Women’s Sports Column 18-24 August 2018

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

Let’s crack on.

Cricket

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

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo she said,

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

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

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  But it is also good that she has withdrawn on her own terms and has realised when the time is right for her.

Kia Super League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golf

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

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

Gymnastics

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

She scored 119.850, 6.55 points ahead of Morgan Hurd.

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

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

Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

Football

Under 20s World Cup

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

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

 Quarter-finals

Spain 2-1 Nigeria

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

France 1-0 North Korea

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

England 2-1 Netherlands

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

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

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

Germany 1-3 Japan

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

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

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

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

Semi-finals

England 0-2 Japan

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

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

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

France 0-1 Spain

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

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

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

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

TV coverage via Eurosport.

Continental Tyres Cup

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

The first round of matches was last weekend:

Results North
Group One

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

Group Two

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

Results South
Group One

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

Group Two

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

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

The FA

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

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

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

Rugby Union

Australia 11-31 New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second game is at Eden Park this weekend.

Netball

World Cup Regional Qualifers – Africas

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

World Cup Regional Qualifers – The Americas

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

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

Tennis

Cincinnati

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

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

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

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

Connecticut Open, New Haven

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

Forbes Women’s Sports Rich List

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

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

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

Hockey

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

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

In a statement to organisers said,

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

More news and views in a couple of weeks. 

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 August 2018

IMG-20160720-00581Welcome to this week’s column.  There’s a lot of positive news this week, which makes a change. Maybe it’s because I’ve been weaning myself off the comments sections of any piece on the BBC website (or even a Tweet) that pertains to women’s sport.  Long may it last.

Stories this week include a round-up of the last few days of the European Championships, cricket, football, hockey, tennis and netball.

Hockey

Danny Kerry has left his role as head coach of the GB and England women’s hockey teams to take up a similar post with the men’s.

He had been in the role for 13 years.

There has been no indication as to who will take over from him.

European Championships

The remaining days of the European Championships produced some excellent performances from Team GB.

Gold
Dina Asher-Smith in the 200m and was part of the 4x100m team that also won gold with Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot and Bianca Williams.
Grace Reid in the 3m springboard diving.
Laura Muir 1,500m

Silver
Alicia Blagg in the 3m springboard diving.
Michele Thomson, Connor Syme, Liam Johnston and Meghan Maclaren  in the mixed team golf competition.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the heptathlon
Eilish McColgan 5,000m

Bronze
Zoey Clark, Anyika Onuora, Amy Allcock and Eilidh Doyle in the 4 x 400m relay
Shara Proctor won bronze in the long jump.
Meghan Beesley in the 400m hurdles.
Laura Weightman in the 1,500m

Tennis

Rogers Cup

Last weekend saw number one seed Simona Halep win the final of the Rogers Cup.  She defeated third seed Sloane Stephens in three sets, 7-6 3-6 6-4.

Britain’s Jo Konta reached the third round.  She had a good win over French Open champions Jelena Ostapenko in the first round, 6-7 6-1 6-2.  In the second round she beat Viktoria Azarenka 6-3 6-1, but lost in the third round to fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-4.

Cincinnati Masters

This week it is the Cincinnati Masters and they have been suffering with the weather.  There are still three games to complete in the third round.  Only two quarter-final line-ups have been decided so far: Petra Kvitova (8) v Elise Mertens (15) and Madison Keys (13) v  Aryna Sabalenka.

Jo Konta went out in the first round to Sabalenka 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Football

Under-20 World Cup

England have finished top of Group B as they beat Mexico 6-1 in their last group game.

The Young Lionesses were behind at half-time through a Jacqueline Ovalle goal.  But after the break Alessia Russo drew them level and Chloe Kelly scored the second to take them ahead.

Georgia Stanway got the third and then Lauren Hemp bagged a hat-trick to make it a convincing win.

England now face the Netherlands in the quarter-finals on 17 August.

Two quarter-finals have already taken place:

Spain 2-1 Nigeria
Aitana (13)
Patri 45+2

France 1-0 Korea DPR
Delabre (29 pen)

The semi-finals are on 20 August.  Spain play against France and the winner of the Netherlands/England match play the winner of the fourth semi between Germany and Japan.

The final is on Friday 24 August.  There is TV coverage on Eurosport.

Manchester United

BT sport has revealed that it will show Manchester United Women’s first match, against Liverpool in the Continental Cup group game, live at 2pm on Sunday 19 August.

They will be covering WSL, FA and Continental Cups this season.

