Women’s Sports Column 6-12 January 2018

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the brevity of this week’s offering, but a bout of sickness has meant I’ve been a bit pushed for time.  Hopefully there’s enough here to keep you entertained.  Stories this week come from tennis, hockey, boxing, rugby union, cricket, football and sports politics.

So here we go.

Tennis

Australian Open

The draw for the first round of the Australian Open has been made and Jo Konta, fit again after pulling out of the Brisbane International, has a tough draw.  She faces American Madison Brengle, 92 in the world.

Heather Watson’s first opponent is Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan who, at 50, is ranked 24 places higher than Watson.

Naomi Broady is through the first round of qualifying, beating Kathinka von Deichmann of Liechtenstein 7-6 5-7 6-3.  She plays Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands in the next round and needs to win three to get through to the first round proper.

The tournament begins on Monday 15 January.

Hobart International

Heather Watson seems to be getting into her stride before the start of the first Grand Slam of the year.  She made it to the semi-finals of the Hobart International, losing to the 2017 champion and second seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 1-6 6-2.

Mertens will play Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine of Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the final.

Boxing

Irish boxing star, Katie Taylor, will fight her first professional Dublin bout on 14 April.  It will be her second defence of her WBA World Lightweight title.

The venue is yet to be decided.

Football – off the pitch

Eni Aluko

The big news this week is that Eni Aluko is in discussion with Paris St-Germain over a possible transfer.  Aluko, 30, has five months left on her Chelsea contract.  PSG lie currently in the French division one behind Lyon.

Lionesses

Drew Spence has been recalled to the England squad for their 10-day training camp in Spain; it will be the first time she has been involved since the debacle with Mark Sampson last year.  The squad is preparing for the SheBelieves Cup in the US in March.  The full squad is as follows:

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

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City).

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

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

Meanwhile, although we are assured by the FA that the search for the new England Head Coach is well underway, some of the best candidates are slipping through their fingers.  John Herdman, the Canadian women’s coach has just left his post, but has gone directly to take over the Canadian men’s team.   One name that is, apparently, in the hat, is that of Phil Neville.  As the current parlance would have it, I’ll just leave that here.

Football – on the pitch

FA Cup Fourth Round

After the excitement of last week’s third round, the fourth round draw has been made and this is where the WSL sides make their first appearance.  Ties will be played on Sunday 4 February.  There is one outstanding tie from the third round this Sunday (14 January) when Derby County take on Brighouse Town fourth round fixture away to Sunderland AFC.

The New Saints v Chichester City
Durham v Sheffield
Aston Villa v Middlesborough
Sunderland AFC v Derby County/Brighouse Town
Keynsham Town v Lewes
Tottenham Hotspur v Doncaster Rovers Belles
Liverpool v Watford
Cardiff City v Oxford United
Reading v Birmingham City
Plymouth Argyle v Leicester City
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City
Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
Yeovil Town v Arsenal
London Bees v Chelsea
Everton v Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses v Coventry United

For fixture times and venues please see the FA Website.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

Rugby Australia

Good news from Australia this week as it was announced that a deal between Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players’ Association means that its men’s and women’s sevens sides will be paid the same (at entry level), at least until 2020.

The fifteens team, the Walleroos, will be covered by the new deal and will receive payments for Tests for the first time.

There will be a new Pregnancy Policy to ensure players have the security to return to their contracts if they have children.

Rugby Union – on the pitch

There was one game in the Premier 15s last weekend:

Worcester Valkyries 7-38 Loughborough Lightning

We’re all-guns-blazing again this weekend with a full programme of fixtures:

Saturday 13 January

Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, Allianz Park)
Harlequins v Loughborough Lightning (2pm, Surrey Sports Park)

Sunday 14 January

Richmond v Gloucester-Hartpury (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

Cricket

WBBL latest scores:

6 January
Melbourne Renegades 142/6 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/3 (19 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets

Jess Duffin top-scored for the Stars with 40, ably supported by Claire Koski, who finished 33 not out.  Erin Osborne took 2/14 from her four overs.  In response Georgia Elwiss scored 58 not out and Mignon du Preez 45 from 35 balls as the Stars took the game with an over to spare.

7 January
Hobart Hurricanes 111/4 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 114/2 (14.2 overs)
Heat won by 8 wickets

The Hurricanes’ total never looked like being enough.  Jess Jonassen took 2/17 off her four overs.  Beth Mooney scored an unbeaten 62 from 43 balls as the Heat got home easily.

Sydney Thunder 145/6 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 144/6 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 1 run

Scorchers needed three runs off the last ball, but as Mathilda Carmichael came back for the second, ‘keeper Rachel Priest took the ball and broke the bails, denying the second run and super over and claiming the win for the Thunder.  Earlier Priest had also top-scored with the bat with 42 from 32 balls.

But it was Rene Farrell who took the player of the match award for her dismissal of the two Scorchers openers.  She also effected the run out of Perth’s English batter Nat Sciver.

8 January
Brisbane Heat 168/4 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 126 all out (18.5 overs)
Heat won by 42 runs

Kirby Short starred for the Heat with 79 of 55 balls as they posted an excellent total.  In response the Hurricanes lost Hayley Matthews for just eight and after the top four had been dismissed, no-one else got into double figures.  All of the Heat’s seven bowlers, excepting bizarrely, Deandra Dottin, all picked up wickets to contribute to the win.

Sydney Thunder 134/4 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 136/2 (18.1 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets

The Scorchers were back to winning ways on Monday as they beat the Thunder with nearly two overs to spare.  Alex Blackwell starred for the Thunder, scoring 81 off 58 balls, as their openers faltered with Priest bowled for a duck by the in-form Katherine Brunt.  Stafanie Taylor also contributed with 31.

Elyse Villani was run out early on for just nine for the Scorchers, but Nicole Bolton scored 28 and then England pair Nat Sciver and Brunt took it on, scoring 61 and 17 not out respectively to ensure the win.

9 January
Melbourne Stars 132/5 (20 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 134/9 (20 overs)
Strikers won by 1 wicket

Lizelle Lee top-scored for the Stars with 52 with Katie Mack backing up well with 42 from 32 balls

Although the Strikers all got starts, none went on to make a big score and with the Stars taking regular wickets it looked as if they had the game sewn up.

When the ninth wicket went on 129 with just two balls to go it was down to last recognised bat Tabitha Saville to score the winning runs.  Beams bowled a dot for the fifth ball but then committed the cardinal sin of bowling a no-ball on the sixth; one run for the no-ball and a free hit.  Saville tonked the free hit for four and the Strikers had won the game.

12 January
Melbourne Stars 133/3 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 134/5 (18.1 overs)
Heat won by 5 wickets

Beth Mooney is in fearsome form, as the Stars found to their cost on Friday.

Katie Mack put in her second big score of the week with 57 off 48 for the Stars with Mignon du Preez backing her up with 30.  Deandra Dottin took 2/13 off three overs for the Heat.

But there was no stopping Mooney.  She hit seven fours in an innings of 57 off just 38 balls.  She was ably supported by Jess Jonassen who scored 23 not out from 21 balls as the Heat won with nearly two overs to spare.

As it stands

Thunder are top with 12 points from 8 matches.  The Heat are second with the same number of points, but from nine matches.  They are followed by the Sixers and then the Strikers.  Hobart Hurricanes are still to get off the mark and are bottom with no points from eight games.

Hockey

Jaffa Super 6s Finals

The four qualifiers for Finals Day at the Copperbox Arena have been decided.  The men’s and women’s tournament will be played on Sunday 28 January and the semi-final line-up is as follows:

10.45 am – East Grinstead v Leicester
12 noon – Bowdon Hightown v Holcombe

The women’s final will be at 15.45pm.

Saudi Arabia

It’s finally happening.  Today women will watch a football match from inside the stadium – legally.

From now on, there will be areas for women fans in the grounds at Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.  There is a large female fanbase for men’s football in Saudi Arabia, but until now they have had to follow games on the television only.

The three grounds expect a big turnout at their first inclusive matches and also expect crowds to build over time.  Make no mistake, this is a significant step for sports-loving women in the country, and while we realise it’s a drop in the ocean compared to many indignities women have to suffer, it is, however, a very definite drop.

And finally,

Well done and commiserations to Ipswich Town Ladies in their third round FA Cup defeat to Charlton Athletic.  The Blues took the lead through Cassie Craddock in the second-half, but Charlton equalised and then took the lead.  Craddock was in again late on to take the game into extra time.  Charlton, top of the league above Ipswich, took their chances, scoring three during extra time to take the game 5-2.

 

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Women’s Sports Column 14-20 October 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s epic, this column should be more within usual parameters!  But there’s still plenty of news; stories this week come from football, cricket, Aussie Rules Football, cycling, rugby, netball, taekwondo, hockey and boxing.

I was about to crack on, then I realised that the top three women’s sports stories are the debacle at the FA, the Danish women’s football team on strike and the fact that the IRB have advertised their women’s national side’s head coach job as a six-month part-time post.  Ho hum.  Don’t think I need to add anything there do I?

Let’s crack on.

Football

No doubt about the top story this week.  Really, if the FA were a soap opera you’d say it was too far-fetched.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs as I will assume everyone is keeping up with it.  Blame has two lie at two doors – and while we’re blaming the first, let’s not forget about the second, shall we?

Firstly, the Football Association, which has mismanaged the whole situation right from the start.  No, this is not a “witch hunt” as the apologists might have it, but, let’s face it, something has been very wrong at the FA for some time.

Now it appears they ignored the facts before them, initiated a thoroughly useless investigation, came up with totally spurious results and then tried to bribe the complainant into telling the world that it wasn’t “institutionally racist”.  What could possibly be amiss?

The second investigation and subsequent grilling by MPs didn’t take long to show up the FA’s incompetence.

The FA has now apologised both the Eni Aluko and Drew Spence after Mark Sampson was indeed found to have made comments that were “discriminatory on the grounds of race”.

The inquiry also found that it did not believe Sampson to be racist but to have made “ill-judged attempts at humour” and also that Aluko’s bullying claim was not proven.

All through this ordeal Aluko has carried herself with dignity, sticking to her story and not bending, even when attempts were made to offer her “hush money.”

It is my view (neither original, nor unpopular) that the FA is an outdated, outmoded institution that needs to be looked at from the ground up.  Yes, there are black players and women on its satellite boards (see later for news of Dan Carter) but it still remains, at heart, a stale, pale, male, boys’ club.

Football is supposed to be the game of the people – and yet what does this tell us?  Who are the people, in the FA’s case?  Middle-aged (and older), white men.  As a consumer and lover of both women’s and men’s football, I can certainly say they don’t speak for me.

I listened to the debate on 5 Live on the subject this week.  It was really sad to hear Ian Wright, a great player, a role model for black teenagers (boys and girls), and an intelligent man, say he couldn’t work with the FA as it stands.  Mark Chapman was trying to get him to say he’d like to be involved, but obviously, looking at his conscience he said he wouldn’t be able to, even if approached.

And who can blame him?  I would like to think the top brass, Martin Glenn and Greg Clarke, are living on borrowed time.  But who knows?  Who can oust them?  And, more importantly, who would they be replaced by?

Going back to the second guilty party in this – let’s not forget Mark Sampson.  He has seemingly ruined his career over a spectacular inability to know his boundaries.  I don’t think he’s racist, he’s just another product of the “banter” culture, where people think it’s ok to say anything they want if they parade it under the label of “banter”.  Well it’s not.  The England set-up is a workplace, just like any other.  Such comment would not be acceptable in any other workplace, so it’s not acceptable here.  Anyone in such a position should have had courses in boundaries – and, equally importantly – should have known instinctively that he was crossing a line.

It’s not over yet, folks.  Let’s see what happens next.

Champions League Draw

The round of 16 draw was made on Monday.  Chelsea were not seeded, but managed to avoid the big guns of Lyon, Wolfsburg and Barcelona, but they still face a tough two legs against Rosenborg of Sweden.  Manchester City were seeded and will be happy with their draw against LSK Kinner of Norway.

First leg ties will be played on 8/9 November, with the return legs the following week.

