Women’s Sports Column 23 February – 1 March 2019

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

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

So let’s crack on…

Rugby Union

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

Wales 12-51 England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italy 29-27 Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

France 41-10 Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round Four is in two weeks:

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

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

Golf

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

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

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

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

Athletics

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

Cycling

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

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

Scratch Race 10km

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

Team Pursuit

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

Team Sprint

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

Netball

Last weekend’s Super League results:

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

Saturday 23 February
Surrey Storm 50-66 Loughborough Lightning

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

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

Next weekend’s fixtures are:

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

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

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

Tennis – on the Court

Last weekend’s tournament results:

Dubai Open

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

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

Hungarian Open

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

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

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

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

We are now at the semi-final stage:

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

The semi-finals of the doubles looks like this:

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

Tennis – off the Court

Fed Cup

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

The tie takes place on 20 and 21 April.

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

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

Maria Sharapova

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

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Volleyball

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

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

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

Football

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

Manchester City claimed their third Conti Cup title on Sunday.

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

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

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

Lionesses

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

27 February

England 2-1 Brazil

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

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

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

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

28 February

United States 2-2 Japan

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

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

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

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

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

Algarve Cup

The Algarve Cup is also in its early stages.

Scores so far:

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

Scotland are in Group A, alongside Canada and Iceland.

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Finally,

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

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 August 2018

cricket-ballWelcome to this week’s column – the last before I’m off on my hols for two weeks.  So, I’d better get through as much as I can before I slope off to exotic climes.  Stories this week come from rugby union, cricket, football, gymnastics, hockey, athletics, golf, netball and tennis.

Let’s crack on.

Cricket

Big news from India this week as Jhulan Goswami has announced her retirement from T20s, just three months before the start of the T20 World Cup.  She took 56 wickets in 68 T20 internationals and is the leading T20 wicket-taker for India.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo she said,

“My mind and body have been at loggerheads for a while now. I wasn’t able to focus properly on the format and it’s been difficult for me to motivate myself. Given the demands of T20, it doesn’t help when the body of a 35-year-old fast bowler takes longer to recover than she wants it to.

“The workload in T20s is different to that in the 50-over game and I don’t think my body had been supporting me in T20s. With age, my movements have got slower, so as a player, if I’m not able to give my best on the field, then I don’t think I should be in the T20I side. I saw no point dragging myself in the format beyond a point. And, for me, this is the point in T20s.”

She has been my favourite Indian cricketer for some time and it will take some time to get used to not seeing her charge in.  Her commitment, drive and sprit, as well as her frightening ability, has been something to behold.  But it is also good that she has withdrawn on her own terms and has realised when the time is right for her.

Kia Super League

The line-up for Finals Day is decided.  In the end, Loughborough were thanking their Surrey Stars as the Stars beat Western Storm, which not only meant the Lightning finished top but also that the Stars claimed the third place.  Here’s what happened in the last round of competition:

Lancashire Thunder 162/3 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 153 (19.4 overs)
Thunder won by 9 runs

Harmanpreet Kaur top-scored with a stunning 44 not out from 20 balls and Nicole Bolton scored 43 from 34 balls as Lancashire posted a competitive 162.

The Vipers started well in response with an opening partnership of 42 between Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont.  But they lost wickets regularly, as they fell behind the required rate.  Sophie Ecclestone took 4/20 from her four overs and Amy Satterthwaite 2/14 off just 1.4 as the Vipers were all out nine short of their target.

Yorkshire Diamonds 148/6 (20 overs)
Loughborough Lighting 145/6 (20 overs)
Diamonds won by 3 runs

Lightning lost their third game, but first full-length match, on Saturday as they fell just three short of their target.

Lightning dismissed Lauren Winfield for just eight, but Beth Mooney scored 76 from 50 balls to be the spine of the Diamonds innings.  When the useful Thea Brookes went for only one and Delissa Kimmince two, Loughborough must have thought they were going to restrict the Diamonds to a low total.  In the end they managed 148, which was good, but should not have been beyond the Lightning.

In response the openers started well, but Loughborough really needed Sophie Devine to continue in her fine vein of form.  She was out for 22, and while Rachael Haynes battled on to 47 from 38 balls, those around her began to fall as they dropped behind the rate.