First fixtures:
Sunday 19 August: Liverpool v Manchester United (Conti Cup) – BT Sport 2 from 2pm
Sunday 9 September: Chelsea v Manchester City (WSL) – BT Sport 3 from 2pm
Sunday 23 September: Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool (WSL) – BT Sport 1 from 12.15pm
Sunday 14 October: Chelsea v Arsenal (WSL) – BT Sport 1 from 2pm

Signings

Kirsty Linnett has signed for Liverpool, having been released by Reading at the end of her contract.
Liverpool have also signed goalkeeper Fran Kitching from Sheffield United.
Manchester City have signed Canadian international forward Janine Beckie on a one-year contract.
Birmingham City have signed full-back Harriet Scott from Reading on a one-year contract.
Defender Megan Alexander has moved from Millwall to Yeovil.
Bristol City have also been busy signing striker Ella Rutherford from Millwall and defender Poppy Pattinson from Manchester City this week.

Champions League

Glasgow City played their second Champions League group game this week, beating FC Martve of Georgia 7-0.

Abbi Grant scored two in the first-half, Kirsty Howat bagged a hat-trick and the other goals came from Jenna Clark and Jo Love.

City are now joint second in the group and play their last game against Polish side Gornik Leczna on Monday.  If they win that game by two goals they will top the group and go into the last 32.

In the other game in the group Gornik Leczna beat Anderlecht.

Netball – on the court

World Cup Regional Qualifiers – Africa

Six teams are vying for two places at next year’s World Cup at the African regional qualifier in Lusaka, Zambia.   The teams taking part are Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

All of the teams have played three matches now and Uganda are top with three wins from three.  Zimbabwe lie second on the same points but with an inferior goal average.  Zambia lie third on four points.

Malawi have already qualified for the World Cup by right.

The tournament ends on 18 August.  More news next week.

Netball – off the court

Great news for the Vitality Super League – Serena Guthrie will be back to play in UK for the 2019 season.

The England centre who was, in my opinion, the outstanding England player of the Commonwealth Games in April, has been playing Super Netball in Australia for Giants since 2017.

Guthrie has given no indication as to which club she will join, although I’m sure many will be vying to sign her up.

Cricket
Kia Super League

We already know two out of the three teams that have made it to finals day at Hove on 27 August.  Western Storm and Loughborough Lightning have been battling it out for top spot all tournament and it’s not over yet!  Lightning scored a famous victory against the Storm this week which took them back to the top of the table, but there’s still time for it all to change.  The race is still on for third, although Southern Vipers, usually a safe bet to reach finals day, are out of it.

Here’s what has happened so far this week:

11 August
Lancashire Thunder 136/7 (20 overs)
Loughborough Lightning 137/1 (14.3 overs)
Lightning won by 9 wickets with 33 balls remaining

Amy Satterthwaite top-scored for the Thunder with 47 from 41 balls with back-up Georgia Boyce (38 from 33) and Nicole Bolton (19 from 20).   But Loughborough’s bowling was disciplined as they restricted the Thunder to under 140.  Sophie Devine took 2/22 from her four and Kirstie Gordon 2/29 off her four.

Loughborough knocked off the total with over five overs to spare as Lancashire took only one wicket.  Amy Jones, having a great tournament, scored 66 from 39, Rachael Haynes 40 from 37 and Sophie Devine, unluckily run out, scored 22 from 12.

Southern Vipers 62/2 (8.5 overs)
Western Storm (did not bat)

Match abandoned.

12 August
Surrey Stars 66 all out (16.4 of 20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 67/1 (9.3 overs)
Diamonds won by 9 wickets with 63 balls remaining

Disaster for the Stars as they were skittled by Yorkshire for just 66 at York.  Only Lizelle Lee (13) and Marizanne Kapp (13) got into double figures.

Beth Langston took 3/14 off 3.4 overs.

In response Lauren Winfield’s was the only wicket taken as she was caught by Sophia Dunkley off the bowling of Laura Marsh for 14 but by then the Diamonds already had 55 on the board.  Beth Mooney top-scored with 44 off 30 as Yorkshire won easily.

14 August
Southern Vipers 147/9 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 148/6 (19.3 overs)
Stars won by 4 wickets with 3 balls remaining

Just two days after their thrashing at the hands of Yorkshire, the Stars made a great return to form, beating the Vipers and thus ending the Vipers’ chances of qualifying for finals day.

Without Suzie Bates the Vipers’ scorecard would have been grim reading.  The New Zealander scored 82 from 57 balls.  The next best score was from Danni Wyatt who scored 15.

Best bowling figures came from Nat Sciver, who took 4/32 off her four overs.