Full draw:

Sparta Praha (CZE) v Linköping (SWE)
Gintra Universitetas (LTU) v Barcelona (ESP)
Chelsea (ENG) v Rosengård (SWE)
LSK Kvinner (NOR) v Manchester City (ENG)
Brescia (ITA) v Montpellier (FRA)
BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ) v Lyon (FRA, holders)
Fiorentina (ITA) v Wolfsburg (GER)
Stjarnan (ISL) v Slavia Praha (CZE)

More from The FA

England and Arsenal striker Danielle Carter has been appointed to the FA Council.  Carter has graduated from the “On the Board” scheme, which works to promote diversity within football.  She also sits on Hertfordshire FA’s disciplinary panel.

Denmark National Team

In an unprecedented move, Denmark’s women’s team will miss their World Cup qualifier against Sweden on Friday as their disagreement with their governing body, the Danish Football Association (DBU) goes on.

The team is still on strike after the two proposals put forward by the players were rejected by the governing body.  The men’s team was to give £60,000 to the women’s team and the women to have the same basic rights as the men do.  There is also still an issue as to who employs the women’s team.  The Danish FA has put forward a deal which means that the women’s team would no longer be employed by the FA.  The team has rejected this.   It doesn’t look as if this is going to be solved any time soon, so expect more updates.

Scotland – World Cup Qualifying

19 October
Belarus1-2 Scotland

Scotland registered a win in their first World Cup qualifier in Minsk on Thursday.  Scotland had chances to score early on through Caroline Weir and Jane Ross, but on 25 minutes it was Belarus who put the ball in the net first, Anastasia Kharlanova lobbing the keeper from six yards.

Three minutes later Scotland were level when Ross poked in from a Weir corner.

In the second-half the visitor had several chances, but spurned them all, until on 62 minutes the pressure told when Ross got through the defence, crossed and the ball was turned into her own net by Anna Kozyupa.

After just one match in group B Scotland lie third with three points.  Switzerland top the table with two wins from two.

Scotland’s next match is against Albania at The Paisley Stadium on Tuesday 24 October.

England

Friday 20 October sees England play France in a friendly at the Stade du Hainaut.  Kick-off is at 8pm BST.  Coverage is via the BBC red button and online.  Apparently 18,500 tickets have already been sold.  It will be Mo Marley’s first test as interim England manager, and in terms of European opposition, doesn’t get much tougher.

Cycling
La Course

It was announced this week that the 2018 La Course will be a one-day only event.  This year’s was over two days, with an added mountain stage.

It was generally agreed that the two-day format didn’t really work, but the riders are certainly in favour of a stiffer, and longer, test.  By reverting to the one-day format, the Tour de France organisers are shirking their commitments to women’s cycling.  Like many women’s sports, women’s cycling has to fight for any recognition at all.  It’s hard to see that calling one cut-down stage of the men’s race is showing it any respect or commitment.

European Track Championships

The British team pursuit foursome has won silver at the European Track Championships in Berlin.

The four; Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Manon Lloyd and Emily Kay were beaten by Italy in the final.

This is Team GB’s first medal at the Championships.

Eleanor Dickinson finished fifth in the women’s elimination race, and the women’s sprint team of Sophie Capewell and Katy Marchant lost to Germany in the first round of their event.

Katie Archibald

Scottish track cyclist Katie Archibald is to join road racing team Wiggle High5 in 2018.  She is not giving up on the track but sees the road racing as an addition to her career.

She is hoping to be selected for the Setmana Ciclista Valencia, Tour de Yorkshire and The Women’s Tour, but she will also compete at the track world championships next March.

Cricket – The Ashes

As you will all know, the Ashes are very nearly upon us.  It has not been the ideal warm-up for England’s women as they have managed to play only 18 overs so far due to rain.

Their first game, against a Cricket Australia XI was called off after 18 overs and they didn’t even get on the pitch for their second, which should have been against Queensland Fire.

However, it has been a similar story for both sides, with Australia’s warm-ups abandoned too.

Australia will, no doubt, miss captain Meg Lanning and her replacement, Rachael Haynes is somewhat of an unknown quantity.  England will be buzzing after their World Cup win in the summer.  All of this should point to an England victory, but it would be a brave woman who came right out and said it.  So I won’t.  The Test match will be key, even with fewer points riding on it.  Am I nervous?  Only completely.  More details and analysis, as ever, to come in this column.    

The fixtures are as follows:

22 October: 1st ODI Allan Border Field, Brisbane SOLD OUT!
26 October: 2nd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
29 October: 3rd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
9-12 November: Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, Sydney
 17 November: 1st T20 North Sydney Oval, Sydney
19 November: 2ndT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November: 3rdT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra

Full coverage, I’m delighted to say, is on BT Sport and begins on Sunday at 12.15am!  Be there, but if you can’t, make sure you watch the highlights later in the day.

ICC Women’s Championship

West Indies v Sri Lanka
Game two 13 October
Sri Lanka 162 all out (46.3 of 47 overs)
West Indies 163/3 (39.4 of 47 overs)

Although the top four batters got a start for Sri Lanka, 162 never looked like being enough to worry West Indies.  Afy Fletcher took 3/24 off 10 overs with Anisa Mohammed and Stafanie Taylor chipping in with two each.

In response West Indies made it look easy.  Taylor starred with bat as well as ball, scoring 60, with Deandra Dottin coming in late on to make 37 not out from 37 balls to seal the win and the two points.

Game three 15 October
West Indies 182/8 (45 overs)
Sri Lanka 142 all out (40.4 overs)

The Windies batted first, setting Sri Lanka a tough target.  Stafanie Taylor again led the way with 55, with Hayley Matthews contributing a fine 41 and Merissa Aguilleira 37.

Sri Lanka were always going to fall short.  Dilani Manodara top scored for them with 42.  Pick of the bowlers were Shakera Selman and Stafanie Taylor who took three wickets each.

So it’s so far, so good for the West Indies who lie top of the ICC Women’s Championship table with six points from three matches.

Tennis

Maria Sharapova claimed her first title since 2015 at the weekend, when she won the Tianjan Open.    She beat Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6 in the final.   It takes Sharapova up to 57 in the world rankings.

Kremlin Cup

A couple of days and a few thousand miles later Sharapova was knocked out in the first round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.  She lost to Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 7-6 6-4.

We’re now at the semi-final stage and only one seed remains.

The draw is as follows:
Daria Kasatkina v Irina-Camelia Begu
Natalia Vikhlyantseva v Julia Görges (7)

Luxembourg Open

Heather Watson made good progress to get to the quarter-finals of the Luxembourg tournament.  She beat third seed Anett Kontaveit in the round of 16 6-4 6-4.  But she fell in the quarter-final to fifth seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 6-4.

And then it was two.  Naomi Broady put in an excellent performance against an under-par Sabine Lisicki to win 4-6 7-5 6-3.  She was however, like Watson, unable to repeat the feat in the quarters, going down 6-0 5-7 6-1 to Mónica Puig of Puerto Rico.

The semi-final line-up is:
Pauline Parmentier v Carina Witthöft
Elise Mertens (5) v Mónica Puig

 Boxing

Natasha Jonas won again at the weekend with a third-round stoppage of Marianna Gulyas of Hungary.

It is Jonas’ third win since her return to boxing and turning professional in 2017, after initially retiring in 2015.

Aussie Rules Football

The AFL has banned transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey from taking part in the 2018 AFLW.

The governing body said it took into consideration “transgender strength, stamina, physique, along with the specific nature of the AFLW.”

The AFL Players Association (AFLPA) responded with a statement accusing the AFL of having no “clear guidelines on transgender players”.  It also stated that “No athlete should face such confusion around their eligibility for an elite competition just days out from a draft.”

Mouncey already plays for the Ainslie club in the Canberra Women’s League and previously played for the Australian men’s handball team.

Although she is now ineligible for this year’s draft, she may be able to be considered for future seasons.

In response to the ruling Mouncey said,

“While I am extremely disappointed with the AFL’s decision regarding my participation in Wednesday’s AFLW draft, I thank them for the genuine way in which they approached my situation.

“Despite not being able to take part in the draft, the AFL has given me the all clear to play for Ainslie next year in the AFL Canberra competition for which I am very grateful and look forward to doing in 2018, before hopefully being able to nominate for next year’s draft”.

This is going to become an issue in many sports and each sport will have to have its own policy.  The AFL clearly has not had to make this decision before but it’s good to see that their General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch is giving it consideration, although it is a shame they didn’t think to pre-empt such a situation,

“We acknowledge Hannah’s openness and cooperation. She has contributed to a process which will substantially inform the development of the AFL’s transgender policy and procedure for future players at the elite level,” she said.

Let’s hope they have that policy in place before such circumstances arise again.

Rugby Union

Ireland National Side

Your country has just hosted an incredibly successful World Cup.  As a host side you haven’t done too well, so unsurprisingly your coach steps down.  But the sport is on a high.  It’s finally getting the profile it deserves.  So what do you do?

Well, apparently you advertise the opening for the new coach of the national side as a part-time post for a six-month period.

That’s just what the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has done to the women’s national side.

Former coach, Tom Tierney, was their first coach employed on a full-time basis and showed the IRFU’s commitment to the women’s team in the run-up to the World Cup.

But now it’s over, it seems that commitment just isn’t there anymore.  England Rugby was similarly criticised when it announced that contracts for fifteens players would end after the World Cup and payments would be only made to sevens players.

It is, unfortunately, a story we see again and again in women’s sport, and I have covered it many times.  The governing bodies talk a good game, but usually that’s all it is.   I’m sick of writing it, and I’m sure you’re all sick of reading it.  But it seems as if the end of this kind of shoddy treatment is by no means nigh.

This weekend’s Tyrell’s Premier 15s fixtures are as follows:

21 October
Wasps Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (2pm Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v DMP Sharks (2.30pm venue tbc)
Harlequins Ladies v Bristol Ladies (3pm The Stoop)
Richmond Women v Saracens Women (5.15pm Richmond Athletic Ground)

22 October
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (2pm Sixways Stadium)

Netball

The England Roses squad for their three-match series against Malawi in November has been announced.

Ama Agbeze will captain the side, with England’s most capped player, Jade Clarke, serving as vice-captain.

The squad in full is:

Ama Agbeze (Capt.), Jade Clarke (Vice-Capt.), Eleanor Cardwell, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Sasha Corbin, Rachel Dunn, Jodie Gibson, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Josie Huckle, Vicki Oyesola, Natalie Panagarry

The series fixtures are:
Friday 24th November, Copper Box Arena, 7.45pm
Sunday 26th November, Copper Box Arena, 2pm
Wednesday 29th November, Genting Arena, 7:45pm

Hockey

The results from last weekend’s Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier League fixtures were as follows:

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

There was a shock defeat for Surbiton at the weekend as the reigning champions went down 3-1 in Birmingham.  England’s Lily Owsley scored the first for the home side from a penalty corner after eight minutes, but four minutes later the visitors were level through Rebecca Middleton.

On 50 minutes Alice Wills put Birmingham back in front and Erica Sanders ensured the win nine minutes later.

After four games Holcombe are top of the table with eight points.  Slough and Surbiton are second and third respectively on seven with Slough in second on goal difference.

Para-taekwondo

Britain’s Amy Truesdale has won gold in the K44 +58kg category at the Para-taekwondo World Championships in London.

It is Truesdale’s fourth medal in the event having claimed gold in 2014, and bronze in 2009 and 2015.

She was leading 17-3 in the final against Rajae Ajkermach of Morocco when her opponent had to withdraw with an injury.

And finally,

 There will be no column for two weeks now, as I’m off on my hols.  I’d like to say I was off to Oz for the Ashes, but I’m not, so I won’t.  I’ll be back on Friday 10 November with the all the news, views, fixtures and results from that week, plus any burning issue that has arisen while I’ve been away.

Women’s Sports Column 16-22 September 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty of news and results again this week.  Stories from rugby, netball, tennis, cycling, golf, football, bobsleigh, and the BBC’s “100 Women” is back and this time has a sports angle – see “And finally” for details.

Here we go.

Unfortunately there’s only one place to start again this week.  I’d already written my piece about the Lionesses’ World Cup qualifier when the news about Mark Sampson broke.  As those who follow this column know, I have tried to be scrupulously fair in covering the situation with nothing proven and the investigation seemingly ongoing.  But this week, and let’s face it, it was coming, Sampson was sacked by the FA when “safeguarding issues” came to light from his time at Bristol Academy.