Ellyse Villani bashed 26 from 23, but after she departed the innings slowed and the Lightning were unable to get over the line.

Western Storm 158/5 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 160/5 (19.4 overs)
Stars won by 5 wickets with 2 balls remaining

It was so close.  For once Smriti Mandhana, in her last match for the Storm after being recalled by India to attend a training camp, did not fire, making only five before she was run out.

Rachel Priest scored 30, but it was up to captain Heather Knight to hold it together which she did, scoring 62 off 47 balls before she too was run out.  Fran Wilson contributed 28, but the innings somewhat subsided to the end as the Storm posted a fair 158.

What could Surrey Stars do?  They needed to win to get through to Finals Day.  They couldn’t rely on the Vipers beating Lancashire Thunder.

They started well.  The openers took it on and Lizelle Lee, who has been improving with every match this tournament, scored 48 from 28 balls as the opening stand with Bryony Smith totalled 90.  Lee was the first to go, and when Sarah Taylor went for one just two balls later, the Stars appeared to be faltering.

But 30 from Nat Sciver and 25 from Dane van Niekerk saw them keep up with the required rate and into the 19th over.  It was then up to Sophia Dunkley and Marizanne Kapp to get them over the line, which they did with two balls to spare.

Finals Day is on Monday 27 August and to my eternal shame I will not be around to see it.  It will be televised live on Sky, but if you are in the Hove area can I encourage you to get down to what will be a fabulous day of cricket, ridiculously underpriced at just £5 for adults and £1 for children.

The semi-final, between Western Storm and Surrey Stars starts at midday with the winners playing Loughborough Lightning in the final at 4pm.

Also happening on Bank Holiday Monday (27 August) and thanks to Richard Clark for the information:

The women’s One-Day Cup Div 3 promotion play-offs
Suffolk v Essex* (Long Melford CC)
Oxfordshire v Durham (Bicester & North Oxford CC)
Worcestershire v Cornwall (New Road, Worcester)
*Essex are seeking to avoid demotion from Div 2, rather than gain promotion from Div 3.

Richard tells me that it’s free admission at New Road for the Worcestershire game and that the County have been very supportive of the women’s team and of this game in particular, staging it at the County ground at New Road and giving it great publicity.

Thanks for that Richard, and good luck to all those taking part.

Golf

With one round of the Canadian Women’s Open completed, the lead is shared by three golfers; Aryia Jutanugarn of Thailand, Mariajo Uribe of Colombia and Nasa Hataoka of Japan on -8.

Of the British players, Georgia Hall and Charley Hull are both on -4, Bronte Law is -3, Mel Reid -2, Jodie Ewart Shadoff and Gemma Dryburgh on -1 and Catriona Matthew is level.

Gymnastics

Is anyone surprised?  Simon Biles this week became the first woman to win five US Women’s Gymnastics Championships all-round titles.

She scored 119.850, 6.55 points ahead of Morgan Hurd.

She also used the opportunity to show her support for survivors of sexual abuse, wearing a teal leotard – the colour associated with surviving sexual abuse.

Biles has only been back into training and competition for nine months after she announced she was going to take a break from the sport in 2016.

Athletics

There were some fine performances from Team GB’s women at the Birmingham Grand Prix last weekend.

Dina Asher-Smith finished second in the 200m, with Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas in first place.  Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands finished third.

Laura Muir won the 1,000m.  She was aiming to take Dame Kelly Holmes’ British record, but finished outside it by just over a second.  Fellow Briton Adelle Tracey was third.

Meghan Beesley finished third in the 400m hurdles with Eilidh Doyle in fourth.  Lea Sprunger of Switzerland was the winner with Janieve Russell of Jamaica in second.

Shara Proctor also finished third in the long jump.  Malaika Mihambo of Germany took first place and Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia was second.

Football

Under 20s World Cup

England’s Young Lionesses failed in their bid to make it to the Under 20s World Cup final.  They fell 2-0 to an excellent Japanese side.

To be honest, I thought England had a real chance they way they had been playing, until I saw Japan absolutely demolish Germany in their quarter-final.

 Quarter-finals

Spain 2-1 Nigeria

Aitana Bonmati scored after 13 minutes for Spain.  Patricia Guijarro got a second in first-half injury time.  Peace Ewomazino Efih got one back just before the hour mark, but it was only to be a consolation.

