by the 26 minute mark.  Prop Sarah Bern scored the first after just two minutes.  Jess Breach went over shortly afterwards making it 0-12.

Then Marlie Packer burst through from a maul after a lineout for the third and Bern went over again for her second and England’s fourth and the bonus point with the score 0-24.

On 30 minutes Breach claimed her second try taking it to 0-29.

Five minutes before half-time, Wales hit back with their first try against England since 2016.  Keira Bevan made the break before the ball got to Jess Kavanagh who crossed the whitewash to score.  The score at the break was 5-29.

The home side started the second-half with renewed vigour.  They applied pressure and had most of the possession in the first 15 minutes, but were unable to score.

When England finally got back into it, Bern went over but the try was disallowed for a knock-on.  Shortly afterwards, Cath O’Donnell went over to take the score to 5-34.

There were further England tries from Abby Dow and Sarah Beckett and the score was then 5-46.

But Wales still had something to add.  Cerys Hale went over after sustained pressure to make it 12-46.

England rounded it off with a Katy Daley-Mclean try to make the final score 12-51.

Italy 29-27 Ireland

Italy recorded their first ever win over Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

The home side took the lead after just three minutes through a Michela Sillari penalty.  Four minutes later they scored their first try though Aura Muzzo, which Sillari converted.

Ireland hit back on 11 minutes with a try from Eimear Considine.  But the come-back short-lived as Italy went over just three minutes later through Giada Franco, converted by Sillari to make it 17-5.

Then Ireland had a sustained period of pressure.  Considine went over for her second, which was converted by Nicole Fowley.  Just after the half-hour the visitors were awarded a penalty that Considine duly slotted.  And then with just five minutes to go before the break, Ireland scored another try, this time through Anna Caplice.  Fowley kicked the conversion and it seemed that Ireland were bound to go into the break 22-17 up.

But Italy were having none of it.  On 39 minutes Sofia Stefan went over to score Italy’s third and with Sillari missing the conversion, the half-time score was 22-22.

Five minutes into the second-half, Franco went over for her second try, which was converted by Sillari to take the score to 29-22.  Laura Sheehan scored for Ireland on 64, but the conversion was missed.  It was this miss that was to prove decisive and with no further scoring the result was 29-27.

France 41-10 Scotland

Could France hit back after their mauling by England in the last round?  Yes, they could.  They made a nervous start, but soon began to dominate up front with the Scottish scrum unable to cope with the power.

Gabrielle Vernier went over for France’s first, with Pauline Bourdon their second to make it 10-0.

Scotland hit back through Rhona Lloyd and with 12 minutes to go before half-time the arrears were reduced to 10-5.

France, however, had other ideas and went over twice more before the break.  Vernier went in for her second and right on half-time Doriane Constanty went in to secure the bonus point for the home side and a lead of 24-5.

Vernier scored her hat-trick try 13 minutes after the resumption.  Then replacement Caroline Boujard started a move in her own half and was then on the end to finish it to go over and take the score to 36-5.

Emma Wassell went over for Scotland on 67 minutes, but the last word went to France when Lea Murie went over again to take the final score to 41-10.

Round Four is in two weeks:

Friday 8 March
Scotland v Wales (19.35, Scotstoun Stadium, BBC Alba & BBC Wales)

Saturday 9 March
England v Italy (12.05, Sandy Park)
Ireland v France (19.00 GMT, Energia Park, Donnybrook)

Golf

The second round of the Women’s World Championship in Singapore has been completed.

Amy Olson of the US leads on -7.  She is two ahead of five players; Azahara Munoz (Esp), Inbee Park (Kor), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (Eng), Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), and Minjee Lee (Aus).

Of the other British players Georgia Hall (Eng) is level, Charley Hull (Eng) is +1, Bronte Law (Eng) 3+ and Catriona Matthew (Sco) +8.

Defending champion, Michelle Wie of the US, had to withdraw during the first round due to an ongoing wrist problem.

Athletics

The European Indoor Championships begin today (Friday 1 March) and continue through the weekend.   The event is taking place in Glasgow and there is plenty of coverage via the BBC on BBC2, BBC4 and online.  Results and stories in next week’s column.

Cycling

The Track World Championships are also in full swing in Pruszkow, Poland.

After GB took silver to Australia in the team pursuit, Laura Kenny, who was due to race in the omnium today (Friday), pulled out through illness.  Katie Archibald (not a bad replacement!) will take her place.

Scratch Race 10km

Elinor Barker took gold for Great Britain in a time of 12:49.000, Kirsten Wild of Netherlands took silver and Jolien D’hoore of Belgium, bronze.

Team Pursuit

Australia (Ashlee Ankudinoff, Georgia Baker, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson) took gold by two tenths of a second, Great Britain (Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson) took silver and New Zealand took bronze.

Team Sprint

Australia took gold, Russia the silver and Germany the bronze.

Netball

Last weekend’s Super League results:

Friday 22 February
Strathclyde Sirens 37-56 Severn Stars
Team Bath 46-57 Wasps Netball

Saturday 23 February
Surrey Storm 50-66 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 25 February
Saracens Mavericks 65-37 London Pulse
Celtic Dragons 56-83 Manchester Thunder

Wasps are yet to drop a point and lie top with six wins from six and 18 points.  Mavericks are second with 15 from seven, Thunder are just below them on 15 from 6 with an inferior goal average.  At the bottom, Pulse have three points.  Above them are the Sirens and Dragons with six.

Next weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 1 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 March
Surrey Storm v Celtic Dragons (6.00pm)
Loughborough Lightning v London Pulse (6.00pm)
Wasps Netball v Strathclyde Sirens (7.00pm)

Monday 4 March
Severn Stars v Saracens Mavericks (7.00pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Tennis – on the Court

Last weekend’s tournament results:

Dubai Open

Both semi-finals went to three sets, with one seed losing to their unseeded opponent, and one getting through. In the first, Belinda Bencic knocked out sixth seed Elina Svitolina 6-2 3-6 7-6, while in the second, Petra Kvitova, seeded two, defeated Hsieh Su-wei 3-6 6-2 6-4.

The final also went to three sets with the Swiss player, Bencic, defying the odds to take the victory against Kvitova 6-3 1-6 6-2.

Hungarian Open

Meanwhile, top seed Alison Van Uytvanck beat eighth seed Markéta Vondroušová in the final, 1-6 7-5 6-2.

There was also a welcome return to form and fitness for Heather Watson in the doubles.  She reached the final with partner Fanny Stollar, and were seeded three, but they lost the final to unseeded pairing Ekaterina Alexandrova and Vera Zvonareva 4-6 6-4 10-7.

This week some of the top players have been in action at the Mexican Open:

Jo Konta, seeded eight, had a good run, going out in the quarter-finals to third seed Donna Vekic 6-3 7-5.

We are now at the semi-final stage:

Wang Yafan v Donna Vekic (3)
Bianca Andreescu v Sofia Kenin (5)

The semi-finals of the doubles looks like this:

Renata Voráčová/Cornelia Lister v Giuliana Olmos/Desirae Krawczyk (3)
Zheng Saisai/Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sanchez/Sharon Fichman

Tennis – off the Court

Fed Cup

It was announced this week that GB’s World Group II play-off against Kazakhstan will be played at the Copper Box in London.

The tie takes place on 20 and 21 April.

If they win, GB will be in World Group II for the first time since 1993.

Tickets go on sale next week.  Check out https://www.lta.org.uk/major-tennis-events/international-events/fed-cup/tickets/ for details.

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova has had surgery on her troublesome right shoulder and withdrawn from the Miami Open.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 23 February:
East Grinstead 2-0 Buckingham
Canterbury 1-2 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 3-0 Beeston
Surbiton 2-0 Holcombe
Slough 2-2 University of Birmingham

Surbiton are top on goal difference.  They and Holcombe have 28 points from 13 games.  East Grinstead are third with 22.  At the bottom, Canterbury have just five points and Slough are above them on nine.

This weekend’s fixtures:

2 March
Beeston v East Grinstead (12 noon, Nottingham Hockey P1)
Buckingham v Canterbury (12 noon, Stowe School P1)
University of Birmingham v Surbiton (1.15pm, Birmingham University P1)
Bowdon v Clifton Robinsons (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Holcombe v Slough (4pm, Holcombe HC P1)

Volleyball

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

Durham Palatinates 3-1 London Orcas (25-19, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16)
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-15, 25-14, 22-25, 23-25, 15-11)

Durham are still top with a perfect 11/11 record and 32 points.  Tendring are second on 27.  TeamBU Wessex are bottom, but have only played 9 games; they have 13 points.

Football

Continental Cup Final
Arsenal 0-0 Manchester city AET
City win 4-2 on penalties

Manchester City claimed their third Conti Cup title on Sunday.

It was a cagey affair with few chances in normal time.  Beth Mead headed wide for Arsenal in the first-half.  Steph Houghton had a header saved and Gemma Bonner couldn’t turn in the rebound.

In the second-half, City were on largely on top with Nikita Paris, Caroline Weir and Parris again all having chances to win it.  In the last minutes Janine Beckie had a great opportunity, but hit the bar with her shot.

And so it went to penalties.  Karen Bardsley saved from Leah Williamson and Danielle van de Donk, before Beckie stepped up to take the decisive spot kick, which she confidently put away and the win was City’s.

Lionesses

England are without Millie Bright and Jill Scott as they have withdrawn from the England squad for the SheBelieves Cup.  Scott was withdrawn, according to the FA, “in order to manage her return to full fitness ahead of this summer’s World Cup”.  Bright is injured.  Chioma Ubogagu of Orlando Pride has been called up as a replacement.

27 February

England 2-1 Brazil

England came from one goal down to claim a fine win against Brazil in their first SheBelieves 2019 match.

England made a slow start and although they had plenty of possession in the first-half, Marta was fouled in the box on 16 minutes and Andressa Alves put Brazil ahead.  Some have called it controversial, but I saw Lucy Bronze’s shoulder barge as a penalty.

In the second-half, the Lionesses were a good deal more on the ball.  Three minutes after the resumption, Ellen White slotted home to equalize.

Beth Mead scored the winner from what was obviously (yes, obviously you knuckle-draggers out there, it was and Mead admitted it) a cross.  Spectacular result and warranted after England’s second-half performance.

28 February

United States 2-2 Japan

It was honours even between the US and Japan in Pennsylvania.

Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring for the US on 23 minutes.  Japan drew level in the second-half through Emi Nakajima.

The US went back ahead on 76 minutes through Alex Morgan, but Japan came back for a second time, equalising in the first minute of injury time through Yuka Momiki.

England’s remaining games are against the USA on 2 March and Japan on 5 March.

It has also been announced that all of England’s World Cup warm-up matches will be broadcast in the UK on the BBC.

Algarve Cup

The Algarve Cup is also in its early stages.

Scores so far:

27 February
Canada 0-0 Iceland
Norway 2-1 Denmark
Sweden 4-1 Switzerland
Spain 2-0 Netherlands

Scotland are in Group A, alongside Canada and Iceland.

Cricket

India claimed the three-match ODI series 2-1 at a canter and without Harmanpreet Kaur.

1st ODI
India 202 all out (49.4/50 overs)
England 136 all out (41/50 overs)
India won by 66 runs

Jemima Rodrigues top-scored with 48, captain Mithali Raj scored 40 and there were contributions from lower down the order Taniya Bhatia (25) and Jhulan Goswami (30)as India posted a decent score of 202.  The England bowlers shared the wickets, Sophie Ecclestone with 2/27 from her 10 overs, being the most economical.

In response, Jones fell early for just one.  Heather Knight and Nat Sciver held the innings together in the middle, scoring 39 not out and 44 respectively, but after Sciver fell, none of the last six got into double figures.  In fact England lost 7/25.  Spinner Ekta Bisht took 4/25 from eight overs.

2nd ODI
England 161 all out (43.3/50 overs)
India 162/3 (41.1/50 overs)
India won by seven wickets

India had no trouble chasing down a small England score in the second ODI.

Nat Sciver top-scored with 85, Lauren Winfield made 28 and Tammy Beaumont 20, but no-one else reached double figures.

The truly awesome Jhulan Goswami took 4/30 in 8.3 overs and Shikha Pandey 4/18 from ten.

India lost only three wickets in their chase.  Rodrigues went for a duck but Mandhana scored 63, Raut 32 and Raj 47 not out to see them home.

3rd ODI
India 205/8 (50 overs)
England 208/8 (48.5/50 overs)
England won by two wickets

England claimed two precious ICC Women’s Championship points in the third ODI, preventing a whitewash in the process.

After Rodgrigues was out for her second duck in two games, there was a stand of 129 between Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut before Mandhana fell for 66.  Katherine Brunt took the first five wickets of the innings and India subsided slightly, but  still managed to make the highest first innings score of the series.

In response, England made a better start even though it was only a partnership of 25 before Amy Jones fell for 13.  For once Nat Sciver (1) did not contribute, but captain Knight (47) and Danni Wyatt (56) made the bulk of the runs, before Georgia Elwiss (33 not out) and Katherine Brunt (18) got them nearly over the line.  Brunt was out with just two needed.  Anya Shrubsole came in and hit her one and only ball for four to win the game.

India deserved this series.  Several England players were significantly under par – most concerningly Sarah Taylor.  It’s on now to the three-match T20 series, which begins on 4 March.  Radio coverage via BBC 5 Live Sports Extra.

Sophie Ecclestone is on her way home with a broken hand.  This adds to a lengthening injury list that includes Laura Marsh (side strain) and Kirstie Gordon (stress fracture of the back).

And Finally,

There’s a fine interview with Kristina Vogel on the BBC website, where she talks with Sir Chris Hoy about the crash that ended her cycling career and how, as she puts it, “I’m in a wheelchair, but it’s not the end of my life.”  Don’t miss it.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/cycling/47407804

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 2-8 February 2019

new tennisWelcome to this week’s column. Top has to be news from the first Fed Cup ties to be held in Great Britain for 26 years.  But there’s plenty of other stuff for us to get our teeth into.  Stories this week come from netball, football, cricket, hockey, tennis, volleyball, rugby union plus a bumper selection of winter sports stories.

