Women’s Sports Column 12-18 May 2018

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty again to get into this week.  Sorry I missed doing a full report on the FA Cup final as it was a great match – so just a quick review.  Stories this week come from tennis, football, rugby league, hockey, cricket, netball, sports administration and rugby union.  Plus, this week’s “And Finally” is a positive news story about a brilliant new campaign launched by Women in Football. 

So let’s crack on.

Hockey

It’s the Women’s EuroHockey Club Cup in Surbiton over the next four days.  Play is already underway.  English hopes lie with Surbiton, the current Investec Premier League champions, while the Republic of Ireland is represented by UCD Ladies.

So far the results have been:

17 May

    • Mannheim (GER) 0-1 Hamburg (GER)
    • AH & BC Amsterdam (NED) 8-0 UCD Ladies (IRL)
    • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) 5-0 Victorya Smolevichi (BLR)
    • Club Campo de Madrid (ESP) 2-0 Surbiton (ENG)

We then go into a series of fixtures as follows:

18 May

    • UCD Ladies (Loser M2) v Mannheim (Loser M1)
    • Victorya Smolevichi (Loser M3) v Surbiton (Loser M4)

19 May

    • AH & BC Amsterdam (Winner M2) v Hamburg (Winner M1)
    • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Winner M3) v Club Campo de Madrid (Winner M4)

20 May

    • Loser M5 v Loser M6 (7th/8th place)
    • Winner M5 v Winner M6 (5th/6th place)
    • Loser SF1 v Loser SF2 (3rd/4th place)
    • Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (Final!)

Football – on the Pitch

Both FAWSL titles have been decided.  Chelsea secured the WSL 1 title on Tuesday, while Doncaster Rovers Belles were crowned champions on Sunday.

WSL1 Results

Saturday 12 May
Yeovil Town 0-2 Bristol City
Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City
Reading FC 3-0 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland AFC

Sunday 13 May
Everton 0-3 Birmingham City

Tuesday 15 May
Bristol City 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea secured the WSL1 title, and league and Cup double on Tuesday with a fine away win at Bristol City.  Drew Spence opened the scoring on 10 minutes and they maintained this one-goal lead until the 88th minute when Jonna Andersson sealed it with the second.  Their final game of the season is away at Liverpool on Sunday, when all games kick off at 12.30pm.

Wednesday 16 May
Manchester City 5-0 Yeovil Town
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Arsenal

WSL2 Results

Saturday 12 May
London Bees 0-0 Sheffield FC

Sunday 13 May
Durham 4-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Oxford United 1-2 Watford
Millwall Lionesses 0-1 Doncaster Rovers Belles

The Belles had already sealed their championship win on Wednesday with a 2-1 win at Sheffield FC.  On Sunday they won again against the Lionesses with a Jade Pennock deflected shot.  Doncaster will not be promoted, however, as they applied to be in the new Women’s Championship (replacing WSL2) next season.  Their last game of the season is on Sunday 20 May when they are at home to Oxford United.  All games kick off at 2pm.

Wednesday 16 May
Watford 0-5 Sheffield FC

FA Cup Final
Arsenal 1-3 Chelsea

I was sorry to miss out on reporting more fully on the FA Cup final, which took place on 5 May, particularly as it was a cracking, competitive match and a record crowd of 45,423 saw a great advertisement for women’s football.

What a game for Ramona Bachmann, who has so often flattered to deceive for Chelsea.  After a quiet, even first half, the game needed a spark.  Enter Bachmann who scored twice to completely change the complexion of the game and take it away from Arsenal.

Disappointingly, some of Arsenal’s big names, including a particularly subdued Jordan Nobbs, just couldn’t up the tempo when needed.

Two great strikes by Bachmann were the difference. She scored on 48 and 60, ripping the heart out of Arsenal.  Vivianne Miedema pulled one back for the Gunners on 73, but the resurgence was short-lived.  Just three minutes later Fran Kirby got into the action, slotting home a fine shot to make it 3-1.

Football – off the pitch

Chelsea captain Katie Chapman has announced that she will retire from playing at the end of this season at the age of 35.

In a distinguished career, Chapman won 94 England caps, taking part in two World Cups and three European Championships.

Domestically, she played for Millwall, Fulham, Charlton, Arsenal and Chelsea, winning 10 FA Cups in total.

Since joining Chelsea in 2014, she has won the FA Cup/league double in 2015, the WSL Spring Series in 2017 and the 2018 FA Cup.

She will now take up an ambassadorial role with Chelsea.

Cricket

Exciting news from women’s cricket this week.  There will be a women’s T20 exhibition match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai before the first IPL Qualifier on Tuesday May 22.

It will be broadcast live around the world and also live on Sky Cricket from 9.20am.  Make no mistake, this is a big thing for women’s cricket in India and it could pave the way for a future women’s IPL.

Many of the superstars of the women’s game will be playing:

IPL Trailblazers: Smirti Mandhana (c) Alyssa Healy (wk), Suzie Bates, Deepti Sharma, Beth Mooney, Jemima Rodrigues, Danielle Hazell, Shikha Pandey, Lea Tahuhu, Jhulan Goswami, Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, Dayalan Hemalatha.

IPL Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Danielle Wyatt, Mithali Raj, Meg Lanning, Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Veda Krishnamurthy, Mona Meshram, Pooja Vastrakar, Megan Schutt, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Anjuja Patil.

Wow – should be quite an event and I hope it gets the crowd and the coverage it deserves.

Tennis – Off the Court

Alize Cornet was facing a ban for missing three drugs tests in a year, but an independent tribunal has found that the doping control officer did not take “reasonable steps” to locate her for the third test.

The first test (3 November 2016) was missed as she left early for a flight to a competition, the second (26 July 2017) because again she had already set off for competition in the United States.

At the time of the third attempt (24 October 2017), Cornet says she was in her apartment but her intercom was broken.  She did not receive a phone call or any other attempt to contact her to conduct the test.

The tribunal accepted this as “frank and compelling” evidence.  Cornet also had two completed tests in that time, in March and October 2017.

Tennis – On the Court

Korea Open

British wheelchair tennis player Lucy Shuker won the Korea Open singles title this week.  She beat her doubles partner, Giulia Capolcci of Italy, in the final, 6-2 3-6 6-3.

As a pairing they also won the doubles title.

Shuker will go into the Japan Open next week, full of confidence.  The Japan event is part of the Super Series which is the next level down from the Grand Slams.

Madrid Open

Petra Kvitova won a tight Madrid Open final, beating Kiki Bertens 6-6 4-6 6-3.  It was an epic final, lasting just under three hours.

Italian Open

Kvitova then pulled out of the Italian Open, taking place this week.   Also missing is Serena Williams, who pulled out of both Madrid and Italy, instead concentrating on a return at the French Open, which begins on 27 May.  Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has said that she “came back too early” after the birth of her first child, but is confident that she will be back, “Serena can achieve anything,” he said in an interview with the WTA website.

Johanna Konta was due to play Kvitova in the first round, but instead took on Magdalena Rybarikova, winning 6-4 6-3.

In the second round she faced Hsieh Su-wei, winning 6-0 6-4, but she fell in the third against current French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko in three sets, 2-6 6-3 6-4.  She started so well and confidently, while Ostapenko could not find her form at all and seemed to be struggling with the conditions.  Konta was 4-1 up after just 17 minutes.  But in the second set the tables were turned and Konta quickly lost the confidence she had shown in the first.  Ostapenko took her chances, taking the match with her first match point in the third set.

We are now at the quarter-final stages:

Angelique Kerber (11) v Elina Svitolina (4)
Maria Sharapova v Jelena Ostapenko (5)
Anett Kontaveit v Caroline Wozniacki (2)
Simona Halep (1) v Caroline Garcia (7)

Meanwhile at the same tournament Karoline Pliskova lost her temper with a vengeance, attacking the umpire’s chair with her racquet after she was beaten by Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

She had a smash called out when serving at 30 all, five games all in the third set.  Television replays showed it to be in, but on clay the reviews are done by physical marks (I’ve never quite understood that) and as there was no mark to be seen, the call stood.

At the end of the match Pliskova repeatedly hit the chair with her racquet frame.  She now, needless to say, faces a fine.

Rugby Union – Canada Sevens

New Zealand retained their Canada Sevens title in Langford on Sunday, defeating Australia in the final, 46-0.

Portia Woodman scored the first try, followed quickly by one for Ruby Tui.  Kelly Brazier scored a third after Australia had conceded a penalty and the Black Ferns took a quick tap.

They still had time to score again before half-time as Woodman went in for a second and it was 22-0 at the break.

It was no better for Australia in the second-half.  Niall Williams went in twice and then captain Sarah Goss barrelled over for a seventh.

Brazier went in for her second and New Zealand’s eighth to leave Australia stunned and well beaten.

Other Placings

USA claimed bronze with a 21-5 win over France and Canada finished fifth, beating Ireland 29-12.

The Challenge Trophy went to Japan as they beat Spain 26-21.

Pool Results

Pool A: Fiji 24-14 England; New Zealand 51-0 Brazil; Fiji 47-14 Brazil; New Zealand 22-0 England; England 31-17 Brazil; New Zealand 12-7 Fiji

Pool B: Russia 14-35 United States; France 33-7 Japan; Russia 7-24 Japan; France 22-19 United States; United States 28-7 Japan; France 45-0 Russia

Pool C: Spain 0-7 Ireland; Australia 22-7 Canada; Spain 10-24 Canada; Australia 31-19 Ireland; Ireland 17-19 Canada; Australia 43-10 Spain

England finished seventh, equalling their best place of the series so far, beating Fiji 29-24.

The final round takes place in Paris on 8-10 June, with Wales competing by invitation.

Rugby League

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

Sunday 13 May
Featherstone Rovers 32-40 Castleford Tigers
Bradford Bulls 72-10 York City Knights
Wigan Warriors 16-6 St Helens

Castleford Tigers lead the table with seven points from four games.  St Helens lie second with six points from four games.  Leeds Rhinos are also on six points, but from three games – they are third on points difference.  York City and Featherstone are yet to take a point.

Netball

Round 12 of the Netball Super League was last weekend.  The results were:

Saturday 12 May
UWS Sirens 45-59 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 51-56 Team Bath
Team Northumbria 51-58 Manchester Thunder
Severn Stars 55-44 Benecos Mavericks

Monday 14 May
Celtic Dragons 38-66 Loughborough Lightning

This weekend’s Round 13 fixtures:

Friday 18 May
UWS Sirens v Loughborough Lightning (7pm)
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (7.45pm)

Saturday 19 May
Benecos Mavericks v Celtic Dragons (3pm)
Manchester Thunder v Severn Stars (5pm)

Monday 21 May
Team Bath v Team Northumbria (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Sports Administration – Sport England

Jennie Price will quit her position as Chief Executive of Sport England at the end of October.

She took over in 2007 in the heat of London’s 2012 Olympic bid.  Since she has been in post, the number of people playing sport regularly has gone up by 1.6 million.

Price was also instrumental in the formation of the This Girl Can campaign.   She was awarded a CBE in 2017 for services to sport.