France 1-0 North Korea

The only goal of the game came just on the half-hour through a penalty, scored by Amelie Delabre.

England 2-1 Netherlands

This was a good performance by England, marred only, I feel by Georgia Stanway’s obsession with getting a hat-trick, which meant she was a bit too greedy in possession.  Mind you, one person’s greed is another’s single-mindedness.

The Netherlands actually took the lead in the twelfth minute through Victoria Pelova.  But Stanway struck on 20 and 23 to give England the lead.

The second-half was largely a tense England defensive display.

Germany 1-3 Japan

Three goals in 14 minutes put an end to any hope for Germany.  In truth, they had been lucky to get into the second-half without conceding.

The technical ability of the Japanese was a joy to watch; they completed 538 passes in the match compared to Germany’s 429.

Japan took the lead in the 59th minute through Jun Endo.  Ten minutes later they were two-up through Riko Ueki and the third was scored on 73 minutes by Saori Takarada.

Germany pulled one back on 82 minutes through Janina Minge, but there was no doubt as to the winner of this one.

Semi-finals

England 0-2 Japan

It was not to be for England as they were outclassed by Japan, whose passing, awareness and technical ability were again a joy to behold.

England should not be downhearted though as I think they would have proved a match for any other team in that tournament.  From a selfish point of view, it’s a pity they couldn’t have met in the final, rather than the semi.

The dynamic duo of Riko Ueki and Jun Endo bagged another goal each and while England tried hard to the very end, Japan were comfortable.

France 0-1 Spain

The hosts have been largely underwhelming in this tournament and succumbed rather limply to a single goal from Spain, who played the last 20 minutes with 20 players after Bonmati was sent off.

Patricia Guijarro scored the only goal of the game on 51 minutes, but the saddest sight was that of Bonmati who practically had to be carried off the pitch in floods of tears after she was dismissed.  She will miss the final.

France play England on Friday 24 August at 3pm UK time, in everyone’s least favourite match – the third place play off.  If England can get themselves up for it, and if I’m not cursing them, they should win this match and bring home a bronze medal.

The final, between Spain and Japan (Japan to win barring a major upset) is also on Friday 24 at 6.30pm UK time.

TV coverage via Eurosport.

Continental Tyres Cup

There is a new Conti Cup format in place this season.  We start with a group stage of 22 teams in four groups – two North, two South.  If a group match ends in a draw it goes to straight to penalties and the team winning the shootout is awarded two points and the loser one point.  The top two finishers in each group go through to the next stage.

The first round of matches was last weekend:

Results North
Group One

Birmingham City 0-0 Manchester City (Man City won on penalties)
Leicester City 2-2 Bristol City (Leicester won on penalties)
Aston Villa 1-2 Sheffield United

Group Two

Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United
Reading (yes, in the North) 4-1 Durham Women

Results South
Group One

Chelsea 3-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
London Bees 1-1 Yeovil Town (London Bees won on penalties)
Crystal Palace 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Crystal Palace won on penalties)

Group Two

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham
Lewes FC 5-0 Charlton Athletic

The next round of fixtures is this weekend.  See here for details.

The FA

Whilst trying to hide the sarcasm in my thoughts and feelings on this matter, the FA has announced it now has a new website for the WSL and Championship.

It also has the news on the FA Cup and Conti Cup.

Check it out: https://womenscompetitions.thefa.com/

Rugby Union

Australia 11-31 New Zealand

The Black Ferns took a one-nil lead in the two test series at the weekend.

They took the lead through Kendra Cocksedge in the eleventh minute.

The Wallaroos were awarded a penalty soon afterwards which was converted by prop Emily Robinson.

New Zealand’s captain Fiao’o Faamausili then got her first try of the afternoon.  Australian number eight Grace Hamilton was then sin-binned.

Just on half-time the Black Ferns scored again through Aldora Itunu and went into the break 19-3 up.

Into the second-half Australia started well and Robinson put over another penalty to make it 19-6.

But then Fa’amausili kicked into gear and scored two tries from driving lineouts.

Australia didn’t give up, though, and bagged a consolation try through Alisha Hewett.

The second game is at Eden Park this weekend.

Netball

World Cup Regional Qualifers – Africas

Uganda and Zimbabwe have qualified for the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, this is alongside Malawi who qualify by right due to their world ranking.

