Welcome to this week’s column. What a week! So much going on I don’t know where to start. One thing’s for sure, there’s plenty to catch up with stories from football, golf, hockey, rugby union, rugby league, athletics, cycling, motor racing, swimming, gymnastics, cricket and probably many other things that I’ve forgotten!
So let’s crack on!
Golf – British Open
Top of the pile this week is the Georgia Hall’s terrific triumph in the Women’s British Open at Lytham at the weekend.
It was a great tournament, good coverage on Sky, has its house in order as regards sponsorship and had brilliant crowds on all four days. Am I allowed to say FA take note?
Anyway, Hall kept her cool to take the title by two shots on -17 from Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand in second and Ryu So-yeon of Korea a further two back in third.
Phatlum had an overnight lead of one shot, but Hall picked up five as Phatlum faltered in the closing stages, only going into the lead on the 16th after she holed a 20-foot putt to make birdie.
It was a stunning achievement for the 22-year old, who showed a maturity beyond her years. Her cool approach will be a great asset in next year’s Solheim Cup.
Hockey – World Cup
Summary: the Irish took the tournament by storm, while a disappointing England side could only finish sixth. There were many, many shocks, but right from the off no-one was beating the Netherlands!
Netherlands 6-0 Ireland
The bald facts will be there in the history books – the Dutch were by far the best team in the tournament, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
But back to the facts: Ireland went one down after seven minutes through (my) player of the tournament Lidewij Welton. But it was the only score in the first quarter.
They scored a second on 19 minutes when Kelly Jonker put away a rebound originally kicked away by Irish goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran. Before the half was over, Ireland were four-down as first Kitty van Male and then Malou Pheninckx beat the Irish defences.
At the start of the third quarter Marloes Keetels made it five and in the 34th minute Caia van Maasakker scored a sixth.
The Dutch then took their foot off the gas, but the Irish also showed great heart to keep them out and build up their own period of pressure. They couldn’t quite force the ball over the line, but they gave it everything in the attempt.
And, we should remember they beat the United States and India in their pool matches, then India again in the quarter-final and Spain in the semi, all of whom were higher in the world rankings.
With their second place finish, Ireland move from 16th to 9th in the world.
One immediate result, apart from a truly stunning homecoming reception for the team in Dublin – if you haven’t seen it, check it out here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/hockey/45088396 is that the Irish Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, has indicated that hockey will receive better funding in the run up to the 2022 Olympics.
Spain finished third as they defeated Australia 3-1 in the bronze medal match. Goals from Maria Lopez, Berta Bonastre and Alicia Magaz won it for the Spanish, with Australia’s score coming from Kathryn Slattery.
Rugby League – Challenge Cup Final
Castleford Tigers 14-20 Leeds Rhinos
The Tigers were well ahead 14-6 at half-time with tries from Katie Hepworth and Tara Stanley.
Sophie Nuttall got one back for Leeds before the break, but then Georgia Roche crossed again to stretch the lead.
On the resumption Leeds scored immediately through Caitlin Beevers.
Aimee Stavely put the Rhinos ahead and Lois Forsell scored again to ensure the victory for Leeds.
And it was great to see it on the TV!
Earlier on in the afternoon Bradford Bulls won the Women’s Shield 44-16 over Stanningley. The Bulls’ tries came from Leah Jones, Shona Hoyle, Reagan Walker (2), Becky Conlon, Amy Hardcastle (2) and Jess Courtman.
There is good news and a whole bundle of frustration from rugby union this week. Next season’s fixtures for the Premier 15s have been announced although you have to search for them a bit.
Check it out here: https://www.premier15s.com/news/tyrrells-premier-15s-release-2018-19-fixtures/, as have those for Championship North and South https://www.englandrugby.com/fixtures-and-results/competitions/womens-competitions/#/fixtures.
On the other hand, there has been criticism levelled at the RFU over their handling of the women’s national side. If you remember, after the World Cup, the 15s contracts were not renewed as they wanted to concentrate on sevens.
