Women’s Sports Column 15-21 June 2019

camerawomanWelcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for last week’s no-show.  There were actually two-and-a-half thousand words of show prepared until my computer decided to turn it into gobbledygook.  Honestly, it was just a page of symbols and even after going through various technical forums and threads, I couldn’t turn it back.  And neither could I face writing it again.  The computer wasn’t thrown through the window, but it was a near thing….  This may be the equivalent of the angler’s “one that got away”, but I’m afraid it’s the sad truth.

Anyway, enough of last week and on to this.  Needless to say the football World Cup still dominates.  Last week’s column had plenty of my thoughts on the tournament so far, but they’re mostly redundant now.

Stories and news this week come from football, cycling, cricket, hockey and tennis.  Plus an “And finally” I hoped I would never have to write.

Let’s crack on.

Football

World Cup

Just a couple of observations on the World Cup that I would have made last week.

Firstly, there’s been too much harassing of the referee, finger wagging and, dare I say it, diving.  These were traits largely unknown in the women’s game and generally agreed to be all the better for it.  So I’m hoping we can reverse this trend and go back to honest, respectful play.

Secondly, the refereeing has sometimes not been up to the standard required, with an over-reliance on VAR and a ridiculous number of penalties.

And thirdly, while we’re on the subject, VAR – why?

Anyway, we now know the 16 teams who will make up the round of 16.  I think I’m sticking by my predictions; France, USA, Netherlands.  Not sure Japan are in my sights anymore, even though they were excellent against England, but Germany have snuck onto my radar instead.  Still, I’m afraid to say, it’s not coming home.

Round of 16 line-up

Saturday 22 June
Germany v Nigeria (16.30)
Norway v Australia (20.00)

Sunday 23 June
England v Cameroon (16.30)
France v Brazil (20.00)

Monday 24 June
Spain v USA (17.00)
Sweden v Canada (20.00)

Tuesday 25 June
Italy v China (17.00)
Netherlands v Japan (20.00)

Other Football news

Melissa Lawley has signed for Liverpool from Manchester City on a free transfer.

Cycling

Lizzie Deignan won the 2019 Women’s Tour at the weekend.

She is the first woman to have won it twice.

She finished eighth in the final stage on Saturday, but also gained an extra second from a second place in an intermediate sprint, meaning she won the title by just two seconds.

Saturday’s Stage Six Results

  1. Amy Pieters (Ned/Boels-Dolmans) 3 hours 27 minutes 02 seconds
  2. Leah Kirchmann (Can/Team Sunweb) same time
  3. Roxane Fournier (Fra/Movistar)

Overall Classification

  1. Lizzie Deignan (GB/Trek-Segafredo) 21 hours 9 minutes 25 seconds
  2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol/Canyon-SMAR Racing) +2secs
  3. Amy Pieters (Ned/Boels-Dolmans) +23secs
  4. Christine Majerus (Lux/Boels-Dolmans) +49secs
  5. Demi Vollering (Ned/Parkhotel Vollering) +51secs
  6. Leah Kirchmann (Can/Team Sunweb) +54secs
  7. Lizzy Banks (GB/Bigla) +58secs
  8. Leah Thomas (US/Bigla) same time
  9. Malgorzata Jasinska (Pol/Movistar) +59secs
  10. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita/Trek-Segafredo) +1min 1sec

Tennis

Nottingham Open

In the semi-finals, top seed Caroline Garcia beat Jennifer Brady 4-6 6-3 6-3 and second seed Donna Vekic beat ninth seed Tatjana Maria 5-7 6-0 6-0.

So we had the top two seeds in the final, somewhat of a rare occurrence these days.  The final went the way of the top seed, Garcia, who beat Vekic in a tight three-set match 2-6 7-6 7-6.

Libema Open

By contrast, there were three unseeded players in the semi-finals of the Libema Open in the Netherlands.

Top seed Kiki Bertens beat Elena Rybakina in straight sets 6-4 6-4 and Alison Riske defeated Veronika Kudermetova in a decider, 6-4 3-6 7-6.

Bertens was beaten in the final, however, by Riske in three sets.  Riske lost the first set to love, but then came back to take the other two 7-6 7-5.

This week sees the grass court season moves on to Birmingham and Mallorca.