Let’s crack on.

Tennis

Fed Cup

A quick recap on what GB are aiming to do at this four-day tournament in Bath:

Eight teams split into two groups for the Europe/Africa round robin event.  Eventually just one team will go on to the play-off event in April which will decide who wins promotion to the second tier of the Fed Cup structure.

Wednesday 6 February

Group A: GB, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia

Great Britain 3-0 Slovenia. 

Katie Boulter started it all off with a straight sets win over Kaja Juvan 6-4 6-2.  Then Jo Konta beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 6-2.

The win was sealed by GB’s doubles team of Harriet Dart and Katie Swan who beat Jakupovic and Juvan 6-4 6-2.

Hungary 2-1 Greece
Dalma Galfi beat Valentini Grammatikopoulou 6-0 6-3
Maria Sakkari beat Anna Bondar 6-3 6-2
Dalma Galfi and Reka-Luca Jani beat Maria Sakkari and Despina Papamichail 6-3 6-4.

Group B: Croatia, Georgia, Serbia, Turkey

Croatia 2-1 Turkey
Cagla Buyukakcay beat Ana Konjuh 7-6 2-6 6-3
Donna Vekic beat Pemra Ozgen 7-6 6-3
Jana Fett and Darija Jurak beat Cagla Buyukakcay and Pemra Ozgen 6-4 6-4

Serbia 2-1 Georgia
Ivana Jorovic beat Mariam Bolkvadze 6-3 6-1
Olga Danilovic beat Ekaterine Gorgodze 7-5 6-3
Mariam Bolkvadze and Oksana Kalashnikova beat Olga Danilovic and Ivana Jorovic 6-3 7-5

On Saturday, the two group winners will play each other, with the winners progressing to the April play-offs.

Thursday 7 February

Group A

Great Britain 3-0 Greece

Boulter started it again, beating Valentini Grammatikopoulou in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-3.

Konta also took three sets to beat Maria Sakkari 4-6 6-2 6-3 and the doubles pairing of Dart and Swan made it 3-0 winning over Anna Arkadianou and Despina Papamichail 6-1 6-4.

Hungary 3-0 Slovenia
Dalma Galfi beat Kaja Juvan 6-1 6-4
Anna Bondar beat Dalila Jakupovic 4-6 6-1 6-4
Reka-Luca Jani and Adrienn Nagy beat Nina Potocnik and Nika Radisic 7-4 4-6 6-2

Group B

Croatia 2-1 Georgia
Ana Konjuh beat Mariam Bolkvadze 6-4 6-3
Ekaterine Gorgodze beat Jana Fett 4-6 6-3 7-5
Darija Jurak and Ana Konjuh beat Ekaterine Gorgodze and Oksana Kalashnikova 7-5 6-1

Serbia 3-0 Turkey
Ivana Jorovic beat Cagla Buyukakcay 6-2 6-3
Aleksandra Krunic beat Pemra Ogzen 3-6 6-4 6-2
Olga Danilovic and Aleksandra Krunic beat Berfu Cengiz and Ipek Soylu 6-2 6-3

Still to come:

Friday, 8 February

Group A
Great Britain v Hungary (16:30)
Greece v Slovenia (16:30)

Group B
Serbia v Croatia (10:00)
Turkey v Georgia (10:00)

On Saturday, the two group winners will play each other, with the winners progressing to the April play-offs.

Saturday, 9 February

Play-off: TBC v TBC (16:30)

St Petersburg Open

In the semi-finals, eighth seed Donna Vekic saw off the challenge of Vera Zvonareva 6-2 6-2 and second seed Kiki Bertens beat fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 6-2.

Bertens then went on to win the final against Vekic 7-6 6-4.

Thailand Open

In the semi-finals, eighth seed Dayana Yastremska defeated Magda Linette 6-4 6-3 and sixth seed Ajla Tomljanovic beat Tamara Zidansek 6-4 6-1.

Yastremeska went on to win an exciting final 6-2 2-6 7-6.

She took a 5-0 lead in the first set, eventually taking it 6-2.  Tomljanovic roared back in the second to take it by the same score.  It looked as though the momentum was with Tomljanovic, as she went into 5-2 lead in the final set, but Yastremska came back to take it to a tiebreak, which she won to three.

Rugby Union

Six Nations Championships

There were wins for England, France and Italy in the first round at the weekend.

Ireland 7-51 England

There were eight different try scorers for England as they made a great start to the championship.  Katy Daley-McLean also scored 16 points including a try.  Ireland’s score came through a penalty try on the hour when England were penalised for deliberately collapsing the drive after a series of five metre scrums.

England tries: Breach, Bern, Davies, Daley-McLean, Harrison, Scott, B Cleall
Conversions: Daley-McLean (4)
Penalty: Daley-McLean

France 52-3 Wales

Nine tries for France saw them get off to an impressive start.

France tries: Thomas (3), Murie (2), Menager (2), N’Diaye, Constanty
Conversions: Imart (2)
Penalty: Imart

Wales penalty: Wilkins

Scotland 7-28 Italy

Italy also managed a bonus point win over Scotland at Scotstoun.

Scotland try: Bonar
Conversion: Skeldon

Italy tries: Arrighetti, Franco, Rigoni, Giordano
Conversions: Madia, Sillari (3)

This weekend’s fixtures:

Friday 8 February: Scotland v Ireland (19.35, live on BBC Alba and RTE)
Saturday 9 February: Italy v Wales (19.00, live on Eurosport IT and BBC Wales)
Sunday 10 February: England v France (12.45pm, Sky Sports and France 2)

Hockey – Off the Pitch

Sophie Bray has announced her retirement from international hockey.

The 28-year old won 134 caps for England and Great Britain.  She won Olympic gold with Britain in 2916, European gold in 2015 and bronze in 2017 and Commonwealth Games silver and bronze (dates).

She was awarded an MBE in 2017, with the rest of the 2016 Olympic hockey team.

She announced her decision on Instagram:

“After a very tough couple of months it is with great sadness that I have taken the difficult decision to step down from international hockey.

“It has been a huge honour to represent Great Britain and England, and I will be forever grateful for all the incredible memories in an international shirt.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has supported and believed in me and made the amazing journey so special.

“I still have a lot to give the sport I love and I am looking forward to what the future holds.”

Hockey – On the Pitch

FIH Pro League

New Zealand 5-1 Great Britain

Great Britain began their FIH Pro League campaign with a defeat to the Black Sticks.  Olivia Merry opened the scoring for New Zealand in the fifth minute.  It was 1-1 at the end of the first quarter as Giselle Ansley equalised from a penalty stroke on 11 minutes.

There was only one goal in the second quarter, scored by Ella Gunson from a penalty corner and New Zealand went into the break 2-1 up.

In the third, Merry scored her second on 35, and from then on New Zealand were in control.  Merry sealed her hat-trick from a penalty corner on 51 and Amy Robson made it 5-1 on 59.

The other scores so far:

6 January
Argentina 2-0 Belgium

27 January
New Zealand 0-1 Netherlands

1 February
New Zealand 0-1 Belgium

2 February
Australia 1-0 Netherlands

Argentina 2-2 United States
(Argentina won 3-1 on penalties)

3 February
Australia 1-2 Belgium

The next fixtures:

15 February
New Zealand v Germany (Christchurch)

16 February
Australia v GB (Perth)
US v Netherlands (Winston-Salem)

17 February
New Zealand v China (Christchurch)

Netball

Last weekend’s Vitality Netball Super League results were:

Saturday 2 February
Surrey Storm 47-70 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 60-49 Strathclyde Sirens

Monday 4 February
Celtic Dragons 44-66 Saracens Mavericks
Manchester Thunder 62-47 London Pulse

Wasps are top with three wins from three, nine points and a goal average of 1.46.  Manchester Thunder are second with an inferior goal average (1.33) and Mavericks are third, again with an inferior goal average (1.25), and have played a game more.

This weekend’s round five fixtures are:

Friday 8 February
Strathclyde Sirens v Celtic Dragons (7.30pm)

Saturday 9 February
Severn Stars v Manchester Thunder (6.00pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath (6.00pm)
London Pulse v Surrey Storm (7.00pm)

Monday 11 February
Wasps Netball v Saracens Mavericks (7.00pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Winter Sports – off the Snow

Lindsey Vonn

This week Lindsey Vonn announced her retirement, saying her “body is broken beyond repair”.

She had been trying to surpass Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins, but will retire on 82.

In a quite outstanding career, the 34-year old won downhill Winter Olympics gold at Vancouver in 2010, bronze in the super-G and a downhill bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018.

She has comeback from several career-threatening injuries, but the knee injury sustained at Lake Louise last year has proved the final straw.

Like many sportswomen she has had more than her fair share of haters, particularly when she raced against the men and even after all her achievements it is quite telling that her announcement, released on Instagram, ended,

“So please let my story be of comebacks, victories and even injuries, but do not tell my story as one of failures or unreached goals.”

Winter Sports – on the Snow/ice

Lindsey Vonn – Again

However, it did not all go to plan for Vonn in her penultimate race.

She crashed spectacularly in the super-G at the World Championships in Are, Sweden.  She hit a gate and ended up in the safety nets.  She was treated by medics before getting up and skiing down to the end of the course.

Her final race will be in the downhill on Sunday.

Speed Skating

Great Britain claimed mixed relay bronze last weekend at the Short Track World Cup in Dresden.

Although Korea initially won the race, they were afterwards disqualified and Russia awarded the gold.  Hungary won the silver and the GB team of Elise Christie, Farrell Treacy, Jack Burrows and Kathryn Thomson the bronze.

Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships

Charlotte Bankes won Britain’s first ever World Championship snowboard medal when she took silver in the snowboard cross in Utah.  Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic took gold.

Izzy Atkin won bronze in the freestyle skiing big air category at the same event.  Gold went to Tess Ledeux of France and silver to Julia Crass.  Atkin was just five points behind in third.

Telemark World Cup Ladies Classic

Meanwhile, in Pra Loup, France Jasmin Taylor won World Cup silver.  She finished 7.84 seconds behind the gold medal winner Amelie Reymond of Switzerland.  Argeline Tan Bouquet of France finished third.

I know my coverage of winter sports is quite patchy – my knowledge, I confess, is a bit thin on the subject, but it seems that Great Britain’s women are whipping up a storm across several different disciplines at the moment.  If any of you out there have specialist knowledge in this area and would like to contribute to the column, please let me know!

One pairing I do know a bit about is Menna Fitzpatrick and Jen Kehoe.  And last week they were in action at the Para Alpine Skiing World Championships in Italy.

And once again they were in great form.  They claimed gold in both the downhill and the visually-impaired super G.  They then took silver in the super-combined.

Football

FA Cup Fourth round results:

Saturday 2 February
Manchester City 3-0 Watford

Sunday 3 February
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester Utd
West Ham Utd 3-1 Blackburn Rovers
Leicester City 0-2 London Bees
AFC Wimbledon 0-3 Bristol City
Crystal Palace 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Crawley Wasps 0-4 Arsenal
Everton 0-2 Chelsea

The weather put paid to half of the 16 ties and these will now be played on 10 February:

Durham v Cardiff
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
Liverpool v MK Dons
Millwall v Lewes
Reading v Keynsham Town
Stoke City v Aston Villa

Fifth round draw

Ties to be played on 17 February:

Liverpool or MK Dons v Millwall Lionesses or Lewes
Bristol City v Durham Women or Cardiff City
Reading or Keynsham Town v Yeovil Town or Birmingham City
Chelsea v Arsenal
Manchester United v London Bees
West Ham United v Charlton Athletic or Huddersfield Town
Stoke City or Aston Villa v Loughborough Foxes or Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City

Continental Cup

The Continental Cup final will be between Manchester City and Arsenal after they saw off Chelsea and Manchester United respectively in the semi-finals this week.

Chelsea 0-2 Manchester City

Nikita Parris scored twice to see City through to their fourth League Cup final in five years.

After a goalless first-half, City were awarded a penalty on 49 minutes after Parris was brought down by Deanna Cooper.  Parris took the penalty herself and scored.

She scored her second on 81 and that was enough to seal the win.

Arsenal 2-1 Manchester United

Vivianne Miedema also scored twice to help Arsenal defeat Manchester United.

Molly Green pulled one back for the Championship side, but it was too little, too late.

The final is at Bramhall Lane, Sheffield on Saturday 23 February.

England Lionesses

World Cup Warm-ups

The Lionesses will prepare for the World Cup with four home games, as well as the SheBelieves Cup in the USA at the end of February.

England v Canada – Friday, 5 April (Academy Stadium, Manchester City)
England v Spain – Tuesday, 9 April (Swindon Town)
England v Denmark – Saturday, 25 May (Walsall FC)
England v New Zealand – Saturday, 1 June (Brighton & Hove Albion)

 If you can’t get to France this summer, these matches are a brilliant chance to get out and show your support for the Lionesses before they set off for the tournament.

Sheffield United Racism Allegations

The FA has charged Sheffield Utd striker Sophie Jones with the racial abuse of Tottenham’s Renee Hector.

I reported at the beginning of January that Hector had reported the incident to the referee during the game and to the FA afterwards.

Jones has until 15 February to respond to the allegations.

Cricket

The ECB has announced the women’s central contracts for 2019.

There are 21 in total, 17 full-time and four “rookie” contracts.

Freya Davies has been moved up from rookie to full-time.  Bryony Smith has received her first (rookie) contract, but Beth Langston and Tash Farrant miss out completely.

I interviewed Farrant at Loughborough for WSUK some time ago and I have to say I’m gutted that she hasn’t been offered a contract.  She has boundless enthusiasm and is still a developing talent.  I hope that she will be able to work at her cricket during the county season and bounce back into contention next year.

The overall salary pot has increased by 10%.

Full Time:  Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Freya Davies (Sussex), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire), Heather Knight (Berkshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Sarah Taylor (Sussex), Fran Wilson (Kent), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex),

Rookie: Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Linsey Smith (Sussex).

