Welcome to this week’s column. After saying I was going to be out and about last week, I ended up actually being very much in and not about, laid up with flu. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – when you’ve got flu, you know about it.
Anyway, I’m back up and running now and there’s plenty to get to grips with this week. Stories come from the Paralympics, rugby, netball, football, cycling, athletics, tennis, cricket and golf.
The Winter Paralympics open today in Pyeongchang with 670 athletes vying for medals in six sports.
Team GB has been set a target of seven medals.
Downhill skier, Millie Knight, along with guide Brett Wild, will be aiming for a medal, as will Kelly Gallagher and new guide Gary Smith in the Super G. Great Britain also has high hopes in the wheelchair curling.
Full coverage across the BBC.
Thursday 1 March
England 4-1 France
The Lionesses got off to a fine start in the four-team tournament in the US. True, this French team is but a shadow of its former self as several of the previous stalwarts, and often thorns in England’s side, have retired or are unavailable for selection. The Lionesses too, however, are missing key players, including captain Steph Houghton, who withdrew from the squad with an ankle injury.
Toni Duggan opened the scoring, slipping Fran Kirby’s pass into the net on seven minutes.
The French offered little and were soon two down as Jill Scott grabbed the second. Jodie Taylor scored a third before half-time and the game was done as a spectacle.
The second-half saw the Lionesses take their foot off the gas and substitutions caused the game to become disjointed. But Fran Kirby still found time to grab England’s fourth, before Gaetane Thiney scored a consolation goal for France.
The only downside for England was Anita Asante’s injury incurred in the first-half. She has since returned to the UK and is set to be out for some time with a knee injury.
USA 1-0 Germany
A goal from Megan Rapinoe on 17 minutes was enough to clinch the opening match for USA.
Sunday 4 March
USA 1-1 France
France recovered from their heavy loss to England to gain an impressive point against the US. Mallory Pugh scored for the home side, ten minutes from half-time. France equalised just three minutes later through Eugenie Le Sommer. Neither side could find the winner in the second-half.
England 2-2 Germany
Whilst there was much to admire in England’s 2-2 draw against Germany, the Lionesses will surely watch the video rerun through their fingers, unwilling to view some of the comedy defending.
But Phil Neville will be heartened by the team’s resilience. At one time, they would have capitulated after going behind to Germany, but on this occasion they came back – twice.
The Germans took the lead through Hasret Kayikci but England came straight back when a long-range shot from Fara Williams was deflected by Ellen White into the net.
On the resumption, Germany had the better of the play and went ahead again when a poor clearance from Siobhan Chamberlain bounced off Millie Bright and into the net.
This discombobulated England for a while, but Ellen White struck again, getting on to a fine through ball and just beating the German offside trap, to slide the ball home.
The last fifteen minutes were end-to-end, with both teams squandering chances. England’s best came through Rachel Daly who, having done the hard work to get into a one-to-one with the goalkeeper, then chipped the ball straight to her when it seemed easier to score.
Thursday 7 March
France 3-0 Germany
No-one saw this one coming; France were abject against England and improved against the USA, but 3-0 against Germany?
Armandine Henry opened the scoring for France in the tenth minute with a great shot from 23 yards out.
Germany thought they had equalised when Dzenifer Marozsan chipped the goalkeeper nearly from the half-way line, but Sarah Bouhaddi managed to scramble back to make the save.
In the second-half, France scored through Eugenie Le Sommer (her 66th international goal) and Valerie Gauvin.
The Germans played an inexperienced side against a full-strength French side and paid the price.
The result also ensured Germany finished bottom of the SheBelieves table.
USA 1-0 England
England needed just a point from their final match to take the trophy. But it was not to be for Phil Neville’s men as an unfortunate own goal from ‘keeper Karen Bardsley saw the points and the title go to the USA.
For most of the first-half the teams were even, but towards the break the US started to take charge. In the second-half they came out firing again and on 58 minutes a sliced clearance from Millie Bright hit Bardsley and deflected into the net.
The Lionesses had chances to equalise, including one for Ellen White just minutes from time, but she her header came off the post and was cleared by the USA defender.
Football – Off the Pitch
League Restructure in England
From season 2018-19 the women’s game will be renamed/restructured as follows:
Current name New Name
Tier One: WSL1 FA Women’s Super League
Tier Two: WSL2 FA Women’s Championship
Tier Three: Women’s Premier League FA Women’s national League North/South
Tier Four: Women’s Premier League FA Women’s National League 1 (4 regions)
So far, the following clubs have been awarded licences for the top two divisions:
FA WSL: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women, Yeovil Town.