Mallorca Open

We are at the quarter-final stage at the Mallorca Open.  The fixtures are as follows:

Sofia Kenin (7) v Elise Mertens (4)
Wang Yafan v Anastasija Sevastova (2)
Belinda Bencic (3) v Amanda Anisimova (5)
Angelique Kerber (1) v Caroline Garcia (6)

Nature Valley Classic Birmingham

Heather Watson’s poor run of form continued in Birmingham as she exited in the first round to Barbora Strycova 6-3 3-6 4-6.  Harriet Dart also lost to Yulia Putintseva 6-1 6-4.

Seeds to bite the dust in the first round included Aryna Sabalenka (5) who lost to Hsieh Su-wei 3-6 6-2 7-6 and Elina Svitolina (4) who lost to Margarita Gasparyan 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Jo Konta (7) made it safely through the first round, beating Anett Kontaveit 6-4 6-2 , but fell in the second to Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets 6-3 6-4.

Top seed Naomi Osaka fell in the second to the unseeded Yulia Putintseva 6-2 6-3.

We are now at the quarter-final stage:

Barbora Strycova v Kristyna Pliskova
Venus Williams v Ash Barty (2)
Petra Martic v Jelena Ostapenko
Yulia Putintseva v Julia Goerges (8)

Hockey

Great Britain – FIH Pro League

Great Britain 0-1 Netherlands

GB lost again at the weekend with the Netherlands scoring late in the game with a goal from Kelly Jonker just ninety seconds from time.

GB also had two goals disallowed; firstly Izzy Petter’s shot was found to have hit Lily Owsley’s foot on the way, and then Giselle Ansley thought she’d scored from a penalty corner when the ball was adjudged not to have left the circle.

GB are now eighth in the table with just one game to go.

Cricket

England v West Indies

After completing a 3-0 whitewash in the 50-over format, in a largely uncompetitive and disappointing series, England are now looking to do the same in a three-match T20 series.  However, the hideous weather we have been having in England put paid to the first one without a ball being bowled in Northampton on Tuesday 18 June.

The second T20 takes place later on today (Friday 21 June), also at Northampton.  It starts at 7pm.

Other Cricket news

KSL side Yorkshire Diamonds have added no less than five new players to their squad for the 2019 and final Super League season.  It is safe to say the Diamonds have been perennial underperformers in the competition so far.

The additions are Aussie wicket keeper Alyssa Healy, England bowlers Katie George (previously Southern Vipers) and Linsey Smith (previously Loughborough Lightning), South African bowler Chloe Tryon and Indian all-rounder Jemimah Rodrigues.

Their new head coach is Dani Hazell.

Ireland Women’s head coach Aaron Hamilton will leave his role early to return to Australia after four years in charge of the women’s side.

Cricket Ireland has released a statement in which it says that the search is now on for a successor to Hamilton, but in the meantime “interim arrangements” will be made in time for Ireland’s three ODIs and three T20s against Zimbabwe, which begin in July.

Women’s T20 cricket is on course to be included at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Birmingham.

It was proposed alongside beach volleyball and para-table tennis.  Two sports, shooting and archery, were rejected.  The three have been approved by the executive board of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and now the recommendation goes to a vote by the 71 member associations.  The result is due within six weeks.

If successful, the cricket tournament would be held at Edgbaston and would comprise eight teams.

And finally, 

I’m largely off Twitter for the duration of the World Cup and I’ve managed to ration how many comments sections on BBC articles I’ve looked at.  The levels of hate, misogyny and downright stupidity aimed at women playing football has reached new heights (as, I’m afraid, I feared it would).  It got to the point where it was seriously impairing my enjoyment of the game.

What I wasn’t prepared for this week was a comment on the BBC’s clip of Fran Wilson’s spectacular flying catch against the West Indies.  It was to the effect that she should have tried to catch it with a ball of the size used in men’s cricket.  It added the hash-tag #mansgame.  To add insult to injury, it was posted by a Leicestershire (my team) “fan”.

I thought we were (just about) over this in cricket.  Women cricketers (and fans, journalists and officials) suffered years of discrimination and have fought tirelessly to redress the balance.  Now we are on the way, but it seems there are still those dinosaurs out there.  I’d like to say here and now that although it’s a mild comment compared to some of the football filth, it’s not acceptable.

More seriously, I’m just hoping that this is not the tip of a general anti-women’s sport backlash.  We all know how much publicity it’s been getting recently and we also know how much this is resented in some quarters.