I’m still not going to go into the finer points here, and I know I’m not unique in saying this, but the FA have to take a long hard look at their systems.  What on earth have they been playing at throughout this whole thing – basically did they really think if they shoved it all in a corner it would all go away?  It was irresponsible at best and downright dangerous at worst.

And although it’s not my place, I can’t help feeling let down by Sampson.  We all invested time, words and faith in him.  As I said last week, I really resent the fact that all the column inches that should be devoted to the actual football, with the start of the new international campaign and the new WSL season, have been turned elsewhere.

I’ll say no more at this time except that women’s football deserves better, but sadly it’s no surprise that this is currently what it gets.

Rugby Union

The first round of Premiership 15s was played last weekend.  The results were as follows:

Saturday 16 October

Loughborough Lightning 46-12 Worcester Valkyries
Firwood Waterloo Ladies 13-22 Saracens
Wasps Ladies 32-38 Harlequins Ladies
DMP Sharks 3-32 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

17 September

Bristol Ladies 24-31 Richmond Women

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Saturday 23 September

Worcester Valkyries v Bristol Ladies – 2pm
Harlequins Ladies v Firwood Waterloo Ladies – 3pm
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Wasps Ladies – 4.30pm
Richmond Women v DMP Sharks – 5pm

Sunday 24 September

Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins Ladies – 12pm

Sevens

England Women under 18s sevens won the Rugby Europe U18 Championship in Vichy France, at the weekend.

After an impeccable group stage beating Wales 27-10, Russia 26-10 and 32-7, they went on to beat the Netherlands in the quarter-final 31-5, scoring five tries in the first half.

In the semi-final they met hosts France and won 17-0.  They crossed the try line three times with their opponents unable to score.

They faced Wales in the final, who had beaten tournament favourites Ireland 15-12 in their quarter-final and Portugal in the semis 28-5.

They won the game 31-0, scoring five tries in the process.

Netball Fast5

The British Fast5 All-Stars event takes place this weekend at the O2 Arena in London.

“Across a five-hour session the eight teams will play in a double elimination format; two wins and the team will advance straight through to the semi finals, two losses will result in being knocked out of the tournament with teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches playing a deciding match for a place in the last four.”

Hope you’re following that.  The teams taking part are Surrey Storm, Hertfordshire Mavericks, Manchester Thunder, Loughborough Lightning, Severn Stars, Wasps Netball, Team Bath and Team Northumbria.

There are big prizes up for grabs:
£25,000 for the winner
£20,000 runner up
£12,500 losing semi-finalists
If you win one game you get £10,000 and there’s even £5,000 for no wins!

So it’s well worth fighting for.

It all starts at 5pm and should be fast (as the name implies), furious and exciting.  If you’re in the area go along – there are tickets still available.  Check out the website for details: http://www.fast5allstars.com/

Goalden Globe Awards

Loughborough Lightning swept the board at the Goalden Globe Awards this week.

Goal shooter Peace Proscovia won Vitality Player of the Season and also Players’ Player of the Season.

Vicki Oyesola was named Young Player of the Season and outgoing Lightning coach Karen Atkinson won Coach of the Season.

The Vitality Netball Super League All Star VII was named as:
GK – Nicole Aiken-Pinnock (Sirens)
GD – Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)
WD – Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
C – Bongiwe Msomi (Wasps)
WA – Liana Leota (Manchester Thunder)
GA – Kathryn Turner (Manchester Thunder)
GS – Peace Proscovia (Loughborough Lightning)

The evening ended with a Special Recognition Award, which went to Sheelagh Redpath.  Redpath has been involved in netball for over 40 years, making a significant contribution to developing the umpiring and officiating of the game.  She was one of the original twelve women inducted into the England Hall of Fame in 2001.

Other Netball News

In other netball news, Hertfordshire Mavericks have re-signed England international Sasha Corbin.  This will be her third spell at the club and she will captain the side during the 2018 Super League season.

Last season Corbin played for Northern Mystics in the New Zealand Premiership.

Also this week, Loughborough Lightning announced that their new Director of Netball will be Anna Carter.  She had previously been the under-21 coach.  Emily Perry is the new Pathway Head Coach and will work with assistant coaches Olivia Murphy and Maggie Birkinshaw.

Football

World Cup Qualifiers

England 6-0 Russia
Prenton Park, Merseyside

In truth it was all too easy for England as they began their World Cup qualifying campaign.  Although Russia had Ksenia Tsybutovich sent off in the first half, the gulf between the two sides was already apparent and the extra player probably wouldn’t have made that much difference.

A crowd of over seven thousand saw Nikita Parris start the scoring on 11 minutes, latching on to an accurate back-heel from Fran Kirby to slip the ball home.  There was a somewhat heartening/uncomfortable (choose your adjective) celebration as Parris beckoned over the team and flung her arms around beleaguered coach Mark Sampson in an obvious show of support.

The Lionesses doubled their lead on 14 through Jodie Taylor.

On the half-hour Tsybutovich was given a second yellow card for handball in the area.  Fran Kirby missed the resultant penalty, scuffing it badly and presenting an easy save for the Russian ‘keeper.

But six minutes later England were three-up when it was Kirby again who provided a pinpoint pass for Jordan Nobbs to score.

The home side were four ahead before half-time with the best goal of the lot, from Lucy Bronze, who made it look painfully easy to volley into the top right corner from outside the box.

In the second-half, unsurprisingly England took their foot off the gas, but to give them their due, Russia also regrouped and fought hard.

Toni Duggan got a brace to make it six.  The first was the result of some fine close passing in the box.  Russia will be disappointed with the sixth, though, which came from a miss-kick from a defender.  Duggan pounced to lash the ball home for her second.

It was an all-round excellent performance from England.  The Russian goalkeeper was also excellent, and prevented the Lionesses from scoring more.  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan and Wales, the other teams in Group 1, will not be looking forward to playing England.

Northern Ireland 0-2 Republic of Ireland

The Republic took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Northern Ireland’s Rachel Furness headed in past her own goalkeeper and into the net.

Megan Campbell scored in the second to seal the win.

Kazakhstan 0-1 Wales

Jess Fishlock scored the only goal of the game to take the points for Wales.  Fishlock starred throughout with two efforts I the first half.

Other international news

It was also announced this week that the Lionesses will play a friendly against France in Valenciennes on 20 October.

Transfers

England defender Laura Bassett has joined Australian W-League side Canberra United.  Bassett had been without a club since Notts County Ladies folded in April.  She took time away to decide what to do, and was clearly affected by what went on at County.  She obviously wanted to try something completely new and she is looking forward to the move:

“It’s out of my comfort zone and something I’ve never done before and it will be a real challenge for me to go overseas.”

Golf

The Evian Championship

After high winds and heavy rain the first round was cancelled and the tournament played over 54 holes.

Moriya Jutanugarn was leading after two rounds, but on the final round Anna Nordqvist carded a five-under par 66 to force a play-off for the title with Brittany Altomare.

Nordqvist took it on the first extra hole, with the weather deteriorating yet again into pouring rain and hail.

  1. Anna Nordqvist -9, 2. Brittany Altomare -9, 3, (tied) Lydia Ko, Katherine Kirk, Moriya Jutanugarn -8.

Solheim Cup

Catriona Matthew will be the European Solheim Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2019.  The event will be held from 13-15 September.

In her time playing Solheim Cup she has won 18 matches and 22 points.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships are going on in Bergen this week.

Women’s Elite Individual Time Trial

Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten took the title just 12 seconds ahead of compatriot Anna van der Breggen.  Australian Katrin Garfoot claimed the bronze.

Van der Breggen had taken an early lead and stayed there until the third intermediate check.  But on the descent van Vleuten gained 16 seconds on the leader.

The riders kept up the same pace to the end with van Vleuten winning the 21.1km race in 28:50.35 at an average speed of 43.8 km/h.

Hannah Barnes was top Briton, finishing in ninth.  Elinor Barker finished in eighteenth.

Women’s Junior Individual Time Trial

Elena Pirrone took gold in the junior event, over a 16.1km course.  She finished six seconds ahead of Alessia Vigilia, also of Italy.  Madeleine Fassnacht of Austria came in third.

Britain’s Pfeiffer Georgi finished in seventh and Lauren Dolan, having crashed and sustained a serious leg injury at the half way stage, carried on to finish twenty-seventh.  She will be unable to compete in the Junior Women’s Road Race and has been replaced by Lauren Murphy.

Women’s Team Time Trial

Similarly it was two teams from the Netherlands battling it out for the Team title.  Team Sunweb (Rivera, Kirchmann, van Dijk, Brand, Mackaij, Stultiens) were the victors, with Boels Dolman (Canuel, van der Breggen,  Blaak, Guarnier, Majerus, Pieters) finishing in silver.

Cervelo-Bigla Pro Cycling Team (Lepisto, Klein, Ludwig, Moolman-Pasio, Koppenburg, Gaumnitz) took bronze.

The Women’s Elite Road Race takes place on Saturday 23 September.  Full television coverage on the BBC.

Bobsleigh

The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BBSA) announced this week that they are to withdraw funding for the women’s team.  The announcement comes just five months before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Apparently they were told there was no more money to fund them because of “an overspend”.

It will, however, continue to fund three men’s teams.

The BBSA issued a statement in which it said,

“The GB Bobsleigh programme is currently focusing resources on winning medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“We are actively seeking commercial funding to further support our world class programme and we will continue to do so.”

The women’s team has already met the Olympic standard, but this is obviously not enough for the BBSA, which is basically saying that the women’s team have no chance of winning a medal, and therefore disappear off their list of priorities when money is tight.

The team is now hoping to raise £30,000 in order to fund themselves.

The BBSA is no stranger to controversy.  It has received £10m of public funding in the four year cycle running up to Pyeongchang, but during the summer UK Sport cut its grant by £50,000 after athletes had complained about the “toxic atmosphere” surrounding the sport, including allegations of bullying, racism and sexism.

Bobsleigh driver Mica McNeill has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money.  You can contribute here: https://www.gofundme.com/teammcneill

Tennis

Heather Watson’s poor series of tournaments continued this week with a first round defeat in Seoul.  She lost to Spanish world number 92 Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3 0-6 6-1.

The top three seeds are all safely through to the second round; Jelena Ostapenko (1), Kiki Bertens (2) and Kristyna Pliskova (3).

Meanwhile, in Tokyo Johanna Konta was knocked out of the Pan Pacific Open by Barbora Strycova 7-5 7-6.  Strycova will now face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-final.

And finally,

The BBC’s “100 Women” challenge is back.  And one of the categories is sexism in sport.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-41044889.  Check it out and get involved in the conversation.

Women’s Sports Column 29 July – 4 August 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I’m still calming down after the amazing day that was the Women’s World Cup Final, but there’s no time to rest as the Women’s Euros come to their thrilling conclusion this weekend.  After that it’s the Rugby World Cup.  This fantastic summer of sport just goes on and on!

Stories this week come from football, tennis, cricket, lacrosse, and rugby.

Women’s Euros

Well it’s all over for the Lionesses. Can’t pretend I’m not gutted, but the better side won in the semi-final – England weren’t robbed or anything, so that’s the way the game goes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying this tournament a lot.  It has been great to see some teams, other than the usual suspects, progressing.  There certainly would have been long odds on the final four being Austria, Denmark, England and the Netherlands.  But surely it’s all the better for that.  Germany and Sweden were particularly disappointing, but at least it gives someone else a go.

In case you missed it (and where were you, if you did?), here’s what happened in the quarter-finals.

Austria 0-0 Spain
Austria won 5-3 on penalties

Spain were clear favourites to win this match and to progress to the quarter-finals, but Austria, in their first Euros, clearly hadn’t read the script.

Silvia Meseguer missed her penalty and Sarah Puntigam put hers away coolly to take the Austrians through.

Netherlands 2-0 Sweden

Goals from Lieke Martens and Vivianne Miedema were enough to see the tournament hosts beat a disappointingly disjointed Sweden side in front of a packed house in Doetinchem to reach the semi-finals.

After Martens had scored with a free kick, the Netherlands were always in control and Sweden quickly lost heart.

The immensely impressive Shanice van de Sanden rampaged down the wing, crossing to Miedema to tap in for the second and it was all over.