World Cup Regional Qualifers – The Americas

This next qualifying tournament is for the Americas and takes place from 24 August to 2 September in Barbados.  Eight teams are vying for two spots: Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago are favourites due to their current world rankings, but it will be up to the others, Argentina, St Vincent & the Grenadines, USA, Grenada, St Maarten and Canada, to cause an upset.

To follow the tournament while I’m away check out https://www.nwc2019.co.uk/the-americas-teams-go-head-to-head-for-a-place-at-next-years-world-cup/.

Tennis

Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Masters title went to Kiki Bertens at the weekend as she defeated world number one Simona Halep in the final 2-6 7-6 6-2.

Halep took the first set comfortably in just half an hour, but in the second Bertens was 4-1 up before Halep came back to level at 4-4.  The set went to a tie-break and Halep had a championship point before Bertens took it 8-6.

Bertens again went 4-1 up in the third set but this time Halep could not bring it back, taking only one more game before Bertens sealed the match.

Halep has since withdrawn from the New Haven tournament which serves as the warm-up to the US Open.

Connecticut Open, New Haven

There have been several withdrawals from the tournament – the last before the US Open begins on 27 August.  As well as Simona Halep, Cincinnati winner Kiki Bertens has also withdrawn, as has top Briton Jo Konta, who has a virus and could be a doubt for the US Open.

Forbes Women’s Sports Rich List

Talking of tennis, eight out of ten of the highest earning female athletes are tennis players.  Serena Williams is top and the only two who are not from tennis are badminton player PV Sindhu and racing car driver Danica Patrick.

From June 2017 – June 2018 the top 10 earned $105m (£81.4m) which is DOWN 4% from last year and a whopping 28% down from five years ago.

  1. Serena Williams (tennis) – $18.1m (£14m)
  2. Caroline Wozniacki (tennis) – $13m (£10.1m)
  3. Sloane Stephens (tennis) – $11.2m (£8.7m)
  4. Garbine Muguruza (tennis) – $11m (£8.5m)
  5. Maria Sharapova (tennis) – $10.5m (£8.1m)
  6. Venus Williams (tennis) – $10.2m (£7.9m)
  7. PV Sindhu (badminton) – $8.5m (£6.6m)
  8. Simona Halep (tennis) – $7.7m (£6m)
  9. Danica Patrick (race car driving) – $7.5m (£5.8m)
  10. Angelique Kerber (tennis) – $7m (£5.4m)

Hockey

New Zealand women’s sport governance appears to be in some kind of crisis at the moment.  Hockey is the latest sport to initiate an independent review of the culture surrounding the national team.

The review has been ordered by Hockey NZ and the Hockey Players Association after a number of former and current players gave feedback about the team culture under coach Mark Hager, who has been in post since 2009.

In a statement to organisers said,

“We have agreed a plan to address the feedback, which involves an independent person to look into the feedback and gather more information if appropriate.

“There is absolutely no question that athlete welfare is paramount. At the same time, we must consider and protect the rights of employees.”

The situation came to a head after Hager mistakenly sent an email “to all” rather than to the person he meant to send it to, probably one of the coaches, during the Hockey World Cup.  It was an email that was deeply critical of the fitness and abilities of some players and everyone could read it.

Hager has apologised for the mistake, but it has encouraged players to speak out about the alleged “culture of fear” surrounding the team.

This latest problem comes hot on the heels of similar issues in football, cycling and rowing.

And finally,

As I have already said, I’m off on holiday next week.  I’ll be in Italy, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going to see Lazio any time soon.  The Lazio Ultras have issued a flyer suggesting that women should be banned from the first ten rows of the Curva Nord stand in the Olympic Stadium in Rome.  Apparently it’s a “sacred place”, whatever that means.  If it means that it’s a place where violence, anti-Semitism and racism are rife, I’m not sure why any woman would want to be there anyway……

More news and views in a couple of weeks. 

England win a thrilling World Cup Final – and I was there!

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What a day!  I know thousands of words have already been published on the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final which, in itself, is a miracle, but it won’t stop me adding my few hundred.  But if you’re looking for a straight up-and-down account of the match you will be out of luck.  My little Joe Friday voice keeps saying “just the facts ma’am, just the facts”, but if I stuck the facts it would only be half the story.  So, read on for my account of one of the best days of my sporting life.