I’m away for a fortnight now.  More news about the future of the column on my return.    

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 May 2019

speedometerWelcome to this week’s column.  Not for the first time, last week’s offering was full of FA frustration.  Hopefully this week’s will be a bit calmer (stranger things have happened, although I can’t think of many).

News and results this week come from netball (didn’t see that result coming), motor racing, cricket, taekwondo, tennis, basketball, hockey, rugby league and football.

Let’s crack on……

Motor Racing – on the Track

It was Round Two of the W Series last weekend.  Dutch driver Beitske Visser took the win with Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell in second and third respectively.

Visser dominated the race, leading from start to finish.

There were two safety car periods; one when Sarah Tovy’s car got stuck on the grid at the start and one when Gosia Rdest and Esmee Hawkey collided.

Chadwick started on pole, but was overtaken by Visser at the start.  The Briton is still top of the leaderboard after this weekend’s result.

The third round is in Misano, Italy on 8 June.

Motor Racing – Off the Track

It was also confirmed this week that Jamie Chadwick has been offered a role as development driver with the Williams Formula 1 team.

Of course, Williams already have form for promoting women in motorsport.  Susie Wolff was a development driver for the team before she retired in 2015 and, of course deputy team principal is Claire Williams who said of the move,

“Promoting women in motorsport is extremely important and having a female role model as part of our driver academy will hopefully inspire young girls to take up racing at a young age.

“We hope to show that motorsport is inclusive and exciting, be that as a driver or on the engineering side. Jamie is a great talent and I look forward to working with her.”

Football

Champions League

Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 Barcelona

Yet another emphatic win for Lyon as they produced an exceptional first-half performance to mean that even in this season of ridiculous comebacks, the deficit was just too much for Barcelona to overcome after the break.

Ballon d’Or winner and now BBC Women’s Footballer of the year (see below), Ada Hegerberg, hit a hat-trick in the first-half.

If Toni Duggan had hit the target early on, rather than shooting wide, perhaps it would have been different.

Shanice Van de Sanden also starred, setting up the first two goals for Dzsenifer Marozsan and Hegerberg with excellent crosses.

Hegerberg then scored two more – a hat-trick in just 16 minutes and Lyon were four up by half-time.

Asisat Oshoala pulled one back for Barcelona late on, but it was a meagre consolation.

Nikita Parris

And it appears Lyon will only be stronger next season as it was announced this week that England’s Nikita Parris has signed for the French champions.  She will have to prove herself to make a place in such a successful side, but if anyone can, Parris can.

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019

Ada Hegerberg has been named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019.

As we already know, she has had yet another excellent season, culminating in her Champions League final hat-trick.  This season she scored 29 goals in 33 games for Lyon and the team won the French league (again) and French Cup as well as the Champions League title.

Pernille Harder was second and Sam Kerr third.  It is Hegerberg’s second title, having also won it in 2017.

It is just a shame that we won’t get to see her playing for Norway in the World Cup.

England

Talking of which, there are two warm-up matches coming up for England as they continue to prepare for the World Cup:

England v Denmark (25 May, Banks’s Stadium, Walsall, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)
England v New Zealand (1 June, Amex Stadium, Brighton, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)

Scotland

Scotland also play a warm-up:

Scotland v Jamaica (28 May, Hampden Park, Glasgow, 7.35m kick-off)

Wales

Wales play New Zealand in a friendly before they begin their 2021 Euros qualification campaign:

Wales v New Zealand (4 June, Leckwith Stadium, Cardiff, 7pm kick-off)

Netball – on the Court

Manchester Thunder 57-52 Wasps Netball

Well I can honestly say I didn’t see this result coming.  Wasps have been so dominant this year, I thought it was practically a foregone conclusion that they would win the Grand Final, but that, without hopefully sounding too sententious, is the beauty of sport.

Wasps started well and were leading throughout the first quarter. In fact, Thunder didn’t come into their own until half way through the second quarter, when they took the lead for the first time.

At the beginning of the third quarter Wasps roared back and went back into the lead, but couldn’t hold it and the lead changed hands almost with every goal.

It looked as if Wasps had regained their equilibrium towards the end of the third quarter, and going into the final period they had a lead of 45-39.