Germany 1-2 Denmark

The biggest shock came in Rotterdam where the unfancied Denmark beat reigning champions Germany.

The game had to be played on the reserve day as the torrential rain caused the original fixture to be postponed.

Germany took the lead through Isabel Kerschowski.  The Danish goalkeeper was at fault, parrying the shot into the net.  Germany held the lead until just after half-time when Nadia Nadim headed in the equaliser for the Danes.

Seven minutes from time Theresa Nielsen headed in the winner as she stood unmarked in the centre.

England 1-0 France

England hung on by hook or by crook to beat France for the first time in 43 years in a competitive game in Deventer on Sunday.

England were far from perfect and it was only the stalwart defence that kept France out.

Jodie Taylor scored the winner – her fifth in three games – after being put in by Lucy Bronze.  Bronze had another excellent game – her strength and consistency are phenomenal.

Two minus points for England; Jill Scott received her second booking, thereby missing the Semi-final on Thursday and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley broke her leg in a collision with her own captain, Steph Houghton.  Somehow she played on for 15 minutes, going down a couple of times for treatment, which earned whistling and howls of derision from the French fans.  In the end she was replaced by Siobhan Chamberlain and it was revealed later that Bardsley had suffered a fracture.

Semi-finals

Denmark 0-0 Austria
Denmark won 3-0 on penalties

This was a tight game with plenty of chances for both sides.  In the 13th minute Austria were awarded a penalty for handball, but Sarah Puntigam, who had so coolly slotted in the winning penalty in the quarter-final, this time blazed over.   At the final whistle they could not be separated and the tie went into extra time.    Denmark had had the lion’s share of possession, but could not force a goal.  Both sides again had chances during extra time but it remained stubbornly goalless and it was penalties.

Austria should have been confident going into penalties after their excellent display against Spain, but this time it all went wrong.  They missed their first three spot-kicks and Simone Sorensen put away hers to send the Danes through to the final.

Netherlands 3-0 England

A largely orange crowd of over 27 thousand saw the hosts rout England with an impressive display of attacking football.  The Netherlands were on the front foot from the off and England seemed to have no reply.

The hosts took the lead after just 22 minutes when Vivianne Miedema headed in and it was only then that England started to look calmer and more possessed.  They should have equalised when Jade Moore’s shot was deflected onto her own post by a Netherlands defender.

With Shanice van de Sanden (one of my stars of the tournament) and Lieke Martens raiding down the flanks the Dutch were consistently dangerous, but managed relatively few meaningful shots.

With England 1-0 down at the break and the crowd in full voice, it was up to Mark Sampson to rally the team and get them moving.  But the second half started very much as the first, with the Netherlands coming forward and England retreating.  Fara Williams, in for the suspended Jill Scott (who was very much missed) had a poor game and on 62 minutes Danielle van de Donk capitalised on a misplaced header back to the goalkeeper, making it 2-0 and the game was effectively over.

I feel Sampson made some odd decisions regarding substitutions.  Ellen White was having a stinker and should have been replaced.  I would have liked to have seen Toni Duggan on much earlier and someone creative like Izzy Christiansen to replace Williams.

But it was not to be for the Lionesses.  In injury time Millie Bright deflected the ball into her own net, which seemed to sum up the night for England.  It made the scoreline a little flattering for the Netherlands, but there can be no doubt that they were the better side on the night, by a considerable margin.

According to all reports the England squad is “devastated”.  And rightly so.  They were the highest ranked team left in the competition and could and perhaps should have gone on to win it.  The Netherlands of course had some stunning home support, but England have shown defiance in this kind of situation again and again.  Sampson will need to look at his plans again.  He’s been a great influence for good with this side, don’t get me wrong, but I think he will have to learn, along with his Lionesses, if they are to make that final push to win a major tournament.

The final between Denmark and the Netherlands is on Sunday at 4pm and is live on Channel 4.  The programme starts at 3pm.

Rugby Union

England contracts

As we know, Scrumqueens reported the demise of England women’s fifteens contracts some weeks ago and I mentioned it soon after in my column, but it looked as if the RFU’s decision had slipped under the mainstream media radar (surprise).

But in the last week or so the wider media has finally chipped in with its pennyworth.  The RFU has come under increasing pressure to reconsider its stance.  As yet, there’s no word of this actually happening, but should there be any changes in policy, hopefully I’ll bring it to you as soon as is possible.

Tyrrells Premier 15s.

Whilst the contracts controversy rumbles on, the RFU announced this week that the replacement for the Women’s Premiership will be called the Tyrells Premier 15s.

The crisp manufacturer has signed a three-year deal to sponsor the league.

The league, which comprises 10 teams will be in the usual home and away league format.  The top four will then go to semi-finals played over two legs and the final will be on 29 April 2018.

RFU director of professional rugby, Nigel Melville said of the announcement,

“The Tyrrells Premier 15s competition is an important step forward for women’s rugby to strengthen the foundations of the women’s game as it continues to grow in popularity.

“By investing at domestic level we can build a sustainable model to support the growth of the game at elite level.

“The competition will crucially expand the playing pool of players available for international selection which will enable us to reach our long-term objective of running dual professionalised 15s and sevens programmes and allow us to compeon all fronts at the highest level.”

I think we can safely say that this was the RFU’s “subtle” way of deflecting the criticism over contracts.

There will also be a new development league for the 10 clubs’ 2nd teams who will also play in the RFU Women’s Senior Cup alongside the Women’s Championship North and South teams.

World Cup News

Ireland suffered a massive blow this week when captain Niamh Briggs withdrew from the squad through injury.

Briggs had only just come back from the hamstring injury that kept her out of the Six Nations when she suffered an Achilles injury in training.

Louise Galvin has been called up as replacement for Briggs.

Ireland have announced that their captain will now be flanker Claire Molloy.  Molloy has plenty of experience, having won 53 caps.  This will be her third World Cup.

“I’m incredibly humbled to be given the opportunity to captain my country, it’s a massive honour to be selected to lead the team in a World Cup on home soil.

“I’m fortunate that I’ll be surrounded by players with great experience, and I’m just really looking forward to pulling on the green jersey and running out with my team-mates,” she said.

Ireland are in tough group C:

Pool games:
Wednesday 9 August v Australia (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7pm
Sunday 13 August v Japan (UCD Bowl Dublin) 5.15pm
Thursday 17 August v France (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7.45pm

Ireland women’s World Cup squad in full:

Forwards: Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemian/Munster), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Marie-Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Backs: Louise Galvin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster), Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins FC), Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Next week (a bit late, admittedly) I’ll be previewing the Women’s Rugby World Cup as we begin the fourth major women’s tournament in three months!

Tennis

Heather Watson was knocked out in the opening round of the Citi Open in Washington this week.  She lost to world number 134, Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, 7-6 7-6.  Watson had already had to play two rounds of qualifying before proceeding to the main draw.

Meanwhile Maria Sharapova beat Jennifer Brady 6-1 4-6 6-0 in the first round of Stanford’s Bank of the West Classic on her return from injury.  However, she then withdrew before her second round clash with Lesia Tsurenko with an arm injury.

Britain’s Jordanne Whiley has revealed that she was 11 weeks pregnant when she won the Wimbledon doubles title in July.

Cricket

Just when it looked like the possibility of the men’s Ashes being cancelled was a real one, Cricket Australia has finally come to agreement with both the men’s and women’s squads over pay and conditions.

Women’s pay will rise from AU$7.5 million to $55.2 million for a five year term.  For the first time there will be one agreement to cover both male and female cricketers.  A revenue-sharing scheme will encompass all cricketers.

Impressive stuff from Cricket Australia and something other governing bodies should look at.

Lacrosse

Last week the GB lacrosse team took part in the World Games in Wrocław, Poland.  It was the first time lacrosse had featured in the Games, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) having had its application to join the International World Games Association (IWGA) accepted in 2013.

Great Britain was one of six teams to compete, finishing a creditable fourth, just missing out on bronze, losing to Australia 8-10 in the bronze medal match.

Australia were well on top, going 5-1 up early on.  They went 2-0 ahead through Abbie Burgess and Sarah Mollison.  GB then pulled one back through Ailsa Stott.

But then Australia surged ahead with scores from Rebecca Lane, Theo Kwas and Burgess again, putting them 5-1 up.

Seven minutes before half-time GB struck back, and strongly.  They hit six goals without reply to take the lead.  Claire Faram got the first and Emily Gray and Sophie Morrill scored to take GB to just 4-5 down at half-time.

Gray, Faram and Morrill all scored again within five minutes of the re-start and GB were 7-5 in front.

Australia hit back through Mollison and Courtney Hobbs to level it and then GB took the lead again through Stott with 15 minutes to go.

But Australia were not to be outdone.  Mollison hit home again followed by Hobbs and Burgess to put the game beyond the Great Britain team.

The winners of the tournaments were USA who beat Canada 11-8 to take gold.

And finally,

As you know, I’ve been trying to wean myself off the hell that is the comments section of the BBC website and the comments after BBC tweets.  I’ve been managing quite well, but I thought I’d just have a quick peak tonight at the replies to one of the tweets about England in the Women’s Euros.  I was quite heartened.  I expected to see many misogynistic “back to the kitchen” comments, but actually there was just one lone very sad man “Man Utd Fan” bleating “no-one cares”.  One.  Very.  Sad.  Individual.  Did it look pathetic when he’d got none of his equally butch mates to back him up?  It certainly did!

Women’s Sports Column 24 – 30 June 2017

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

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

Football

Injuries

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

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

Horse Racing

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

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

An enquiry into the findings will be held this week.

Rugby Union

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

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

The squad in full:

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

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

As a reminder here are England’s pool games:

Pool B

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

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

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

Taekwondo

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

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

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

Golf

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

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

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

*Denotes unfinished round.

Tennis

Eastbourne

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

British players

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off the Court

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

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

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

Wheelchair tennis

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

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

Hockey

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

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

The semi-final line-up will now be:

South Korea v China
Netherlands v New Zealand

Both ties will be played on Saturday 1 July.

Wheelchair Basketball

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

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

Cricket

Women’s World Cup

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

Match 1:

Straightforward for New Zealand

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

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

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

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

Match 2:

Good Start for England (not)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 3:

Pakistan close to upset

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

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

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

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

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

Match 4:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 5:

Sciver and Knight take it away from Pakistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 6:

Nothing doing at a soggy Derby

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

Match 7:

West Indies snail’s pace no match for India

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

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

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

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

Match 8:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

Women’s Sports Column 1-7 April 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  So much going on this week!  News, controversy and results in so many different sports.  Who knew women were doing so much? (Who, indeed….)

So, on we go with stories from tennis, golf, football, cricket, netball, boxing, ice hockey, weightlifting, badminton and the Boat Race.  Plus an “And finally” that is a great news story of footballing women shouting about the need to be more visible.  Plus an “And, and finally” which is not so great.

Tennis

Miami Open

Jo Konta won the Miami Open on Saturday, beating Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets 6-4 6-3 to take the biggest title of her career so far.

She now climbs to seven in the world rankings.

The win has seemingly come at a cost, though.  Konta has now withdrawn from the Charleston tournament, which opens the clay court season, through injury and illness.  The injury is in her shoulder, but the illness has not been specified beyond “sickness”.

Monterrey Open

Naomi Broady progressed to the second round in Monterrey before she was beaten by fifth seed Timea Babos 6-3 6-2.  She had beaten world number 54 Catherine Bellis 7-6 6-4 in the first round.

Heather Watson is through to the quarter final where she will face top seed Angelique Kerber.  She beat Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-1 to get there, after beating Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic 62 6-7 6-4 in the first round.

Football

Republic of Ireland

The biggest news of the week, eclipsing Mark Sampson’s squad announcement, has been the Republic of Ireland women’s team’s threat to strike after revealing their horrendous treatment by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

After listing their grievances the players met with the FAI and after long and hard talks agreement was reached.

Equal pay is often an issue in sport (and life generally), but for the Irish players their issue was any pay at all.  Sixty per cent of the Irish squad are not professional players and they were often out of pocket financially when away playing or training.  They had to share tracksuits, handing them back at the end of games and often got changed in airport toilets.  If they stayed in hotels they were often of a basic standard with no Wi-Fi.  There was little access to strength and conditioning coaching.

The players have now returned to training before they have a game against Slovakia on Monday.