The day dawned bright and clear.  Actually it was largely mucky and grey and the threat of prolonged rain was a real one.  I did wonder whether I was about to make it four from four washouts (see previous blog entries), but someone somewhere was obviously not going to let that happen and we got through relatively unscathed.

Top marks for the organisation skills of Lord’s – I suppose they have been doing it for a while (!), but although there were queues the staff and cricketeers were helpful, polite and largely smiling.  The queues moved at a pace and everything seemed to go like clockwork.  Not like Edgbaston, I might add, which seemed understaffed and underprepared in comparison.

Anyway, we were in and seated before the toss.  And that’s when it got a little bit much for me.  Either I had multiple pieces of grit in my eye or I found myself crying.  The crowds of people, the atmosphere, the very occasion just got to me.  I should have realised what sort of crowd it was going to be with the size of the cheer greeting Heather Knight winning the toss!

My occasional tear developed into full-blown sobbing when Eileen Ash (Whelan) was revealed as the ringer of the five-minute bell.  This small, wiry 105-year-old woman stood there with composure and grace as her list of achievements was read out and the sense of history being made was palpable throughout the ground.

And then to business.

I thought it was vital that Heather won the toss and that England batted.  England are, generally, not good at chasing.  I thought the batters would settle the side down, calm heads and all that.  But it was not to be.  In truth the batting performance was not good.  After Winfield and Beaumont were out there were a series of poor shot selections as England proceeded to lose wickets regularly.  Jhulan Goswami was pounding in with purpose and venom, scaring the life out of me and I was not 22 yards away.

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Nat Sciver was the pick of the batters, with a good 51.  Sarah Taylor probably deserved more – my but she looks fabulous when she strokes that ball!  But it was only a late flourish from former opener Laura Marsh and Jenny Gunn that saw them reach a half-decent total.  Even then I thought they were 30 or so light.

The wonderful Goswami took 3/23 off her 10 overs and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

At the break I ventured out to answer a call of nature (as you do).  The queue for the ladies’ was beyond imagining.  I tweeted that I would have taken a photo of the queue but would have needed a panoramic lens!  The facilities at Lord’s are good, but I don’t suppose they’d ever seen this many women at one game before.  Still, the atmosphere was good-natured – I feel sometimes I may be overstating it – but it really seemed that everyone was aware they were part of something special.

Then it was time for tears again as Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s son, Ben, rang the bell for the second innings.  There were nerves aplenty, at least in our stand, as the Indian innings began.

These lessened somewhat as England made the perfect start when Smriti Mandhana was lbw to Anya Shrubsole for a duck.  But Raut and Raj rallied beautifully until the captain was run out unnecessarily for 17.  In came Harmanpreet Kaur.  Could she repeat her performance of the semi-final?  For a while it seemed she could as she hit three fours and two sixes (there wasn’t a six in the whole of the England innings), but all at once she tried one big shot too many as she swept Alex Hartley and was caught by Tammy Beaumont on the boundary.  A big wicket.   Shall I say it again – a big wicket.

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But we all knew there was more to come with Raut still playing beautifully, now joined by Krishnamurthy.  India were always just behind the rate, but never out of the game.

When Raut went there were murmurs around the ground as England fans dared to hope.  Then three more wickets went in quick succession.  The last of these was Goswami and with Deepti Sharma the only recognised bat left England sniffed victory.  Pandey was then run out.  England needed two wickets but India only needed 11 off 12 balls to win.

Enter Anya Shrubsole bowling the penultimate over.  Ball one and Sharma has gone, caught beautifully by Sciver.  Five wickets to Shrubsole.

But it’s not over.  Ball three, Poonam Yadav spoons it straight to Jenny Gunn at mid-off.  The crowd is on its feet roaring with delight (and relief) and Gunn – drops it!

But it’s not over.  Ball four and Shrubsole steams in.  Gayakwad is bowled.  Full and straight and the tail-ender plays down the wrong line.

Now it’s over.

And, to coin a phrase, the crowd goes wild.

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All the way through it had been India’s to lose – what a game they played.  And at the last minute Anya Shrubsole had taken it from them.  A great match and a fitting finale to a fine tournament.  As I said at the beginning, many words have already been written – some going into ridiculous hyperbole.  Will this tournament change the face, the perception, of women’s cricket?  I don’t know.  But if that crowd, the TV and radio audience are anything to go by, it will.   Already we now know that there will be new honours boards for women at Lord’s.  What else is to come?