But it was the Thunder who took the initiative in the fourth and final quarter.  They achieved two turnovers in the first few minutes and from that point never looked back, scoring 19 goals in the last quarter as they secured their third Super League title.

Team Bath 62-56 Loughborough Lightning

By half-time Lightning had a five-goal lead at 30-25, but were unable to maintain their form until the final whistle.

But Bath came back in the third, scoring 18 to Loughborough’s 14 and reducing the deficit to just one.

But it was in the fourth quarter that Bath took control, scoring 19 goals to Loughborough’s 12, giving them a six point victory and a third place finish.

Netball – off the Court

England Roses Squad

Tracey Neville has named her squad of 12 for the World Cup in July.  One person who will not be there is captain Ama Agbeze who has been left out due to ongoing injury.

Unsurprisingly Agbeze is devastated to be missing out.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I think I’m dealing with it quite well but I’m really disappointed.

“I feel like I’m at peace with the decision, which I never thought I would say because I’m usually a wreck.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to go not to my full capacity. I did think I had time but obviously that has been taken out of my hands.”

Agbeze has been a star for England, leading them to the historic Commonwealth gold medal last year.  Let’s hope she can come back from injury and fight her way back into the team.

The squad in full:

Defence
Geva Mentor, GK
Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK/GD
Fran Williams, GK/GD
Layla Guscoth, GD/WD

Centre court
Jade Clarke, WD/C
Serena Guthrie, WD/C
Natalie Panagarry, WD/C/WA
Chelsea Pitman, WA

Shooters
Natalie Haythornthwaite, WA/GA
Helen Housby, GA/GS
Jo Harten, GS/GA
Rachel Dunn, GS/GA

It is a squad combining youth and experience with Geva Mentor, Rachel Dunn and Jade Clarke, all into their mid-thirties.  Eight of the squad played in the Commonwealth Games with just two making their big tournament debuts, Layala Guscoth and Fran Williams.  There is also a well-earned place for Loughborough Lightning captain Nat Pangarry.

You realise the strength of English netball when you realise who won’t be there; Agbeze, Sasha and Kadeen Corbin and Jodie Gibson all miss out.

Hockey – FIH Pro League

Great Britain 2-0 Belgium

The first-half was goalless, but Great Britain took the lead in the third quarter through Grace Balsdon.  Lily Owsley bagged the second.

Great Britain are now sixth in the table.

Next up is Germany at the Lee Valley Centre on 6 June.

Basketball – WBBL

Sevenoaks Suns won the play-off title for the second year running on Saturday, beating Leicester Riders in the final at the 02 Arena 60-55.

It was a tight game throughout and with four minutes to go the two sides were locked at 50-50.  But Sevenoaks stretched ahead to win the tie by five.

Suns’ top scorer was Janice Monakana with 23 points, while Riders’ was Brea Elmore with 17.

Tennis

Rome Open

Jo Konta got through to the Rome final with an excellent comeback against sixth seed Kiki Bertens in her semi-final, 5-7 7-5 6-2.

In the other semi-final, fourth seed Karolina Pliskova beat Maria Sakkari 6-4 6-4.

However, Konta fell short in the final, losing to Pliskova 6-3 6-4.

Konta’s performance at the Rome Open has earned her a seeding in the French Open, which starts on 26 May.

Strasbourg Open

We are at the semi-final stage of the Strasbourg Open.  Top seed Ash Barty withdrew at the round of 32 stage with an arm injury.  Hopefully she will be fit for the French Open.

The semi-finals look like this:

Dayana Yastremska (6) v Aryna Sabalenka (2)
Chloe Paquet v Caroline Garcia (4)

We are also in the midst of qualifying for the French Open.  Katie Swan is one win away from making the main draw and will face Slovakian Kristina Kucova in the final round, but Heather Watson is out, falling to world 193 Valentini Grammatikopoulou 7-5 6-7 7-6.

In the first round proper, Katie Boulter is scheduled to play 23rd seed Donna Vekic, although Boulter may still be nursing a back injury and the match could be in doubt.  Jo Konta is scheduled to play a qualifier.

There are some fascinating first round match-ups in prospect, including Jelena Ostapenko v Victoria Azarenka (both unseeded), Aryna Sabalenka v Dominika Cibulkova, Barbora Strycova v Sam Stosur and Venus Williams v ninth seed Elina Svitolina.