I know it would have not have been a decision taken lightly if the squad had gone through with its strike.  It has been heartening to see so much coverage of this issue – much of it positive.

England

Opinions have been divided this week as to the wisdom of Mark Sampson naming his Euro 2017 squad nearly four months ahead of the tournament.

There are four tournament debutantes, three from champions Manchester City: Demi Stokes, Isobel Christiansen and Nikita Parris, plus Millie Bright of Chelsea.

There are also three players currently suffering with long-term injuries: Alex Greenwood, Fran Kirby and Jo Potter.

The most surprising absentees are Eni Aluko, Rachel Daly, Gemma Davison and Claire Rafferty.  Obviously with four months to go there are chances to replace injured players should the need arise.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Carly Telford (Notts County)

Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Jo Potter (Notts County), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Arsenal)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

For me the big omission is Gemma Davison.  When I saw her against Estonia in September she had a stormer.  I think she’s getting better all the time and could very well have peaked to perfection at this tournament.

It has also just been announced that England will play another friendly in the lead-up to the Euros. They will play Switzerland at the Tissot Arena in Biel on 10 June.

Scotland

It has been confirmed that former Arsenal manager, Shelley Kerr, will take over as Scotland Women’s head coach after the 2017 Euros.

Anna Signeul will leave after being in charge since 2005.

Cricket

The ECB announced the allocation of England and overseas players for the 2017 Kia Super League tournament this week.  There will be no Meg Lanning this year and Danielle Hazell will complete a Roses switch from Yorkshire to captain Lancashire Thunder.  Also included in the Thunder squad is Sarah Taylor, which is cheering to see.

The ECB has also (finally) done a deal which will see eight of the Super League games televised.  Unfortunately this will not be free-to-air, but will be on Sky.  In these days when viewers cannot see any cricket on free stations it would have been a real coup if the ECB could have interested any of those channels in the product.

Lancashire Thunder: Kate Cross, Danielle Hazell, Sarah Taylor, Jess Jonassen (AUS), Amy Satterthwaite (NZ), Lea Tahuhu (NZ)

Loughborough Lightning: Georgia Elwiss, Amy Jones, Beth Langston, Kristen Beams (AUS), Ellyse Perry (AUS), Elyse Villani (AUS)

Southern Vipers: Tash Farrant, Danielle Wyatt, Suzie Bates (NZ), Hayley Matthews (WI), Dane van Niekerk (SA)

Surrey Stars: Tammy Beaumont, Alex Hartley, Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Rene Farrell (AUS), Marizanne Kapp (SA)

Western Storm: Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Rachel Priest (NZ), Stafanie Taylor (WI)

Yorkshire Diamonds: Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Lauren Winfield, Sophie Devine (NZ), Sune Luus (SA), Beth Mooney (AUS)

Netball

It’s seven wins from seven for Loughborough Lightning as they beat their latest opponents, Celtic Dragons at the weekend.  This sees them the only unbeaten team, at the top of the table by three points from Surrey Storm.

Round Seven scores:

Friday 31 March

Sirens 51-45 Team Bath

Saturday 1 April

Team Northumbria 61-39 Severn Stars

Surrey Storm 51-58 Wasps Netball

Monday 3 April

Celtic Dragons 45-65 Loughborough Lightning

Manchester Thunder 59-50 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Round eight is this weekend, with no televised match this week.

Weightlifting

Rebekah Tiler took silver in the snatch in the -69kg at the European Championships this week.  This was Tiler’s first competition since UK Sport removed all funding for British Weightlifting and also her first since finishing 10th at Rio.

She missed out on an overall medal, finishing fourth, just 1kg behind the bronze medallist, Anastasiya Mikhalenka of Belarus.  Anastasiia Romanova of Russia took overall gold in the -69kg category, with Mariya Khylan of Ukraine in silver.

Emily Godley finished eighth in the same category – some performance after coming back from a stress fracture of the back, which happened in December.

Sarah Davies also finished fifth in the -63kg category.

Ice Hockey

Britain’s women’s ice hockey team are currently competing in the World Championship Division Two in South Korea.

They lost their first three games in Group A:

Netherlands 5-4 Great Britain

The Netherlands were ahead after just 31 seconds and were soon 3-1 up.  But Britain came back, making it three all with two goals from Katie Marsden and one from captain Leanne Ganney.

But Britain were unable to capitalise on their resurgence.  The Netherlands scored two more and although Britain pulled another one back through Kim Lane, they couldn’t score again to take it into overtime.

South Korea 3-1 Great Britain

It was a busy match for GB goaltender Nicole Jackson, who had to make 35 saves.  But she was unable to shut out tournament hosts South Korea.  Korea scored twice before Britain got one back through Leanne Ganney.

But the game was taken away from Britain when Kim Heewon scored Korea’s third.

North Korea 3-2 Great Britain

(after overtime)

Great Britain lost their third group game in a row when they succumbed to North Korea in a tight game.

Again Britain went 2-0 down before they brought it back to 2-2 with goals from Angela Taylor and Leanne Ganney.

Britain did claim a point from the game, but Jin Ok’s winner in overtime ensured Britain were bottom of the table after three games.

Great Britain 8-2 Slovenia

It was fourth time lucky for Britain as they pulled out all the stops to beat Slovenia on Thursday 6 April.

Katie Henry scored two goals, as did Katie Marsden, with Angela Taylor providing four assists.

The win takes them up to third in the table with one game, against Australia, to go.  They could still win a bronze medal if South Korea beat North Korea and Britain win against Australia on Saturday.

Golf

There was controversy at the ANA Inspiration event this week when American Lexi Thompson, leading in the final round, was given a four-stroke penalty after a television viewer spotted an offence and reported it to officials.

Thompson was two shots ahead after the twelfth, when she was told the penalty would be imposed.  She went on to birdie the final hole to finish on -14 and take it into a play-off with So Yeon Ryu.

She lost the play-off at the first hole.

The offence actually took place during Thompson’s third round, when she replaced a marked ball in the wrong place.

The LPGA said Thompson had

“breached Rule 20-7c (Playing From Wrong Place), and received a two-stroke penalty. She incurred an additional two-stroke penalty under Rule 6-6d for returning an incorrect scorecard in round three.”

This turned her carded 67 into a 71.

Fans were outraged by the decision and several professionals have voiced their disquiet about the seeming trial by television, including Graham McDowell and Tiger Woods.

Former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher told BBC Radio “the LPGA had the power to dismiss that person, they should have completely ignored it.”

Badminton

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour won her second title in two months this week when she won the women’s singles at the Orleans International.  She beat Ying Ying Lee of Malaysia in the final 22-20 21-11.

Meanwhile, after getting to the semi-finals of the India Open two weeks ago, Gabby and Chris Adcock have been beaten in the second round of the Malaysia Open.  The seven seeds lost 21-16 21-15 to the unseeded pair from Thailand, Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.

Off the court, Badminton England has withdrawn from the World Mixed Team Championships due to be held in May in Gold Coast, Australia.  They have cited government funding cuts as the reason behind the withdrawal.

Badminton England performance director Jon Austin said,

“We are working through an unprecedented financial situation as a consequence of the recent funding decisions,”

“We have had to consider the investments we make very carefully.”

Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race

The University of Cambridge was triumphant in the Boat Race on Sunday – their first win since 2012.

The Light Blues dominated from the off, helped by a mistake by Oxford rower Rebecca Esselstein, who “caught a crab” at the beginning.

Cambridge won by 11 lengths in a time of 18 minutes 33 seconds.

Boxing

Nicola Adams makes her professional debut this weekend when she takes on Argentina’s Virginia Noemi Carcamo in Manchester.  The fight is live on BT Sport and the programme starts at 8.30pm.

And finally,

It’s safe to say that women’s football shirts are taking on a life of their own.  First we had the Swedish football team and their inspirational quotes, now it’s the turn of Glasgow City.

Glasgow City have won 10 Scottish titles in a row, but as my loyal readers will know, unless you look and look hard you won’t find any details of their exploits in the mainstream media.

So Glasgow City are fighting back.  On their new away kit they have a new slogan, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

It’s not an original phrase, but it’s none the less true for that.

Club Manager and founder of Glasgow City, Laura Montgomery, said,

“How do girls grow up thinking they can be anything other than sexualised objects, which is how the media currently portrays women?”

She went on to say,

“Every single youth player that we have absolutely idolizes all our first team players and that’s because they want to be what they can see.”

And surely this cannot be a bad thing.  Let’s hope more media outlets see the light (and the point).

And, and finally,

David Moyes – wrong.

No column next week due to the Easter break, but back the week after with more news and views.

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 March 2017

cricket-ballI can’t believe it’s that time again, but apparently it is, so welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column.

As usual, there has been plenty going on this week, including what I thought was a quite spectacular International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th.  So here we go with stories from athletics, tennis, football, sports governance, netball and rugby and cricket.  Let’s crack on.

Football

SheBelieves Cup

The Lionesses finished a creditable third in their second appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in the USA.  France were the eventual winners after they convincingly beat the hosts 3-0.

England 0-1 Germany

England finished their campaign with one win from three as they lost narrowly to Germany on Wednesday.  Again England got off to a storming start and they had several chances in the first 20 minutes.  But Germany came back into it, having the better of the play and scoring what turned out to be the only goal of the game, through Anja MIttag, just before half-time.

Jordan Nobbs and Demi Stokes had chances in the second-half and Jill Scott had a clear opportunity in stoppage time, but shot over.

England coach Mark Sampson should be pleased with the three performances and it was certainly all good build-up to the Euros in the summer.

Team P GD Pts
1 France Women 2 1 4
2 Germany Women 3 0 4
3 USA Women 2 0 3
4 England Women 3 -1 3

 Cyprus Cup

 Scotland 0-0 Wales
Scotland won 6-5 on penalties

Scotland beat Wales in a penalty shoot-out to take fifth place in the Cyprus Cup.

After 90 minutes there was no score and the game went to penalties with Frankie Brown scoring the winner for the Scots.

The eventual winners of the tournament were South Korea who beat Switzerland 1-0.  Third place went to North Korea who beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0.

Signings

Notts County have signed full-back Shelly Provan on a contract which takes her up to the end of the Spring Series.

Broadcasting news

The BBC has won the rights to broadcast the 2019 Women’s World Cup due to be held in France in 2019.

Every game will be covered across television, radio or online.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

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

Saturday 11 March, 11.30am
Wales v Ireland (Cardiff Arms Park)
SC4/BBC Wales/RTE

Saturday 11 March, 1pm
England v Scotland (The Stoop)
Sky Sports

Sunday 12 March, 2pm GMT
Italy v France (Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi)
France 4/Eurosport IT

Athletics

Apologies that the European Indoor Athletics passed under my radar last week.

Scotland’s Laura Muir won gold in both the 1500m and 3,000m.  In the latter she broke the championship record in a time of eight minutes 35.68 seconds with Eilish McColgan taking bronze.

Asha Philip won gold in the 60m in a time of 7.06 seconds, a new British record.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took silver in the 800m in a photo-finish with Swiss athlete Selina Buchel.

Lorraine Ugen won silver in the women’s long jump and the 4x400m relay team of Eilidh Doyle, Philippa Lowe, Mary Iheke and Laviai Nielsen also took silver behind Poland.

Great Britain finished second in the medal table behind Poland.

Sports Politics

Russia

Yelena Isinbayeva has been reappointed as Chair of RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.  She was originally appointed in December but WADA took issue with the appointment and so the election was re-run.  Isinbayeva was re-elected.

She was critical of Russia’s competition-wide ban declaring it “a blatant political order”, but today, Friday 10 March she said,

“We will watch and control everybody and everything.

“We have just one attempt to clear our sport of this dirt.”

WADA has already been critical of the speed of reform in Russian athletics and will now be sure to be watching carefully to see what happens next.

Diversity Developments

In a landmark ruling, Muslim women have won the right to wear full body suits in amateur swimming competitionsThis will include all Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) meets and national competition.

Full body suits are already allowed in Olympic Games.

In a separate development, Nike has become the first major sports brand to produce a range of hijabs for sporting Muslim women.  They are not the first in the field, but they are by far the biggest.  It can only be a matter of time before others follow suit.