Volleyball

As we know, the Women’s Premier League has now split into “Top 5” and “Bottom 4”.  Last weekend there was just one bottom four fixture:

Bristol VC1 0-3 Polonia SideOut London (15-25, 22-25, 19-25)

And Finally

Another week, another staggering feat of endurance running.  Susannah Gill won the women’s World Marathon Challenge after completing the seven marathons across seven continents in seven days in a world record time of 24 hours 19 minutes and nine seconds.

She came second in the first marathon in Nova, Antarctica, but then won the subsequent races in Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Santiago and Miami.

But it’s a competition not without its detractors.  55,000 miles of flying time in seven days – not the most environmentally friendly undertaking .  You also have to pay a 39,000 euro entrance fee, thus excluding a goodly proportion of the population from entering.

Unsurprisingly, fewer than 200 people have ever completed it.  Not wanting to sound like an old curmudgeon, I can understand, on several levels, why.

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 5-11 January 2019

new tennisSo here it is – 2019!  I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all my followers and, if I might be so bold, suggest that this is going to be a mammoth year for women’s sport.  I’m rather chuffed to say that my husband came up with the goods for my “big” birthday, giving me Netball World Cup tickets.  We have one session that should, all being equal, include an England Roses game.  So what with that, the football World Cup and Women’s Ashes coming up this summer, it’s going to be all systems go.

But there’s still plenty to get our teeth into this winter.  Stories for the first column of 2019 come from football, cricket, rugby union, netball, darts and tennis.

So for the first time this year, let’s crack on…

Tennis

After what seems a miniscule couple of weeks off, the WTA season has begun again with tournaments in the Far East and Australia, leading up the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, which begins on 14 January.  This week sees two tournaments in Australia:

Sydney International

It has been a bad week for British number one Jo Konta who was forced to withdraw from the Sydney International twice in two days.  She was working her way through qualifying when she had to retire in the second round with a neck injury.  She still went through to the main draw as a lucky loser and was due to Kiki Bertens in the first round, but withdrew again.

World number one Simona Halep fared no better as she was beaten in the second round after a first round bye, losing to Ash Barty 6-4 6-4.  It was Halep’s first competitive match in three months after she ended last season early with a back injury.

Quarter-finals
Petra Kvitova (5) beat Angelique Kerber (2) 6-4 6-1
Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-3
Ash Barty beat Elise Mertens (10) 6-3 6-3
Kiki Bertens (7) beat Yulia Putintseva 6-2 6-2

Semi-finals
Ash Barty is into the final, having defeated Kiki Bertens 6-7 6-5 7-5.  Sasnovich v Kvitova is still to take place at time of publishing.

Hobart International

No better news for British number two Heather Watson as she crashed out of the Hobart International in the first round, losing in straight sets to Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-1 6-4.

Quarter-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Kirsten Flipkens (7) 7-5 7-5
Alize Cornet (6) beat Greet Minnen 6-1 6-4
Belinda Bencic beat Dayana Yastremska 7-6 6-3
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5 7-5

Semi-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Alize Cornet (6) 6-2 6-4
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Belinda Bencic 7-6 4-6 6-2

The final is tomorrow, Saturday 12 January

Australian Open Qualifying

There are 16 spots up for grabs in Qualifying.  Of the British players, Naomi Broady lost in the first round, beaten by Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-4 3-6 6-3.  Gabriella Taylor also departed in the first round, losing to Kirstie Ahn of USA 6-1 6-1.

But Harriet Dart is through to the first round proper of the Australian Open.  She beat her first qualifying round opponent, Chloe Paquet of France 6-3 4-6 6-2.  She then defeated Ivana Jorovic of Serbia 1-6 6-3 6-1.  No easy draw for Dart though.  She now faces Maria Sharapova in the first round.

There are four British women in the main draw as Jo Konta seems to have declared herself fit: Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart.

Heather Watson faces 31st seed Petra Martic, Katie Boulter also has a tough one against Ekaterina Makarova (all Monday 14 January).  Jo Konta has an extra day to recover; her first match is on Tuesday against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.

Fed Cup

Great Britain have named a full-strength team for February’s matches in Bath.

The team, along with their world rankings, is Jo Konta (38th), Heather Watson (93rd). Katie Boulter (99th), Harriet Dart (132nd) and Katie Swan (181st).

It is the first time in 26 years that Great Britain has hosted a Fed Cup event.

The Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 event will comprise eight teams.  The teams will be in two groups of four, the draw for which is on 14 January.  The winners of each group will then play each other to determine who will go into the World Group II play-off, which takes place in April.

The event from 6-9 February is at the University of Bath.  Check out the ticket situation here.

Football

Racism Allegation

Tottenham Hotspur defender Renee Hector used social media to allege that she was the subject of racist abuse by a Sheffield United player during their game on Sunday 6 January.

She tweeted:

“Such a shame that racism seems to be rising up again in football.  I received some monkey noises from an opposition player. The only reaction was to let football do the talking.”

Sheffield United Women have made a statement that they:

“are aware of the post on social media and have already begun an investigation to determine the full facts”.

Hector also reported the incident to the referee during the game and Tottenham reported it to the Football Association.

There will be more on this as the situation progresses.

FA Cup Third Round Results:
Billericay Town 3-4 Loughborough Foxes
Coventry United 1-2 Crawley Wasps
Derby 1-2 Stoke
Huddersfield 4-1 Leeds
Hull City 0-3 AFC Wimbledon
Keynsham 2-1 Fylde
Middlesbrough 2-7 Watford
Cardiff 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest 0-1 MK Dons
Oxford United 1-2 Blackburn

FA Cup Fourth Round Draw

The FA Cup fourth-round draw has been made.  Crawley Wasps, AFC Wimbledon and Keynsham Town are the lowest ranked sides left in the competition – they all play in the fourth tier of women’s football.  This is the point at which the Super League and Championship teams make their first appearance:

Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United
West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Manchester City v Watford
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
AFC Wimbledon v Bristol City
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses v Lewes
Durham v Cardiff City
Everton v Chelsea
Crawley Wasps v Arsenal
Leicester City v London Bees
Reading v Keynsham Town
Liverpool v Milton Keynes Dons

Ties will be played on Sunday 3 February.

Continental Cup

We now know the semi-final line-up after the quarter-finals were completed this week.

Manchester City 7-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 6’, Hemp 23’ 86’, Weir 59’, Emslie 88’, Stanway 90’, Beckie 92’
Buet 9’

Manchester Utd 2-0 West Ham Utd
Sigsworth 17’ 53’

Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham City
Van de Donk 83’, Miedema 90’
Quinn 61’

Chelsea 4-0 Reading
Kirby 3’ 86’, Asante 37’, Riley 90+1

WSL

Sunday 6 January
Bristol City 1-1 Manchester City
Graham 62’ (pen)
Parris 36’

Chelsea 3-0 Everton
England 6’, Spence 60’, Blundell 69’

Liverpool 0-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Rafferty 34’, Umotong 49’

Birmingham City 2-1 Reading
Harrop 72’, Sargeant 89’
Hampton 88’ (OG)

West Ham Utd 2-4 Arsenal
Ross 11’, 43’
Williamson 26’, Arnth-Jensen 31’, van de Donk 59’ 65’

Arsenal are top with 30 points from 11 games.  Manchester City are second, two points behind and having played a game more.  Chelsea are third on 25 points from 12 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 games and above them are Everton with 5 points from 11.

Championship

Sunday 6 January
Sheffield Utd 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Schillaci 6’ (OG)
Dean 5’, Wiltshire 51’

Leicester City 4-0 Lewes
M Johnson 41’, Worts 50’ 55’, L Johnson 89’

Manchester Utd 9-0 London Bees
Devlin 2’ 57’, Toone 28’ 66’, Arnott 39’, Green 40’, James 68’ 73’, Zelem 80’ (Pen)

Crystal Palace 3-1 Millwall
Burr 6’, Mackenzie 52’, Bryan 63’
Ravenscroft 53’

Charlton Athletic 2-2 Durham
Bailes 20’, Gurr 85’
Ness 42’ 45’

With their thumping win over the Bees, Manchester United are top by one point.   They have 28 points from 11 games.  Just behind them are Tottenham with 27 from 11 and Charlton Athletic are third on 26 from 12. At the bottom, Millwall Lionesses have just two points from 11 games and Crystal Palace have seven from 12.

Transfers

The transfer window is upon us.  Pick of the transfers so far:

Ann-Katrin Berger has signed for Chelsea from Birmingham on a contract which takes her up to 2022.  Best bit of transfer business so far?  Probably.  Don’t forget Berger was still battling with thyroid cancer in November 2017.  Her comeback has been nothing short of stunning and she is bound to be a real asset to Chelsea.

Danish winger Katrine Veje has signed for Arsenal from Montpellier. Veje has already won more than 100 caps for Denmark.

Jade Bailey has signed for Reading from Chelsea on loan until the end of the current season.

Scottish forward Abbi Grant has left Glasgow City to play for Anderlecht.  Her aim is to make the Scotland World Cup squad and she believes the only way to do that was to leave Glasgow.  So far she has just one cap.

I’m not one to repeat gossip (often), but rumour has it that Birmingham City head coach Marc Skinner has been approached by Orlando Pride with respect to joining them as their head coach.  No confirmation or denial on either website, but just what I’ve heard from fans’ forums.  If it does turn out to be true, this will be a massive loss for Birmingham.  More news when I get it.

Finally, can I add my congratulations to Annie Zaidi, who has been named as the new Solihull Moors Ladies coach.  I have met Annie on several occasions and she is a brilliant example to any woman wanting to become a football (or any sports) coach.  In addition to the new role she will continue as the Under 16s boys.  If you don’t know her story, check it out here.

Netball – off the Court

When are Benecos Mavericks not Benecos Mavericks?  When they’re Saracens Mavericks, of course!

Having just got used to calling them Benecos Mavericks, as opposed to Hertfordshire Mavericks, they’ve gone and changed their names again.  With good reason.  Saracens Rugby Club have bought a 50% stake in the Mavericks.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Kathryn Ratnapala, Mavericks’ Director of Netball said,

“This has been a fantastic opportunity to join forces with Saracens and continue to push to be the standout, ultimate franchise within Vitality Superleague.”

“Saracens have proved to be role models and leaders in their field and merging with this high-performance culture and club is a great step forward for Mavericks.

“We would like to thank Benecos for their support for the last two years as we continue to work with them as our title sponsor this season.”

Tim Hunt, who oversees the commercial operation at Saracens said,

“Netball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and we are excited to be joining forces with Mavericks. Part of our growth strategy is to collaborate with others that share our ethos and help widen our audience reach.”

“To achieve this, the dual-priority is to create an environment where our elite teams continually strive for sporting excellence and to inspire our local communities to lead healthier, happier lives through the positive power of sport. Mavericks mirror our culture making them a perfect match for Saracens.”

Seriously, it is great to see another sport realise the potential that surrounds netball.  I hope it’s a beneficial relationship for both clubs.

Netball – on the Court

The Vitality Netball Super League 2019 is underway in this huge year for netball!

Last weekend saw the Super 10 opening extravaganza at the Birmingham Arena.  All ten Super League teams were in action over the course of the day.  The scores were as follows:

Celtic Dragons 41-58 Team Bath
Wasps Netball 72-42 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 49-51 London Pulse
Strathclyde Sirens 56-38 Surrey Storm
Manchester Thunder 58-61 Saracens Mavericks

The second round is this weekend and then there is a break for the Quad Series.

11 January
Strathclyde Sirens v Team Bath (7.30pm) (Live on Sky)

12 January
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Saracens Mavericks (6pm)
London Pulse v Celtic Dragons (7pm)

Quad Series aka Vitality International Series

The latest Quad series takes place in Liverpool and London between 13-20 January.

Sunday 13 January (Liverpool)
South Africa v Australia (3.15pm)
England v New Zealand (5.30pm)

Saturday 19 January (London)
Australia v New Zealand (4.15pm)
England v south Africa (6.30pm)

Sunday 20 January (London)
South Africa v New Zealand (3.15pm)
England v Australia (6pm)

All games live on Sky Sports

England have already named a 12-strong squad. There is no place for captain Ama Agbeze as she is still recovering from injury.

Roses squad: Helen Housby, Chelsea Pitman, Geva Mentor, Jo Harten, Jade Clarke, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Serena Guthrie, Layla Guscoth, Rachel Dunn, Razia Quashie, Fran Williams

Darts

We are at the semi-final stage of the BDO Darts Professional Ladies Championships at Lakeside.

The semi-finals take place today, Friday 11 January.

Lorraine Winstanley of England takes on doubles partner Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia while Mikuru Suzuki of Japan faces Maria O’Brien of England.

More news next week.

Cricket

WBBL

With just one round of matches to go, Sydney Thunder are still on top with 19 points (nine wins).  Both they and the Hurricanes have played 13 matches, one more than everyone else.  Just behind them, on 18 points and also with nine wins are Sydney Sixers.

The other two finals day qualifying places are currently held by Brisbane Heat on 14 points and Melbourne Renegades on 13.  At the bottom, the luckless Hobart Hurricanes still have only two wins from 13 and are on four points.  Perth Scorchers are currently in fifth, just one point behind fourth place.

The two standouts over the past couple of weeks have both involved New Zealand all-rounder Sophie Devine.  Her display with both bat and ball for the Adelaide Strikers on 23 December against the Melbourne Stars led them to a fine win and she was at it again as the Strikers triumphed in a Super Over win over the unlucky Hobart Hurricanes on 8 January.

Sophie Devine

Devine became the first WBBL player to hit a half-century and take five wickets in a match.  She hit 95 off 66 balls (5 sixes, 8 fours) for the Strikers and was out in the penultimate over as they posted a total of 172/3.  She then took the wickets of Lizelle Lee, Angela Reakes, Erin Osborne, Georgia Elwiss and Nicola Hancock as the Stars fell 19 runs short in their chase.