Taekwondo

Great Britain’s top two, Bianca Walkden and Jade Jones, duly claimed gold in their respective categories at the World Championships in Manchester last week – but in very different circumstances.

Bianca Walkden claimed her third successive world title after a bout mired in controversy.  She was 21-10 down to Olympic champion Shuyin Zheng of China, when Walkden forced her opponent into conceding penalties, aggressively getting her off the mat.  Eventually Zheng was disqualified.

Although Walkden fought within the rules, there was booing when she was declared champion and more boos when she received her medal on the podium.  Zheng refused to acknowledge the Briton’s win and then collapsed in tears on the podium when she received her medal.

Jade Jones finally secured the world title that had eluded her, after previously winning two Olympic golds.  She beat defending champion Lee Ah-reum of South Korea in the final 14-7.

A big shout-out too, to Aaliyah Powell, who became Britain’s youngest taekwondo medallist when she won bronze in the -53kg category.

Rugby League

I managed to miss the rugby league results last week, so here they are:

Super League – 12 May
Wigan Warriors 4-12 Leeds Rhinos
Castleford Tigers 30-14 St Helens
Wakefield Trinity 8-40 Featherstone Rovers
York City Knights 4-40 Bradford Bulls

So after four rounds of fixtures, Castleford Tigers are top with four wins from four and eight points. Then follow Bradford, St Helens and Leeds all on six points, but in this order on points difference.

Cricket – County Championship

Last weekend’s County Championship results:

Division One
Kent 235/7 (47.4 overs) 16 points beat Hampshire 233/6 (50 overs) 7 points
Nottinghamshire 207/9 (50 overs) 18 points beat Warwickshire 203/9 (50 overs) 8 points
Sussex 176/7 (50 overs) 5 points lost to Surrey 177/5 (47.2 overs) 16 points
Yorkshire 160/5 (48.3 overs) 17 points beat Lancashire 158 all out (46.2 overs) 5 points

Division Two
Cricket Wales 163/8 (50 overs) 12 points TIED with Middlesex 163 all out (47.4 overs) 11 points
Devon 203/5 (48.1 overs) 9 points ABANDONED Berkshire 22/2 (5 overs) Revised target 213 from 50 overs 7 points
Durham 152 all out (47.4 overs) 17 points beat Worcestershire 121 all out (43.4 overs) 6 points
Essex 124/9 (49.3 overs) 16 points beat Somerset 123 all out (45 overs) 6 points

England v West Indies

As I’m not here next week, I’d thought I’d just remind you of the upcoming England fixtures.  Tickets are still available, so if you’re in the vicinity, get out and watch the women in action.

West Indies have suffered a blow before the series starts with the withdrawal from the squad of Deandra Dottin through injury.  Her place is taken by Britney Cooper.

West Indies squad: Stafanie Taylor (capt), Shemaine Campbelle, Britney Cooper, Afy Fletcher, Chinelle Henry, Stacy-Ann King, Kycia Knight (wk), Kyshona Knight, Natasha McLean, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman.

There are three ODIs, all of which qualify for ICC Women’s Championship points.  There are also three T20s.

ODIs
First ODI, Thursday 6 June, Grace Road Leicester, 2pm start
Second ODI, Sunday 9 June, New Road Worcester, 11am start
Third ODI, Thursday 13 June, County Ground Chelmsford, 2pm start

T20s
First T20, Tuesday 18 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Second T20, Friday 21 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Third T20, Tuesday 25 June, County Ground Derby, 7pm start

And Finally,

It’s not just the FA that sets the bar high in incompetence.  It seems that FiFA too (are we surprised) are excelling themselves once again.  There have been reports – and it is a number, not just one or two – that groups or families just receiving their World Cup tickets, have been split up and are sitting in different places.  Are these people who have ordered at the last minute and are picking up the odd one?  No, these appear to be people who have been in from the start.  Let’s just hope the problem isn’t as widespread as it first appears and that everyone has a fabulous experience in France.

No column next week as I’m out and about. 

 

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 16-22 March 2019

curlingWelcome to this week’s column.  Back with a vengeance this week with stories from rugby union, netball, football, hockey, cycling, cricket, winter sports and tennis.

Rugby Union

Six Nations
England retained their Six Nations championship title at the weekend, winning the Grand Slam as they crushed Scotland in their final match, 80-0.  An improving Italy finished second in the table as they beat France on Sunday and Wales beat Ireland.