Women in Sport report

A new survey from Women in Sport has found that the number of women in the top posts of sports governing bodies is down 6% since 2014.  Read the full report here: https://www.womeninsport.org/news/women-sport-launches-beyond-30-campaign/

Needless to say, and more than a little irritating were the comments at the bottom of the BBC report were all about netball’s governing body, which has 90% women on its board and isn’t this really sexist?

Cricket

World Cup Schedule

Here’s the link to the full schedule, but this is when and where England will be playing:

Saturday 24 June v India (Derby CCC)
Tuesday 27 June v Pakistan (Leicester CCC)
Sunday 2 July v Sri Lanka (Taunton)
Wednesday 5 July v South Africa (Bristol)
Sunday 9 July v Australia (Bristol)
Wednesday 12 July v New Zealand (Derby CCC)
Saturday 15 July v West Indies (Bristol)

The semi-finals will be at Bristol (18 July) and Derby (20 July), with the final at Lord’s on Sunday 23 July.

Ashes Schedule

The 2017 Ashes schedule has also been released and includes the first ever day-night Ashes Test.  The series well again be multi-format.

22 October – 1st ODI, AB Field, Brisbane
26 October – 2nd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium
29 October – 3rd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium

9-12 November – Test match, North Sydney Oval

17 November – 1st T20, North Sydney Oval
19 November – 2nd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November – 3rd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Women’s Ashes points system

Test: Win – 4 points
ODI: Win – 2 points
T20: Win – 2 points

On the field

3rd ODI, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

New Zealand 270/9 (50 overs)
Australia 273/5 (49.2 overs)

Australia sealed a 2-1 series win over their greatest rivals in a thrilling contest at the Bay Oval.  Meg Lanning won the toss and put New Zealand in to bat.  She must have been ruing that decision when the White Ferns got off to a flyer.  Susie Bates was out in the 11th over for 27, but Rachel Priest made 77 and Katie Perkins 34 as they posted an excellent total of 270.  Pick of the bowlers for the Southern Stars were Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner who took three wickets each.

The Australian reply began inauspiciously when opener Nicole Bolton was bowled for a duck by Holly Huddleston in the second over.  But in came captain Lanning and the tide turned.  She and Beth Mooney put on a 93-run partnership before Mooney was run out for 69 in the 20th over.  Ellyse Perry only managed a single, but good contributions from Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell and Alyssa Healy plus 104 not out for Lanning sealed the game and the series.

Tennis

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells

Heather Watson plays Johanna Konta in the second round after beating American Nicole Gibbs 4-6 6-2 6-2 in round one.

Meanwhile, world number one Serena Williams has had to withdraw from the tournament with a knee injury.

Netball

Round three of the Vitality Superleague took place at the weekend.  Round four is this weekend.  You can see Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks live on Sky Sports on Saturday 11 March at 6pm.

There are still three unbeaten teams at the top of the table; Surrey, Wasps and Loughborough.  Northumbria and Dragons are at the bottom, yet to take a point.

The third round results were as follows:

Friday 3 March

Severn Stars 53-46 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 4 March

Manchester Thunder 53-49 Sirens
Team Northumbria 46-63 Surrey Storm

Sunday 5 March

Wasps 51-47 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Monday 6 March

Team Bath 41-47 Loughborough Lightning

And finally, in a moment of shameless self-promotion, I offer you the piece I wrote for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017: https://pennyjhopkins.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/international-womens-day-and-the-world-of-womens-sport/

Women’s Sports Column 25 February – 3 March 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Stories this week come from the good, bad and downright bizarre sides of women’s sport – I’ll leave you to pick out which is which.  The sports featured this week are rugby union, cricket, football, skeleton, curling, tennis and netball.  Plus an “And finally” that takes “Girl Power” (yuk, but let’s go with it) to a whole new level.

Rugby Union

No doubting the big story this week as the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced its plans for a new women’s Super League to replace the current Premiership.  What is it with women’s sport and super leagues?  First the football, then the netball, then cricket and now rugby; what are the governing bodies trying to say?

Anyway, there was both shock and dismay at the new announcement that named the ten teams involved.  They are:

Bristol
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
Firwood Waterloo
Harlequin FC
Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough Students (Lightning)
Richmond FC
Saracens
Wasps
Worcester

So no place for Lichfield who currently lie second in the Premiership table and who boast several internationals in their squad including Emily Scarratt and Harriet Millar-Mills.  Lichfield released a strongly-worded statement expressing their disappointment at missing out.

“Lichfield RUFC is surprised and extremely disappointed by the decision by the RFU to exclude Lichfield Ladies from the new women’s elite competition.

  • We havemade every effort to follow the application process and in doing so have confirmed that we can meet all the required standards as specified.
  • We do not accept the scant reasons given as to why we have not been selected and on the contrary believe that we are one of a very few clubs that can, as of today, already satisfy the necessary conditions regarding players, coaching and facilities.
  • We presented what we believe was a sensible and achievable budget for delivering all of the specified support and facilities to provide the necessary players and performance improvements. We did not propose to spend money that we could not deliver.
  • We have proven our ability to deliver on our promises over many years.
  • We have one of the oldest Ladies sections in the country and have continually evolved over the past 25 years to be one of the best clubs in the country for both women’s and girls’ rugby. We are exceptionally proud of the achievements of our players, coaches and backroom staff and the standards they have reached, in creating new home-grown talent year after year.
  • Our two senior ladies’ teams currently both lie 2nd in the RFU Premiership and the Championship respectively, hence providing two teams in the top 12 nationwide. We are immensely proud of our ability to continually produce not only strong club players, but also international players and some of the best leaders in the ladies’ game.
  • We have helped to produce more than 30 England Internationals and currently have 8 Lichfield players performing in the 2017 Six Nations Championship, as well as supplying a number of World Cup winning players, Olympians and members of the England 7s squad.
  • Very few clubs can boast a tradition and pedigree as strong as this, yet it appears to have been completely disregarded in the selection process.

However, for the good of the game we will continue to support the RFU and direct all our efforts and emotion into completing the 2016/17 season. We will continue to grow the game and develop players to reach their full potential and we shall continue to work closely with the RFU to prepare for the next opportunity to once again participate at the Elite level.”

There is a lot of sympathy for the club and a petition has been started to encourage the RFU to think again.  If you would like to sign it, the link is:

Another team to miss out is high-flying Championship South 1 side Thurrock, who also put in a bid for inclusion.

Gloucester-Hartpury and Waterloo come from the lower leagues, while Loughborough, as I have said before in this column so forgive me if I claim some credit here, are continuing their efforts at world domination with yet another Lightning side joining the fray (adding to the netball and cricket).

The RFU will invest heavily in the new league to help clubs deliver the minimum standards required in coaching, facilities and community engagement.  None of which helps Lichfield or……

Women’s Super Rugby will begin in September 2017 and there will be no promotion or relegation in the first two seasons of the competition.

I’ve got a feeling we’ve not heard the end of this yet, so expect further updates in future columns.

Six Nations

Scotland 15-14 Wales
24 February Broadwood Stadium

Scotland secured their first Six Nations win for seven years last Friday in their last gasp victory over Wales.

Wales took the lead with a try from hooker Carys Phillips.  Elinor Snowsill kicked the conversion.

The score remained at 0-7 until five minutes before half-time when Scotland conceded a five metre scrum.  Scotland infringed at the resultant scrum and Wales were awarded a penalty try, taking the score to 0-14.

But Scotland were not to go scoreless in the first half.  They kept pressing until Lisa Thomson went over and Sarah Law kicked the conversion to halve the deficit and make it 7-14 at the break.

In the second half there was a period of stalemate before Scotland won a five metre scrum.  Jade Konkel broke out and passed to winger Rhona Lloyd who went over to score.  The conversion was missed and the score was 12-14.

But there was still more to come.  Scotland pressed and pressed until they were awarded a penalty.  Laws kicked the three points to take the game.

England 29-15 Italy
The Stoop, 25 February

The visitors started strongly and took the lead with a try from Sofia Stefan.  The conversion was missed.

England struck back a few minutes later as Kay Wilson went in at the corner.  Amy Wilson Hardy scored a second in short order to put the home side in front.

Hooker Vicky Fleetwood then went over for two more to put England in control and secure the bonus point before half-time.

After the break, Fleetwood went in for her third of the match – the first England forward to score a hat-trick in a Six Nations match.

But Italy were not done.  Scrum-half Sarah Barattin went in for Italy’s second try.

Shortly afterwards Katy McLean was sent off for a dangerous tackle and Poppy Cleall sin-binned and England were down to 13.  Manuela Furlan took full advantage, going over in the corner.

But the visitors could do no more and were unable to pick up a losing bonus point.

Ireland 13-10 France
Donnybrook, 26 February

Ireland are still unbeaten in this year’s Six Nations as they fought off a strong French side to claim in win in Dublin.

The first-half was a tight low-scoring affair with Nora Stapleton’s penalty separating the sides at the break.

In the second-half France took the initiative with a try from Caroline Ladagnous, which was converted by Jessy Tremouliere.

Ireland hit back with a try of their own from Leah Lyons, which was converted by Stapleton.  The score was 10-7 with half an hour to go.

Stapleton hit her second penalty to take it to 13-7, and although Tremouliere put over a penalty for France, they could not overcome the deficit to go down 13-10.

England Test Matches Announced

In preparation for the World Cup in Ireland in August, England Rugby has announced that the Red Roses will play the following test matches:

9 June v Australia (Porirua Park, Wellington)

13 June v Canada (Rugby Park, Christchurch)

17 June v New Zealand (Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua)

Elli Norkett

On an altogether sadder note, Ospreys and Wales winger Elli Norkett died in a car crash on 25 February at the age of 20.

Norkett was the youngest player at the 2014 Rugby World Cup, playing for Wales when she was just 17.

She was in her final year at Cardiff Metropolitan University, studying sport development.

In a Statement the Welsh Rugby Union said,

“A talented, dedicated player and popular teammate, Elli was a treasured member of the Welsh rugby family.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.”

Netball

There was a veritable feast of netball at the Genting arena last weekend as the Superleague’s  Super Ten event took place.  These were the results:
Loughborough Lightning 56-44 Severn Stars

Sirens 73-36 Celtic Dragons
Team Northumbria 46-70 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 58-48 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 42-49 Team Bath

After two games, Wasps, Storm, Lightning and Bath are all unbeaten.

Football

SheBelieves Cup

England 1-2 France

There was heartbreak for England on Wednesday as they conceded a 95th minute goal to lose the first match in the SheBelieves Cup 2-1.

The Lionesses bossed the first half, taking the lead through a fine strike from Jordan Nobbs, who was the stand-out player of the half.  England pressed in a way I haven’t seen for a while which definitely put France off their stride and were clearly on top at the break.

It would have been England’s first win against France since 1974.  Still can’t believe this is a true stat, but it is.

France equalised in the 80th minute through Marie-Laure Delie and broke English hearts in the 95th when Wendie Renard headed past the England defence to take the win.

This will be a great disappointment to Mark Sampson and may mean that England will yet again be winless in the SheBelieves Cup.

They next play the United States in New Jersey on Saturday 4 March.

In the second game of the tournament, USA beat Germany 1-0 with a goal from Lynn Williams.

You can follow the Lionesses on the FA website.  The France game was on the BBC red button, but, as with all women’s sport, there is no guarantee that this will be the case for the other games and if they are on, no-one is likely to publicise it….

Friendlies

As part of their warm up before the Euros in the summer, the FA has announced that England will play two friendlies:

England v Italy, Friday 7 April, Vale Park (home of Port Vale FC)

England v Austria, Monday 10 April, Stadium MK (home of MK Dons)

Cyprus Cup

Meanwhile, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland are all in action in the Cyprus Cup.

Group A:  
Belgium, Italy, Korea DPR, Switzerland

Group B:  
Austria, Korea Rep, New Zealand, Scotland

Group C:    
Czech Rep, Rep.of Ireland, Hungary, Wales

The first round of matches took place on 1 March and there were wins for all three sides.

Korea DPR 3-0 Italy

New Zealand 2-3 Scotland

Jane Ross opened the scoring for Scotland but New Zealand equalised through Rosie White.  In the second-half Scotland took the lead again through substitute Erin Cuthbert and then went 3-1 ahead through captain Kim Little.  The Kiwis pulled one back late on through Amber Hearn.