0 out of 10 for the MCC Members, by the way, who couldn’t be bothered to turn out – so startlingly obvious in a full ground.  Where were you “chaps”?

We stayed for quite a while afterwards to watch the celebrations and to see the team greet friends and family in the stands.  The joy is something I will never forget.

And finally, many congratulations to England’s Lacrosse team who won a brilliant bronze medal at the Lacrosse World Cup at the weekend, beating Australia in overtime through a golden goal from Megan Whittle.

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 May 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week including tennis, the unfathomable workings of FIFA, cricket, football, Ice hockey, the Women’s Sports Trust “Be a Game Changer” Awards and netball.  Plus a link to an excellent piece about women (or the lack of) in F1 and an “And Finally” which can be put in the category of “Am I surprised”….

So let’s crack on.

Tennis

Madrid Open

British number one, Johanna Konta lost in the first round of the Madrid Open this week.  She was beaten by in-form German Laura Siegemund, 3-6 7-6 6-4.

She was 3-0 up in the third set but Siegemund then took five games in a row to take control, and, eventually, the match.

Bouchard v Sharapova

For many the match they were waiting for came in the second round.  Eugenie Bouchard’s much publicised comment about Maria Sharapova being a “cheater” may as well have been posted in large letters above the court when this match took place.

Afterwards Bouchard said she was “motivated” to play well.

The match took three hours and Bouchard was finally triumphant 7-5 2-6 6-4.

Bouchard v Kerber

The third round match-up between Bouchard and Kerber looked to be even more mouth-watering, but the anticipated battle was not to be.  Kerber was suffering with an injury, later to be revealed as a thigh strain and the match ended with Kerber withdrawing at 6-3 5-0 down.

The quarter-final line-up is as follows:

CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) v Simona Halep (Rou) [3]

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN ) v Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) [8]

Kiki Bertens (NED) v Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) [14] v Sorana Cirstea (ROU)

Netball

Loughborough Lightning have managed to dispel my commentator’s curse to become the first side to qualify for the “Final Four” event on 10-11 June in Manchester.  Lightning won again at the weekend and as Wasps lost surprisingly to Team Bath, the gap is now six points at the top of the table.  Lightning are top with 39, Wasps in second 33, Thunder in third also with 33 and Surrey Storm currently lie fourth with 24.  There are still places up for grabs with four rounds to go.

Round 14 results

Friday 5 May

Team Northumbria 60-48 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 6 May

Hertfordshire Mavericks 47-60 Sirens

Surrey Storm 52-59 Loughborough Lightning

Severn Stars 42-63 Manchester Thunder

Monday 8 May

Team Bath 55-53 Wasps Netball

Round 15 sees all the teams playing on Monday 15 May with the live game on Sky being the league leaders, Loughborough Lightning against Hertfordshire Mavericks with coverage starting at 7.30pm.

Round 15 fixtures:

Team Northumbria v Team Bath

Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm

Sirens v Severn Stars

Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball

Loughborough Lightning v Hertfordshire Mavericks

Cricket

Quadrangular Series

There is a quadrangular series going on in South Africa as a warm-up for the World Cup, which takes place in June-July.  The teams involved are the hosts, South Africa, India, Zimbabwe and Ireland.

India have been the standout team so far having won all of their three games.  In doing so Indian fast bowler Jhulan Goswami became the highest wicket taker in women’s ODIs with 181.

Here are the results so far:

7 May

Zimbabwe 78 all out (26.5 overs)
South Africa 79/2 (11.4 overs0
South Africa won by 8 wickets

Ireland 96 all out (44.4 overs)
India 99/0 (18.4 overs)
India won by 10 wickets

9 May

South Africa 119 all out (39.3 overs)
India 121/3 (41.2 overs)
India won by 7 wickets

Ireland 209 all out (46.1 overs)
Zimbabwe 211/4 (47 overs)
Zimbabwe won by 6 wickets

11 May

South Africa 337/5 (50 overs)
Ireland 159/8 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 178 runs