16 March
England 80-0 Scotland

The Red Roses scored their first try of 12 after just two minutes when flanker Sarah Beckett went over.

Jess Breach scored a second four minutes later, and after 12 minutes they were three up through Natasha Hunt.  Breach scored her second on 17 minutes and so after 20 minutes England were already 26-0 up.

Kelly Smith scored England’s fifth after a fine scrum and the bonus point was already secured.

Poppy Cleall then went over and it was 40-0.  Things then went from bad to worse for Scotland as their captain Lisa Thomson was yellow-carded.

England took advantage of the extra player and Amy Cockayne made it seven tries before half-time.

After the break, with Scotland still down to 14, England piled on the pressure.  Prop Sarah Bern and captain Sarah Hunter both going over before Thomson’s return.

The other tries came from Emily Scarratt, Cleall with a second and second-half replacement Cath O’Donnell.

Katy Daley-McLean was in excellent form with the boot, slotting nine conversions and Scarratt added one right at the end.

17 March
Wales 24-5 Ireland

Ireland went into the lead after 13 minutes with a try from Beibhinn Parsons, but this was to be their only score.

Wales were level five minutes later through Jess Kavanagh.

Siwan Lillicrap was sin-binned for a high tackle for the home side, but Wales didn’t buckle, instead taking the initiative and did not concede in the ten minute period.

Once they were back to 15, Wales scored through Carys Phillips and they were in the lead.

In the second-half Wales scored two more tries through Beth Lewis and Jasmine Joyce, the latter securing the bonus point for the home side.

Italy 31-12 France

Italy capped a fine Six Nations with another excellent performance against France, which gave them second spot in the table.

The home side opened the scoring on 20 minutes through Sofia Stefan.

France levelled shortly before half-time as Caroline Boujard ran in from a Pauline Bourdon pass.

But Italy weren’t finished as Michela Sillari put over a penalty and the Azzure went in 8-5 ahead.

After the break, Sillari slotted another penalty as Coumba Diallo was sin-binned for France.  Then Italy went over again through hooker Melissa Bettoni.

Sillari’s third penalty made it 21-5 to Italy.

France rallied to score their second try through Ian Jason, which was converted by Jessy Trémoulière.

But Italy were not to be outdone and scored a fourth through Manuela Furlan, securing the bonus point and second place.

Cricket

England v Sri Lanka

England completed a 3-0 ODI series win over Sri Lanka this week.  Sorry, no time for reports, but here are the details:

First ODI
England 331/7 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 159/8 (40 overs, target 314)
England won by 154 runs by D/L method

Nat Sciver scored 93 and Amy Jones 79.

Second ODI
Sri Lanka 187/9 (50 overs)
England 188/4 (33.4/50 overs)
England won by 6 Wickets with 99 balls remaining

Alex Hartley took 3/36 from 10 overs.  Amy Jones top scored for England with 54.

Third ODI
Sri Lanka 174 all out (50 overs)
England 177/2 (26.1/50 overs)
England won by 8 wickets with 143 balls remaining

Amy Jones top scored with 76 – that’s three half centuries in three games.  Tammy Beaumont scored 63.

There are three T20s to come: 24, 26, 28 March.

Tennis

Indian Wells

There was a surprise winner at Indian Wells last weekend as wildcard Bianca Andreescu defeated Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4.

Andreescu had three match points on her serve, but was eventually broken as Kerber brought it back to be just 5-4 behind.

But then Andreescu produced some of her best tennis to break the German back and take the match.

Football – on the Pitch

Champions’ League Quarter-finals First Leg
Chelsea 2-0 Paris St Germain

Goals from Hannah Blundell and Erin Cuthbert see Chelsea take a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their quarter-final which takes place in Paris on 27 March.

FA Cup Quarter-finals

Durham 0-1 Chelsea
Ji So-yun’s goal was enough to see holders Chelsea through to the semi-finals of this year’s FA Cup.

Manchester City 3-0 Liverpool

Janine Beckie scored the first for City in the first-half and they went into the break 1-0 up.  In the second-half, Georgia Stanway, on as substitute for Beckie, scored their second and added a third late on to see them through convincingly.

Reading 2-1 Manchester United
Neither side could make the decisive breakthrough in 90 minutes and the tie went to extra time.