FA Women’s Championship: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur.
In addition to this, there are up to four places available in the FAWSL through the second lot of applications and five in the Championship.
The second application process for places begins this month for those currently outside the two top tiers. We already know West Ham intend to apply for the WSL and Crystal Palace for the Championship.
It’s Round Four of the Six Nations this weekend. The fixtures are:
France v England (8pm GMT)
Wales v Italy (11.45am GMT)
Ireland v Scotland (1pm GMT)
Tyrell’s Premier 15s
Unsurprisingly, last weekend’s fixtures were hit by the weather, with only one tie going ahead:
Gloucester-Hartpury 40-36 Harlequins
This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:
DMP Sharks v Saracens (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby club)
Loughborough Lightning v Bristol (3pm, Loughborough University)
Harlequins v Richmond (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Worcester Valkyries (3pm, Tywford Avenue Sports Ground)
Track Cycling World Championships
Katie Archibald and Emily Nelson won gold in the madison. Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters of the Netherlands took silver and Letizia Paternoster and Maria Giulia Confalonieri of Italy the bronze.
Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Emily Nelson won silver in the women’s team pursuit. The gold was taken by the USA team of Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert, Kimberly Geist and Kelly Catlin. Bronze went to Letizia Paternoster, Elisa Balsamo, Tatiana Guderzo and Silvia Valsecchi of Italy.
Elinor Barker was due to take part in the madison, withdrew after a crash and then finished twelfth in the points race. Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands won. Jennifer Valente of the USA took silver and Jasmin Duehring of Canada the bronze.
Barker also finished sixth in the omnium. Kirsten Wild won it with Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark in second and Rushlee Buchanan of New Zealand in third.
Lauren Bate and Katy Marchant finished sixth in the team sprint. Gold went to Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel of Germany, silver to Kyra Lamberink and Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and bronze to Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova of the Russian Federation.
Michelle Wie of the US won her first tournament since 2014 last weekend when she took the Women’s World Championship title by one shot with a three-way tie for second.
Wie carded a 65 on the final round, holing a monster 40-foot putt on the last, to go to -17. Brooke Henderson of Canada and Danielle Kang and Nelly Korda of the US tied second on -16. Best placed UK finisher was Charley Hull, back on -10.
Netball Super League round five took place last weekend, although a couple of fixtures fell foul of the weather. The results were as follows:
Friday 2 March
Team Bath v UWS Sirens POSTPONED
Saturday 3 March
Manchester Thunder v Celtic Dragons POSTPONED
Loughborough Lightning 49-60 Wasps Netball
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm POSTPONED
Monday 5 March
Team Northumbria 53-71Benecos Mavericks
One fixture from Round Six also took place on Monday 5:
Loughborough Lightning 53-51 Surrey Storm
The table is a bit uneven now with the postponements, but Wasps are top with five wins from five and 15 points. Team Bath are second with 12 points from four games and Loughborough Lightning third, also on 12 points, but from six games. Severn Stars, Surrey Storm and Team Northumbria are yet to pick up a point.
This weekend’s fixtures look like this:
Friday 9 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm Live on Sky Sports)
Saturday 10 March
Celtic dragons v Severn Stars (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Wasps Netball v Team Northumbria (7pm)
Investec Women’s Premier League
Several fixtures fell victim to the weather at the weekend, with just two taking place:
Surbiton 1-2 Holcombe
East Grinstead 3-0 University of Birmingham
Surbiton are top with 28 points from 15 games. Holcombe are second, one point behind, from 15 games and University of Birmingham are third on 26 from 14 games.
Cricket – on the Pitch
The West Indies are currently playing a one-day series in New Zealand, the results of which count towards the ICC Women’s Championship.
First ODI – 4 March
West Indies 277/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 278/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand won by 1 run
West Indies won the toss and elected to field first. Sophie Devine hit 108 and Suzie Bates 44 to steer New Zealand to a defendable total of 278.
The Windies chased with a vengeance. Kyshona Knight looked to have put them on course as she hit 44 from 31 balls. They needed 10 off the last over, to be bowled by Leigh Kasperek.
Two runs off the first two balls. Then a wicket as Tremayne Smartt was caught by Maddy Green for five. But the dangerous Knight was still there. The fourth ball went for a boundary and the West Indies needed four off the last two. The fifth ball went for only a single and the last for two and New Zealand had won by one run.