On 8 January, the Strikers posted 189/5 with Devine scoring 99 not out from 53 balls, an innings that included 10 fours and four sixes.  Tahlia McGrath also made 63.  In chasing 190, the Hurricanes always looked to be up against it.  Smriti Mandhana made 52 at the top of the order, but she lost three partners in quick succession.  The lower order took it on though and the Hurricanes managed to end on 189/8, which took it to a Super Over.

The Hurricanes could only post 12/1 from their one over, hampered by the wicket of Mandhana second ball.  The Strikers, needless to say in the form of Devine, hit six, six, four to win the game and end as player of the match yet again.

Rugby Union

England Roses
I know I’m a bit late to this, but I think it bears repeating: the RFU have awarded 28 full-time 15s contracts.  There are also seven EPS agreements where players will take part in camps and England training, but not the full-time programme.

England Women Elite Player Squad 2019

Forwards
Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women), Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women), Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)*, Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies), Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women)*, Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women), Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies), Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Justine Lucas (Loughborough Lightning), Cath O’ Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens Women), Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)*, Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

Backs
Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies), Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies), Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning), Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women), Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies)*, Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Lagi Tuima (Bristol Bears Women), Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

* EPS agreement

It is great news and shows England Rugby’s commitment to women’s and girls’ rugby.

Premier 15s

Premier 15s rugby is back this weekend.  The fixtures are as follows:

12 January
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol Bears (1pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Richmond v Wasps (3pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Harlequins (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Get out there and support them if you can.

That’s all for this week.  More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 21-27 April 2018

test tubesWelcome to this week’s column.  After the netball frenzy of last week, it’s all calmed down a bit.  But there’s still plenty going on with stories from athletics, football, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, golf, cycling, tennis and netball. Plus another depressing “And finally”.  Sorry folks, but it’s got to be done.

Let’s crack on.

Athletics

The big breaking news this week comes from the IAAF and its attempts to restrict women with higher testosterone levels from competing in their best events.  Well, that’s how I see it, anyway.  If you have followed me for any length of time, you will know this is subject I have covered before and this announcement has thrown it all up in the air again.

Even if it didn’t mean it to appear so, this new ruling has been seen as a direct attack on South African 800m/1500m runner Caster Semenya.  The acceptable testosterone levels will be reduced in the new directive, but only for those in 400m-1mile events.

If a woman with higher testosterone levels is to compete, they will have to take medication for six months previous to competition.

In its statement the IAAF stated,

“The sport has a lot of athletes with DSD (hyperandrogenism).

“It is not just the one or two females you hear about in the media. In elite female athletics, the number of intersex athletes is 140 times more than you might find in the normal female population.

“As world governing body, we need to ensure a level playing field for all athletes. The research and evidence clearly shows there is a performance advantage in female athletes with DSD over the track distances covered by this rule.”

This very hypothesis was successfully challenged by Indian sprinter Duttee Chand in 2015, which caused a similar ruling to be suspended.  This is the first attempt by the IAAF since then to re-introduce a ruling on acceptable testosterone levels.

The IAAF will also have to contend with the accusation that this is a racist rule.  There can be no doubt that a powerful, strong, black woman is a troubling image for some people and the IAAF appears to be reinforcing this with its new ruling.

If the IAAF is so convinced that intersex athletes are such a threat, why doesn’t it just go the whole hog and re-introduce the invasive gender tests many women were subject to for so many years?  Then it could ban anyone who it feels doesn’t conform to its idea of “natural”.

I cannot believe there is not a better way to sort this issue.

The new rules should come into effect in November 2018, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was delayed due to legal opposition.

If you would like to read more of my research and views on this see below:

http://www.wispsports.com/womens-sports-blogs/extra-cover-by-penny-hopkins/makes-woman-woman/

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2013/11/gender-testing-in-sport-back-in-the-news/

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2015/08/sport-gender-testing-guidelines-suspended/

Cricket

History was made at Lord’s on Tuesday when Middlesex played their first ever appearance on the main pitch in front of a record crowd of over 5,000 – a mere 85 years after their founding.

MCC were captained by Charlotte Edwards and the side also included England’s Sarah Taylor and Georgia Elwiss.

MCC batted first, scoring 145/3 in their 20 overs.  Top scorer was Alex Rogers on 72.

In reply, Middlesex made a good start, but fell behind the required rate until it was nine-per-over.  But Maia Bouchier took it on, and they needed 30 off the last four overs.

In the end it went down to the wire as Hayleigh Brennan hit a boundary off the penultimate ball to win it for Middlesex.  Bouchier finished on 39 not out with captain Natasha Miles having made 38.

But, as you will realise, the result was very much secondary to the historic aspect of the game.  Onward and upward for women’s county cricket (hopefully).

Smriti Mandhana

The BCCI has nominated Smriti Mandhana from the women’s game and Shikhar Dhawan from the men’s game for the prestigious Arjuna award 2018.  These awards are given annually by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to recognise outstanding achievement in sport.  The awards have been given since1961 and it is only the second time a woman has been nominated, after Harmanpreet Kaur received the same honour in 2017.

Tennis – on the Court

Fed Cup
Great Britain lost their tie against Japan at the weekend.  While Jo Konta won both of her singles matches, Heather Watson lost both of hers, which took it down to the doubles.  GB now returns to the Europe/Africa Zone.

I’m not sure that playing a doubles team of Watson/Konta is the way forward – surely it makes more sense, if you have a team of four, that two will be doubles specialists?

Watson lost the first rubber to Osaka 2-6 3-6.  Konta levelled the tie by beating Nara 6-4 6-2.  On day two, Konta beat Osaka 6-3 6-3, but Watson lost to Nara 6-7 4-6.

The deciding doubles was the only rubber to go to three sets.  Kato/Ninomiya defeated Konta/Watson 6-3 3-6 3-6.

Meanwhile the Fed Cup final will be between Czech Republic and defending champions, USA.

The Czechs beat Germany 4-1 in their semi-final.  They were 2-0 up after the first day, but then Julia Goerges beat Karoline Pliskova 6-2 6-2 to bring it back to 2-1.  But Petra Kvitova then defeated Angelique Kerber 6-2 6-2 and then the Germans retired from the doubles, giving the Czechs the 4-1 tie win.

The USA were 1-1 with France after the first day of singles.  On day two, Sloane Stephens beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 6-0 and Madison Keys defeated Pauline Parmentier 7-6 6-4 to give USA an unassailable 3-1 lead.  France won the dead rubber doubles to take it to 3-2.

The final will be on the weekend of 10-11 November in the Czech Republic.

There are two WTA tournaments taking place this week; Stuttgart and Istanbul.  As of today (Friday 27 April) we are at the quarter-final stage of both.

Stuttgart Open

Simona Halep (1) v Coco Vandeweghe
Anett Kontaveit v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Elina Svitolina (3) v Caroline Garcia (6)
Karolina Plíšková (5) v Jelena Ostapenko (4)

Istanbul Open

Maria Sakkari v Arantxa Rus
Caroline Wozniacki (1) v Pauline Parmentier
Polona Hercog v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Donna Vekić v Irina-Camelia Begu

Tennis – off the Court

The LTA has announced it wants to see 1,600 women qualifying to coach in the next five years.  This would double the number currently working in the sport.

The announcement was made at the Women’s Coach Conference in Birmingham this week.

In her speech, Judy Murray said,

“I believe that girls respond better to female role models.

“The LTA want to see more female coaches who can encourage girls to take up, and stay in, sport.”

Football

Lots of football news to get through this week, both on and off the pitch.

On the Pitch

Champions League

It was a poor week for the British teams in the Champions League semi-finals as Manchester City could only draw at home, while Chelsea suffered a comprehensive home defeat.  Both teams will now find it difficult progress to the final.

Manchester City 0-0 Lyon

City would have been hoping for a lead to take back to Lyon, but it was not to be.

Lyon had the lion’s share of possession throughout, but relatively few chances.  Their best came through Eugenie Le Sommer just before half-time and substitute Camille Abily just after.  And in the closing minutes Karen Bardsley pulled out a fine save to deny Amandine Henry’s header and to keep it level after the first leg.

Mel Lawley had a good chance for City, but the Lyon ‘keeper, Sarah Bouhaddi, pushed her shot over the bar.   Nikita Parris also volleyed over, but, in truth, City had few chances.

City will have to play exceedingly well to beat Lyon on their own turf.

Chelsea 1-3 Wolfsburg

If the Manchester City result was disappointing, Chelsea’s first leg was nothing short of a disaster.

The home side started well and took the lead through Fran Kirby in just the second minute.

But a header from Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir and an own goal from Maren Mjelde meant the German side went in 2-1 up at half-time.

In the second-half Wolfsburg were clearly the better side and got a third through Lara Dickenmann.

Both second legs are this Sunday, 29 April.

FAWSL

This week’s WSL1 and WSL2 scores were:

Saturday 21 April
FAWSL1
Yeovil Town 0-0 Arsenal
Sunderland AFC 1-2 Bristol City

Sunday 22 April
FAWSL1
Reading 3-0 Everton

FAWSL2
Durham 2-1 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Sheffield FC
Aston Villa 1-0 Oxford United
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Watford 0-4 London Bees

Tuesday 24 April
FAWSL1
Arsenal 3-0 Liverpool

No change at the top in WSL1, but Yeovil have now picked up two points in two games at the bottom.  Bristol City also picked up their third win of the season, taking them to 10 points, still second from bottom, but level on points with Everton, who are third from bottom.

Millwall Lionesses spurned their chance to close the gap on leaders Doncaster, as the top two both lost at the weekend.  Brighton are now only one point behind Millwall in third, but Watford are still bottom with a single point.

Off the Pitch

Fran Kirby scooped the PFA Women’s Player of the Year award on Sunday at the Grosvenor House Hotel.  Bristol City’s Lauren Hemp picked up the PFA Young Women’s Player of the Year.

Casey Stoney also received a Special Achievement award.

And the week got even better for Kirby as she won the inaugural Football Writers’ Association’s (FWA) Women’s Footballer of the Year award on Tuesday.  It’s great to see that football writers now care about women’s football enough for there to be an award!

The shortlist for the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2018 has also been announced.  The contenders are:

Lucy Bronze (Olympique Lyonnais & England)
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg & Denmark)
Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars/Perth Glory & Australia)
Dzsenifer Marozsan (Olympique Lyonnais & Germany)
Lieke Martens (Barcelona & Netherlands)

Check out the profiles of the contenders and how to vote here.  You have until 8am on Tuesday 8 May make your choice.

Golf

After the first round of the Mediheal Championship in California, the lead is shared by five golfers: Lydia Ko (NZ), Caroline Hedwall (Swe), Kim In-kyung (Kor), Jessica Korda (USA) and Su Oh (Aus) on -4.  England’s Charley Hull is one back along with Kim Sei-young (Kor), Celine Herbin (Fra) and Lexi Thompson (USA).

Rugby union

Kitakyushu Sevens (World Sevens Series Round Three)

New Zealand won the latest round in the World Sevens in Japan on Sunday.  They defeated France in the final 24-12.  In doing so, they closed the gap in the Sevens standings to six points.

England beat China 36-5 to finish seventh.

Semi-Finals: New Zealand 17 – 12 Australia; France 21 – 0 Spain
11th Place Match: Japan 14 – 33 Canada
Challenger final: United States 24 – 19 Ireland
7th Place Match: China 5 – 36 England
5th Place Match: Fiji 7 – 30 Russia
3rd Place Match: Australia 19 – 5 Spain
Final: New Zealand 24 – 12 France

Rugby league

Just two results from the Super League this week:

Sunday 22 April
York City Knights 0-62 Castleford Tigers
Bradford Bulls 4-42 St Helens

Cycling

Good news all-round for women’s cycling this week.

It was announced this week that Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen will compete in the Tour de Yorkshire in May.  Britain’s Katie Archibald and Dani Rowe will also race.

The two-day race starts in Beverley on 3 May and ends in on a course of 162 miles.  It’s a race that is gaining in profile and popularity and this year will be broadcast live on television.

The second piece of interesting news is that former UCI president Brian Cookson is planning to develop a professional women’s cycling team by 2009.

In a s statement he said,

“Over the next few months, I am going to be exploring the possibilities of setting up a new professional cycling team structure.  My intention is that this should begin with the establishing of a UCI Women’s WorldTour Team for 2019 – a team that will meet or exceed the new high standards that are likely to be put in place by the UCI for the new two-tier structure for Women’s Teams that was developed during my term as UCI President.

“I am not just talking about a top-level team in the traditional sense. There has never been so much interest in women’s sport, fitness and health generally, and this is clearly reflected in the interest in women’s cycling, not just at the elite level, but in terms of general participation. It seems to me that we are at a moment of real opportunity for women’s cycling. We are at a pivotal point, a sea-change in attitude towards women’s sport in the media and amongst the public is taking place, and we should seize this opportunity.”

“I am putting this idea out there because I want to stimulate the decision-makers in those companies, many of whom (men and women) enjoy cycling themselves, to start to think about the possibilities.  The potential return on their investment could be very substantial, but I want to make it clear that it will need innovation, creativity, and a major effort from their side to make that happen.”

He is hoping the team will be based in the UK, but this will be largely dependent on being able to raise the required sponsorship.

Although Cookson was unsuccessful in his bid for a second term as president, he is still a name in the cycling world and will hopefully carry the gravitas needed to secure the serious amount of sponsorship money he will need to get the team off the ground.

Netball

The Vitality Superleague is back!  Round eight’s results were:

Saturday 21 April
Manchester Thunder 62-57 Surrey Storm
Team Northumbria 43-47 Severn Stars
Loughborough Lightning 54-41 Benecos Mavericks

Sunday 22 April
Wasps Netball 61-44 Team Bath

The table is a bit higgledy-piggledy at the moment as although we’re on round eight, not all teams have played eight games; indeed the Dragons and the Sirens have only played six each.  At the moment Wasps are top with a one hundred per cent record, nine wins from nine (27 points).  Thunder are second with six wins from seven games (18 points) and Mavericks third with six wins from eight games (18 points).  Team Northumbria are bottom, yet to get off the mark after eight games.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 27 April
Wasps Netball v Manchester Thunder (7pm)

Saturday 28 April
UWS sirens v Surrey Storm (2pm)
Celtic Dragons v Team Northumbria (4pm)
Severn Stars v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)

Sunday 29 April
Benecos Mavericks v Team Bath (5.30pm) (Live on Sky Sports)

Women’s Sports Trust – Be a Game Changer Awards

The shortlists for the Be a Game Changer Awards have been announced.  The public vote is from 30 April – 13 May.