It is safe to say that the England Sevens side has not kicked on as was hoped and yet, there is no sign of 15s contracts. Steve Brown, Chief Executive of the RFU, has said that their “ambition” is to award full-time contracts in both 15s and sevens.
But where are they? Former England captain Catherine Spencer has been quoted as saying the RFU has shown “..a lack of effective leadership and a lack of direction.”
Is it a coincidence that this week has seen the retirement of England’s most-capped player Rochelle (Rocky) Clark from England duty?
The 37-year old won 137 caps for England in her 15-year international career and will continue to play domestically for Wasps.
This latest retirement comes in the wake of Izzy Noel- Smith’s in April and Danielle Waterman’s in May.
The last thing we need is another FA. We don’t need another governing body that can talk a good game and then not follow through. Let’s hope the RFU gets its house in order before too long.
Another young British star in the making is Jamie Chadwick. Last weekend at Brands Hatch she became the first woman to win a British Formula 3 race.
She won from fourth position on the grid, moving up to second and staying just behind leader Pavan Ravishankar of Singapore until Ravishankar was hit with a 10-second penalty for a jump start and Chadwick took the win.
The multi-sports European Championships are happening as we speak. I can’t do justice to all of the performances, so apologies if I’ve missed your favourites. Here are some of the highlights so far:
It was a disappointing event for Team GB with only one medal for the women. This came in the women’s eight which finished in silver medal position. There were only three boats in the race, however, so they were guaranteed a medal.
The women’s quadruple sculls were fourth in their final as were the women’s four. The pair of Hattie Taylor and Rowan McKellar finished fifth in their final.
Dina Asher-Smith’s fabulous form continued as she stormed to 100m gold in 10.85 seconds, yet another British record. Gina Luckenkemper finished in silver and Dafne Schippers took bronze.
Holly Bradshaw won bronze in the pole vault – her first major outdoor medal.
Laura Kenny came back to the track and won two gold medals. The first was in the team pursuit alongside teammates Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Neah Evans and they beat Italy in the final.
Kenny also won the elimination race ahead of Anna Knauer of Germany and Evgenia Augustinas on Russia.
Katie Archibald took three medals in total – the first as part of the pursuit team, but then she also won silver in the individual pursuit, losing to German Lisa Brennauer in the final and silver also in the omnium behind world champion Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands.
Emily Kay took silver in the 10km scratch race.
There were plenty of medals won by Team GB in the swimming.
Hannah Miley took the first, a bronze, in the 400m individual medley behind Fantine Lesaffre of France who took gold and Ilaria Cusinato of Italy who took silver. Britain’s Aimee Willmott finished fourth.
Holly Hibbott won a bronze in the 400m freestyle as did Molly Renshaw in the women’s 200m breaststroke.
Imogen Clark won silver in the 50m breaststroke, behind Yuliya Efimova of Russia and ahead of Arianna Castiglioni of Italy.
Alys Thomas won bronze in the 200m butterfly.
Wales’ Georgia Davies won a gold in the 50m and silver in the 100m backstroke.
Team GB was particularly strong in the relays:
She was also part of the women’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay team alongside Freya Anderson, Eleanor Faulkner and Kathryn Greenslade that took gold.
There was a bronze for the women’s 4 x 100m team comprising Georgia Davies, Siobhan Marie O’Connor, Alys Thomas and Freya Anderson.
The 4 x 100m mixed medley relay team won gold. The team comprised Adam Peaty, Freya Anderson, James Guy and Georgia Davies.
The 4 x 200m mixed freestyle team of Stephen Milne, Craig McLean, Kathryn Greenslade and Freya Anderson took bronze.
Grace Reid and Ross Haslam won silver in the mixed synchronised 3m springboard.
Eden Cheng and Lois Toulson took gold in the 10m synchronised event.
Team GB missed out on a medal in the team event, finishing fourth. The event was won by Russia with France in silver and the Netherlands in bronze.
Jess Learmonth took silver in the triathlon. Nicola Spirig won the title with Cassandre Beaugrand of France taking bronze.