Second ODI – 8 March
West Indies 194 all out (48.1 overs)
New Zealand 195/2 (30.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 116 balls to spare
The second match of the series was an altogether more one-sided affair. Stafanie Taylor top-scored for the West Indies with 86, but it was not enough to get them to a useful score. Kasperek took 4/44 from her 10 overs and Leah Tahuhu 3/42 from 9.1.
New Zealand were ruthless in response, knocking off the total in just over 30 overs. Devine and Bates were again outstanding, scoring 80 and 101 not out respectively, taking the White Ferns into a 2-0 lead in the series.
The third game is on Sunday 11 March.
Cricket – off the Pitch
The ECB has named its squad to tour India and also compete in the tri-series with India and Australia. Katherine Brunt has been left out with a back injury and Sarah Taylor has been rested. Lauren Winfield, Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh are also left out.
There are three new names in the squad; Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith and Katie George, while Kate Cross, Tash Farrant and Amy Jones are recalled.
The squad in full:
Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Tash Farrant (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).
(All matches played at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai)
22 India v Australia (04:30 GMT)
23 Australia v England (04:30 GMT)
25 India v England (05:30 BST)
26 India v Australia (05:30 BST)
28 Australia v England (05:30 BST)
29 India v England (05:30 BST)
31 Final (05:30 BST)
India v England ODI series
(Not counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship)
6 1st ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
9 2nd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
12 3rd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
News on media coverage when I have it.
Kia Super League
The ECB announced the England players’ Kia Super League allocations this week. Now forgive me if I’m being particularly grumpy here, but it does seem that it’s all becoming a bit random. I can’t help thinking we’re just marking time now until the new franchise system is introduced and we start again. Now it just appears people are moving for no reason – how can supporters get to know a team that’s always changing? Anyway, the moves are:
Beth Langston – Loughborough Lightning to Yorkshire Diamonds
Jenny Gunn- Yorkshire Diamonds to Loughborough Lightning
Tammy Beaumont – Surrey Stars to Southern Vipers
Sarah Taylor – Lancashire Thunder to Surrey Stars
Alex Hartley – Surrey Stars to Lancashire Thunder
The ECB is looking for balance, but in the end, the divvying up of England players detracts from the tournament for me.
World Indoor Championships
There were some excellent performances by Team GB at last weekend’s Championships in Birmingham.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson was the star of the show, taking her first senior title with gold in the pentathlon. She won with 4750 points. Silver went to Ivona Dadic of Austria and bronze to Yorgelis Rodriguez of Cuba.
Laura Muir took bronze in the 3000m in a season’s best 8:45.78. The winner was Genzebe Dibabe of Ethiopia, in a time of 8:45.05. Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands took silver in a time of 8:45.68.
Muir then went one better, taking silver in the 1500m. Dibabe was again the winner, with Hassan in bronze.
It was a one/two for the US in the 400m with Courtney Okolo taking gold and Shakima Wimbley, silver. Eilidh Doyle took bonze for Great Britain with a season’s best 51.60.
Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took bronze in the 800m with a personal best time of 1:59.81. The gold went to Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and the silver Ajee Wilson of USA.
Bronze also went to the 4x400m team. United States took gold with Poland in silver.
Kathrine Swizter, the first woman to be given an official number in the Boston Marathon, fifty years ago, is to run in the London Marathon this year.
Switzer, 71, entered the Boston race using her initials only, hoping to pass through unnoticed. She was roughly attacked by security men on the day, who tried to remove her from the course. She eventually completed the race in four hours 20 minutes.
The race takes place on Sunday 22 April.
She’s back folks! I crave your indulgence for just a moment to mention the fact that Serena Williams is back. Now I know that after childbirth women return to all kinds of work in ridiculously short amounts of time, and I also know that they generally neither ask for nor get recognition for that. So I’m not necessarily shouting about the fact that she’s returning after childbirth, but just the fact that she’s back.
In her first match back at Indian Wells, she beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5 6-3. She plays 29th seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in round two.
It would be remiss of me not to mention #IWD2018. I know that in the scheme of things, when women and girls all round the world suffer daily horrific treatment, sport is not one of life’s priorities. FGM, trafficking, pornography, rape, “honour” killing, withdrawal of abortion and health rights, harassment and forced marriage are just a few things happening to thousands of women and girls every day.
I know I’ve said this before, but while I speak out, sign petitions and protest against all of these things, my actual area of expertise is sport. Women everywhere have the right to play, officiate, manage, take charge of and watch any kind of sport they want to without fear of reprisal, violence, discrimination or even just scorn and general derision. But it doesn’t happen. And while there is a sporting fight to be had, I’ll be there. Happy #IWD2018 everyone.