Categories are: Sporting Role Model – Individual, Sporting Role Model – Team, Ambassador of Women’s Sport, National Governing Body of the Year, Inspiring Initiative – National, Inspiring Initiative – Local/Grassroots, Imagery of the Year and Media Initiative of the Year.

To see all those shortlisted, click here – and don’t forget to vote!

And finally,

In a similar theme to last week’s “And Finally”, you will be unsurprised to know that it is a rant – so if you’ve had enough of me ranting I’d stop reading now.

This rant is over something I find mind-bogglingly bizarre and concerns, yet again, the keyboard warrior commentators at the end of BBC football posts.

Last weekend, as outlined above, it was the PFA Awards.  Now, if I’m not wrong there’s a Men’s award and a women’s award, also a Young Player (male) and Young Player (female) award.  So why then, were there on the end of the BBC article, not just one but several males asking why the outcome of the women’s award had been included.  One suggested it was another example of women’s football “being rammed down our throats”.

I do feel there really is only one answer to this; the BBC was covering the whole event, as they are supposed to do.  Not just half of it.  How would it be if they gave the result of the Best Film award at the Oscars, but not that of the Best Director award?  It would be half a story.

Seriously, this one has had me scratching my head for most of the week.  The level of misogyny against women’s football is not diminishing – in fact I would contend it is increasing.  Sorry to end on a negative note, but it’s dispiriting to see it again and again.  Yes, these are obviously males with limited social skills, probably living with their mothers and yes, I probably should laugh at them.  But what I fear is that they are actually fully functioning members of society who go on to (or already have) wives/partners and daughters……

And, and finally,

Don’t forget it’s the Tyrrell’s Premier 15s final on Sunday, at the Trailfinders Sports Club in West Ealing at 3pm.  Be there to see what’s sure to be a cracking match between Saracens and Harlequins.

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 April 2018

12928352_10201803729532769_8195423317764149816_nWelcome to this week’s column.  No prizes for guessing my top story of the week.  I’m glad to say that my “Give Australia the gold now” statement was proved spectacularly wrong.  Anyway, more of that later.

This week’s stories include a last round-up from the Commonwealth Games, plus news from football, netball, rugby, tennis, cricket and rugby league.

Let’s crack on, starting with those golden Roses!

Commonwealth Games

Netball Semi-final
Jamaica 55-56 England

What a comeback!  England were six down at half-time and I, for one, thought it was all over.

The Roses made a terrible start, completely failing to get to grips with Jamaica’s huge 6’ 6” shooter, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.  They were also profligate at the other end; as Jo Harten admitted, “I had a shocker of a start.”

But in the third quarter they began to pull it back and by the start of the fourth they were only three goals down.

It was neck and neck in the final quarter and with 30 seconds to go it was 55-55.

From England’s centre pass Helen Housby missed the shot to win it with just seven seconds left.  It looked to be going into extra-time when Harten made up for her bad start by taking the rebound and popping it in with one second left on the clock.

Netball Final
Australia 51-England 52

If you thought the semi was tense, it had nothing on the final.  I don’t think I was alone in thinking the Diamonds would run away with it – but how wrong I was.

It was 25-25 at half-time.

In the third quarter the Roses went behind again and were four goals down going into the final quarter.

But they pulled it back yet again and with 20 seconds to go it was 51-51.  They couldn’t do it again, could they?

Well, yes they could.  This time it was Helen Housby who held her nerve after first Harten then Housby herself missed the chance to take the game.  Australia were penalised for contact and

Housby put away the shot to take the game on the buzzer.

As part of the defenders’ union, can I just put in a word for the England defenders?  The shooters get the glory, but without the fabulous performances from Geva Mentor and captain Ama Agbeze, plus the whirlwind that is Serena Guthrie, the Roses would not have won it.

Other Commonwealth Games Highlights

Hockey: England’s women won bronze, demolishing India 6-0 in the bronze medal match. Sophie Bray scored a hat-trick with Hollie Pearne-Webb, Alex Danson and Laura Unsworth also on the scoresheet.

Badminton: Gabby and Chris Adcock retained their mixed doubles title in an all-England final, defeating Lauren Smith and Chris Ellis 19-21 21-17 21-16.  Smith also won silver with partner Sarah Walker in the women’s doubles.  And England made it six medals, taking mixed team bronze.  Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour claimed bronze in the women’s singles.

Boxing: Wales’ Lauren Price won gold in the -75kg category, defeating Australia’s Caitlin Parker on a split decision.  Sandy Ryan of England (-69kg) beat Rosie Eccles of Wales to take gold, with Lisa Whiteside also taking gold in the -51kg, beating Carly McNaul of Northern Ireland on points.  There were also silvers for Michaela Walsh and Kristina O’Hara.

Rugby Sevens: England claimed bronze in the inaugural Commonwealth Games appearance of women’s sevens.  They defeated Canada in the bronze medal match, 24-19.  New Zealand beat Australia 17-12 to take gold.

Squash: England claimed silver and Wales bronze in the women’s singles through Sarah-Jane Perry and Tesni Evans respectively.

Table tennis:  Bronze went to England in the team event, while England’s mixed doubles team of Liam Pitchford and Tin-Tin Ho took silver.

Basketball: England took silver in the women’s event, losing out to hosts Australia 99-55 in the final.  As with netball, basketball receives no UK Sport funding as it is seen as unlikely to bring in Olympic medals.  Will UK Sport have to think again after this?

Athletics: Jade Jones of England completed a remarkable double when she claimed bronze in the T54 marathon, having won gold in the para-triathlon earlier on in the Games.  She was then selected as flag-bearer for the England team at the closing ceremony.  The England women’s 4x100m team of Dina Asher-Smith, Asha Philip, Lorraine Ugan and Bianca Williams won gold in a time of 42.26, beating Jamaica (42.42) and Nigeria (42.75).  Laura Weightman claimed bronze in the 5,000m and  Morgan Lake silver in the high jump (both England).

Apologies again to those I have missed.

Netball – off the court

England’s Commonwealth Games gold is, and I’m not going to shy away from saying it, a “watershed” moment for the sport in England, and the UK.

But a rosy future for the sport in this country is not guaranteed.

At the moment the sport receives £13.9m for the grassroots game and £3m for the national team from Sport England.

It’s a lot of money – agreed.  But there are 160,000 girls and women currently playing netball in England and numbers are growing.  It will take all of that money to sustain and promote this growth with the excitement surrounding the “Back to Netball” and walking netball programmes.

When it comes to the elite game, UK Sport contributes little to netball.  The Superleague has done a tremendous amount over the past few years to fund itself.  It has got backing from Sky Sports and has sponsorship deals with Vitality and Mrs. Crimble’s, amongst others.

UK Sport is supporting next year’s World Cup in Liverpool, but it is still reluctant to put money into the elite game.  As we know, UK Sport is all about success – funding those who are already successful to do more (not the place for this debate here) so isn’t it time for them to put its hand in its pockets for netball?  Do England really have to win the World Cup before they are counted as successful?

Netball – on the court

The Vitality Superleague is back this weekend after the Commonwealth Games break.  And if the venues are not packed out for this round of matches, I’d like to know why.

Fixtures:

Saturday 21 April
Manchester Thunder v Surrey Storm (5pm)
Team Northumbria v Severn Stars (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Benecos Mavericks (7pm)

Sunday 22 April
Wasps Netball v Team Bath (3pm) – This is the live fixture on Sky Sports

Football – off the pitch

The Michael Oliver/Gianluigi Buffon debacle

Which dimwit decided it would be a good idea to post Lucy Oliver’s mobile number on social media after her husband refereed the controversial Champions’ League quarter-final between Real Madrid and Juventus?

Apart from the fact that Michael Oliver made the correct decisions, why should someone think it was acceptable to drag Lucy into the argument?

Not that they stopped at that, of course.  They had to go on to make threats and abuse her generally.

Did they think it was acceptable because Lucy is an excellent and experienced referee in her own right?  Or was it just because she is a woman and, therefore, fair game?

Who knows?

The bottom line is it’s not acceptable in any way.  Not the abuse of Michael Oliver.  Not the abuse of Lucy Oliver.  Not at all.

Over to UEFA to sort it out.

Millwall Lionesses

In the last week it has come to light that one of the stalwart teams of the league, Millwall Lionesses, is in financial trouble.

The WSL2 club has said it has “significant financial discrepancies” and opened a crowdfunding page earlier this week to try to raise money to complete the season.

Emilie Perry, Chair and sole director, resigned in March and the club says “all external funding channels have been exhausted”.

The team currently lies second in the division and is unbeaten in 11 games.  Players and staff have said they are willing to play without salaries in order to finish the season.

This is pretty rotten news and questions must be asked of the FA (yet again), which has already approved the club’s application for what will be the Championship next season.  Surely it looked into the club’s finances?  The crowdfunder may be a great short-term solution, but the club will have to be sustainable in the future.  I know the men’s club support them both monetarily and in-kind, but let’s hope they find their own backer, and soon.

When I started putting the column together earlier on in the week, the page was just starting up.  By Wednesday they had exceeded their £10k target!   The page is still open for contributions though, so if you can, please click here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/millwalllionesses and let’s get them funded.

PFA Awards Nominations

The list of nominees for the Women’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year awards is out.

FAWSL 1:

  • Ramona Bachmann (Chelsea)
  • Millie Bright (Chelsea)
  • Fran Kirby (Chelsea)
  • Maren Mjelde (Chelsea)
  • Jill Scott (Manchester City)
  • Ji So-Yun (Chelsea)

Women’s PFA Young Player of the Year award:

  • Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea)
  • Gabby George (Everton)
  • Lauren Hemp (Bristol City)
  • Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)
  • Georgia Stanway (Manchester City)
  • Keira Walsh (Manchester City)

The Awards ceremony is this Sunday, 22 April.  For what it’s worth, my votes would go to Millie Bright (own goals notwithstanding, is improving in leaps and bounds) and Georgia Stanway.  News of the winners next week.

Football – on the pitch

The semi-finals of the FA Cup took place last weekend and it was good to see them televised by the BBC (to hoots of derision from the Neanderthals, of course).  We now know the final will be between Arsenal and Chelsea.  Here’s how the semis unfolded:

Everton 0-1 Arsenal

It’s a sixteenth FA Cup final for Arsenal but heartbreak for Everton as the Gunners scored a stoppage-time winner to take them through.

Dan Carter opened the scoring or Arsenal on 25 minutes and went into the break with this slender lead intact.

In the second-half Everton equalised from the penalty spot.  Chloe Kelly calmly converted after Dominque Janssen was penalised for bringing down Courtney Sweetman-Kirk in the box.

The winner came in the 91st minute as Louise Quinn headed in from corner and the Gunners were through.

Chelsea 2-0 Manchester City

Two goals from in-form striker Fran Kirby were enough to see Chelsea into the final.

But City will be disappointed with their defensive performance as much as their toothlessness in attack.

Kirby was on the scoresheet as early as the fifth minute.  She latched on to a ball that should have been cleared by City captain Steph Houghton, to race through and put it past the ‘keeper.

In the second-half she did it again, this time Jen Beattie the defender with the error.

Chelsea are still in the hunt for three trophies; the FA Cup, the League title and the ultimate prize of the Champions’ League.  Manchester City have seen a slump in form that they will have to end if they are to realise their own dreams of retaining the WSL1 title and winning in Europe.

League Results:

Sunday 15 April

WSL2

London Bees 1-3 Durham Women
Sheffield FC 4-0 Watford Ladies

Wednesday 18 April

WSL1

Bristol City 0-2 Liverpool
Everton 0-1 Chelsea
Manchester City 3-0 Sunderland
Arsenal 3-1 Reading
Yeovil Town 0-0 Birmingham City

WSL2

Millwall Lionesses 2-1 Aston Villa
London Bees 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Thursday 19 April

WSL2

Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 Durham Women
Oxford United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

So it’s as you were at the top of WSL1 with Chelsea on 32 points from 14 games, three points clear of Manchester City, although City have a game in hand.  Arsenal are third, five points behind City with two games in hand over the leaders.

At the bottom, Yeovil registered their first point of the season this week with a home draw against Birmingham City.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles are still top with 35 points from 13 games. Beleaguered Millwall are second with 29 points from 12 games.

Watford are bottom with just one point from their 11 games.

Tennis

Fed Cup

The GB Fed Cup team for the World Group II play-offs has been announced.

It will comprise Jo Konta and Heather Watson for singles and Anna Smith and Gabi Taylor for the doubles.  It will be Taylor’s debut, a reward for her fine start to the year that has seen her rise from 323 in the world to 175 after winning three challenger series titles.

If they win against Japan, they will be in World Group II for 2019, but if they lose they will go back to the Europe/Africa Zone.

The tie, which will be played on hard courts, will be this weekend; 21-22 April at Bourbon Beans Dome in Miki, Japan.  There will be radio coverage on BBC 5 Live and also on the BBC Sport website.

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards has been appointed Hampshire’s new director of women’s cricket.  She takes over from Bob Parks.

In an interview with the Hampshire CC website Edwards expressed her enthusiasm for the new role:

“I see an ambitious organisation that will compliment my passion for domestic cricket,” she told the club website.

“I look forward to working with players, coaches and staff to help Hampshire become one of the leading domestic clubs in the country for women’s cricket.”

Rugby Union

It will be Saracens v Harlequins in the Premier 15s final on Sunday.  The second-leg of the semi-finals were as follows:

Saracens 45-26 Gloucester-Hartpury

Having received a sound beating in the first leg, 62-0, Gloucester-Hartpury showed real fight against Saracens in the second.