And finally,

Use it, shout it, talk about it #Whatif is trending.  So what is #What if?

It’s the new campaign launched by the organisation Women in Football, at Twitter HQ in London on Wednesday.

It is aimed at everyone; football professionals, businesses and members of the public who are encouraged to pledge one way they could take action to contribute to helping improve things for women and girls in football.

There are already some high-profile names involved and the pledges already received should make a difference.  These include:

Sky Sports – #WhatIf Sky Sports committed to including female talent as studio pundits on Gillette Soccer Specials from the 2018/19 season onwards 

SPORF – #WhatIf @SPORF amplified the reach of women’s football by fully integrating coverage of the women’s game on online communities

Twitter – #WhatIf Women in Football had its own emojil on Twitter

Betfair – #WhatIf Betfair ring-fenced 50 per cent of their Cash4Clubs grassroots grants for women’s teams to help support their growth and sustainability

Forza Football – #WhatIf Forza Football made live score updates and results for women’s football games easily accessible across the world

Anyone can make a pledge, be it large or small, as an individual or corporately.  Check out the story: https://www.womeninfootball.co.uk/news/2018/05/16/whatif-we-changed-the-landscape-of-football-forever/

Or contact Leanne Dingle via leanne@womeninfootball.co.uk for more information.

There is a great will to improve the lot of women in all aspects of football.  Although I constantly despair at the comments made by those who obviously have nothing better to do, I do believe that women’s football is a good and improving product, worthy of investment by individuals and companies alike.  Let’s get behind this campaign – make your own pledge and keep #Whatif trending.

From my own point of view, I do what I can but #Whatif I can do more?  #What if I pledge to tweet more, cover more in depth and promote women’s football wherever I can.  Let’s do it.   

And, and finally,

Congratulations to Chelsea Manager, Emma Hayes, who this week gave birth to a baby boy.  Not content with a championship and FA Cup double, she is now a Mum!  Talk about multi-tasking…..

Sorry to be flaky, but there will be no column again next week, but I’ll be back in a fortnight with more news and views. 

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.

 

Women’s Sports Column 30 December 2017 – 5 January 2018

new tennisWelcome to the first Women’s Sports Column of the New Year and let me wish you all a happy, sport-filled 2018.

It’s the relative calm before the storm at the moment, but there is plenty to come this year.  Stories this week come from taekwondo, tennis, a shocking story from cycling, New Year’s Honours, cricket, football and winter sports.

I’m also happy to say this week’s TWO “And Finally(s)” are positive ones.

Let’s crack on and start with taekwondo (don’t get to say that very often, but it’s a big (and a great) story.

Taekwondo

Bianca Walkden may have missed out on any kind of recognition from the Great British Public at SPOTY, but she completed her stellar year by annihilating all-comers last week to win the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Series title for the +67kg category.

She beat An Saebom of South Korea 14-1 in the quarter-finals and then recorded an 11-0 golden point victory over Nafia Kus of Turkey in the semi-final.

In the final she faced Jackie Galloway of USA, defeating her 10-2 to take the title and £52,000 prize money.

In 2017 she defended her world title and won all four Grand Prix events.

Next to compete in the Grand Slam Series will be Wales’ Lauren Williams, who fights in the -67kg category.  Charlie Maddock is next on 13 January in the -49kg category and Jade Jones competes on 20 January in her -57kg division.

Tennis

The world’s best tennis players are currently gearing up for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which begins on Monday 15 January.

There are several warm-up events going on, the main ones being in Brisbane and Shenzhen, China.

Brisbane International

Heather Watson bowed out early on.  She won her first match, against Danielle Lao of the USA 7-5 6-3.  She won her second versus Misaki Doi of China 6-2 6-4, but succumbed in the third to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4 6-1.  She still advanced to the round of 32, though, to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-0 6-3.

British number one, Jo Konta, began well.  She was seeded five at Brisbane and in the round of 32 she defeated American Madison Keys 4-6 6-4 6-3.  In the round of 16 she beat wildcard Ajila Tomljanovic of Croatia 4-6 6-1 6-4.  These have been two gruelling three-set matches.  And this told on Konta as she withdrew with injury on Thursday as she played third seed Elina Svitolina.

Konta had been playing well up to that point, taking the first set 6-1 against the third seed.  The second went to Svitolina on the tie-break and she was 3-2 up in the third when Konta pulled out.

Konta had treatment on her right hip on the court and the injury is thought to be in the right hip/groin area.  There is no news yet as to whether she will compete in the Sydney International, the next warm-up tournament, which takes place next week and which she won in 2017.  .

The other quarter-finals were:

Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 3-6 7-5 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova  (Latvia)beat Aleksandra Krunic (Serbia) 6-2 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(Belarus) beat Alizé Cornet (France) 3-6 6-2 6-3

In the semi-finals:

Sasnovich beat Sevastova 7-6 6-4
Svitolina beat Pliskova 7-5 7-5

The final is on Saturday 6 January.

Petra Kvitova had to withdraw before the start of the tournament with a virus and Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew during her second-round match after suffering a bout of cramp.  It’s pretty worrying that some of the big players (both men and women) have already pulled out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Shenzhen Open

No British interest here, but the quarter-final line-up was as follows:

Irina-Camelia Begu (Romania) beat Timea Babos (Hungary) 7-5 7-5
Simona Halep (Romania) beat Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) 6-2 6-2
Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 6-3 6-3
Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) beat Kristyna Pliskova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-2

The semi-finals finished:

Siniakova beat Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-3
Halep beat Begu 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 6 January

Serena Williams

Meanwhile there was a disappointing announcement today as Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open, as she doesn’t feel quite ready yet:

“Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be,” she said.

It will be the first Australian Open she has missed since 2011.

Football – Off the pitch

No live football to report on at the moment, but plenty of transfer news.

Natasha Harding

The biggest news so far is that Natasha Harding has turned down a new contract with Liverpool, in favour of a move to Reading.

Harding is currently vice-captain of the Wales national side and has won 50 caps for her country.

Birmingham City

Chloe Peplow, currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers Belles was out of contract at the end of December and not going to renew, while German international striker Isabelle Linden, also out of contract at the end of 2017 is to leave as well.

On the other hand Marisa Ewers and Andrine Hegerberg have both extended their contracts with the club.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Belles have pulled off somewhat of a coup with the news that former Rotherham and Leeds United manager, Neil Redfearn is to be the club’s new manager.

On the Pitch

Meanwhile the on the pitch action starts again this weekend with the following fixtures:

Saturday 6 January

FAWSL 1
Bristol City v Everton (17.30, Stoke Gifford Stadium)
Liverpool v Yeovil Town (17.30, Select Security Stadium)
Sunderland v Birmingham City (18.00, Mariners Park)

Sunday 7 January

FAWSL1
Chelsea v Arsenal (13.30, Kingsmeadow Stadium)
Reading v Man City (16.00, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

FAWSL2
Oxford United v Durham (12.00, Oxford City FC)
Aston Villa v London Bees (14.00, Tamworth FC)
Millwall v Sheffield FC (14.00. St Paul’s Sports Ground)
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00, Cheshunt FC)
Watford v Doncaster Rovers Belles (15.00, Kings Langley FC)

Cycling

Caroline Buchanan, Australian cyclist and two-time Olympian, is in hospital after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in New South Wales.

She suffered a broken nose, broken sternum and collapsed lung in the accident.

The 27-year old has three BMX world titles to her name, as well as five mountain bike world titles.

Needless to say, she will be out of action for some time.

 Cricket – WBBL

We’re about half-way in this year’s tournament.  Top of the pile lie Sydney Thunder with five wins from six with the Sixers in second with five wins from eight.  Hobart Hurricanes are yet to get off the mark with no points from six games.  Second from bottom with one win from six.

Most recent matches:

30 December 2017

Sydney Sixers 138 all out (19.5 overs)
Perth Scorchers 139/4 (18.5 overs)

Alyssa Healey was out for a first ball duck, but Ellyse Perry scored 45 and Dane van Niekerk 29 as the Sixers posted 138.  But it was not enough.  Elyse Villani scored 63 off 43 and Nicole Bolton 42 off 49 as the Scorchers eased home.

Hobart Hurricanes 112/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 116/3 (17 overs)

Stafanie Taylor took 4/15 off her four overs as the Hurricanes slumped to 112 off their 20.  Rachael Haynes then took on the Hurricanes’ bowlers, scoring 64 off 49 balls as the thunder won with three overs to spare.

31 December

Hobart Hurricanes 97 all out (19.4 overs)
Sydney Thunder 99/2

The Hurricanes were comprehensively beaten by the Thunder on Sunday.  Samantha Bates took 3/12 four and Stafanie Taylor 2/13 off 2.4 as the Hurricanes could only manage 97 off 19.4 overs.  The Thunder took no time in knocking off the runs, scoring 99 in 15 overs.  Alex Blackwell top-scored on 43 not out.

Adelaide Strikers 119/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 122/2 (16.2 overs)

The Strikers could only post 119 and it never looked enough.  Most of their top names got a start but no-one could kick on as Bridget Patterson top-scored with 37.  It seemed as if Beth Mooney wanted to do it all on her own in reply as the scored 81 not out off 48 balls.  She was supported well by Kirby Short, who scored 27.

2 January

Sydney Sixers 128/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 92 all out (19 overs)

Ellyse Perry top scored with 64 of 56 balls as the Sixers posted an average total against the Renegades.  But their opponents never got started in response with van Niekerk taking 4/13 off her four overs with Kapp and Aley taking two each as the Renegades subsided to 92 all out.

3 January

Bizarre and miraculous goings-on at Geelong as the Renegades v Sixers game went to a super over, but it would not have even got there if it hadn’t been for some smart work on the part of the Sixers.

Melbourne Renegades 120/7 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 120/7 (20 overs)

It had looked as if the Sixers had it in the bag until Perry was out and Chamari Attapatu had taken 2/6 in two overs.  It went down to the last ball – the Sixers needing three to win.

Sarah Aley went for the single and the game looked to be over, but Renegades keeper Emma inglis was too intent on celebrating and didn’t break the wickets to end the game.  Aley spotted the error and ran the second to tie the scores and send the game into a super over.

Sydney Sixers 8/2 (1 over)
Melbourne Renegades 9/0 (1 over)

Alyssa Healey perished for a first ball duck and Perry four, but the Sixers still posted a decent eight runs off their super over.

But the Renegades kept their cool with Jess Duffin hitting a single off Marizanne Kapp’s last ball to take the match.

5 January

Adelaide Strikers 144/5 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 122//9 (20 overs)

Tammy Beaumont top-scored for the Strikers with 46 from 48 balls as they posted a competitive total.  The Stars fell well short despite Lizelle Lee’s 44 of 42 balls.  Three ducks in a row down the order (King, Kearney, Faltum) put paid to any chance the Stars had of reaching the Strikers’ score.

Winter Sports

The Winter Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, so between then and now I’m going to try to get as many winter sports snippets into the column as I can.