Czech Republic 0-2 Republic of Ireland

Stephanie Roche and Aine O’Gorman scored the goals for the Republic to give them a good win in their first match of the tournament.

Belgium 2-2 Switzerland

Korea Republic 0-0 Austria

Hungary 0-2 Wales

Helen Ward scored the first for Wales and Charlie Estcourt doubled the lead in the second half to secure the win.

The second round of matches takes place today, 3 March.

Tennis

It seems to me that the WTA tour is a never-ending list of tournaments and I just don’t have the time or resources to cover it all.  So here is my feeble attempt this week – just one match in one tournament, but what a match!

Heather Watson lost a marathon three-and-a-half hour match against Kristina Mladenovic of France 7-6 6-7 7-5 in the Abierto Mexicano Telcel.

The match saw 15 breaks of serve and the match was ultimately lost by Watson with her 18th double fault.

Mladenovic, who is seeded second in the tournament, plays Kirsten Flipkens in the third round.

Skeleton

Lizzie Yarnold won bronze at the Skeleton World Championships in Germany this week.

Gold went to World Cup leader, Germany’s Jacqueline Lolling with her compatriot, Tina Hermann finishing second.

Yarnold’s time of 2 minutes 36.08 seconds was just 0.73 seconds behind Lolling.

Yarnold’s team-mates Laura Deas finished 10th and Donna Creighton 22nd.

Curling

Eve Muirhead’s team defended their Scottish National Championship title in Perth this week as they beat Hannah Fleming’s team 6-4.

They have now secured a place at the World Championship in Beijing, which takes place in April.

Cricket

Australia v New Zealand ODI Series

After New Zealand won the T20 series, you can guarantee that the ODI series will be equally keenly fought.  And indeed, after two games they are tied one each.

First ODI
New Zealand 276/5
Australia 275 all out
New Zealand won by 5 wickets

The on-form Amy Satterthwaite scored 102 not out to see the home side to victory with five balls to spare.

Australia were all out in 48.4 overs with Lea Tahuhu taking 4/49 and Holly Huddleston 3/46.  Beth Mooney scored 100 for the visitors.  In the early stages the Southern Stars were 237/3, but subsided after Mooney, Elyse Villani and Rachael Haynes were dismissed, with the last six batters making only 28 runs between them.

Satterthwaite’s ton was her fourth in a row in ODIs.  New Zealand’s reply began well with a 58 run partnership between Rachel Priest and Suzie Bates.  When Priest was out Satterthwaite came in to make the match-winning knock.  She was ably supported by Bates (55), Katey Martin (43) and Katie Perkins (29).

Second ODI
Australia 256/6
New Zealand 253/8
Australia won by 4 wickets to level the series

Meg Lanning put New Zealand in and they started well with captain Bates making 35 before being dismissed.   All the batters made contributions with Satterthwaite again the pick, making 85 from 117 balls.

Amanda-Jade Wellington took three wickets and Elyse Perry was tight with 1/9 in the four overs she bowled.

In response Australia started well with Mooney again playing well to score 57.  They were going along quite nicely when 16-year old legspinner Amelia Kerr took two wickets in her first over, bowling Lanning for 44 and Villani for a first ball duck.  At this point Australia were 138/4.

But Alyssa Healey and Alex Blackwell pulled it back for the Aussies, producing a partnership of 81 off 85 balls.  Blackwell scored a timely 65 and Australia won with 16 balls to spare.

The impressive Kerr took 4/54.

The third and deciding game takes place on Sunday 5 March.

Off the Pitch

Australian international Sarah Coyte announced her retirement from all cricket this week at the age of 25.

Last year she retired from international cricket as she battled mental health issues.

“I am going home to Sydney to be close to my family and restore some balance to my life. I have been realising lately how much I have missed my family and it is finally time for me to go home,” she said in a statement.

Coyte admitted suffering from Anorexia while playing international cricket – a problem which led to her international retirement, but now she has gone one step further to quit all cricket.

She played for New South Wales and Adelaide Strikers.  As regards the Southern Stars she averaged 22 with the bat and 22.27 with the ball over 20 matches.

Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland, said,

“On behalf of the board and everyone at Cricket Australia, we congratulate Sarah on a wonderful career, both internationally and domestically, and thank her for the wonderful contribution she has made to Australian cricket,”

And Finally

And finally, the Swedish women’s football team have removed their names from t he back of their shirts and replaced them with messages that “inspire and motivate women to show that everything is possible”.  The quotes are taken from famous Swedish women.

Captain, Lotta Schelin picked words from Swedish politician Gudrun Schyman:

“Never look down on someone unless it is to help her up”,

Other phrases include:

“Believe in your damn self”

“To try is to be successful.  The result is secondary as long as you dare”

“Women want different things”

It may be a gimmick or they may all believe in it with every fibre of their being, but whatever the story, it made me smile.

Women’s Sports Column 8-14 October

books
Just some of the excellent books available about women’s sport, by women!

Welcome to this week’s column.  It’s another bumper week for women’s sports news, so let’s plough straight in.  We have stories from athletics, cricket, rugby, football, sailing, tennis and cycling this week plus a shocking “and finally” to make you angry and indignant.

 

Athletics

To athletics first where Jessica Ennis-Hill has announced her retirement this week.  It was not entirely unexpected news but sad nevertheless.

Ennis-Hill has done so much to change how women who decide to have a child and then return to their sports are viewed.

She won a memorable gold in the heptathlon at the 2012 Olympics in London and this year claimed silver in the same event in Rio.

On her Twitter account she said that it was,

“one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make…I’ve always said I wanted to leave on a high and have no regrets.”

She is bound to have many more years ahead of her being an ambassador for athletics and for women (and mothers) in sport.

Cricket

Another week, another bizarre item of news from cricket.

As you will all know by now, the Women’s World Cup takes place in 2017 in England and Wales.  The International Cricket Council (ICC) has just announced the schedule of fixtures.  As a friend of mine commented,

“What buffoon arranged the schedule for the Women’s Cricket World Cup in England next summer?” (Thanks Martin)

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

The 28 round-robin matches will take place on eight days; on six days there will be four matches and on the other two, two matches.  So if you want to go and see the games in person, the most you can see is eight.  Whoever thought this would be a good idea?  How does Sky cover this?  One thing’s for certain, they’re not going to give over Sky Sports 1-4 to show all four on a day!  And you can’t blame them.  So, essentially, the women’s cricket-loving public is being short-changed again.

It’s something I repeatedly come up against – the organisers or governing body says “we’re behind women playing {insert sport here} all the way.  Here’s a brilliant tournament/initiative/league to show how much we are behind it!”

Then the reality kicks in and they can’t deliver.  They can’t give it the resources, time, and above all, money, to do it justice.  It’s too late to get the ICC to think again in this case, but I would implore them to look at what they’ve done and despair (apologies to mangling of Shelley).  There, rant over.

 

On the field it’s honours even between West Indies and England after the first two ODIs in the five-match series in Jamaica.  England won a tight first game by five runs and West Indies won the second after England lost their last six wickets for 17 runs and the hosts won by 38 runs.  For a more detailed round-up of these two matches please check out my report for www.womensportsuk.com. 

The sides now move to Sabina Park for the next three matches.  These count towards the ICC Women’s Championships and, therefore, towards automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup.

 

South Africa are also currently playing a seven-match ODI series against New Zealand.  With three matches gone the series stands at 2-1 to New Zealand.  The visitors won the first game in Kimberley by 12 runs with the home side falling short of their relatively small 128 run target.

South Africa struck back in the second winning by four wickets.  They chased down 223 with a top score of 80 from captain Dane van Niekerk and a contribution of 42 from Lizelle Lee.

The third game was an easy win for New Zealand as they surpassed their target of 189 in just 33.1 overs, losing one wicket in the process.  Although Rachel Priest was out for 10, captain Suzie Bates with 82 and Amy Satterthwaite with 89 took the game away from South Africa.

The teams now move on to Paarl, where the fourth ODI takes place on Monday 17 October.

 

Also this week it has been announced that former England captain Charlotte Edwards will play for the Adelaide Strikers in this year’s Women’s Big Bash League, which will take place in December and January.  Last season she played for Perth Scorchers.

 

Rugby

It was the fourth round of matches in the Women’s Premiership at the weekend.   Bristol are still unbeaten and sit at the top of the table with 20 points.  Lichfield are just behind them, second only on points difference:

DMP Sharks 10-67 Bristol

Lichfield 33-15 Aylesford Bulls Ladies

Saracens 5-19 Worcester Valkyries

Richmond 15-10 Wasps

For an in-depth round-up read my piece for www.womensportsuk.com. 

 

Tennis

There was bad news for Johanna Konta this week after she was forced to withdraw from the Hong Kong Open with an abdominal strain.  She pulled out before her second round match against Wang Qiang.

Konta is currently in the final qualifying position for the end of season tournament in Singapore.  But this position is not secured yet and it could go to Dominika Cibulkova if she reaches the final at the Linz Open.

Heather Watson is through to round two having beaten Marina Erakovic 7-5 7-6 in round one.  She will play Caroline Wozniacki next.

 

Football

I have to confess that the Under 17s Women’s World Cup, which is being held in Jordan, has completely slipped under my radar.

England put in some fine performances to get to the quarter-finals, including defeating Brazil 2-1 in their third group game to get them through to the knockout stage.  In the other group games they drew 3-3 with North Korea and 0-0 with Nigeria.

On 13 October they played Japan in the quarter-final, but lost 3-0 to Japan.  Goals from Endo in the third minute, and two from Ueki in first-half injury time and the 80th minute saw Japan win to meet Spain in the semi-final.

The other semi-final will be contested by Venezuela and North Korea.

Both semi-finals take place on Monday 17 October.

 

The second leg of the Champions’ league matches took place this week:

Zvezda 2005 0-4 Manchester City Women

City completed a 6-0 aggregate win to reach the last 16.

They were 2-0 up at half-time with two goals from corners; one from Jennifer Beattie and one from Lucy Bronze.

After the break Beattie headed in her second with Izzy Christiansen scoring the fourth for city just before the end.

 Bayern Munich 1-4 Hibernian Ladies

Hibs were already 6-0 down from the first leg and little hope of improving their situation in Germany.

They went behind from an Anna Gerhardt goal and Scotland international Lisa Evans scored a second.  Gerhardt got a second before Abigail Harrison pulled one back to make it 3-1 at half-time.

The Scots battled on in the second half but Munich scored again through Vivien Miedema to make it 4-1 on the night and 10-1 on aggregate.

Wolfsburg 1-1 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea put in creditable performance in Germany but, in truth, the damage had already been done in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

The visitors took the lead through an Eni Aluko goal as the striker took advantage of a defensive slip.  They held on to the lead until the 80th minute, when Wolfsburg equalised through Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir to make it 4-1 on aggregate.

Glasgow City 1-2 Eskilstuna United

After losing narrowly to Swedish side Eskilstuna last week Glasgow City would have been confident of taking the tie on home turf, but it was not to be.

Eskilstuna took the lead in the seventh minute through Olivia Schough.  Glasgow equalised just after half-time through Sarah Crilly, but they couldn’t score again and the Swedish side took the game away from them in the 58th minute with a second goal from Schough.

 

Off the pitch, as I reported last week, all kinds of shenanigans were allegedly taking place at West Ham Ladies, but this week it has been announced that West Ham United have taken the ladies’ side “in house”.

West Ham Vice-chair Karren Brady said they were “passionately committed to equality,” and that women’s football is a “high priority on our agenda.”

She added, “The addition of the ladies into the West Ham family is the solution my board and I have long sought.

“Not only does it secure the long-term future of the ladies’ side, but also guarantees current and future supporters, players and staff of the ladies’ team will form an integral part of the club’s bright future as we move forward.”

 

FIFA

The governing body of world football has appointed two women to senior positions this week.

Sarai Bareman is to be the first Chief Women’s Football Officer.  She will lead the newly created women’s football division.  She is the only female member of FIFA’s 2016 reform committee.

The other post, that of Chief Officer, Member Associations and Development, has gone to our own Joyce Cook, a tireless campaigner for equality in football and currently chair of Level Playing field, Managing Director of Centre for access to Football in Europe (CAFE)Top of Form and on the boards of Sports Ground Safety Authority and Women in Football.