United took the lead through and Alex Greenwood penalty, but Remi Allen equalised to make it 1-1.  Fara Williams looked to have won it for Reading as she scored direct from a corner, but it was ruled out for an infringement in the box.

But Reading didn’t give up and got their reward in the 120th minute when substitute and Iceland international Rakel Honnudottir scored from close range.

Aston Villa 0-1 West Ham
Scotland forward Jane Ross scored the only goal of the game to take West Ham through to the semi-finals.

Semi-Final Draw

Manchester City v Chelsea
Reading v West Ham United

Ties will be played on Sunday 14 April.

Spanish League
I couldn’t let this go by without a mention.  On Sunday, the crowd for the Liga Feminina match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid drew a crowd of 60,739.  I feel like I should write that out in words, sixty thousand, seven hundred and thirty-nine people.

Barcelona won the game 2-0 with goals from Asisat Oshoala and England’s own Toni Duggan.

Atletico are top of the table with 66 points from 24 games.  Barcelona are three points behind in second on 63.  Levante are third, way back on 51.

Football – off the Pitch
Women’s Super League BIG News

I hope you’ve all heard and digested this news already, but I couldn’t leave it out, could I?

At last, I say at last, the Women’s Super League is to have its first ever title sponsor.

Barclays have committed to a deal to the tune of what is thought to be in excess of £10m over three years.

The FA is, unsurprisingly, pleased with itself, calling it “the biggest ever investment in UK women’s sport by a brand.”

The WSL will be known as the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and there will be £500,000 of prize money at the end of the season.

Barclays will also be the lead partner of the FA Girls Football School Partnerships which aims to improve the availability of football to girls in schools.

We’re always using the term “game changer”, but this probably is.  Now trying telling us women’s football isn’t worth anything.  No business invests in a “useless” product.

And backwards we go…

However, it’s not woo-hoo all the way this week:

Yeovil Town

It has been reported this week that Yeovil may go back to being part-time at the end of the season.

They have already made three off-field personnel redundant.

The FA is believed to be trying to support them through this crisis but even if they avoid relegation (they are currently bottom of the league and five points away from safety), they may be demoted if they cannot assure the FA that their financial future is secure.

I hope there’s an answer to all this – I don’t want to see Yeovil go the way of Notts County.

Sophie Jones

There was a second unwelcome story this week as Sheffield United forward Sophie Jones was found guilty of racially abusing Tottenham Hotspur’s Renee Hector.

Jones has consistently denied the allegations, but has had her contract terminated by Sheffield United.   She has been suspended for five matches, fined £200 and must go on an educational course.

2023 World Cup

I know we’ve still got a World Cup to come this year, but the quest to hold the 2023 version is now underway.  And does it seem that countries are seeing the potential of women’s football at last?  A record nine countries have expressed an interest in hosting the event.  They are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.  Apparently North and South Korea are also looking at making a joint bid.

The closing date for expressions of interest is 16 April.  More news as it happens.

Winter Sports

Skiing

On Sunday Mikaela Shiffrin of the USA became the first skier to win World Cup titles in overall, slalom, giant slalom and super-G in the same season.

She completed the set in Andorra when she won the giant slalom in 23.17 seconds, beating Alice Robinson of New Zealand into second.  She had already won the super-G earlier at the event.

Curling

Women’s Curling World Championships
The Championships which is currently taking place in Silkeborg in Denmark, runs from 16-24 March.  We are currently at the round robin stage.

The defending champions are Canada and those taking part in addition to Canada are USA, Korea, Switzerland, Japan, China, Finland, Latvia, Scotland, hosts Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Germany.

We are nearly at the end of the round robin stage with the qualification games (3 v 6 and 4-5), semi-finals, bronze medal game and gold medal game taking place this weekend.

So far Sweden, Russia and Korea have qualified for the play-offs.  There are three places still up for grabs with Switzerland, China and the United States in prime position.  Scotland, unfortunately, will not be amongst them having won four and lost seven of their matches.

Cycling
Para-cycling Track World championships

Great Britain’s para-cyclists had a good event.

Sophie Thornhill and pilot Helen Scott won two golds: in the B 500m Time Trial and the B sprint.

Kadeena Cox won gold in the C4 500m Time Trial and Sarah Storey took silver in the C5 version of this event.  Katie Toft took silver in the C1 version, but only gold was awarded.