 Alpine Skiing

Russian bans

Eleven Russian winter sports athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics after they were found to have committed doping offences at Sochi in 2014.  Out of the eleven, four are women:

Tatyana Ivanova (luge) – won silver in Sochi
Natalia Matveeva (cross-country skiing)
Liudmila Udobkina (bobsleigh)
Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina (ice hockey)

Mikaela Shiffrin

She’s odd-on to retain her Olympic slalom title, and Mikaela Shiffrin is already in fine form as she warms up for the big one.  Although she was upset in the giant slalom in Lienz, Austria , last week, she already has a 371 point lead in the World Cup standings with 881.  Viktoria Rebensberg lies second.

Skeleton

Meanwhile, in skeleton, the latest World Cup event, in Altenberg, Germany, the home nation made it a clean sweep with Jacquelline Loelling taking the title in 1:57.54 for the two runs.  Tina Hermann came second 0.13 seconds behind with Anna Fernstaedt in third 0.43 behind the winner.

For Great Britain, Laura Deas finished eighth, 1.35 seconds behind Loelling and Lizzie Yarnold nineteenth, a massive 3.22 seconds back.

Paralympics

There is no place in the GB Paralympic squad for Sochi skiing gold medallist Kelly Gallagher.

GB has two places available for visually impaired skiiers – these have gone to world champion Millie Knight and newcomer Menna Fitzpatrick.

There may still be a place for Gallagher, though, as other teams may not take up their full allocation and will be re-allocated elsewhere.

The Winter Paralympics begin on 9 March. Top of Form

Queen’s New Year Honours

Several sportswomen were honoured by the Queen:

Cricket
Heather Knight (OBE)
Tammy Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole (MBE)
Mark Robinson (women’s coach) (OBE)
Clare Connor (CBE) – tweet about Geoff Boycott notwithstanding, for services to cricket.

Paralympic Athletics
Stef Reid (MBE)

Other
Sarah Lewis (OBE) International Ski Federation secretary, for services to sport.
Joyce Cook (OBE) for services to sport and accessibility.
Sue Anstiss (MBE) for services to grassroots and women’s sport.
Christine Bower (MBE) British Olympic Association athletes services co-ordinator, for services to British Olympic sport.
Helen Phillips (MBE) for services to Welsh gymnastics and the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales.
Patricia Reid (MBE) Dunfermline Tennis Club secretary, for services to tennis and lacrosse in Scotland.

And Finally,

And finally, the Women’s Sport Trust has just issued its calendar of women’s sport for 2018.  So, if you missed it here’s the link: www.themixedzone.co.uk.  And if you don’t already subscribe to The Mixed Zone, a fantastic resource of articles by both professional athletes and writers, I suggest you do!

And and finally,

I don’t usually do endorsements, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  My friend Joanne is not just an ace yoga teacher, but also nutritionist par excellence.  She’s just started a new venture called “The Ravenous Athlete” with advice and help on what to eat and when if you’re serious about your sport.  If you need any help with your nutrition – given in a non-patronising, non-jargon way, please check her out: www.healthandhart.com.

 

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 November 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s monster offering, hopefully this one will be a bit more manageable – but there is so much being contributed by women in the world of sport that I have to get it out there – both my pleasure and my duty!

Stories this week come from tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, speed skating, football, weightlifting and hockey.

Let’s crack on…

Tennis

Sadly, only one place to start this week and that’s with the sad news of the death of former Wimbledon champion, Jana Novotna at the age of 49.

One of the saddest, but most heartwarming sporting moments I can remember is watching the Duchess of Kent consoling Novotna after she had just the Wimbledon final to Steffi Graf in 1993.

And didn’t we all cheer and cry with her in 1998 when she finally got her Wimbledon win against Nathalie Tauziat?

She was certainly an accomplished tennis player, particularly in doubles, where she won 12 grand slam titles and four mixed doubles titles.

In later years she became a knowledgeable and likeable expert voice in the commentary box.

Johanna Konta

Rumour has it that Michael Joyce is set to become British number one, Johanna Konta’s next coach.  Joyce had previously worked with Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

Hockey

Apologies to all you hockey fans out there as I completely missed the Women’s Hockey World League Finals starting last week in New Zealand.  So here’s what happened to England over the course of the tournament.

It was a mixed event for England, but somehow they still managed to get through to the semi-final.

They were drawn in Pool B against Germany, Argentina and China.

They lost their opening match to Germany 2-0.  Germany’s goals came from two penalty corners scored by Charlotte Stapenhorst just after the half-hour, with Nike Lorenz grabbing the second.  England had a goal from Lily Owsley disallowed for dangerous play.

Things went no better in their second pool match as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Argentina.  Delfina Merino scored the winning goal in the 56th minute.

But things improved for England in their third pool game as they beat China 4-1.  Alex Danson scored the first and Sophie Bray the second to make it 2-0 at half-time.  Hannah Martin and Sarah Haycroft were also on the score sheet, while Mengling Zhong scored China’s solitary goal.

Somewhat fortunately this meant that England, in finishing third in their pool, managed to avoid the Netherlands in the quarter-final.  Instead they played the USA.

Quarter-final
England 2-1 USA

Sophie Bray scored twice to take England through to a meeting with the hosts in the semis.

Alyssa Parker scored in the fourth quarter to give the USA hope, but in the end there was no way back.

Semi-final
England 0-1 New Zealand

New Zealand qualified even after losing all three pool matches.  They beat Argentina 2-1 in the quarter-final.

It was a good, end-to end match, with both sides earning chances.   Lily Owsley had a second disallowed goal of the tournament, while Sophie Bray hit the bar.

But in the end it was New Zealand who were more clinical.  With just five minutes to go Olivia Merry scored from a penalty corner to take the win.  They now play Netherlands or South Korea in the final.

Meanwhile England will play-off for bronze on Sunday 26 November against the loser of the other semi-final.

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Meanwhile, back in the domestic league, last weekend’s results were as follows:
Bowdon 0-0 Surbiton
Leicester 1-1 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 2-2 Canterbury
Slough 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Buckingham 1-3 East Grinstead

It was very nearly draws all round as University of Birmingham went to the top of the league on goals scored with 17 points.  Surbiton lie second also on 17, with East Grinstead just one point behind in third.  Canterbury are bottom with six points from nine games, with Bowdon and Leicester just above on eight points.

Football

No news from on the pitch this week as it’s the international break with two World Cup qualifiers for England.  Tonight (Friday 24) they face Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Banks’ Stadium in Walsall.  The game is apparently a sell-out, but if you haven’t got tickets you can watch it live on BBC2 or listen to 5Live Sports Extra at 7pm.

Wales are also in action tonight, playing Kazakhstan at the Cardiff City Stadium.  Kick-off is 7pm and you can follow it live on the BBC red button and the BBC website.

Both sides then play again on Tuesday, with Wales facing the trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, while England are at home again, this time to Kazakhstan.

Champions League Draw

Hot off the press or out of the pot, this is the draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  And wow, there is certainly one standout tie – holders Lyon v Barcelona.  The draw in full:

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Montpellier (FRA) v Chelsea (ENG)
Wolfsburg (GER) v Slavia Praha (CZE)
Manchester City (ENG) v Linköping (SWE)
Lyon (FRA) v Barcelona (ESP)

The semi-final draw was also made:

Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Montpellier/Chelsea v Wolfsburg/Slavia Praha
Manchester City/Linköping v Lyon/Barcelona

Jodie Taylor

England striker Jodie Taylor is to leave Arsenal, firstly to play in the Australian W-League with Melbourne City and then to go on to join Seattle Reign.

She is no stranger to playing abroad, having already had spells in the USA, Australia and Sweden.

It is sad that she seems to be itching to get away.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“After two seasons I was ready to get back abroad.

“I think I’m better suited in a league like America and the lifestyle as well away from football.”

 Jonna Andersson

Chelsea are to sign Swedish international defender Jonna Andersson from Linköping.

She will join the West London club when the transfer window opens on 29 December.

Andersson had been with Linköping for nine years, winning three league titles and three Swedish Cups in that time.  

Denmark Women

UEFA has handed Denmark women’s side a four-year suspended ban from UEFA competition matches “for which it would otherwise qualify” after their refusal to play a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Denmark are still in dispute with their governing body.

UEFA also issued a fine of £17,871.

Sweden were awarded the win by a margin of 3-0.

This one isn’t over yet.

Rugby League

England are through to the World Cup semi-final even though they were beaten 22-16 by the Cook Islands in their final group game.  Do not ask me to explain the format of this tournament, but I’m sure the game’s governing body is rubbing its hands at the sheer labyrinthine deviousness of it all.

After winning their first match against PNG, they were well beaten by Australia in their second, 38-0.  Australia’s points came through tries from Ward (2), Kelly, Davis-Welsh, Baker, Walton, Apps and Moran.  Baker (2) and Moran chipped in with the goals.

England suffered a surprise loss to the Cook Islands in their third game.  England’s 16 points came through tries from Slowe, Hardcastle and Bulman with two goals from Garner, while the Cook Islands scored four tries through Koiatu, Arona, Strickland and Ngata-Aerengamate, while their three goals came from Schofield.

It was only due to the fact that the Cook Islands suffered heavy defeats at the hands of both Australia and New Zealand, that England went through from Pool A on points difference.

To be honest, as with the men’s, I think we can probably hand the trophy to the Australians now.  The Jillaroos are through to the semis undefeated with their last third pool game an 88-0 thrashing of Canada.   They face them again in the semi-final!

Semi-final draw Sunday 26 November

Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney
New Zealand v England
Australia v Canada

The final is on 2 December in Brisbane as part of double-header with the men’s final.

Rugby Union

Off the pitch

Big, big, big news this week from World Rugby.  This is the headline on their website:

“Accelerating the global development of women in rugby 2017-25

OUR AMBITION: By 2025, rugby will be a global leader in sport, where women involved in rugby have equity on and off the field, are reflected in all strategy, plans and structures, making highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game of rugby.”

We’ve all heard the words before.  And words are usually all they are.  Many governing bodies talk a good game when it comes to women’s sport (I may have said this before), but this statement and strategy document is something else entirely.

And it’s not just on the field that the differences will be made.  The World Rugby Council will expand its membership from 32 to 49 next year.  The 17 new members will be women.

On the pitch they want to see one million women and girls registered to play by 2025.  Check this out.  I don’t often say this but it’s a game-changer – it’s also concise and to the point (another point in its favour):

https://www.worldrugby.org/womens-rugby/development-plan

Old Mutual Wealth Series

England have comfortably won the Test series against Canada.  They lead 2-0 with one match to play.  The first was an absolute exhibition by England, with Canada improving in the second.

First Test
England 79-5 Canada

Jess Breach scored six tries on her debut as England thrashed Canada in the first Test at Allianz Park.

Other tries came from Rachael Burford, Abigail Dow (2), Amy Cockayne, Marlie Packer, Rocky Clark and Ellie Kildunne.  Amber Reed kicked five conversions and Zoe Harrison kicked two.

Canada’s five came from a try by Cindy Nelles in the second-half.

Second Test
England 49-12 Canada

Although Canada were not able to put a score on the board until the 74th minute, it was a much improved performance from the visitors that saw them score tries through Janna Slevinsky and McKinley Hunt, while Brianna Miller put over one conversion.