Zimbabwe 93 all out (38.4 overs)
India 94/1 (18.3 overs)
India won by 9 wickets

Women’s Sports Trust #Be a Game Changer Awards

The awards were held on 11 May and the winners were:

Dame Sarah Storey  (Sporting Role Model – individual)
GB Hockey – (Sporting Role Model -team)
Kelly Simmons (Ambassador of Women’s Sport)
Vitality (Sponsor Partnership of the Year)
British Triathlon (NGB of the Year)
1000 Londoners (Imagery of the Year)
Hannah Bailey (Photographer/filmmaker of the Year)
This Mum Runs (Inspiring Initiative – local)
Youth Sport Trust – Girls Active (Inspiring Initiative – national)
Red Roses (Media Initiative)
Eleanor Oldroyd (Media Individual)
Jointly Kate Richardson-Walsh and Charlotte Edwards (Outstanding Contribution to women’s sport)

North American Sport

This story has been doing the rounds widely this week, but is another example of how women are short-changed in sport, not only as athletes or journalists, administrators or officials, but also as fans.

The Edmonton Oilers ice hockey team are through to the Stanley Cup playoffs.  In their wisdom they have, in deference to their male supporters, changed two women’s bathrooms into men’s to ensure that men don’t have to wait in a queue any longer than is absolutely necessary.

The women, of course, who apparently now have to wait up to half an hour to “go” don’t count.

Probably every woman I know will have a “standing in a toilet queue” tale of woe.  They will by no means be all related to sport, but certainly any woman who has read the story this week will be neither surprised nor impressed.

The club has said that significantly more men than women are attending the playoffs, but have yet to provide any factual evidence of this.

Meanwhile, the Oilers’ female fans will either have to cross their legs or miss the action.

Football

Off the Pitch

Scotland head coach Anna Signeul has been appointed to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) advisory panel.

The IFAB comprises representatives of the four British football associations, which have one vote each and FIFA, which has four votes.

The Advisory panel consists of coaches, managers, referees and former players from all over the world and acts as the decision-making body for the Laws of the Game.

FIFA

It never ceases to amaze me just how totally ridiculous a governing body FIFA is.  I know I’m not alone in this view, but it bears repeating.  And this tends to extend to the member confederations too.

This week the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had to elect a member to the FIFA Council seat reserved for a woman.  They had an outstanding, and I mean outstanding, candidate in Australian Moya Dodd.  So Dodd was elected?  Not a hope.

Let’s just take a moment to consider Moya Dodd.  She chaired the FIFA Women’s Football Taskforce, she has constantly and consistently championed women’s football -its development and its potential for investment and sponsorship.  She has over thirty years of experience as a former player, in law and in business.  She was co-opted on to the Executive Committee of FIFA in 2013.

The AFC Congress voted 27-17 to elect the head of the Bangladesh Football Federation Women’s Committee, Mahfuza Akhter Kiron.

There are six posts for women in the 37-strong council.  These women need to be knowledgeable, confident and able to contribute.  Let’s face it; they probably need to be much more of all of these things than the men – just to get heard.

Kiron is little-known outside Bangladesh and was unable to name the women’s World Cup champions when asked at an interview.  In February she apparently barred the Bangladesh women’s team from speaking to the media because they were publishing negative stories.  In response Bangladeshi journalists boycotted a press conference held to publicise the team’s participation in a tournament in Singapore, refusing to cover the story if Kiron was there.

There has been much comment about the appointment in the press with current and former players, administrators and football journalists all decrying the decision.

Obviously we will have to see what happens during Kiron’s tenure, and she shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but if I were Moya Dodd I would be wondering how on earth I had missed out.

Lionesses

The England women’s team will play Denmark in their final warm up match before the Euros.  They will play at the Gladsaxe Stadium in Copenhagen on Saturday 1 July, kicking off at 6pm BST.

On the Pitch

Women’s Under 17s Euros

The Women’s Under 17s Euros have been taking place in the Czech Republic over the last fortnight.

The semi-finals were played on 11 May:

Netherlands 0-2 Spain
Germany 1-1 Norway
Germany win 3-2 on penalties)

The final between Spain and Germany, the fourth such match-up in ten tournaments, will be on 14 May.

England had a mixed time of it, winning their first group game 5-0 against the Republic of Ireland, but losing the other two to the Netherlands (1-2) and Norway (0-2).