Indeed the away side took the lead through a try from Rachel Lund.  But Saracens soon came back and by half-time their lead was 19-14, as they scored through Bryony Cleall, Helena Rowland and Hannah Botterman.  Gloucester-Hartpury also put a second score on the board through Mary-Ann Gittings.

The home side started strongly in the second-half, with Garnet Mackinder and Marlie Packer both crossing the whitewash.

Saracens skipper Lotte Clapp went over again to make it 38-14, before the away side countered again, Sophie Tandy scoring their third.

Rowland grabbed her second try of the match, but it was Gloucester-Hartpury who put the last score on the board as Tandy going over for her second.

Harlequins 22-7 Wasps

Wasps only needed to win by seven points or more to secure their final spot, but it was not to be.

It was Quins who opened the scoring on 25 minutes, after 20 minutes of Wasps pressure.  Stacy White went over in the corner and Quins were ahead.  Jess Wooden went over for a second shortly after.

After the break the home side scored another two tries, through Deborah McCormack and Vickii Cornborough and the game and tie, were effectively sealed.

Danielle Waterman finally went over for Wasps, but there was no way back.

The final is a week on Sunday, 29 April at Ealing Trailfinders.  Kick-off is 3pm.  Adult tickets are £10 and children go free.

Rugby League

I realise that rugby league is woefully underrepresented in this column.  I also know I have promised to rectify this before, but have never quite managed it.  I will make an effort this season!  The RFL is really getting its act together to promote the game and it certainly becoming more high-profile.  It’s not made it onto the BBC website yet, but as they can barely cover the men’s, it’s no great surprise (couldn’t be because it’s from oop-North, could it?  Why are they based in Salford if not to redress the North/South bias?).  And to give the BBC its due, I did hear Dave Woods, its excellent rugby league correspondent, talking about the new season during the interval of a men’s superleague match last week.

Anyway, I started out my journalistic career covering Sheffield Eagles for the Sheffield University newspaper, so I’ve really got no excuse.

The Superleague comprises seven teams: Wigan Warriors, Featherstone Rovers, St Helens, York City Knights, Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos (the first appearance for a Leeds team) and Castleford Tigers.

The 2018 Superleague season got underway last weekend and the result were:

Wigan Warriors 54-0 Featherstone Rovers
St Helens 40-0 York City Knights
Bradford Bulls 16-32 Leeds Rhinos

There is a fine website dedicated to both the men’s and women’s game.  Check it out here

And finally,

As I’ve not mentioned netball for a couple of thousand words or so, I feel justified in putting it in just one more time in this column.  I’m happy to say that the comments on various websites after the Roses’ triumph were, by and large, positive.  In fact, there were several along the lines of (men) not being interested before, but being converted to the skills, excitement and atmosphere of the sport through their Commonwealth Games viewing.  Of course, there were still the Neanderthal naysayers citing the supposed irrelevance, worthlessness, sheer girliness of the game.  And, bizarrely, those (men again) on the other side, harping on at it being sexist that it’s a “girls’ game” and that men don’t play.   In their (mighty) opinion there’s no way it should be an Olympic sport if there were only women playing it.

They obviously don’t know that actually there’s quite a big following for men’s netball – clubs and everything!  Even mixed leagues!  So instead of crying “sexist” why don’t they just pick up a ball and try it?  Get involved, get better and get it to a level whereby they could hold big tournaments.  I’ll tell you why, because it’s easier for them to denigrate it and call it worthless if they’re “not allowed” to play it!

More news and views next week.

 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 February 2018

skisWelcome to this week’s column.  The Winter Olympics is upon us, the Six Nations has kicked off in style, the FA Cup is progressing and, sadly, the WBBL is now a distant memory.  Relive everything that’s happened this week here with stories from the Winter Olympics, cricket, tennis, golf, football, netball and rugby.

Let’s crack on

Winter Olympics

There was the worst news for British snowboarder Katie Ormerod this week as she was forced to withdraw before the Games even started, after suffering not one, but two crashes in training.

On Wednesday she fractured her wrist, but was determined to carry on, but on Thursday she crashed again, this time fracturing her heel.

She has now had surgery in Seoul and will stay in hospital for at least a week.

Ormerod was a real Olympic medal hopeful for Great Britain.

In other news, Great Britain’s flagbearer in the opening ceremony is Lizzy Yarnold.  Yarnold, who won gold in the skeleton at Sochi will be defending her title on 16-17 February.

There was also good news for Sochi Paralympic gold medallist, Kelly Gallagher.  She was originally not allocated one of the two places for visually impaired skiers, but has now been given one of the spare slots.  She will be partnered by new guide, Gary Smith.

Much more from the Games next week, when we will be in full swing.

Tennis

Fed Cup

Great Britain started their Fed Cup campaign with aplomb this week, defeating Portugal 3-0 in Tallinn.

Heather Watson beat world number 796 Francisca Jorge in the first singles rubber 6-4 6-1.  Then Johanna Konta won against Maria Joao Koehler, 6-1 6-0.

Anna Smith and Katie Boulter took the doubles against Jorge and Koehler 6-0 6-2.

Great Britain now plays Estonia, a different prospect from the Portuguese team.  If they win the tie and top the group, they will go into a play-off against the winners of Group C.  The winner of the play-off will qualify for the World Group II plays-offs in April.

It’s quite a complicated format, but here is Europe/Africa Group I:

Group A: Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia
Group B: Great Britain, Estonia, Portugal
Group C: Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Sweden
Group D: Latvia, Poland, Austria, Turkey

 St Petersburg Open

Petra Kvitova won the St Petersburg Open, beating Kristina Mladenovic in the final 6-1-6-2.

It is Kvitova’s 21st WTA title and she won it as a wildcard entrant to the tournament.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Wales 18-17 Scotland

Wales started well with wings Jess Kavanagh-Williams and Hannah Bluck scoring tries in the first half.  They led 13-0 at the break.

On the restart Scotland pressed until Chloe Rollie went over, but Wales came back with a try from Kerin Lake.

Wales hit Scotland again with a second for Rollie, but the visitors launched a late comeback.

Ten minutes from time Jade Konkel pushed her way over and the conversion from Sarah Law cut the lead to 18-17.

But Scotland couldn’t quite overtake Wales as they opened their Six Nations account with a single point win.

France 24-0 Ireland

France claimed their first win, and bonus point, of the Championships on Saturday in Toulouse.

Les Bleues scored their first try of four after just six minutes through Cyrielle Banet.

Ireland then had a period of pressure that should have led to a try, but somehow the Irish just couldn’t break through, but then Jade Le Pesq went over for a second for France and it was 12-0.

Jessy Trémoulière scored a third before half-time to take the score to 17-0 at the break.

The second-half was more even but then Ireland suffered a blow as Ciara Cooney went down with a knee injury.

France were still looking for the bonus point, though, and seven minutes from time they got it as Le Pesq scored her second.  Ireland had no answers and the final score was 24-0.

Italy 7-42 England

England captain Sarah Hunter bagged three tries in the second-half to see England pull away in what had been a tight match up to this point.

At half-time it was 7-7.

England took the lead with a try from Sarah Bern, which was converted by Katy McLean.  But Italy pressed and Valentina Ruzza scored in the 34th minute and was converted by Michela Sillari to make it all square at the break.
Three minutes into the second-half McLean hit a penalty.  After that, England went up a gear (or several).

Sarah Hunter bagged her first and England’s second, quickly followed by their third, this time through Poppy Cleall.

Abigail Dow crossed for England’s fourth and it was Hunter again for the fifth.

Ellie Kildunne slid over with ten minutes to go and then, with the final play of the game, Hunter claimed a loose ball from the scrum to go over for her hat-trick.

The only disappointment for England was McLean’s kicking form – something that will need to be remedied in future, tighter, fixtures.

This weekend sees round 2:

Saturday 10 February
England v Wales (12.15)
Scotland v France (19.05)

Sunday 11 February
Ireland v Italy (13.00)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Here are the results from last weekend’s fixtures:

Gloucester-Hartpury Women 80-0 Worcester Valkyries
DMP Sharks 10-18 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens Women 41-0 Richmond Women
Bristol Ladies 13-12 Harlequins Ladies
Loughborough Lightning 26-20 Wasps Ladies

Saracens are 10 points clear at the top on 65.  Second, on 55, are Harlequins with Wasps third on 49.  Worcester Valkyries are still clearly bottom with just two points and a massive points difference of -712.  Firwood Waterloo are second bottom on 11 points.

Just one fixture again this weekend:

DMP Sharks v Harlequins (4pm, Darlington RFC)

Golf

Three cheers for the Oates Vic Open!  The event, held at Barwon Heads near Melbourne, had men and women competing at the same time, on the same course and for the same prize money of £370,000 apiece.

It’s an innovation that seems to be admired by both the women and the men.  The women’s winner was home favourite Minjee Lee, who won by five shots.  Another Australian, Simon Hawkes, won the men’s version.

The crowd gets to see both sets of players in action, widening both the fanbase and exposure of the sport to those who may not ordinarily have watched.

Some of the best Ladies European Tour golfers were in action as the tournament counts on the LET.

In an interview with the BBC, Cheyenne Woods said,

“They do value the equality in both men and women’s golf together.

“I think a lot of tours and sponsors can learn from that. You see it in the tennis game, just watching tennis the last few weeks, the Aussie Open. I think that hopefully in the next few years it will get more like this.

“I love the format.  It’s different from any professional event that we play. I think a lot of tours could learn from this format because it brings so many different fans to come and appreciate not only the men’s game, but the women’s game as well.

“From a player’s point of view, I love it. I love being alongside the men and from a fan’s perspective, it’s nice to get the best of both worlds.

“A lot of tours could take something from this, including the LPGA and PGA Tour and I’m hoping that in the next few years we can get a little something similar to this.”

Cricket

WBBL Final

The Sydney Sixers retained their WBBL title in style as they thrashed Perth Scorchers at Adelaide.

Perth Scorchers 99 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 100/1 (15 overs)

It was not the fitting end to an entertaining WBBL3 that we’d all been hoping for.

The Scorchers won the toss and elected to bat.  But from then on it all went wrong for the Scorchers.  It began with acceptable, if slow, opening partnership of 23, but as soon as Villani was out for 16 in the seventh over, all hell broke loose.  Bolton went for five and Sciver, two, in quick succession as the Scorchers slipped to 29/3.

Only Piepa Cleary with 18 not out provided any resistance as the Scorchers slumped to 99, taking 20 full overs to get there too, with Emily Smith run out for duck on the last ball.

Sarah Coyte (player of the match) was standout bowler, taking 3/17 off her four overs.  Erin Burns took 2/26 off her four.

It’s not unfair to say the Sixers cruised home, losing only one wicket in the process.  Alyssa Healy was probably kicking herself as she fell, stumped by Smith off the bowling of Emma King for 41.

Ellyse Perry (36) and Ash Gardner (22) took it home for the Sixers, in a mere 15 overs.

South Africa v India Series
Counts towards ICC Women’s Championship (qualifying for 2021 World Cup)

First ODI
India 213/7 (50 overs)
South Africa 125 all out (43.2 overs)
India won by 88 runs

The home side was out-classed in the first ODi in Kimberley.  The visitors won the toss and batted.  Opener Smriti Mandhana made 84 from 98 balls and Mithali Raj 45 as they posted a competitive total.  Marizanne Kapp was the standout bowler for SA, taking 2/26 off her 10 overs,

But it was the Indian bowling that caught the eye. The brilliant Jhulan Goswami took 4/24 from 9.2 overs and Shikha Pandey 3/23 from 8 as the hosts were skittled out with more than six overs to go.

The response started badly as South Africa slumped to 23/3 with Lizelle Lee (3), Trisha Chetty (5) and Mignon du Preez (0) all falling early.  Dane van Niekerk showed some resistance, scoring 41, before she was stumped off the bowling of Rajeshwari Gayakwad.

Laura Wolvaardt, Kapp and Sune Luus all made it into the 20s, but couldn’t push on.  No-one else got into double figures and India won by 88 runs.

Second ODI
India 302/3 (50 overs)
South Africa 124 all out (30.5 overs)
India won by 178 runs

It went from bad to worse for SA in the second ODI.  They won the toss and put India in to bat.  But India put them to the sword.

Smriti Mandhana showed her excellent form once again and was player of the match for the second game running.  She scored 135 from 129, finally stumped by Chetty off Raisibe Ntozakhe in the 44th over.

Harmanpreet Kaur scored 55 not out and Veda Krishnamurthy 51 not out as South Africa were only able to take three wickets in the innings.

Lizelle Lee top-scored for the home side with 73, but began to run out of partners before she was lbw to Deepti Sharma.

Marizanne Kapp was the only other player to get into double figures with 17.

Poonam Yadav took 4/24 off just 7.5 overs with Gayakwad and Sharma taking two apiece.

The third ODI will be on Saturday 10 February.</em

Football

FA Cup Fourth Round

There were some hefty defeats for lower-league sides in the fourth round with Chelsea putting 10 (ten) past London Bees and Sunderland 13 (thirteen!) against Brighouse Town.  The Chelsea score should give cause for concern considering the Bees are only one league down in WSL2 and so we see the ever-widening gap between the two divisions, a gap that is not going to close any time soon, if the FA’s new plans are anything to go by.

Liverpool 5-0 Watford
Aston Villa 4-0 Middlesbrough
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester City
Cardiff City 0-0 Oxford United
Durham 2-1 Sheffield FC
Everton 3-1 Bristol City
London Bees 0-10 Chelsea
Reading 0-1 Birmingham City
Sunderland AFC 13-0 Brighouse Town
Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Yeovil Town 0-3 Arsenal
Millwall Lionesses 4-1 Coventry United

FAWSL1
Wednesday 7 February

Liverpool 0-3 Arsenal

Meidema 29 (pen), Janssen 45, Evans 62

England

According to reports, new England boss Phil Neville is looking to those English players who play abroad to possibly strengthen his squad.  Obviously stalwarts such as Lucy Bronze (Lyon) and Toni Duggan (Barcelona) will be firmly in his sights, but there are others, not so well known, who are also playing overseas and may come into the reckoning.