England’s try count stood at eight; Heather Kerr, Rachael Burford (2), Ellie Kildunne (2), Danielle Waterman, Hannah Botterman and Jo Brown all went over the whitewash, while Amber Reed kicked two conversions and a penalty and Zoe Harrison one conversion.

Captain Sarah Hunter also won her 100th cap.

There is one game to play in the series on Saturday 25 November

Speed Skating

Elise Christie came away from Seoul with a gold medal last week as she took the 500m title, in a time of 43.27 seconds. Choi Min-jeong of South Korea was second with Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais finishing third.

Cricket

England’s women came back to draw the Ashes series 8-8 in Australia last week.  But, in truth, this will not compensate for seeing the trophy remain with Australia.  Fine performances in the final two T20s will encourage Mark Robinson and the management team, but on balance, they didn’t do enough to earn the series victory.

Second T20
England 152/6 (20 overs)
Australia 112 all out (18 overs)

Katherine Brunt finally made a contribution to this Ashes with a player of the match performance, making 32 not out and taking 2/10 from her four overs.

Knight won the toss and decided to bat.  Beaumont went cheaply, but Wyatt showed the way with 19 before she was caught by Haynes off the bowling of Schutt.

Taylor was run out for a useful 30 and then Sciver and Brunt took it on.  Sciver scored 40 before she was caught by Haynes off Perry.  It was then up to Brunt to anchor the innings and England posted a useful total of 152.

The Australian reply started well and they had made 45 before the first wicket fell.  Mooney was run out for 17 and Villani soon followed after scoring just one.  From then on wickets fell regularly as the home side found it difficult to put together a meaningful partnership.

Jenny Gunn starred again with the ball, taking 4/13 in three overs, but it was Brunt’s all round performance that swung the day as England won by a massive 40 runs.

Third T20
Australia 178/2 (20 overs)
England 181/6 (19 overs)

England left it until the last game to show the crowd and watching audience what they really can do.  But it was up to the batters to do the job.

Australia posted a massive 178/2 with Mooney finishing on 112 not out from 70 balls, scoring 19 fours and a six in the process – the first woman to score a T20 century in Australia, and only the fifth in all.  She was supported ably by Healy (19), Villani (16) and Perry (22).

It looked like a winning score and England would have to complete the highest T20 run chase by a women’s team to win.   They got off to a stuttering start with Beaumont and Taylor dismissed early on.  But Wyatt has been a revelation in these T20s and she took on the challenge with a vengeance.

She scored 100 from 57 balls, including 13 fours and two sixes – the second century of the match.  She was backed by Knight, who scored 51.  By the time Wyatt was dismissed England needed only eight runs to win off 11 balls.  They lost a couple of quick wickets, which kept us all on the edge of our seats, but Fran Wilson hit the winning runs with a cheeky four scooped over Healy behind the stumps.

Brave, bold and exciting stuff from England, but all too late to save the Ashes.

Weightlifting

A quick note of an important piece of news pertaining to women’s weightlifting.

As we know, barriers to women’s sport in the Muslim world are more stringent and profound than most, but recently women’s sport has begun to make great strides.  The latest of these is in weightlifting.

From next year, Iran and Saudi Arabia will allow their women to compete internationally for the first time.

Women have competed at the World Championships since 1987.  Several Islamic countries have never taken part including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Somalia and Libya.

What the first competition featuring Saudi women will be is unclear, but the first for Iranian women, may be a friendly tournament against the United States in February or March 2018.

There will be no column next week as I’m out and about, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views.

Women’s Sports Column 30 September – 6 October 2017

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  After the turmoil of last week, this week seems to have returned to some semblance of normality and I’m all for it.  News this week comes from netball, football, rugby union, athletics, gymnastics, speed skating, golf, tennis and hockey.

Netball

It’s the Netball Europe Open Championships in Cardiff from 5-8 October.

England Roses are defending champions and the top side in the world to be competing at three in the world rankings.

The other teams taking part are Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Fiji (invitational team).

There will be coverage on the BBC via Connected TV, online and the BBC Sport App.

Fixtures are as follows:

Thursday, 5 October
16.25 Fiji v Scotland
18.25 Wales v Northern Ireland

Friday, 6 October
11.55 England v Scotland
17.55 Fiji v Wales
19.55 England v Northern Ireland

Saturday, 7 October
10.25 Fiji v Northern Ireland
15.55 Wales v Scotland
17.55 England v Fiji

Sunday, 8 October
09.55 Scotland v Northern Ireland
11.55 England v Wales

Football

Plenty of football news, as you would expect, this week. There were WSL1 and WSL2 league matches at the weekend, plus the round of 32 first leg fixtures in the Champions League, midweek.  But first, some World Cup news.

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea has been expelled from the 2019 Women’s World Cup after it emerged that it fielded 10 ineligible players in the qualifying tournament for the 2016 Olympics.

The team had already been banned from the 2020 Olympic Games.

Not only were some players ineligible, but others used forged or false documents in order to qualify.  The country’s football association has also been fined $102,000.

Domestic news

Former Hibernian Ladies manager, Chris Roberts, has been appointed as Bristol City Women’s first team coach and technical director.

Roberts had been at Hibs since 2014.

He rejoins his former Hibs boss, Willie Kirk, who is currently Bristol City manager.

Champions League

St Polten 0-3 Manchester City Women

All the goals came in the first half in Austria with England trio, Demi Stokes, Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris all hitting the back of the net.  The tie would seem to be over and City will be looking forward to the return leg.

Chelsea Ladies 1-0 Bayern Munich

It was a case of hanging on for Chelsea as they scored early on, but were unable to add further goals at Kingsmeadow.

The Blues had an outstanding first half, attacking all the way and were unlucky to in at half-time just one up, through Drew Spence.

The second-half was a completely different matter.  Munich pressed constantly but were profligate in front of goal.  They had countless corners and set pieces, but were unable to score.

Unsurprisingly Chelsea tired in the second-half and never looked like adding to their tally.  They may rue not scoring more in the first period when they go to Munich.

BIIK-Kazygurt 3-0 Glasgow City

Glasgow will do well to come back from a three-goal deficit.  After a goalless first-half, the home side scored three goals in the first ten minutes of the second, effectively putting the tie beyond Glasgow.

Begaim Kirgizbaeva, Kaelyn Korte and Gulnara Gabelia scored the goals for the home side.

Other Scores

Wednesday 4 October

Medyk Konin 0-5 Lyon Féminines
Apollon Ladies FC 0-1 Linköpings FC
FC PAOK 0-5 Sparta Prague Women
Gintra Universitetas 1-1 FC Zürich Frauen
ZFK Minsk 1-3 Slavia Prague Women
Avaldsnes IL 0-4 Barcelona Femenino
LSK Kvinner 0-0 Brøndby IF Ladies
Ajax Vrouwen 1-0 Brescia Femminile
Atlético de Madrid Femenino 0-3 VfL Wolfsburg Ladies
Firenze Femminile 2-1 Fortuna Hjørring
Montpellier Féminines 0-1 Zvezda 2005 Women

Thursday 5 October

CFF Olimpia Cluj 0-1 Rosengård Women
Stjarnan Women 1-1 WFC Rossiyanka

WSL1

Friday 29 September
Liverpool 0-3 Reading

Saturday 30 September
Manchester City 5-2 Arsenal
Bristol City 1-0 Yeovil Town
Sunderland AFC 0-6 Chelsea

Sunday 1 October
Birmingham City 2-1 Everton

WSL2

Saturday 30 September
Sheffield FC 3-1 London Bees

Sunday 1 October
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-2 Durham
Doncaster Rovers 2-2 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Aston Villa
Watford 1-3 Oxford United

Check out this week’s upcoming fixtures on the excellent FAWSL website here

Athletics

The current British champion javelin thrower Joanna Blair has been provisionally suspended after failing a doping test.

She tested positive for a “prohibited substance”, although it has not been revealed what the substance was.

She now has the right to a hearing and right to appeal the decision.

Speed Skating

South Korea’s Choi Min-jeong took all three titles at the first World Cup event of the season in Budapest at the weekend.

Britain’s Elise Christie finished fourth in the 1500m and third in the 1000m.

Kim Boutin of Canada took silver in both events while Deanna Lockett of Australia finished third in the 1500m.

In the 500m Arianna Fontana of Italy was second and Shim Suk Hee of South Korea, third.

The other World Cup events take place in the Netherlands, China and South Korea.

Golf – New Zealand Open

This event saw some atrocious weather as the golfers tried their very best to complete their rounds.

If you’d like to get a flavour of what conditions were like in the final round on Sunday, check out this video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/golf/41460869

The eventual winner was 20-year old Canadian Brooke Henderson.  She somehow managed a -3 69 fourth round to win by five strokes – a total of -17.

The weather finally caused the final round to be suspended on Sunday and the remainder played on Monday.  Henderson had played six holes when play was suspended.

China’s Jing Yan finished second with Hee Young Park of South Korea in third at -11.

The conditions were slightly better on Monday but the players still had to play on through strong winds.  The organisers were criticised for making the players continue on Sunday, but most of the players seemed to support the move.

Third round leader Belen Mozo of Spain finished tied fifth with fellow Spaniard Beatriz Recari and Su Oh of Australia.

Tennis

Jo Konta

The British number one has pulled out of next week’s Hong Kong Open with a foot injury.

She hopes to be able to compete the following week in Moscow.

China Open

We’re at the quarter-final stage of the China Open and three of the four matches have been played:

Petra Kvitova (12) beat Barbora Strýcová 6-3 6-4
Simone Halep (2) beat Daria Kasatkina 6-2 6-1
Jelena Ostapenko (9) beat Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-4

The fourth quarter-final is between third seed Elina Svitolina and Caroline Garcia.

Ostapenko faces Halep in the first semi-final on Saturday, while Kvitova must wait until later on Friday 6 before she knows who her opponent will be.

Hockey

The EuroHockey Club Cup in May 2018 will be held at Surbiton Hockey Club.  It will be the first time the competition has been hosted by an English club.

The teams taking part will be Surbiton, two Dutch clubs; HC’s-Hertogenbosch and AHBC Amsterdam, two German teams; UHC Hamburg and Mannheimer HC, Club Campo Villa de Madrid from Spain, Irish club UCD Ladies HC and HC Victorya Smolevichi from Belarus.

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 30 September

Surbiton 3-1 Clifton Robinsons
Holcombe 3-1 University of Birmingham
Bowdon Hightown 0-0 Slough
Leicester 2-0 East Grinstead
Buckingham 4-2 Canterbury

Fixtures Saturday 07 October

Surbiton v Leicester
Bowdon Hightown v East Grinstead
Buckingham v Holcombe
Clifton Robinsons v University of Birmingham
Slough v Canterbury

Surbiton are top on goals scored after two games.  Three other teams are also unbeaten; Slough, Bowdon and Holcombe.  All four have the same goal difference.

Gymnastics

The World Gymnastics Championships are taking place in Montreal on 2-8 October.

Claudia Fragapane is looking to get to the final of the floor, while Georgia-Mae Fenton looks to do the same in the uneven bars.