There’s still plenty to come with more athletics, BMX and golf this weekend.
Other Athletics News
British javelin thrower Joanna Blair has been banned from the sport for four years.
She tested positive for anabolic steroids in June last year. Her provisional suspension has now been upheld and she will be ineligible to compete until July 2021.
Blair maintains she unintentionally took the banned substance metandienone in a contaminated creatine supplement that she bought online.
But UK Anti-Doping (UKad) rejected this argument, saying she had not proved that she had not taken the drug intentionally.
Football – Signings
In a surprise move this week Jamie Sherwood has been appointed as Director of Football at Yeovil Town. He stood down as manager in the summer and was replaced by Lee Burch, but has now rejoined to, in the club’s words, “provide the board with a link to the core work being undertaken by the management team”.
Yeovil have also re-signed striker Annie Heatherson.
Brighton & Hove Albion have signed midfielder Emily Simpkins from Doncaster Rovers Belles.
West Ham have been at it again, signing Swiss forward Alisha Lehmann from BSC Young Boys Frauen.
Not a signing as such, but an excellent and significant piece of news is that Jayne Ludlow has signed a four-year contract extension to her role as manager of the Wales national side.
Under 20s World Cup
England started their World Cup campaign with a 3-1 win over North Korea on Sunday.
Alessia Russo opened the scoring with Georgia Stanway bagging the second on the hour.
Ja Un-Yong got one back for North Korea in the second-half, but England sealed the win two minutes later as Russo got her second.
On Wednesday they played their second game against Brazil and drew 1-1. England were ahead for much of the game after Georgia Stanway scored from the penalty spot in the 11th minute. They conceded the equaliser in the last minute when Ariadina fired in to take a share of the points.
England’s last group game is against Mexico on Sunday 12 August.
The top two teams in the group go through to the quarter-finals.
Champions League Qualifying
Glasgow City 1-2 Anderlecht
Glasgow lost their first Champions League Group Three match in Edinburgh on Tuesday. The away side took the lead through Ella Van Kerkhoven. A few minutes later Leanne Ross missed a penalty, hitting the post with her spot-kick. Elke Van Gorp scored a second for Anderlecht, before Lara Invanusa pulled one back for Glasgow.
Cardiff Met UFC 2-3 Olimpia Cluj
The Welsh Premier League champions fared no better in their first game in Group six as they too lost at home.
Cardiff opened the scoring through Naomi Clipston, but then Cluj had a period of pressure before Mara Batea equalised.
In the second-half, Cristina Carp scored for Cluj, Erin Murray equalised for Cardiff and Phoenetia Browne got a third for Cluj, all in the space of three minutes. The Browne goal turned out to be the winner.
Another week, another story of the FA’s lack of leadership. I’m coming to the conclusion that the FA wants to offload the “burden” of the WSL as soon as possible.
This week the FA has said it would be “open to Premier League takeover” of the WSL. But is it, as it stands, an attractive enough proposition for the Premier League to take an interest?
Obviously the game has grown under the FA, but last season some attendances stagnated or even went down. It has been criticised for its constant revamping of the league structure and also last season’s fixture list which included large gaps followed by a crush of games. The FA can’t even find a main sponsor for this year’s league. So why would the Premier League take over?
Reaction from clubs to the idea has been mixed. There is a belief from some that the league is not developed enough for the Premier League to take over, but those such as Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is in favour – back in January 2018 she said she thought it was a good idea as it would probably mean more money into the game.
If I were the Premier League, looking at its own package and how it brings in millions of pounds of revenue, at this moment I would run a mile. I’d be telling the FA to come back when they’ve stopped messing with the product and everyone is settled and satisfied with the situation.
This one’s going to run and run.
Southern Vipers 172/6
Loughborough Lightning 174/7 (19.4 overs)
Lightning won by 3 wickets with 2 balls remaining
Although Suzie Bates scored only nine and Tammy Beaumont a single, Sarah McGlashan scored 55, Danni Wyatt 36, Arran Brindle 26 and Mignon du Preez 24 to put together a sizeable total of 172 for the Vipers.