Australia: Jodie Taylor – Melbourne City, Laura Bassett – Canberra United
Cyprus: Ashleigh Bullock and Rosella Ayane – Apollon Limassol
Finland: Sarah Burn – Aland United
France: Lucy Bronze – Lyon
Germany: Leah Galton – Bayern Munich, Lily Agg – Frankfurt, Jessica King – FF USV Jena
Italy: Ellie Brazil – Fiorentina, Katie Zelem – Juventus, Emma Lipman – Verona, Sophie Williams – Calcio Latina
Netherlands: Abby Holmes – PEC Zwolle
Spain: Chloe Richards – Zaragoza, Toni Duggan –Barcelona
United States: Natasha Dowie – formerly Boston Breakers, Rachel Daly – Houston Dash

It’s a fair point.  Some of the European leagues, especially, are far ahead of the WSL when it comes to facilities, fanbase and player-experience.  Anything these players bring to a squad could be of benefit.  But it’s also true to say that the WSL has no shortage of excellent English players to choose from.  So Neville must balance the squad between home-based (and therefore easily accessible) members and those playing further afield.

It has also been reported that Neville has petitioned Manchester United in the hope that they will start a women’s senior team.  Good luck with that.

Netball

Don’t forget the Vitality Netball Superleague begins again this week.  Get out and support your local team!  But if you can’t, tune into Sky Sports on Saturday when they will be showing Wasps Netball v Surrey Storm at 7pm.

And Finally,

It would be remiss of me this week not to mention and celebrate the glorious 6th.  One hundred years ago on Tuesday, the Representation of the People Act 1918 became law, granting property-owning women over 30 the vote.  And yes, there was still plenty of opposition (there’s probably still some today!), and yes, there was (and is) still plenty of work to do if women are to play their fair part in all sectors of society.  Of course, that includes in sport, as inch by inch we redress the balance.

Women’s Sports Column 24 – 30 June 2017

water-815271_960_720Welcome to this week’s column.  Having seen my third cricket match in a row abandoned on Tuesday, I’m now officially considering myself a curse, so if I were you I wouldn’t be inviting me to a wedding or garden party-type event any time soon.

This week’s stories come from tennis, horse racing, cricket, golf, football, basketball, rugby union and taekwondo.

Football

Injuries

Two major injury blows for Scotland this week ahead of the Euros, which begin next month.  Defender Jen Beattie and striker Kim Little have both been ruled out.

Beattie, who plays for Manchester City in the WPL has an ankle injury, whilst Arsenal star Little ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament during training and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Horse Racing

Melbourne Cup-winning Australian jockey, Michelle Payne has been stood down from riding after testing positive for a banned substance.

After being tested on 11 June her urine sample showed traces of Phentermine, an appetite suppressant.

An enquiry into the findings will be held this week.

Rugby Union

England head coach, Simon Middleton, has announced his squad for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, taking place in Ireland in August.

He has clearly placed his faith in experience as between them the squad has 1,207 caps.

The squad in full:

Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 4 caps), Sarah Bern (Bristol, 10 caps), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries, 124 caps), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield, 28 caps), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 25 caps), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 61 caps), Sarah Hunter (C) (Bristol, 93 caps), Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 8 caps), Justine Lucas (Lichfield, 22 caps), Alex Matthews (Richmond, 31 caps), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield, 46 caps), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol, 31 caps), Marlie Packer (Bristol, 47 caps), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 17 caps), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 105 caps).

Backs: Rachael Burford (Harlequins, 67 caps), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield, 37 caps), Megan Jones (Bristol, 4 caps), La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 66 caps), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 85 caps), Amber Reed (Bristol, 39 caps), Leanne Riley (Harlequins, 10 caps), Emily Scarratt (VC) (Lichfield, 69 caps), Emily Scott (Saracens, 23 caps), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries, 34 caps), Danielle Waterman (Bristol, 70 caps), Kay Wilson (Richmond, 44 caps), Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol, 7 caps).

As a reminder here are England’s pool games:

Pool B

England v Spain
Wednesday 9 August – UCD Bowl, Dublin (KO 2pm)
Live coverage ITV4 from 1.30pm

England v Italy
Sunday 13 August – Billings Park UCD, Dublin (KO 2.30pm)
Live coverage ITV1 from 2pm

England v USA
Thursday 17 August – Billings Park UCD, Dublin (KO 2.30pm)
Live coverage ITV4 from 2pm

Taekwondo

On Wednesday Bianca Walkden became the first British fighter to defend a World Championship title when she took gold in Muju, South Korea.

Walkden beat home favourite Saebom An 9-3 in the semi-final, before going on to defeat Jackie Galloway of the USA 14-4 in the final of the +73kg category.

Jade Jones had to settle for bronze on Friday after losing in the semi-final 14-8 to Lee Ah-reum of South Korea.

Golf

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is currently underway in Chicago.  The first round was cut short due to thunderstorms, but the leaderboard stands as follows:

-5 C Choi (Kor), A Yang (Kor)*, -4 B Altomare (US), J Klatten (Fra)*, -3 M Wie (US), B Henderson (Can), A Lee (IS), S Oh (Aus), K Kaufman (US)*, E Pederson (Den)*

Of the British players Jodie Ewart Shadoff (Eng) is -2 but is yet to complete round one.  Catriona Matthew of Scotland is +2 and also has to finish off her first round.  Mel Reid of England lies +3 and Charley Hull +4.

*Denotes unfinished round.

Tennis

Eastbourne

The top players are preparing for Wimbledon this week.  Eastbourne has its usual impressive line-up.

British players

Johanna Konta is seeded five.  She had a great start to the week, and on Thursday completed an impressive double as the tournament struggled to get back on track after severe rain delays.  However, during her defeat of Angelique Kerber in the quarter-final she fell heavily and suffered a back injury, causing her to withdraw from her scheduled semi-final with Karolina Pliskova.

What a good week it had been until then, though.  In the second round she easily defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2 6-2. On Thursday she had to play two matches; In the third round she faced French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko. Konta took the first set 7-5, Ostapenko hit back to take the second 6-3 and the decider went to Konta 6-4.  Later on she played world number one Angelique Kerber, defeating her in fine style 6-3 6-4.

Obviously there will now be concern over Konta’s participation at Wimbledon, which begins on Monday.  Let’s hope her withdrawal from Eastbourne is just precautionary.

Heather Watson has also had an excellent week.  In the first she defeated Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4 4-6 6-4.  In the second she had a fine win against fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 7-5 6-4.  In the third she faced Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and beat her 6-4 6-3.  In the quarter-final she faced Barbora Strycova and again won, this time in three sets, 6-1 1-6 6-4.  She plays Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated second seed Simona Halep 5-7 6-4 6-1.

Stop press:  Watson has just been defeated by Wozniacki in a tight match -6-2 3-6 7-5.  Wozniacki plays Karolina Pliskova in the final on Saturday 1 July.

Naomi Broady lost in the first round 6-2 6-7 6-1 to Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

Off the Court

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced this week that starting in 2018 the Davis Cup and Fed cup will combine to become a World Cup of Tennis.

The finals of the men’s and women’s tournaments will be brought together.  For the first three years the competition will be held in Geneva.   Geneva fought off bids from Copenhagen, Miami, Istanbul, Turin and Wuhan to win the right to host the event.

It may also be that the Fed cup semi-finals will also be included which would allow the ITF to expand the top group to 16 teams, the same number as are in the Davis Cup’s top group.

Wheelchair tennis

This year there will, for the first time, be a warm-up event before Wimbledon for the top wheelchair players.

It will be at Surbiton and will be over three days from 6 July.  The top 13 men and women players will take part and there will be both singles and doubles events.

Hockey

Women’s Hockey World League semi-finals
Quarter-final results:

New Zealand 2-0 Italy
Australia 0-2 China
Netherlands 2-0 Spain
South Korea 3-2 Belgium (After extra time.  1-1 after 60 minutes)

The semi-final line-up will now be:

South Korea v China
Netherlands v New Zealand

Both ties will be played on Saturday 1 July.

Wheelchair Basketball

Great Britain’s women lost in the semi-final of the European Championships this week.  They were defeated 59-42 by the Netherlands.  They will now play for bronze against France on Friday 30 June.

The final also takes place on 30 June.  The Netherlands will play Germany who defeated France 46-33 in the other semi-final.

Cricket

Women’s World Cup

Right, we’re eight games in and what do we know?  I don’t think my predictions have been too bad so far.  Australia have been excellent from the start, England have started slowly (as usual) and are improving, and India are looking ominous indeed.  West Indies look as if they’ve never met each other before and Pakistan show promise, but not enough.  South Africa and New Zealand are bobbling along, possibly under the radar, and Sri Lanka have a new star in Chamari Atapattu.  So far, so good.  So what have been the facts and figures:

Match 1:

Straightforward for New Zealand

New Zealand v Sri Lanka
Bristol – 24 June
New Zealand won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat.

Sri Lanka 188/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 189/1 (37.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 9 wickets with 74 balls remaining

Atapattu top scored with 53 for Sri Lanka, but 188 was never likely to be a challenging total for the powerful New Zealanders.  Holly Huddleston with 5/35 was the pick of the bowling.

As expected, New Zealand reached the target with plenty to spare, losing only one wicket, that of Rachel Priest for 2, in the process.  Captain Suzie Bates scored the first century of the World Cup, finishing on 106 not out.  She was ably backed up by Amy Satterthwaite who was 78 not out at the end.

Match 2:

Good Start for England (not)

England v India
Derby – 24 June
England won the toss and put India in to bat

India 281/3 (50 overs)
England 246 all out (47.3)
India won by 35 runs

Poor bowling and even poorer batting for England is only half the story.  India batted, bowled and fielded with talent and passion on Saturday, and England were lagging sadly behind.  In fact England got further than they should have done as India were clearly the better side.

The first wicket stand was 144 and when Smriti Mandhana was out for 90 it was captain Mithali Raj who took it on.  Punam Raut was second to go, but not until she had scored a fine 86.  Raj hit 71 and Harmanpreet Kaur 24 not out.  The bowling was not good with Katherine Brunt particularly being hit to all parts, conceding 50 from just seven overs.

England are not particularly known for their chasing either, so it was always going to be a battle to reach this target.

Captain Heather Knight scored 46 and there was a fine knock of 81 from Fran Wilson, but they were both run out.  In fact there were four run outs in the innings as England strove to score at the high rate required.  In the end they fell short.

Match 3:

Pakistan close to upset

Pakistan v South Africa
Leicester – 25 June
South Africa won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat

Pakistan 206/8 (50 overs)
South Africa 207/7 (49 overs)
South Africa won by 3 wickets with 6 balls remaining

When Pakistan posted a total of only 206, South Africa must have been confident they would chase it down easily.  But they were made to fight every step of the way.

Nahida Khan top scored for Pakistan with 79, with pretty much everyone else making a contribution.

When South Africa started with an opening stand of 113 they seemed to be cruising.  Laura Wolvaardt scored 52 and Lizelle Lee 60, but after that the scoring rate was relatively slow.  Three quick middle order wickets saw Pakistan in with a chance, but Sune Luus and Shabnim Ismail saw them home.

Match 4:

Controversy at the toss ends with West Indies batting when they should have bowled

Australia v West Indies
Taunton – 26 June
West Indies won the toss and batted

West Indies 204 all out (47.4 overs)
Australia 205/2 (38.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

There was confusion and controversy at the toss in Taunton when Stafanie Taylor, on calling correctly said “bat” and then changed her mind and said “bowl”.  It seemed that they were going with bowl, when Australian captain Meg Lanning decided to challenge the decision saying that they should go with what Taylor said first.  Taylor didn’t press it and said they would bat.

Turns out they perhaps should have bowled.  Opener Hayley Matthews made a fine 46 and Taylor 45, but the going was slow and the target a small one for a crack Australian side.   Ellyse Perry took 3/47 in nine overs.  But Australia also bowled eight wides, a total they would look to improve upon.

In response Nicole Bolton made 107 and Beth Mooney 70 as they reached their target with 12 overs to spare.

Match 5:

Sciver and Knight take it away from Pakistan

England v Pakistan
Leicester – 27 June
Pakistan won the toss and put England in to bat

England 377/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 107/3 (29.2)
Match abandoned – England won by 107 via D/L method

As I have already said, I was there to see the rain come down, but I was also there to see a heartening performance by England after their poor display against India.  England began badly. Both Taylor and Beaumont scratched around, timing very little and were both out cheaply.  But Knight and Sciver then took it on.  Knight began slowly, but it seemed as soon as Sciver came in it gave the captain confidence to play her shots.

It was a very enjoyable to see the battle to get to the century mark.  Both players scored their maiden centuries, Knight out first for 106 then Sciver for137.  Katherine Brunt came in and scored 9 off 5 balls, but was then out and was clearly so angry I was surprised she didn’t explode as she stomped off the pitch.  Jenny Gunn was out first ball – in fact she had a poor match but a nice cameo from Dani Wyatt (42 not out) in her fiftieth ODI and Fran Wilson (33) led England to an enormous score.  Pakistan were not helped by some friendly bowling and some less than sharp fielding.

In response Ayesha Zafar looked classy again.  In fact Pakistan batted well, but they were well behind the rate when the rains came.  Zafar was 56 not out and I would have liked to have seen more of her.

Great stuff from England though – a much needed shot in the arm after the first match and a large, appreciative crowd at Grace Road enjoyed the spectacle.

Match 6:

Nothing doing at a soggy Derby

New Zealand v South Africa
Derby -28 June
Match abandoned without a ball being bowled (no, I wasn’t there…)

Match 7:

West Indies snail’s pace no match for India

India v West Indies
Taunton – 29 June
India won the toss and put West Indies in to bat

West Indies 183/8 (50 overs)
India 186/3 (42.3 overs)
India won by 7 wickets with 45 balls remaining

This match just made us all who were watching or listening, say “what on earth were you doing, West Indies?”  Put in to bat they never got going at all.  Hayley Matthews did her best scoring 43 off 57 balls, but there was no back up.  With Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin on strike it should have been a run-fest, but when Dottin ran Taylor out it all went to pot.  Dottin went completely into her shell, scoring a terrible 7 from 48 balls and this timidity seemed to communicate itself through the team as the ball was repeatedly patted back to the bowler or just a few feet away.  The Indian spinners bowled ridiculously tightly with the pick Poonam Yadav, taking 2/19 off her 10 overs.