Amy Tinkler, recently returned from injury, is likely to make the all-round final

Rugby Union

Off the Pitch

For the second week running, it’s all happening at Wasps.  Soon after the column had been published last week, Wasps made their fifth Red Rose signing, this time Danielle Waterman, from Bristol.  This squad is now truly formidable, and even if they take some time to “bed in”, it can’t be long before they start storming up the table.  Indeed they recorded their first win at the weekend – see below for details.

But on the debit side, Elizabeth Crake appeared before an RFU disciplinary hearing this week after being cited for biting in Wasps’ match against Gloucester-Hartpury Women.  Crake admitted biting Ceri Large and has been suspended for six weeks.

On the Pitch 

Results from last weekend in the Premier 15s

30 September 2017
DMP Sharks 28-32 Wasps Ladies
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 29-0 Richmond Women
Firwood Waterloo Ladies 16-20 Bristol Ladies
Worcester Valkyries 0-74 Saracens
Loughborough Lightning 19-40 Harlequins Ladies

This week saw a first win of the season for Wasps as they showcased their new signings.  Gloucester-Hartpury Women, Harlequins Ladies and Saracens all remain unbeaten, with Gloucester-Hartpury top on points difference.  Saracens are third on 14, having failed to secure maximum bonus points.  Worcester Valkyries are yet to register a point, while the other two teams without a win are Firwood Waterloo and DMP Sharks, who have one losing bonus point and two losing bonus points respectively.

Fixtures this weekend:

7 October 2017
Saracens Women v Wasps Ladies (2pm Allianz Park)
Harlequins Ladies v DMP Sharks (3pm Surrey Sports Park)
Loughborough Lightning v Firwood Waterloo Ladies (3pm, Loughborough)
Bristol Ladies v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (4.30pm Portway Rugby Development Centre)
Richmond Women v Worcester Valkyries (5.15pm Richmond Athletic Ground)

So whatever your sport, make sure you get out this weekend to support the fantastic women the length and breadth of the country who give their all for their teams, clubs and fans every week.  If you can’t get out, follow your sports via media coverage (where possible!) and make sure you talk about it!  Get the message out there – women’s sport deserves to be talked about too!

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 8-13 July 2017

Lacrosse05Welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column. I’m back from hols and raring to go.  There’s a lot to catch up on and this is going to be a bumper edition with stories from cricket, lacrosse, football, rugby, sports politics, netball, hockey and tennis.  You can probably guess this week’s “And finally” – courtesy of Andy Murray, but it bears repeating.

So let’s crack on.

Lacrosse

For a couple of months now I’ve been trailing the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup – well someone had to.  To be honest, I’m not frightfully well up on it myself, but over the next couple of weeks I’m determined to get to grips with the ins and outs of this exciting, fast-moving sport.

The tournament is running from 12-22 July at Surrey Sport Park and if you check out the website, you can still pick up tickets for some matches.

England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are all taking part.

A brief history:

Originally a Native American sport, it continues to draw big crowds in the United States.  This World Cup is the tenth, with America winning seven so far and being runners-up in the other two, won by Australia.  Over here it’s very much a minority sport, but growing.

There are 25 (!) nations taking part, with Wales being the second smallest after Latvia.  Wales also boasts the game’s most capped player – Ros Lloyd Rout – who currently has 106 appearances for her country.

All of the home teams are ranked highly; England are ranked fourth in the world and Wales fifth, with Scotland just behind in sixth.

The format of the tournament is somewhat complicated.  The top six ranked teams; USA, Canada, Australia, England, Wales and Scotland qualify by right to the knockout stages, although they all still play each other in Pool A.  There are four other pools and just two teams from these pools will qualify along with Pool A.

Pool B
Italy
Hong Kong
Haudenosaunee
Korea
Switzerland

Pool C
Israel
Netherlands
Czech Republic
China
Belgium

Pool D
Japan
Germany
Latvia
Spain
Mexico

Pool E
New Zealand
Ireland
Sweden
Colombia

Wow – that’s some worldwide spread!

It all kicked off on Wednesday with an exciting home nations derby.

England 12-6 Wales

England took the lead in the third minute and between then and 26th it was neck and neck as first one team scored, then the other.  But in a telling period between the 28th and 47th England scored four without reply.  Wales came back with one goal but England scored another three without Wales being able to score again.  England’s number 11, Jennifer Simpson must have thought her only role was to provide the pass for the goalscorers as she achieved three assists, but then she got a goal of her own in the 57th minute, England’s 11th and penultimate score.

There, I’ve done my best!

Coverage will undoubtedly be sparse, but it’s good to see that the BBC will be covering the tournament on the BBC website from the quarter-finals onwards.  And, of course, I’ll do what I can to keep you updated via this blog!

Tennis

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s Wimbledon fortnight.  And what a tournament it’s been!  There have been some truly stunning women’s (and men’s) matches, not least of which was the quarter-final between Jo Konta and Simona Halep.

Anyway, the women’s singles final is on Saturday.  It was a shame that with so many good matches up to that point, the semi-finals were a bit of a disappointment and over all too quickly.

Women’s Singles

Garbine Muguruza (14) beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1 6-1
Venus Williams (10) defeated Johanna Konta (6) 6-4 6-2

Women’s Doubles

The semi-final line-up is:

A Grönefeld/K Peschke (12) v E Makarova/E Vesnina (2)
M Niculescu/H Chan (9) v R Voracova/M Ninomiya

Mixed Doubles

The semi-final line-up is:

H Kontinen/H Watson v B Soares/E Vesnina (2)
M Hingis/J Murray (1) v M Demoliner/M Martinez Sanchez

Wheelchair Singles

Both British players Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker lost in the quarter-finals.  Whiley succumbed to Diede De Groot of the Netherlands 6-2 7-6.  Shuker lost to second seed Yui Kamiji of Japan 6-3 6-1.

De Groot plays compatriot Aniek Van Koot in the first semi-final, while Kamiji faces Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany.

Football

On the Pitch

Scotland 1-0 Republic of Ireland

Scotland won their final Euros warm-up game against the Republic of Ireland 1-0.  Substitute Christie Murray headed home in the 85th minute to see Anna Signeul’s side head off to the Netherlands with a much needed win.

Scotland’s first game at the Euros, in case you didn’t already know, is against England in Utrecht on 19 July.

In fact, of course, it will all be underway by the time I get to write my column next week, so I’d just like to say good luck to the Lionesses and to Scotland.

Off the Pitch

Lewes FC

Good news this week as semi-professional club Lewes FC announced that they will be paying their men’s and women’s first teams the same salaries.

Lewes women play in the third tier, the Premier League Southern Division, and the men in the Isthmian League Division One South, their eighth tier.

Both teams will have the same budget, level of coaching staff and facilities.

It is all part of the club’s “Equality FC” campaign.

Director Jacquie Agnew said: “We hope to spark a change that will help put an end to the excuses for why such a deep pay disparity has persisted.”

Toni Duggan

News also came this week that England striker Toni Duggan has signed for the new Barcelona women’s team.  She joins them from Manchester City on a two-year contract.

The BBC chose to announce that Duggan is the first English player to sign for Barcelona since Gary Lineker.  And didn’t that get the Neanderthal footie-lovers Y-fronts in a tangle? Outraged by the audacity of mentioning Lineker and Duggan in the same breath they all went completely off their heads to point out that Lineker signed for the men’s team, not the women’s and that the two were completely different.  Tee hee.  I can’t help thinking the BBC was having a bit of a laugh at their expense – and boy did they rise to it!

Yeovil Town Ladies FC

Yeovil announced yesterday that their Head Coach Michelle Yeowell has left the club.  She had been a player and coach for the club for more than ten years.

Her successor has not yet been named.

Rugby Union

Some shock news this week came from the RFU when it announced that England’s full-time contracts will end after the World Cup in August.

After the much-vaunted announcement of contracts in July 2016, this volte-face is not only disappointing but embarrassing.

The RFU, in its wisdom, has decided to concentrate on developing the sevens.

Evidently professional contracts will only go to sevens players next year.  England have already qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens and next year there is the Commonwealth Games and the World Series.

The RFU is still committed to investing in the women’s fifteen-a-side game with the introduction of next season’s new league competition, but there are going to be some pretty unhappy women who return from the World Cup, regardless of the result, to find themselves without a contract.

Kazan Sevens

England produced their best performance for a while last weekend to finish second at the last Grand Prix Series tournament in Kazan, thus securing qualification to next year’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco.  England were beaten by Russia 21-0 in the final, having topped their pool with wins over Ireland, Poland and Sweden.

Wales finished second in their pool to eventual winners Russia and finished fifth altogether.  Their high finish ensured their qualification for next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  In the pool stage they beat Italy and the Netherlands but lost to Russia.  They then lost to England 21-7 in the play-offs but won the repechage by beating Belgium and Poland to take fifth.

Russia were a class above over the weekend, and in fact, over the two legs.  They scored 34 tries in each leg.

The European representatives at the 7s RWC in San Francisco will be Russia, Spain, France, England and Ireland.

Cricket

Apart from reading a tweet today by a real gent which said it’s an “absolute disgrace” that England’s women scored 373/5 against South Africa and that “cricket is just not a women’s game.  Stick to hockey or netball”, the Women’s World Cup has generally engendered a positive reaction.

One brilliant story comes out of India where apparently a young girl went into a sports shop and asked for an Indian cricket shirt.   When asked if she wanted a name printed on it, she said yes.  Was it Kohli?  Dhoni?  Nope, it was Smriti Mandhana.  The shop said it was the first time they had ever been asked to put the name of one of the women’s team on a shirt!  Progress.

We’re nearly at the knockout stage of the World Cup.  It’s a fight between New Zealand and India for the last place in the quarter-finals.

Here’s what’s happened in the last week:

Match 17

All too easy for New Zealand

New Zealand v Pakistan
Taunton
Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat

Pakistan 144 all out (46.5 overs)
New Zealand 147/2 (15 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets (210 balls remaining)

Pakistan’s openers needed to make a considerable opening stand to post any kind of total against New Zealand.  They had only made 35 before Zafar was out and although captain Sana Mir chipped in with a bright half-century, the other wickets fell cheaply and 144 was really never going to be enough.

Hannah Rowe took 3/22 off nine overs with the rest of the bowlers all contributing.

In response Rachel Priest was dismissed for just 8, but 93 from Sophie Devine and 38 not out from Amy Satterthwaite saw them comfortably home.

Match 18

Another Van Niekerk masterclass does for India’s top batters

India v South Africa
Leicester
India won the toss and put South Africa in

South Africa 273/9 (50 overs
India 158 all out (46 overs)
South Africa won by 115 runs

Wolvaardt may have been dismissed for just one, but some power batting from Lizelle Lee soon put this tie in South Africa’s favour.  Van Niekerk also scored 57 and was backed up well by the rest of the top order.

By contrast India struggled to get the ball off the square.  Deepti Sharma scored 60 and Jhulan Goswami 43, but there were few other contributors as Dane Van Niekerk took 4/22 off her 10 overs and India ended way short.

