Women’s Sports Column 6-12 October 2018

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

So let’s crack on.

Boxing

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis

China Open

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

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

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

This week sees tournaments in both Hong Kong and Tianjin.

Hong Kong Open

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

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

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

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

Tianjin Open

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

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

Quarter-finals:

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

Pliskova meets Bacsinsczky in the semi-final

Still to play:

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

Tennis – off the Court

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

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

More news as it happens.

Football

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

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

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

Lionesses

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

England 1-0

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

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

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

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

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

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

England 1-1 Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup Play-offs

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

First leg – 5 October:

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

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

Second leg – 9 October

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

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

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

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

Doncaster Rovers Belles

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

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

Belles Chair, Faye Lygo told the BBC,

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

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

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

Rugby League

Woman of Steel

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

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

Talking of which….

Super League Play-offs

Leeds 24-10 Castleford Tigers

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

Wigan Warriors 10-6 St Helens

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

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

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

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

Liza Burgess

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union – On the Pitch

The Premier 15s are back in action this weekend:

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

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 6 October were as follows:

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Netball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

Winter Sports

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

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

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

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

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

And Finally – motor racing W Series

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

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

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

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

Competitors will be chosen by assessment of their capabilities.

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

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

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

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

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

More news and views next week.      

Women’s Sports Column 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.