India were never going to have a problem in chasing it down.  Raut went for a duck but the classy Smriti Mandhana was great again, scoring 106 not out.  Mithali Raj chipped in with 46 and the result was never in doubt.

Match 8:

Lanning century eclipsed by new Sri Lankan superstar, but Australia still win

Australia v Sri Lanka
Bristol – 29 June
Australia won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat

Sri Lanka 257/9 (50 overs)
Australia 262/2 (43.5 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets with 37 balls remaining

Remember the name – Chamari Atapattu – potentially Sri Lanka’s first superstar.  Atapattu scored a marvellous 178 not out, over 68% of her team’s runs, the third highest score in women’s ODIs and second highest at a World Cup.  She hit 22 fours and 6 sixes off 143 balls.

But it was not enough.  Australia kept their heads and wickets intact.  Opener Mooney went for a duck, but Bolton scored fifty and the captain Lanning 152 not out as they won with over six overs to spare.

We can only wait with bated breath to see what happens in the second week!  Coverage continues on Sky (seems to be only occasionally on screen but mostly online) and BBC Test Match Special on 5Live Sports Xtra.

And finally,

No “and finally” as such except to say there will be no column next week as I am away, but it will be back the week after, packed with more World Cup news, Wimbledon news and anything else I can pick up along the way.

Women’s Sports Column 22-28 April 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  There is so much to get through this week I’m going to crack straight on!  Stories come from football, tennis, athletics, netball, squash, gymnastics, taekwondo, cricket, hockey and rugby.  You can probably guess my “And finally” again this week….

Football – Off the Pitch

World Cup 2019

The draw has been made for the European section of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.  England have been drawn in the same group as Wales along with Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.

The seven group winners will qualify automatically with the four best runners-up going into a two-round play-off to fill the last qualifying spot.

Qualifiers take place between 11 September 2017 and 4 September 2018

The draw in full:

Group 1: England, Russia, Wales, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan.

Group 2: Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, Belarus, Albania.

Group 3: Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland.

Group 4: Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia.

Group 5: Germany, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Faroe Islands.

Group 6: Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Moldova.

Group 7: Spain, Austria, Finland, Serbia, Israel.

PFA Awards

Lucy Bronze was awarded PFA Women’s Player of the Year this week.  The other shortlisted candidates were Jane Ross, Jill Scott, Ellen White, Karen Carney and Caroline Weir.

Jess Carter won the Women’s Young Player of the Year award.   Nikita Parris, Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir and Millie Bright were also shortlisted.

Kelly Smith was given a PFA Special Achievement Award.

On the Pitch

European Champions League

Saturday 22 April
Manchester City 1- 3 Lyon

Manchester City face an uphill battle if they are to overcome cup holders Lyon and qualify for the Champions League final.

Lyon went ahead after only two minutes after Carli Lloyd handled in the penalty area.  Saki Kumagai stepped up to score the penalty.

Kosovare Asllani equalised for City but the away side were quick to take the lead again, this time through Dzsenifer Marozsan.

French striker Eugenie Le Sommer scored a third in the second half.

The second leg takes place on Saturday 29 April.

Spring Series

The Spring Series is underway – without Notts County Ladies.

Saturday 22 April

Bristol City 1-3 Reading

After a goalless first half the visitors took the lead on 49 minutes when Rachel Furness headed home from a Rachel Rowe corner.

They were two up ten minutes later when Rowe carved out a chance to score herself and the tie was effectively over on 61 minutes when Melissa Fletcher poked home from a mistake in the Bristol defence.

Lauren Hemp pulled one back for the home side, but the points were gone.

Sunday 23 April

Birmingham City 0-0 Sunderland

With most of the possession and scoring opportunities, Birmingham City will be rueing missing their chances in this game, while Sunderland will be more than happy with a point.

Yeovil Town Ladies 1-4 Liverpool Ladies

The day started in a comedic fashion when it was revealed that Liverpool had forgotten to bring their away kit and so had to play in the home side’s away kit.  However, this was the end of the comedy for Yeovil Town’s as their first experience of the WSL1 was a tough one.

Liverpool took the lead on 23 minutes as Yeovil were penalised for handling in the box.  Alex Greenwood converted the penalty.

The away side doubled their lead in first-half injury time as Gemma Bonner poked home from a corner.

Yeovil were three down after 65 minutes when Katie Zelem scored from a Shanice Van De Sanden corner.  Zelem got her second on 75 to take it to 4-0.

Yeovil pulled one back in the 78th minute through a Sarah Wiltshire penalty.

Athletics

World Relays

Great Britain’s 4x400m team missed out on a bronze medal by 0.23 seconds in the Bahamas this week.  The team of Emily Diamond, Laviai Nielsen, Eilidh Doyle and Christine Ohuruogu finished fourth behind USA in first, Poland and Jamaica.

Germany took the 4 x 100m title ahead of Jamaica and China.

Kelly Sotherton

Heptathlete Kelly Sotherton has received her second upgraded bronze in five months after Russian athlete Tatyana Chernova was stripped of the bronze she won at Beijing in 2008 after she tested positive for a steroid.

She had already moved up to fourth from fifth after Ukrainian Lyudmila Blonska was disqualified.

London Marathon

Kenyan Mary Keitany won the women’s elite race, breaking Paula Radcliffe’s women-only record in the process.  She ran the marathon in a time of 2 hours 17 minutes 1 second, breaking the record by a massive 41 seconds.

Alyson Dixon was top British finisher in 12th, thus securing her World Championships place.   Jo Pavey was forced to pull out at around the 17 mile mark.

Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the wheelchair race, with Amanda McGrory of the USA in second and fellow American Susannah Scaroni in third.  Britain’s Jade Jones finished fifth.

 Cricket

It’s all change on the Subcontinent as both India and Pakistan have named new coaches just two months before the World Cup.

Pakistan

Sabih Azhar is the new Pakistan coach, taking over from Kabir Khan.  Pakistan also announced their squad for the upcoming tournament:

Sana Mir (Capt), Sidra Nawaz (wk), Ayesha Zafar, Nahida Khan, Marina Iqbal, Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan, Nain Abidi, Kainat Imtiaz, Asmavia Iqbal, Diana Baig, Waheeda Akhtar, Nashra Sandhu, Ghulam Fatima, Sadia Yousuf.

India

In a surprise move, Purnima Rau has been sacked by the BCCI and replaced by Tushar Arothe.  Arothe was women’s fielding coach and then head coach between 2008 and 2012.

Rau has voiced concern that she only found out about the sacking via the media.

“I was preparing the team for the World Cup when I heard of this from elsewhere.  I wasn’t given any explanation or reason by the board. In fact they didn’t even have the courtesy to inform me. In terms of results, we were successful. To be axed this way is disappointing and insulting.”

Arothe’s first test will be in May in a series in South Africa in a limited overs tournament that also features Ireland and Zimbabwe.

England v Ireland Series

England are currently playing Ireland in a three-match series in Abu Dhabi as their World Cup warm-up continues.

24 April

England XI 397/4 (50 overs)
Ireland 103 all out (44 overs)
England won by 276 runs

Jenny Gunn hit 94 not out and Georgia Elwiss 81 as England comfortably won the first match of the series.

The England bowling was equally impressive with Anya Shrubsole taking 3-11 and Alex Hartley 3-24.

Hockey

Surbiton did the double last weekend as both their men’s and women’s teams won their respective Hockey League Finals.

For the women it was their fourth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1.  Giselle Ansley scored Surbiton’s first and Rebecca Middleton the second before Eleanor Watton pulled one back for Holcombe.

Naomi Evans scored the third to ensure the title went to Surbiton.

Netball

Last weekend saw round 11 of the Netball Superleague.  Loughborough Lightning are still unbeaten and top the table by five points from Wasps as they won a thrilling game against the Thunder by just one point on Saturday.

Saturday 22 April

Team Bath 58-48 Celtic Dragons
Manchester Thunder 57-58 Loughborough Lightning
Team Northumbria 58-55 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Sunday 23 April

Wasps Netball 65-41 Sirens

Monday 24 April

Severn Stars 66-62 Surrey Storm

The next Sky televised game is on Saturday 29 when Mavericks take on the Storm (6pm), but all eyes will probably be on what happens an hour later when the top two, Lightning and Wasps, take on each other in Loughborough’s showcase game at the Leicester Community Arena.

Tennis

Lots of tennis news this week – mostly off the court, unfortunately.   Mr Nastase makes his appearance in my “And finally” comment, but there are other stories to cover.

Fed Cup

In amongst all the controversy and ill-feeling, there was actually some Fed Cup tennis going on last weekend.

Great Britain lost their World Cup Group II play-off against Romania, which means they are back in the Europe/Africa Zone.

Heather Watson lost the first rubber to Simona Halep 6-4 6-1.  Jo Konta levelled the tie when she beat Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-3.

On day two, though, Halep beat Konta 6-1 6-3 and Britain’s fate was sealed when Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Watson 6-4 7-5

In other Fed Cup news, it will be a USA v Belarus final.

USA beat the Czech Republic 3-2 and Belarus defeated Switzerland by the same margin.

Maria Sharapova

She’s back.  More pictures, film, social media comment and interviews have been devoted to Sharapova’s return this week than any other subject.

And she’s playing well.  After being given a wild card for the Stuttgart tournament she is now into the quarter finals.  She beat Roberta Vinci in the first round and powered past Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-1.

She faces Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit in the last eight.  Kontaveit put out fifth seed Garbine Muguruza in the previous round.

But not everyone is happy about her return.  Eugenie Bouchard has labelled Sharapova a “cheater” and said she should not be allowed back on the WTA tour.  The crowds have been respectful but cool.  It’s up to Sharapova to prove herself on the court if she is to win back the more general tennis watcher.

Stuttgart

In other Stuttgart news, Johanna Konta was knocked out in the second round by Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 7-5.

The last eight looks like this:

K Mladenovic v C Suárez Navarro
A Kontaveit v M Sharapova
A Sevastova v S Halep (4)
L Siegemund v K Pliskova (2)

Squash

England’s women’s squash team are through to the semi-finals of the European Team Championships after finishing top of their qualifying group.

They beat Denmark 3-0, the Netherlands 3-0 and Wales 3-0 and will now face the Netherlands again in the semi on Friday 28 April.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones has won gold at the World Taekwondo Federation President’s Cup in Athens.  It was her first competition since December 2016.

She won five contests to take the -57kg title.

Gymnastics

After reaching every final in the European Championships last week, Ellie Downie made good and took the all-round gold at the weekend.

She was in silver position going into the final rotation, but ended up beating Hungary’s Zsofia Kovacs by 0.333 points.   Downie scored 55.765 and Kovacs 55.432.  Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France finished in bronze on 55.065.

To cap a stunning weekend Downie also won a silver in the vault and floor and bronze in the uneven bars in the individual competition.

Ellie’s older sister Becky fell and injured her hands and was unable to participate in the beam final.  Her place was taken by Claudia Fragapane, but she fell in the final and finished eighth.  Fragapane also finished seventh on the floor.

Rugby

Premiership Finals

Aylesford Bulls Ladies were the perhaps surprise winners of the last Premiership final before the new Super League starts next season.

Aylesford Bulls 17-8 Bristol

Although they finished third in the table in the regular season, Bulls brought their best rugby to finals day to beat top of the league Bristol.

Aylesford took the lead in the third minute with a try from Hanna Field under the posts.  Jess Wooden converted to make it 7-0.

Bristol were then awarded a penalty, which Amber Reed kicked, but Aylesford hit straight back with their second try, this time from Michela Sillari in the corner.  The conversion was missed and the half-time sc ore was 12-3.

In the second half Bristol got their game together.  On 54 minutes Chantelle Miell went over in the corner.  The conversion was missed, but the deficit was cut to just four points.

But it was not to be for Bristol as Sillari scored her second to take the match away from them and take the game 17-8.

In the 3rd/4th play-off Lichfield took the honours as they beat Saracens 41-14.

Lichfield went ahead in the 16th minute when Emily Braund went over.  Emily Scarratt then added a penalty.

Saracens came back with a try from Lotte Clapp.

But Lichfield hit back themselves with a second try from Braund just on half-time to take the score the 15-7 at the break.

In the second-half Lichfield consolidated their lead with tries from Sarah Bonar and Carys Williams.  Tash Jones and Amy Cockayne scored two more for Lichfield taking the game, with Saracens having the last word with a try from Bryony Cleall.

And Finally

And finally, let’s talk Ilie Nastase.  Great player and entertainer in his time, yes.  But last week he showed that his off-court behaviour is not all it should be.  Firstly he made a racist comment about Serena Williams’ baby (not going to repeat it here), and then he seemingly had a complete meltdown at the Fed Cup tie between Great Britain and Romania.  In my relatively sheltered, liberal world I watched and listened to the unfolding events with shock and, I’m afraid, disbelief.  Do people really speculate about the colour of someone’s baby?  Naive I am, possibly, and if so I apologise, but I’m still struggling to understand why anyone would even say what he did.

As regards his Fed Cup behaviour, I feel pretty much as I did about the David Moyes situation.  Not acceptable in any sense, ever.  I listened to BBC Tennis correspondent Russell Fuller as her tried to make sense of what was going on and you could hear the shock in his voice.  He couldn’t believe what he’d heard and when he interviewed the head of the Romanian Tennis Federation who said basically it was “Ilie being Ilie” you could tell Fuller was biting his tongue to prevent himself giving an inappropriate response.

It is not acceptable that anyone reduces an opposing player to tears.  It is not appropriate that anyone is called “F****** bitches” on a tennis court.  It is up to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to see that it doesn’t happen again.  Will they?  I hope so.