Match 19

England edge the big one – but it’s mighty close

England v Australia
Bristol
England won the toss and elected to bat

England 259/8 (50 overs)
Australia 256/8 (50 overs)
England won by 3 runs

Lauren Winfield is yet to make a score, but fellow opener Tammy Beaumont is looking to have got her mojo back with a vengeance.  She scored top-scored with 49, Katherine Brunt chipped in with 45 not out and there were good starts for everyone else except the skipper, Heather Knight, who was out for just one.  Elyse Villani took 3/42 off 5 overs as England chased the runs towards the end.

It was on the cusp of “just enough” and when Australia had got to 56 without losing a wicket all seemed ominous.  In fact everyone made runs but the rate was too slow.  Ellyse Perry starred with 70 with Lanning scoring 40.  It was down to Jenny Gunn to bowl the last over, with 16 needed.  Five were scored off the first three, then Gardner was out, caught by Brunt.  The fifth ball of the over brought another four and then Australia needed six off the last ball, but Jonassen could only grab two and England had won by three runs.

An excellent, nail-biting game and a great advert for women’s cricket with a crowd of over 4,000 at Bristol cheering both sides on.

Match 20

West Indies chalk up their first win

Sri Lanka v West Indies
Derby
Sri Lanka won the toss and put the West Indies in.

West Indies 229/9 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 182 all out (48 overs)
West Indies won by 47 runs

When were the West Indies going to turn up?  This game was a bit more encouraging for the World T20 champions.  They made a healthy 229 with Merissa Aguilleira top-scoring on 49.

In reply Sri Lanka needed their star, Atapattu to fire, but when she was out on 26 the writing was on the wall.  Anisa Mohammed was best bowler for the Windies taking 3/39 off her 10 overs and was Player of the Match.

Match 21

West Indies win again as rain hits Leicester

Pakistan v West Indies
Leicester
Pakistan won the toss and put the West Indies in

West Indies 285/4 (50 overs)
Pakistan 117/3 (24 overs)
West Indies won by 19 runs via D/L method

West Indies batted well for probably the first time in the tournament.  Their two biggest stars, Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin both fired with 90 and 104 respectively.  And when they fire the whole team looks a different prospect.

We were lucky to get as much cricket as we did with the sides playing through some quite heavy rain.  With a delay to the Pakistan reply the total was revised to 245 in 38 overs.  Pakistan had reached 117 before the heavens opened again and the match was abandoned.

Match 22

South Africa ease past Sri Lanka

South Africa v Sri Lanka
Taunton
Sri Lanka won the toss and batted

Sri Lanka 101 all out (40.3 0vers)
South Africa 104/2 (23.1 overs)
South Africa won by 8 wickets

It was an early finish at Taunton as South Africa put Sri Lanka to the sword.  Van Niekerk struck again with 4/24 off 8 overs while Ismail took 3/14 off 7.3.

South Africa polished off their target with ease.  The usually reliable Lee fell for a duck but Wolvaardt was 48 not out and du Preez 38 not out as they knocked off 104 in the 24th over.

Match 23

Indian total never a problem for Australia at Bristol

Australia v India
Bristol
Australia won the toss and put India in

India 226/7 (50 overs)
Australia 227/2 (45.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

A fine century by opener Punam Raut was the highlight for India and without her 106 India would have faltered badly.  She was ably supported by captain Mithali Raj with 69.  Raj became the highest scorer in women’s ODIs in this match.  She overtook Charlotte Edwards’ 5992, reaching 6028 in 16 fewer innings than Edwards and with an average of 51.52.  So two good knocks, but unlikely to be enough to put Australia in any trouble.

And indeed it wasn’t. The great pairing of Lanning and Perry took it home with 76 not out and 60 not out respectively.

Match 24

Sciver does it again as England too strong for New Zealand

England v New Zealand
Derby
England won the toss and batted

England 284/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 209 all out (46.4)
England won by 75 runs

Nat Sciver’s second century of the tournament was the highlight for England.  Winfield went cheaply again with just 11 but Beaumont continued her good form with a fine 93.  Without Sciver’s 129 England would have been in trouble with Fran Wilson (10) the only other player to get into double figures.

Young leg spinner Amelia Kerr took 4/51 off her 10 overs.

New Zealand started steadily but an injury incurred by Sophie Devine in the field clearly hampered her in batting.  Suzie Bates top-scored for New Zealand with 44, but a regular clattering of wickets meant they quickly fell behind the required rate.  Alex Hartley took 3/44 off 9.4 overs.

It was a good team performance by England.

Sports Politics

The Saudi Education Ministry has announced that girls attending public schools will be given access to physical education.  The changes will be made “gradually” and “in accordance with (Islamic) Shariah regulations.”

Four years ago changes were made to allow girls in private schools to take part in sport.

It’s a big move, but we’ll have to see how things progress.

Netball

I’m ashamed to say I had missed the start of the Netball World Youth Cup, but here’s a recap of what is happening and what has occurred so far.

It’s happening in Gaborone, Botswana, the first time it has taken place in Africa.  Twenty teams have qualified and the format is quite complicated.  We begin with four pools of five and after the pool games we go into the knockout stages.  The final is on 16 July.

England

In their first game, on Saturday 8 July, they beat Wales 69-23.  On Sunday they played Grenada, winning 98-25.  Their third pool game was against Trinidad & Tobago on Monday.  The score was 75-27 to England and finally they played Fiji on Wednesday with England coming out on top 63-29.

Wales

Wales lost to England in their first match, and then to Fiji on Sunday 35-48.  On Monday they defeated Grenada 72-30 and their fourth match was a tight loss to Trinidad and Tobago 32-36.

Scotland

The Scots defeated Sri Lanka in their first match on Saturday 69-48.  On Monday they lost to New Zealand 78-26.  On Tuesday they defeated Northern Ireland 55-36 and their last pool game on Wednesday was a two-point victory over Samoa 46-44.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is the British Isles’ lowest ranked team and found it difficult.  They lost all of their pool matches: 22-89 to New Zealand, 44-56 to Sri Lanka, 26-65 to Samoa and 36-55 to Scotland.

England and Scotland qualified for the 1st-8th place quarter-final, which took place on Thursday 13 July.  England defeated Jamaica 55-38, while Scotland drew the short straw, playing Australia.  Australia won the game 95-22.

Find out who came where and who won what next week!

Hockey

Hockey World League semi-final – Johannesburg

After a comfortable 3-0 win over Poland on Monday 10 July, England suffered a shock defeat against Japan on Wednesday.  Mami Karino’s goal in the third minute was enough to defeat the Olympic champions.  They play Germany on 14 July and Ireland two days later.  They currently lie fourth in the pool.

Ireland have already qualified for the last eight with two draws against Japan and Germany and a win over Poland.

And finally

Andy Murray’s feminist credentials struck again this week.  Lots of people (men) didn’t like it, especially when the BBC kept tweeting it, but hey ho.  In the press conference after his loss to American Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarter-final on Wednesday, a journalist said Querrey was “the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009”.  “Male player”, replied Andy immediately.

Several people were quick to point out that it was “obvious” that they were talking about men’s tennis.  But I hate to tell you folks, that’s how casual sexism works.  Murray was calling out the assumption that men’s tennis is the default and we only qualify it when we talk about women’s tennis (or any other sport for that matter).  Good stuff from Murray.

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 17-23 June 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  I hope you’ve all had a happy Women’s Sport Week.  There have been plenty of articles in praise of women’s sport with encouraging facts and figures around participation, the prize money gap, new initiatives and so on.  Needless to say there has also been the usual raft of sloppy, nasty or calculated misogyny, but I think we were all expecting that.  Let’s face it, you don’t have to be one of the world’s greatest minds to type “should be in the kitchen” as a response to a piece on women’s sport.

Anyway, let’s crack on.  News this week comes from rugby, cricket, boxing, Formula 1, athletics, tennis and football.  We also look at those women given honours in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and the new Daily Telegraph list of the 20 most influential women in sport.

My “And Finally” this week is a quick guide to the Women’s Cricket World Cup, starting on Saturday 24 June.  If I put it in the “And finally” section I know I can’t witter on – I could write for hours on this subject, but I’m saving you all – just the pertinent points make the cut.

Football

Signings – WSL

Manchester City announced this week that their number one Goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley has signed a new contract with the club.

She will be staying for another two years.   Bardsley has been a City player since 2013 and has so far made 66 appearances for the club.

Indian Football

The WIFA (Western India Football Association) Women’s Football Championship begins in Mumbai on 23 June.

It is part of a FIFA – AIFF (All India Football Federation) State Development Project.

Eight teams will take part, two from Mumbai; Bodyline SC and Aadhar Pratishtan, two from Pune; Pune City FC and United Pooja SA, two from Kolhapur; KSA Women’s FC and Poddar International and two from Nagpur; Tulip FC and Pirpude FC.

The teams play in two groups with the top two going to semi-finals.  The tournament will be played at the Cooperage ground in Mumbai and the final will be on 8 July.

WIFA are also hosting a FIFA “Live Your Goals” grassroots leaders’ course for women from 6-8 July.

As I have reported recently, there now seems to be a real will to encourage women in sport in India.  The cricket in India is the strongest it has ever been and there seems to be no end to the initiatives appearing.  I’m not saying this is the be all and end all when it comes to women’s rights, as it clearly isn’t, but it’s got to be a step in the right direction.

Italian Football

Top Italian club Juventus have announced that they are going to launch a women’s team.

They already have youth teams and a developing structure and will enter a team into next season’s Serie A Femminile.

(Am I allowed to say, over to you then Man Utd?)

England Football

The FA has announced that England Women’s assistant coach Marieanne Spacey will be leaving her role to lead a new international player development programme.

The scheme begins in September 2017.  Players from the FA WSL will be selected to go on the programme and given individual support, focusing on technical aspects of the game and education.

The programme will also aim to develop and support female coaches and coaches working in the women’s game, alongside the FA’s head of women’s coach development, Audrey Cooper.

Spacey said:

“This programme is a real opportunity to enhance the development of some of the best young players in the women’s game.

“There are many talented players in our pathway but we know that with the extra support in key areas on and off the pitch, their talent could truly be realised and make such a difference to them both as individuals and as part of the teams they are playing for.

“It’s personally exciting to be leading such an innovative programme that will really drive forward the development of the elite women’s game and hopefully help us meet our goal of a winning England team in 2023.”

It does also mean, however, that there are no longer any women involved in Mark Sampson’s backroom team.

Gender Prize Money Gap

A new study from BBC Sport has found that 83% of sports now pay equally.

The biggest disparities, understandable in most cases still come in cricket, golf and football, although great strides have been made in all of these sports.

It’s a comprehensive study and an interesting piece that I really can’t do justice to here, so I would encourage you all to read it in full.  Here’s the link.

Rugby Union

New Zealand 21-29 England

 The Red Roses pulled off a fabulous win in Rotorua to finish the series unbeaten.

It was England’s first victory away in New Zealand since 2001.

The Red Roses took the lead with a try from Emily Scarratt in the left corner.  She converted her own try to make it 7-0 to the visitors.

The Black Ferns responded quickly and well, scoring a try of their own from Kendra Cocksedge who also kicked the extras to level the score.