 

Sailing

 A major rule change to the Volvo Ocean Race has been announced this week.  In theory it will make it easier for women to compete at this level.

The new rules mean that all-male teams are restricted to seven members and also give mixed teams a numerical advantage.

There will now be five possible crew combinations for the 2017-18 edition:

7 men

7men + 1 or 2 women

7 women + 1 or 2 men

5 men + 5 women

11 women

Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Mark Turner said,

“Sailing is one of the few sports where you can have mixed teams, and we want to take advantage of that, and also reflect the growing desire for greater diversity in businesses – in particular the kind who back the race teams today.

“We’re using the crew rules to incentivise skippers to bring one or more female sailors onboard. I really hope that it’s not necessary to have any rule at all in the future – but it seems it’s the only way today to ensure we can maintain progress.”

The race celebrates its 43rd anniversary this year and since it started there have been over 2000 male participants but only over 100 women.

 

Cycling

The Road Cycling World Championships have been taking place in Doha this week.

Amber Neben of the United States won her second individual time trial world title in a time of 36 minutes 37.04 seconds.  She was six seconds ahead of Netherlands’ Ellen van Dijk with Katrin Garfoot of Australia in third.

Britain’s Hannah Barnes was 14th and Hayley Simmonds 25th.

The team time trial was won by Dutch-based team Boels-Dolmans.  The team included Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead) and won in a time of 48 minutes 41.62 seconds, a full 48.24 seconds ahead of second place team Canyon-Sram which included Britain’s Hannah Barnes.   Fellow Briton Ciara Home was in the Cervelo Bigla team that finished third.

 

And finally,

In an interview with The Guardian this week, journalist and broadcaster Jacqui Oatley admitted that she had to call police when the comments she received on social media reached such a violent point that she felt under threat from them.

One person that particularly disturbed her threatened to go to her house and “cut” her among other, as she put it, “unmentionable” things.

Usually Oatley is phlegmatic about such comments so this obviously must have been something out of the ordinary.  It’s awful to even think that there is such a thing as “the ordinary” when it comes to this kind of stuff, but this is pretty much what any female sports journalist has to go through when they dare to comment on/write about/broadcast about men’s sport.

When she was covering the men’s Euros this year a rather nice chap suggested on Twitter that she should be “at home cooking the tea rather than presenting football”.  She responded by replying that she was a “bit busy doing my dream job”.

More women should be doing their dream job and if this doesn’t fit with a man’s view of a woman’s role, then this is the fault of the man, not the woman.

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 July

standard-pitch-dimensionsIt’s column time again – gosh this week has gone quickly. I’d like to say it will be an island of sense in this sea of world chaos, but I think I might just be guilty of over-selling it….

Anyway, this week we have stories from athletics, tennis, football, golf, cricket, gymnastics, rugby union (missed from last week) and a happy story for “And finally”.

Obviously the selections are being made for Rio at the moment. Apologies if I don’t get everyone in here, but it’s pretty well publicised news that can be picked up in the mainstream press (is it possible?).

A couple of athletics stories should be mentioned, though. After I reported Jo Pavey had achieved the qualifying time for the 10,0000m last week, she has indeed been picked for Rio.

On the other side of the coin is high jumper Isobel Pooley. She will miss the Olympics due to an ankle injury. She could compete, but has been told that it would be unwise to do so as it would make the injury worse, so she has pulled out. Pooley may well have been a medal contender.

Britain also had a good final day of the European Championships with the women’s 4 x 400m winning gold with the fastest time in the world this year. France were second and Italy, third.

The four; Emily Diamond, Anyika Onuora, Eilidh Doyle and Seren Bundy-Davies took the title in a time of 3:25.05 seconds.

The full women’s athletics squad for Rio is as follows:

100m: Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Daryll Neita. 200m: Dina Asher-Smith, Jodie Williams. 400m: Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Seren Bundy-Davies. 800m:Lynsey Sharp, Shelayna Oskan-Clarke. 1,500m: Laura Muir, Laura Weightman.5,000m: Eilish McColgan, Stephanie Twell, Laura Whittle. 10,000m: Jo Pavey, Beth Potter, Jessica Andrews. 3,000m steeplechase: Lennie Waite. 100m hurdles: Tiffany Porter, Cindy Ofili. 400m hurdles: Eilidh Doyle. High jump: Morgan Lake. Pole vault:Holly Bradshaw. Long jump: Lorraine Ugen, Shara Proctor, Jazmin Sawyers.Hammer throw: Sophie Hitchon. Discus throw: Jade Lally. Heptathlon: Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Jessica Ennis-Hill. Marathon: Sonia Samuels, Alyson Dixon.

Relays: 4x100m: Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Daryll Neita, Dina Asher-Smith, Bianca Williams, Ashleigh Nelson, Louise Bloor. 4x400m: Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Seren Bundy-

It was a stunning end to Wimbledon last weekend. Serena Williams was an absolute vision of sporting prowess as she blasted Angelique Kerber off the court to win 7-5 6-3 in the singles final. It was her 22nd grand slam victory, bringing her level with Steffi Graf.

Later on in the day on Saturday she still had enough passion and puff to win the doubles with sister Venus. They beat fifth seeds Babos and Shvedova 6-3 6-4.

Heather Watson made up for her disappointment in the singles by taking the mixed doubles title with partner Henri Kontinen from Finland. They beat fifteenth seeds Farah and Groenefeld 7-6 6-4. They had never even played together before the championships began.

As I reported last week, it was the first time there had been wheelchair singles at Wimbledon. Top seed Jiske Griffioen of Netherlands took the title against compatriot Aniek Van Koot, who had beaten British favourite Jordanne Whiley in the semi-final, 4-6 6-0 6-4.

Whiley did take the wheelchair doubles title with her partner and best mate Yui Kamiji from Japan. The top seeds beat second seeds Griffioen and Van Koot 6-2 6-2.

The girls’ singles was won by Anastasia Potapova of Russia beating of Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-4 6-3 and the girls’ doubles champions were Usue Arconada and Claire Liu of USA, who beat Caty McNally (USA) and Mariam Bolkvadze (Georgia) 6-2 6-3.

In other tennis news, it has been confirmed that Maria Sharapova will miss the Olympics as the verdict of her appeal will not be known until September.

 

Big news from English football this week.  It has been announced that from the season 2017-18, the FAWSL will become a winter league instead of a summer league. It will be played from September to May. This brings it in line with other European divisions.

It’s a big, bold decision – part of the thinking behind a summer league is that it will attract fans who are missing the men’s game during the summer. But it is good to know that the FA thinks the women’s game can stand on its own and that attendances will stay as they are or even improve.

A one-off competition, the FAWSL Spring Series will take place from February to June 2017, alongside the FA Cup, to transition from one schedule to the other. This will also benefit the England team as they prepare for the European Championships which take plce in Netherlands in July/August 2017.

There will also be a winter break in the 2017-18 season from mid-December to mid- January.

Whatever happens, the current situation could not have continued. The summer schedule was bitty at best, with four weeks sometimes between games. This is just not acceptable to England’s top clubs who want to be competitive in Europe.

 

Results from FAWSL1:

Saturday 9 July

Liverpool Ladies FC 2-0 Reading FC Women
Harding 17’
Coombs 24’

Sunderland AFC Ladies 4-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Mead 34’, 45+3’
Sharp 39’
Chaplen 78’

Sunday 10 July

Arsenal Ladies FC 2-0 Notts County Ladies FC
Van de Donk 10’
Dobbs 56’

Chelsea Ladies FC 1- 1 Birmingham City Ladies
Aluko 52’
Ayisi 48’

Also some news which is, on the face of it, comical, but actually is another one of those occasions when you think about it and say, “it would never have happened if it were a men’s game.”

Last week a game between Western New York Flash and Seattle Reign in the NWSL had to be moved due a scheduling clash. It was moved to the outfield f a nearby baseball stadium. Consequently a pitch was marked out that was barely big enough for children to play on.

Two problems with this: a) why was a music festival scheduled in the Sahlen’s Stadium – surely they knew there was a game on? And b) what on earth went on to mark out such a ridiculous pitch?

Needless to say the players and coaches were not happy. The Reign coach, Laura Harvey said,

“for any players/staff to be put in a position like we were tonight is not acceptable”.

Jeff Blush of the NWSL made this statement:

“the field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision.”

Do you think?

 

Talking of farce, another situation occurred at the US Women’s Open last week. Brittany Lang won the title, but only after Anna Nordqvist was given a two-stroke penalty during the play-off for grounding her club.

Sounds logical? Yes, but the penalty occurred in the second hole of a three hole play-off but the players were not informed until they were on the final hole. Lang made a par on the final hole, while Nordqvist only made bogey and lost by three strokes.

Nordqvist was quite laid-back about it considering she was only told about the penalty after she had played her third shot on the last. She said she didn’t know if it would have made any difference to the eventual outcome, but she certainly would have been more aggressive on the last if she had known she had two shots to make up.

Again, you have to say, would this have happened if it had been between Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy?

 

Two pieces of cricket news this week. Firstly, Cricket Australia has announced that it is to invest $4 million in grassroots women’s cricket.

The money, “Growning Cricket for Girls”, will go to better coaching facilities and improving the cricketing pathway for 11-18 year olds. $1 million per year for four years will go into local associations, clubs and secondary schools. Of this, $50,000 will go towards employing full-time female participation specialists.

Secondly, Scottish Wildcats have qualified for the ICC Global Qualifier to get into the World Cup. They have take an unassailable 2-0 lead against Netherlands Women.

Both games were decided by the Duckworth/Lewis method due to rain.

In the first, Scotland posted 218/5 off their 50 overs. Netherlands were set a revised target of 161 in 26 overs, but fell short on 133/7, losing the game by 27 runs.

In the second, Scotland batted first again, posting 222/9 off their 50. Rain intervened again and Netherlands were set 178 in 37 overs. They fell short again, ending on 169/6 and losing by 8 runs.

Scotland now goes forward to the ICC Global WCWC Qualifier in 2017.

 

So it’s good news for Australian cricketers, but not so for its gymnasts. The Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) has announced that it is shutting its Women’s Artistic Gymnastics National Centre of Excellence in Perth at the end of 2016.

Needless to say the closure is largely due to funding issues, but Gymnastics Australia has denounced the decision in a public statement:

“On the eve of the Olympics, women’s sport in Australia has been dealt a huge blow by today’s shock revelation that one of the nation’s premier training centres for elite gymnasts is to close,”

GA’s President, Jacqui Briggs-Weatherill went on to say,

“This is a very cruel and short-sighted decision by WAIS that if not reversed will end the Olympic ambitions of many young women in one of Australia’s fastest growing sports.”

 

For the last couple of weeks the Women’s Rugby Super Series has been taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Didn’t see it in the mainstream media even though England’s women are currently World Champions? No, neither did I and, to my eternal shame, I missed reporting on it last week. Anyway, to make amends, here are the details:

The tournament took place between USA, Canada, France and England.

England were dealt a shocking and bitter blow in the first game on 1 July as they were beaten 52-17 by Canada. They recovered to beat France 17-13 on 5 July and then beat USA comfortably 39-13. This match included an impressive hat-trick of tries from winger Lydia Thompson.

Canada were the eventual winners of the tournament, unbeaten in their three matches. England finished second with two wins, France third with one and USA fourth having lost all of their matches. England will take heart from their comeback, having fallen to such a disastrous defeat in the first game.

 

And finally, this great story pinged into my inbox this week – I don’t know how many of you will have seen it already, but it bears re-telling. Manar Sarhan, a dentist from Cairo, has become Egypt’s first female football pundit. She appears on the private CBC television channel and has recently been commenting on Euro 2016 matches.

She started volunteering in journalism in 2002, filming her favourite Egyptian club Zamalek. She then wrote for several newspapers before being discovered by the CBC channel.

Unsurprisingly the reaction was mixed. She says:

“I was mocked in the beginning. They would tell me ‘Girls belong in kitchens’,” (I think we’ve all heard that one)

But Sarhan is not one to give up. She is now acknowledged as an expert on the subject;- her analysis of tactics and team plans is regarded as impressive.

She has learnt Spanish so that she can follow La Liga and also intends to learn Italian and Portuguese to be able to follow more European football.

Her ultimate aim is to work in European football. Go get it, I say!