Spring Series

Liverpool Ladies are the early leaders in the Spring Series with three wins from four.  They are top by three points on 10 with current Super League champions Manchester City lying second on seven points from three matches.  Chelsea are third after playing only two games with six points.  Yeovil are bottom having yet to score a point from four matches.

At the risk of losing readers, I’d also like to point you in the direction of the WSL website, which is excellent.  They sometimes miss out a few details, but there’s always a report of each match published in good time.  Check it out: fawsl.com

Saturday 6 May

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Bristol City Women

Sunderland claimed their first win of the Series on Saturday.  After a tight first-half there was little to choose between the teams.

In the second-half there were long-distance shots from both sides, but the game was settled 14 minutes from time when Hayley Ladd committed a foul tackle in the box and Lucy Staniforth stepped up to score the resultant penalty.

Sunday 7 May

Birmingham City Ladies 0-2 Liverpool Ladies

Not the ideal confidence booster ahead of Birmingham’s FA Cup Final appearance this Saturday as they sank to a home defeat against early league pace-setters, Liverpool Ladies.

Ex Lady-Pie Jess Clarke was on target for the visitors in the 48th minute as Alex Greenwood crossed for her to head past Ann-Katrin Berger to give Liverpool the lead.

The win was sealed nine minutes from time when Gemma Bonner fired home from close range.

Reading FC Women 2-3 Manchester City Women

Reading thought they had the WSL1 champions beaten at Adams Park on Sunday, but they reckoned without the tenacity that won City the title last year

The visitors took the lead through Nikita Parris after just six minutes and this lead lasted until the 59th minute when Jade Moore equalised with a 20-yard shot that flew into the top corner.

The home side went ahead in the 74th minute with a penalty from Lauren Bruton, but the lead lasted just two minutes before Parris grabbed her second from a Megan Campbell long throw.  Campbell is fast becoming famous (or infamous) for this throw and she was in the action again two minutes later as she fired over another for Jill Scott to latch on to and put away to claim the points.

Yeovil Town Ladies 1-5 Arsenal Ladies FC

Yeovil took a hammering against Arsenal as the Gunners claimed their first win of the Spring Series.

The away side took the lead in the seventh minute with a penalty from Jodie Taylor after the ball was handled in the box.

Two minutes later the lead was doubled as Yeovil defender Molly Clark put the ball into her own net.

On 24 minutes Taylor grabbed her second and on 31 the on-form Danielle Carter got Arsenal’s fourth on and the game was effectively over.

Lucy Quinn pulled one back for the Lady Glovers just before half-time, but they went in 1-4 down.

In the second-half Heather O’Reilly scored a penalty for Arsenal to take the score to 1-5.

Tuesday 9 May

Bristol City Women 0-3 Manchester City Women

Toni Duggan completed an impressive 18-minute hat-trick to see Manchester City take their second away win in a week.

She got her first two minutes before half-time, from a Nikita Parris cross.

In the second-half she scored on 51 and 57 minutes, the first from the penalty spot and the second after being put through by Parris again.

FA Cup Final

It’s the FA Cup Final this weekend between Birmingham City Ladies and Manchester City Women.  The BBC is showing it live on BBC2 and the BBC website with updates on Radio 5 Live.  Kick-off is 5.15pm.  Should be a good one, if the Spring Series game last week is anything to go by.

Formula 1

I picked up on a rather good piece about the barriers to women in formula One.  Here’s the link if you’d like to read it for yourself: sidepodcast.com

And finally

Here’s a funny little anecdote that may, or may not, have you raising an eyebrow.  Apparently, former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has said he is “not comfortable” being interviewed by a female reporter – not a particular one, you understand, just women in general.

This all came out before the launch of his boxing academy in Dubai and was revealed by a spokesperson for the Dubai agency that represents him.  It was told to Arabian Business which was planning to interview him about the launch.  They were told that if they sent a female reporter the interview would be cancelled.

Since the revelation, both the agency and Tyson himself have tried to deflect interest in the “story” and have refused all further requests for comment.

I wasn’t there to hear either side, but sadly it’s all too easy to believe.  Just because we don’t hear this every day, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still happen.  And while it does, women sports reporters will always be in the shadow of their male colleagues – commissioning editors will always have to consider who they are going to send to a story not just because of their capabilities, but also possibly because of their gender.