On the 20th minute Portia Woodman intercepted a Scarratt offload to run the length of the pitch and score under the posts.  Cocksedge converted and it was 14-7.

Difficult conditions were soon made worse as the rain turned into a downpour.  It was time for the England forwards to take the stage.

Lock forward Abbie Scott went over after a period of pressure and Scarratt put over the extra two.  The teams went in 14-14 at half-time.

England continued the pressure after the break and Lydia Thompson went over to score.  Then the sublime Marlie Packer forced her way over for England’s fourth after dominant work from the England pack, taking the score to 14-24.

On 60 minutes England were awarded a penalty but Scarratt pushed it wide.

But nothing could stop the England forwards.  Vicky Fleetwood smuggled her way over for their fifth try of the match.

New Zealand scored a late consolation try through Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, which was converted, but the game was won for England.

Sevens

England finished fourth at the Malemort Sevens at the weekend. They lost the play-off for third to Ireland.

Third place final
England 7 – 26 Ireland
Try: Fisher
Conversion: A Richardson-Watmore

Cup semi final
England 15 – 24 Russia
Tries: Smith, Clapp, J Richardson-Watmore

Cup quarter finals
England 12 – 10 Wales
Tries: Fisher, Jones
Conversions: A Richardson-Watmore

The winners were Russia, who beat France in the final 22-21.

The final leg of the series is in Kazan during the weekend of 7-8 July, with qualification for the Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 at stake, it is sure to be a thrilling, if nervy, weekend.

Loughborough Lightning (Rugby!)

Nothing recently has happened to convince me that Loughborough University is not trying to take over the world.  It will, controversially field a team in the competition that will replace the Women’s Premiership later this year.

The University announced that is week that it has appointed Rhys Edwards as Head Coach to lead the women’s rugby programme.

Edwards used to be the Attack and Skills Coach at Championship club Rotherham Titans.

In a press release from the University Edwards said,

“I’m very excited and honoured to be joining such an illustrious sporting institution here at Loughborough University. The opportunity to work here and be part of the new RFU Women’s Rugby Competition was too good to ignore. It’s a hugely exciting time to be involved in women’s rugby, with 7s at the Rio Olympics last summer, and the 15s World Cup coming up in August. I feel there is a clear opportunity to create a World Class development/performance programme here with the facilities available and the historical sporting heritage that inspires players to achieve.”

Boxing

Natasha Jonas makes her professional debut at the Walker Activity Dome in Newcastle on Friday.

She fights Monika Antonik of Poland.

If Jonas progresses as expected she could line up in a future bout against Ireland’s boxing star Katie Taylor.

Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Several women have been awarded honours this June:

Jennie Price (Head of Sport England) CBE
Judy Murray OBE (for services to tennis, women in sport and charity)
Heather Stanning OBE (services to rowing)
Laura Smith (for services to disability sport)
Michelle Adams MBE (for services to girls’ and women’s football in Wales)
Natalie Gilmour MBE (for services to women’s rugby league)
Diane Lampard MBE (for services to equestrianism)
Angela Malone MBE (for services to wheelchair curling

Athletics

Two more female athletes have been banned by Russia for four years after their 2008 Olympic sample was retested.  Anastasiya Kapachinskaya won silver in the 4x400m relay at Beijing, whilst Inga Abitova came sixth in the 10,000m.

With Kapachinskaya’s disqualification, the Team GB quartet of Christine Ohuruogu, Kelly Sotherton, Marilyn Okoro and Nicola Sanders should receive bronze.

The athletes admitted their guilt to the governing body of athletics, the IAAF.

Formula 1

Monisha Kaltenborn has left her position as Team Principal at Swiss Formula 1 team, Sauber.  She was the leading light for women in senior positions in the sport as the first (and still only) female team principal.

She had disagreed with owners Longbow Finance as to the future running of Sauber and leaves “by mutual consent”.

Claire Williams is currently vice-principal at Williams, but, in reality, looks after most of the day to day running of the team as her father, Frank, unable to fulfil his principal role due to ill health.

This is a great loss, not only for formula 1, a sport where women are woefully under-represented, but for all those girls growing up with no role model to emulate.

Tennis

Johanna Konta

It’s been a strange old week for British number one, Johanna Konta.  She stormed into the final at Nottingham, defeating Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets in the semi-final 6-2 7-5.  She seemed to be on track to win her first grass court tournament, but it was not to be.  After taking the first set 6-2, she then lost the next two 7-6 7-5 to the unseeded Donna Vekić of Croatia.

This week was even worse for the 26-year old as she crashed out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham in the second round.  She beat Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the first round 6-3 7-6, but then was totally outplayed by Coco Vandeweghe of the USA 6-1 6-3.

Other British scores:

Naomi Broady had a fine win over Alizé Cornet of France in the first round 7-6 6-0, but then succumbed to seventh seed Petra Kvitova in the second, 6-2 6-2.

Heather Watson lost in the first round to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-2 5-7 6-3.

Birmingham quarter-finals

The quarter-finals, to be played on 23 June are as follows:

L Safarova v D Gavrilova
G Muguruza v Coco Vandeweghe
K Mladenovic v P Kvitova
A Barty v C Giorgi

Victoria Azarenka

Former world number on Victoria Azarenka made her return from maternity leave this week at the Mallorca Open.

She beat Risa Ozaki of Japan in the first round 6-3 4-6 7-6.

She went out in the second round to Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-1 6-3.

She is using her protected ranking to be able to play at Wimbledon later on this month.

Injuries

World number five Elina Svitolina has announced she may miss Wimbledon due to a foot injury sustained at the Birmingham tournament.

“I was really looking forward to this year at Wimbledon but today the court was slippery and it’s so bad for my foot,” she said.

“I will do my best. But for the moment it’s very uncomfortable.”

Daily Telegraph 20 most influential women in sport

The list, published to coincide with Women’s Sport Week was chosen by a panel of 14 influential women in British sport.

1.  Clare Balding
2.  Baroness Campbell
3.  Dame Katherine Grainger
4.  Tracey Crouch MP
5.  Baroness Grey-Thompson
6.  Barbara Slater
7.  Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
8.  Liz Nicholl
9.  Judy Murray
10. Annamarie Phelps
11. Jennie Price
12. Nicola Adams
13. Dame Kelly Holmes
14. Tammy Parlour/Jo Bostock (Women’s Sports Trust)
15. Clare Connor
16. Victoria Aggar
17. Kate Richardson-Walsh
18. Jessica Varnish
19. Dame Heather Rabbatts
20. Dr Eva Carneiro

It’s a pretty good list and not too much controversy there.  I’m quite surprised though that Clare Balding is still at the top – I’m not sure that she’s the most influential woman out there.  There are also plenty of names that could have been included; Ruth Holdaway, CEO at Women in Sport, for example, Anna Kessel or Vicky Orvice, the sportswriters, or Sally Hancock – how’s that for starters?

Cricket

As we career headlong into the wonderful event that is the Women’s Cricket World Cup, each team has been playing warm-ups to get in the swing.  Here are some selected results:

19 June
Chesterfield
Sri Lanka 155 all out
England 156/2 30.2 overs
England won by 8 wickets (118 balls remaining)

Derby
India 130 all out
New Zealand 133/3 (26.3 overs)
New Zealand won by 7 wickets (141 balls remaining)

20 June
Oakham
Australia 324/5 (50 overs)
South Africa 221 all out (49.3 overs)
Australia won by 103 runs

Leicester
West Indies 246/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 249/5 (47.4 overs)
Pakistan won by 5 wickets (14 balls remaining)

21 June
Derby
New Zealand 130 all out (38.3 overs)
England 132/3 (27.2 overs)
England won by 7 wickets (136 balls remaining)

Chesterfield
India 275/8 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 166 all out (48.4 overs)
India won by 109 runs

22 June
Leicester
Pakistan 156 all out (46.4 overs)
Australia 159/2 (23.2 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets (160 balls remaining)

Oakham
West Indies 63 all out (23.5 overs)
South Africa 65/4 (19 overs)
South Africa won by six wickets (186 balls remaining)

Two other World Cup snippets:

Opener Lauren Winfield is out of England’s first game against India with a wrist injury.  It may be touch and go to get her ready for the second game against Pakistan on Tuesday.

In other news, Indian captain Mithali Raj has summed up the feelings of most of us frustrated women in sport.  When asked in an interview who her favourite male cricketers are, she shot back,

“Do you ask a male cricketer who their favourite female cricketer is?”  Class.

Tickets are still available for most of the matches, although Saturday’s England v India clash at Derby has sold out.  I would urge you, if you’re in the vicinity of Leicester, Derby or Bristol, to check at least one match out.  If you can’t, there will be pretty comprehensive coverage on TV via Sky and radio via Test Match Special.   Check out listings for details.

And Finally

Cricket again!  So what have we learnt from the warm-up matches?  England are looking good, as are Australia.  No big deal there.  West Indies are having a nightmare so far and will be particularly concerned about losing to Pakistan.  This, however, probably means they will win it!

It’s going to be the most open World Cup yet, I reckon.  Australia are favourites, with England just behind.  A few months ago I would have put a plea in for New Zealand, but now I think they’ve gone off the boil at just the wrong time, although they did have a good win over India in the warm-ups.

I would like to think India will put in a good performance here and Pakistan are, of course, dark horses.  We’ve just seen what their men could do in the Champions Trophy, so watch out for them.

West Indies?  Who knows?  South Africa?  Too uneven.  And Sri Lanka propping everyone up, I’m afraid.

I’m going to be really boring and say Australia v England in the final, but with India and Pakistan the surprise packages.  From an England point of view, if someone could kindly knock Australia out before the final I’d be more than happy (sorry Aus fans).

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 June 2017

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  I got the feeling when I was preparing this that it would be a big one – so much news from so many different sports.  So forgive me if I’m brief with each piece – just trying to get as much in as possible.

So here we go.  Stories this week come from athletics, hockey, diving, netball, football, rugby union, cycling, tennis, triathlon and cricket.  It’s also Women’s Sport Week next week, so this makes my “and finally”, with my usual combination of enthusiasm and cynicism.

Netball

Super League Final Four

I made no secret of it as I nailed my colours firmly to the Loughborough Lightning mast at the beginning of the season.  But I could not help but have that sinking feeling at the weekend when both Lightning and Wasps won well to go into the Final Four final.  And so it was borne out by the final result.  Loughborough will have the satisfaction of winning the league (by a whopping nine points), but they will be angry that the only team they couldn’t beat during the whole season was Wasps – twice.

Saturday 10 June

Semi-Finals

Loughborough Lightning 66-45 Team Bath

Wasps Netball 63-48 Manchester Thunder

Sunday 11 June

Third place play-off 

Manchester Thunder 56-48 Team Bath

Final

Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

So congratulations to Wasps.  It’s been a great Super League season.

Tennis

French Open

Twenty-year old Jelena Ostapenko became French Open champion on Saturday.  She defeated third seed and tournament favourite Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3.

The unseeded Ostapenko was one set and 3-0 down before she came roaring back and in doing so became the first unseeded woman to win at Roland Garros since 1983. She also became Latvia’s first Grand Slam champion.