In response, Sophie Devine was out early for seven, but Rachael Haynes anchored the innings scoring 53 from 34 balls. Amy Jones chipped in with 31 but it was Elyse Villani’s 61 not out from 38 balls that saw Lightning home as the lower order began to wobble.
Eventually Loughborough won the game with two balls to spare.
Yorkshire Diamonds 172/5
Western Storm 174/3 (19.2 overs)
Storm won by 7 wickets with 4 balls remaining
Diamonds batted first and posted a decent score. Beth Mooney top scored with 69 from 42 balls, while Lauren Winfield fell two short of her half-century.
In response, Smriti Mandhana continued her good form, making 56 from 36 balls. She was ably supported by Heather Knight who scored 45 and Rachel Priest with 37 and the Storm got home with four balls to spare.
Surrey Stars 167/8
Lancashire Thunder 112 all out (19.2 overs)
Stars won by 55 runs
An excellent and much needed win for the Stars as they skittled the Thunder for just 112.
Bryony Smith fell for just 10, but Lizelle Lee finally stepped up to show the crowd what she was made of and the partnership of 94 between Lee and Sarah Taylor really got the Stars going. The lower order did not contribute much to the score, but it was a decent total to defend.
The Thunder made a good start in response with a 55 run stand between openers Nicole Bolton and Eve Jones. After Bolton was dismissed by Dane van Niekerk for 24, there was then a disaster for Thunder as Harmanpreet Kaur was run out without scoring. This precipitated a collapse with only Amy Satterthwaite (21) providing any resistance. Van Niekerk took 3/20 from her four overs and Bryony Smith 2/9 from two.
Southern Vipers 159/7
Yorkshire Diamonds 143 all out (19.5 overs)
Vipers won by 16 runs
Vipers ended their losing streak with a win at Southampton. Tammy Beaumont was back from sitting out through concussion and top-scored with 64. Katie Levick was the pick of the bowlers for the Diamonds, taking 3/35 from her four overs.
It was the same old story for Diamonds though as they started relatively well but fell away down the order. Thea Brookes top-scored with 45 from 36 balls, but wickets kept falling and the last five batters scored only eight between them. Suzie Bates did much of the damage, taking 4/26 off 3.5 overs and Amelia Kerr chipped in with 2/22 off four.
Loughborough 100/7 (match reduced to 13 overs)
Surrey Stars 106/3 (11.2/13 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets with 10 balls remaining
Loughborough’s winning run came spectacularly to an end at Guildford as Stars cruised to the win. Lightning made a fair 100 off 13 overs with Georgia Elwiss top scoring on 26. They lost three wickets for 10 runs towards the end which prevented them posting a really good total.
But the Stars meant business. Lizelle Lee starred, as it were, for the second game in a row, with 48 from 28 balls. She was backed up by Bryony Smith who made 31 as Lightning struggled to take wickets.
Western Storm 185/4 (20 overs)
Lancashire Thunder 109 all out (18.2 overs)
Storm won by 76 runs
Not close. Storm were ruthless in all departments as they crushed the Thunder at Taunton. Priest went cheaply for just four, Mandhana was at it again with 49 from 25 balls and England captain Knight top-scoring with 76 from 50. Stafanie Taylor hit 51 after the fall of Mandhana as they posted an excellent 185.
In response the Bolton scored a good 21, but fellow opener Eve Jones made only one, Amy Satterthwaite four and Harmanpreet Kaur eight before EllieThrelkeld came in to try to steady the ship. It was a vain hope though – her 33 was easily the Thunder’s top score as the rest of the wickets fell around her.
We’re now just over half way through with all teams having played seven games. Lightning’s loss at Surrey has seen them replaced at the top of the table by Western Storm. It looks to be between Surrey Stars and Lancashire Thunder for the third place at finals day although there is still all to play for.
It may be significant that Loughborough Lightning’s two losses have been in reduced-overs matches. With the weather becoming less predictable as the season progresses, will this cause Loughborough some problems?
More news and views next week.