Sarah Storey also won two golds; in the C5 Individual Pursuit and C5 Scratch Race.  Crystal lane-Wright took silver in the same Scratch Race.

Lora Fachie won bronze in the B Individual Pursuit.

Volleyball

Super League Top 5
16 March
London Orcas 3-0 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21, 25-16, 25-12)
TeamBU Wessex 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (18-25, 17-25, 21-25)

Tendring are top with 36 points from 14 matches.  Durham Palatinates are a point behind with 35 from 13.

Super League Bottom 4
16 March
Sheffield Hallam 2-3 Polonia SideOut London (25-21, 17-25, 25-20, 14-25, 7-15)

Sheffield top the bottom four table with 16 points from 12 matches.

17 March
Bristol VC1 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (25-19, 25-23, 26-24)

Netball

What a fixture to be live on Sky this week!  Lightning beat leaders Wasps in a thrilling match, by one point.  The winner was scored by Mary Cholhok with just four seconds remaining on the clock.  Brilliant stuff from Loughborough as Wasps suffered only their second defeat of the season.

Last weekend’s Vitality Super League were as follows:

Saturday 16 March
Team Bath 56-50 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 53-44 Strathclyde Sirens
Saracens Mavericks 49-57 Manchester Thunder

Monday 18 March
Loughborough Lightning 60-59 Wasps Netball

Manchester Thunder have taken over at the top and are in ominous form.  They have the slightest goal average advantage over Wasps in second.  Both teams have 24 points from 10 games.  Saracens Mavericks are third with 21 and Loughborough Lightning are fourth, also on 21.  At the bottom, London Pulse still have only one win and three points.  Strathclyde Sirens are above them with six points and two wins.

Round 11 is this weekend:

Friday 22 March
Team Bath v Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm)

Saturday 23 March
Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball (5pm)
Severn Stars v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Surrey Storm (6pm)

Monday 25 March
Celtic Dragons v London Pulse (7pm, Live on Sky Sports)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

16 March results:
Canterbury 2-1 East Grinstead
University of Birmingham 0-1 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 1-4 Surbiton
Slough 0-0 Beeston
Buckingham 0-2 Holcombe

All teams have played 16 games.  Holcombe are top with 35 points, Surbiton second a point behind and East Grinstead are third with 28.  At the bottom, Canterbury have eight points.  Just above them are Slough on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures:

23 March
Buckingham v University of Birmingham (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Surbiton v Slough (1pm, Surbiton HC, water)
Beeston v Canterbury (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
East Grinstead v Bowdon (2pm, East Grinstead HC)
Holcombe v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Holcombe HC, P1)

FIH Pro League

There have been four games over the last week:

Saturday 16 March
Australia 0-1 Argentina

Sunday 17 March
Australia 1-3 New Zealand

Thursday 21 March
China 0-1 Argentina

Friday 22 March
China 5-3 New Zealand

Different teams have played different numbers of games, but currently Netherlands are top with a points percentage of 80.0 from five games.  Argentina are second with 76.2 from seven games and Belgium are third on 66.7, but have played only three games.  Great Britain are eighth with a points percentage of 22.2 from just three games.

And Finally,

Big, big news in sports media this week as the Daily Telegraph finally put its money where its mouth is and announced its first Women’s Sports Editor, the completely excellent Anna Kessel.  It’s not often I have cause to praise the Telegraph, but this move is a brilliant one and will hopefully cause many other news outlets to follow suit.  It has already signed up Dina Asher-Smith as a columnist.

You can read the full story, and its “manifesto” here

You will know that I have an issue with the “ghettoising” of women’s sport – do we give it its own space, far away from everything else, so those offended (and there are still plenty), do not have to view it (although they will still comment anyway)?  Or do we mix it in with everything else because essentially “sport is sport”.  It’s a difficult one, but at the moment the issue is that there’s little coverage at all.  Not in a ghetto, not on its own page, not anywhere (starting to sound a bit like Dr Seuss there).  So, let’s get it in there first.  Let’s get it its own pages, web page and identity and see where we go from there.

Come on, all you other media outlets, get with it.  You know it’s going to be big – AT LONG LAST.  Don’t get left behind.  If consumers don’t get what they want from their coverage of women’s sport, they will vote with their paper-buying, website-viewing feet.

And, and Finally,

Go for it, Tayla Harris.  Need I say more?

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.