It was an amazing performance and hopefully the world number 47 will have a great future.

Surbiton Trophy

Magdalena Rybarikova won the Surbiton trophy, beating Britain’s number two Heather Watson in in the final in straight sets, 6-4 7-5.

Nottingham Open

Laura Robson exited the Nottingham Open in the first round.  She went out to American Julia Boserup 6-4 6-3.

Heather Watson also lost in the first round, going out to fourth seed Alison Riske of the USA 6-2 6-3.

Meanwhile Britain’s number one, Johanna Konta is through to the quarter-final.  Her first round opponent, fellow Briton Tara Moore, retired with a foot injury.  At the time Konta was up 6-2 3-0.  It was Konta’s 300th career singles win.

She played Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in round two, winning comfortably 6-4 6-1.

Konta plays Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the last eight.

Aegon Trophy, Manchester

Britain’s number three, Naomi Broady is through to the quarter-finals with a second round win over American Maria Sanchez 7-6 7-6.

She will play top seed Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei in the last eight.

Injuries

Simona Halep

The French Open runner-up has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham next week with an ankle injury.

This means that wildcards will now be given to Naomi Broady and Heather Watson and there will, therefore, be three Britons, including British number one Johanna Konta, in the draw.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton due to a thigh injury.  She had been awarded a wildcard to compete in Birmingham.

She is not expected to return until the end of July.

Cycling

The Women’s Tour

Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma claimed the overall Women’s Tour at the weekend, after the final stage in London.

The Stage Five results were:

  1. Jolien D’Hoore – 1hr 28mins 23secs
  2. Hannah Barnes – same time
  3. Christine Majerus – same time
  4. Roxane Fournier – same time
  5. Katie Archibald – same time

Overall standings:

  1. Katarzyna Niewiadoma – 16hrs 34mins 53secs
  2. Christine Majerus – +1min 18secs
  3. Hannah Barnes – +1min 30sec

Other British finishers were Alice Barnes in 6th, Dani King in 9th, Katie Archibald in 18th and defending champion Lizzie Deignan who finished in 42nd place.

Hockey

England had a disappointing international weekend at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

10 June

England 1-5 Argentina

Argentina took the lead through an Agustina Habif penalty corner on 17 minutes.  Lily Owsley almost equalised a couple of minutes later but her shot went wide.

On 22 minutes England were level from Surbiton’s Hannah Martin’s well worked penalty corner.

The teams went in all square and with all to play for in the second-half.

But it was all downhill for England as two penalty corners, from Martina Cavallero on 44 and Magdalena Fernandez on 48 took Argentina well in front.

And English misery was complete when Delfina Merino on 56 and Eugenia Trinchinetti on 60 scored field goals to make it 5-1.

It was a somewhat experimental England side with several new faces but it was also an excellent performance from the Argentinians.

11 June

England 2- 2 Netherlands

Netherlands won 4-3 on penalties

As always seems to be the way between these two, this was a game to savour as England came from 2-0 down to force the game into a penalty shootout.

The Dutch took the lead on just three minutes with a goal from Laura Nunnink after a pinpoint Frederique Matla cross.

They doubled their lead on 15 minutes after some fine counter-attacking hockey – the shot from  Laurien Leurink to powerful for Maddie Hinch to keep out.

But England were not out of it.  Alex Danson scored on 42 minutes and and then Sophie Bray pulled them level on 52 from a great cross by Susannah Townsend.

The shootout went to sudden death.  Hollie Webb thought she had scored the winning goal, but it was disallowed for having touched her foot.

Matla put the next Dutch penalty away, Nicola White’s was saved and the Netherlands had won.

 EuroHockey Club Cup (EHCC)

With German teams finishing as runners-up in the top division of the women’s EHCC and winning the second division (the Trophy), they will have two places for next year’s event and England will only have one.

Surbiton Ladies will be the England’s representatives in 2018.

Rugby Union

Red Roses on Tour

England 53-10 Australia

England started their International Women’s Rugby Series with a convincing win over Australia at Porirua Park, New Zealand.

Although the Wallaroos took the lead in the third minute when Ashleigh Hewson went over for a try, it was pretty much all Red Roses action from then on.

They scored nine tries in all with Sarah McKenna bagging a hat-trick and Kay Wilson a brace.  The other tries came from Izzy Noel-Smith, Abbie Scott, Vicky Fleetwood and Harriet Millar-Mills.  Emily Scott put over four conversions.

Canada 20-27 England

The Red Roses continued their fine form against Canada in Christchurch.  They scored four tries; two from Lydia Thompson and one each for Abbie Scott and Kay Wilson.  Emily Scarratt kicked seven points.

Canada’s tries came from Carolyn McEwen and Karen Paquin, while Magali Harvey kicked two penalties and two conversions.

New Zealand are also in fine form.  They defeated Canada in their first match, 28-16 and Australia in their second, 44-17.

The two unbeaten sides, the Black Ferns and the Red Roses meet on Saturday at the Rotorua International Stadium in a winner-takes-all shoot-out.

Japan

Just as Japan were the surprise package at the men’s World Cup in 2015 (who can forget their incredible win over South Africa?), it seems the Japanese women should not be underestimated in this year’s tournament in Ireland.

They have just undertaken a short tour of Ireland and Wales and although they lost narrowly twice to an Ireland XV, they defeated Wales 52-10 this week.

They have been drawn in Pool C with Australia, France and Ireland.  And all should ensure they don’t take the points for granted when playing the Asian Champions.

Sevens

England’s sevens squad, meanwhile takes part in the Malemort Sevens at the weekend.  The squad is Natasha Brennan, Katie Mason, Alice Richardson-Watmore, Millie Wood, Olivia Jones, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Kelly Smith, Lotte Clapp, Jo Richardson-Watmore, Holly Aitchison and Chantelle Miell.

Malemort is the first leg of Rugby Europe Women’s Grand Prix Series.

Pool A: Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain

Pool B: France, Belgium, Wales, Sweden

Pool C: England, Ireland, Italy, Portugal

England’s pool games will be as follows (all times BST):

Saturday 17 June
v Portugal, 9.44am
v Italy, 12.29pm
v Ireland, 3.14pm

It’s an important two-part series for England as it will be their last chance to quality for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July 2018.  Qualification through the HSBC Rugby Women’s Sevens Series is unlikely as England are currently eighth after five of the six rounds.

Football

On the Pitch

England’s Euros warm-up

Switzerland 0-4 England

England put in another impressive display in Biel to win comfortably against Switzerland this week.

After a first half-hour’s stalemate Jordan Nobbs broke the deadlock with a fine 20-yard curler.

Ten minutes later they were two-up when Fran Kirby went round the Swiss Goalkeeper, Gaelle Thalmann to score from close range.

In the second-half Jodie Taylor scored twice and England could have had more.

Scotland’s Euros warm-ups

Mixed fortunes for Anna Signeul’s side as they prepare for the Euros next month.

Scotland 2-0 Romania

Lisa Evans started the scoring for the home side after just two minutes, when she headed in from a Fiona Brown cross.  They went in 1-0 up and then doubled their lead just after half-time when Jane Ross headed in another cross from Brown to seal the win.

It was a good, positive, attacking performance from the Scots.

Sweden 1-0 Scotland

Scotland’s second game was against altogether tougher opponents.

Although Sweden dominated the game they were unable to break through the Scottish defence until the 84th minute, when Caroline Seger headed home after almost constant Sweden pressure.

Off the Pitch

News broke this week that Dame Heather Rabbatts has announced she is to step down from her role as an FA non-executive director and board member.

In her resignation letter she cited her frustration “at the lack of progress for BAME coaches.”

The FA will now have to recruit three, not two women to its board in time for the beginning of the 2018/19 season, in order to adhere to the new Code for Sports Governance.

She made such a significant contribution in what must have been, at the very least, an unhelpful atmosphere.  She will be missed and I hope those women that come after her can harness some of her confidence and strength and will be able to make their own telling contributions.

Signings

Manchester City have made their first signing of the summer.  They have signed defender Mie Jans from Brondby for next season.

City fans will also be relieved that captain Steph Houghton has signed a new contract.  The club’s website stated:

“I’ve only ever seen my future at the club.

“This will be my fourth season and I’ve loved every single minute of it. I had no intention of going anywhere else and this is my home now.”

The length of the contract has not been disclosed.

Bristol City Women have also been dabbling in the transfer market this week.  They have signed Belgian striker Yana Daniels from Anderlecht.

WSL Structure

Everton will be the team to replace Notts County in WSL next season.

Only they and Doncaster Rovers Belles applied.  Everton finished top of the WSL2 Spring Series.

The Belles have seven days to appeal the decision.

Cricket

England continued their World Cup warm-up with a match against India this week.

They beat India by 140 runs in Loughborough.  Returning captain Heather Knight took three wickets, as did left-arm spinner Alex Hartley.  Nat Sciver continued her fine form with 69.  Lauren Winfield also put in a good knock of 50.

England 243 all out

India 103 all out

Next warm-up will be against Sri Lanka on 19 June in Chesterfield.

Triathlon

Leeds Triathlon (World Triathlon Series)

The winner of the Leeds event was Flora Duffy of Bermuda in a time of one hour 57 minutes, 02 seconds.  Second was Taylor Spivey of the USA in one hour 58 minutes, 32 seconds and in third was Alice Betto of Italy in one hour 59 minutes, 36 seconds.

First Briton home was Jessica Learmonth, who finished sixth in a time of two hours, one minute and 06 seconds.

Non Stanford finished in 11th.

Speaking of whom, Stanford has had to withdraw from the European Championships in Kitzbuhel, Switzerland at the weekend, due to illness.  No further details have been given, but she is believed to have been feeling ill since competing in Yokohama in May.

Diving

Britain’s Lois Toulson won 10m platform gold at the European Championships in Kiev this week.

She scored 330.70, with Russians Anna Chuinyshena (326.90) and Iuliia Timoshinina (313.3) capturing silver and bronze.

The World Championships take place from 14 July in Budapest.

Athletics

There was sad news this week as it was revealed that double Paralympic champion Kadeena Cox has had two of her gold medals stolen.

She had left the medals, from the 2015 IPC World Championships T37 100m and T35-38 4 x 100m relay, in her car outside her house in Prestwich.

Let’s hope they are returned.

And finally,

It’s that time again!  It’s Women’s Sport Week next week.  And those of you who have been with me for some time will know of my mixed feelings about this.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for shouting about women’s sport (as well you know), but I still think every week should be “Women’s Sport Week”.

But until this is the case, and let’s face it this is a long, long way away, let’s celebrate.  I want you all to go out and talk about women’s sport next week.  Tweet about it, Facebook it.  Do all those lovely social media things.  But also watch it and read about it.  I know you’ll have to make a bit of an effort to find it (hence this column), but I promise you it will be worth it.

And of course, if you’re a female reader of this column, you can always get out and play something!  Book a court, go for a run, go bowling, walk up a hill, have a kickabout in the park – then shout about it!

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to celebrate Women’s Sport Week.  Let me know and I’ll Tweet the best and check out www.womeninsport.org for more ideas and information.