It was a competitive target, though.  Surrey tackled it steadily and all contributed.  Sciver top-scored with 46 from 33 and as wickets fell as they headed towards the target, it was a little too close for comfort.  The Stars finally closed it out with three balls to spare.

Lancashire Thunder 154/9 (20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 145/8 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 9 runs

Harmanpreet Kaur stole the show at Blackpool as she struck 74 from 44 balls to take the Thunder to a good total of 154.  Nicole Bolton also scored 46.

The Diamonds battled valiantly, ultimately just falling short.  Winfield fell for just two at the top of the order, but Beth Mooney and Thea Brookes then put on a partnership of 47 before Brookes fell for 22.  Down the order Brunt top-scored with 44 and Alice Davidson-Richards 33, but Yorkshire lost wickets at crucial stages.  Kate Cross effected two run outs and Yorkshire ran out of steam.

15 August
Western Storm 124/6 (20 overs)
Loughborough Lightning 125/1 (12.3 overs)
Lightning won by 9 wickets with 45 balls remaining

A brilliant all-round performance saw the Lightning defeat the Storm and return to the top of the table.

Kirstie Gordon took 3/19 off her four overs and Sophie Devine 2/27.  Even Smriti Mandhana couldn’t quite get it going, scoring 29 from 27 balls until she fell victim to Gordon, caught by Ellyse Villani.

It never looked to be a big enough total.  And so it proved.  Loughborough knocked it off with the minimum of fuss.  Haynes scored 66 not out from 40, Sophie Devine 38 from 30 and Amy Jones saw the end with 6 not out from 6.

Storm had no answer to the Lightning’s performance.  The question is, can Loughborough replicate this on finals day?

It’s safe to say that this season’s tournament has been the best so far by a distance.  I think it was obvious to most of us that a five-game competition was never going to be long enough.  The advent of away and home ties has been brilliant and has produced cricket of a high standard with overseas stars, home favourites and up-and-coming youngsters all having the chance to shine.

If you’re in the Hove vicinity on Bank Holiday Monday, get down there!!

And Finally,

Those of you who have been following the column for a while will remember that I used to have a fairly regular sailing update from Abby Ehler from the Magenta Project, an organisation committed to “accelerate women to the top of sailing”.  Whilst I don’t have the regular updates anymore, I do keep up with what the team at Magenta is doing and I’m thrilled to say they have just announced a new mentoring programme to:

“link up aspiring female sailors with mentors across the industry for the purpose of supporting their sailing development. The mentors will work with the mentees to help plan their sporting development, overcome hurdles, find industry sponsors and inspire them to succeed at the highest level possible.”

All the information on how to apply to be mentored is on the website, and if you’re at all interested I would urge you to take a look.

https://themagentaproject.org/mentoring/

I will hopefully be revisiting this subject in a few weeks to see how it’s going and what the response has been.

That’s all for this week – short and sweet for a change!  More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 August 2018

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  What a week!  So much going on I don’t know where to start.  One thing’s for sure, there’s plenty to catch up with stories from football, golf, hockey, rugby union, rugby league, athletics, cycling, motor racing, swimming, gymnastics, cricket and probably many other things that I’ve forgotten!

So let’s crack on!

Golf – British Open

Top of the pile this week is the Georgia Hall’s terrific triumph in the Women’s British Open at Lytham at the weekend.

It was a great tournament, good coverage on Sky, has its house in order as regards sponsorship and had brilliant crowds on all four days.  Am I allowed to say FA take note?

Anyway, Hall kept her cool to take the title by two shots on -17 from Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand in second and Ryu So-yeon of Korea a further two back in third.

Phatlum had an overnight lead of one shot, but Hall picked up five as Phatlum faltered in the closing stages, only going into the lead on the 16th after she holed a 20-foot putt to make birdie.

It was a stunning achievement for the 22-year old, who showed a maturity beyond her years.  Her cool approach will be a great asset in next year’s Solheim Cup.

Hockey – World Cup

Summary: the Irish took the tournament by storm, while a disappointing England side could only finish sixth.  There were many, many shocks, but right from the off no-one was beating the Netherlands!

Netherlands 6-0 Ireland

The bald facts will be there in the history books – the Dutch were by far the best team in the tournament, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

But back to the facts: Ireland went one down after seven minutes through (my) player of the tournament Lidewij Welton.  But it was the only score in the first quarter.

They scored a second on 19 minutes when Kelly Jonker put away a rebound originally kicked away by Irish goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran.  Before the half was over, Ireland were four-down as first Kitty van Male and then Malou Pheninckx beat the Irish defences.

At the start of the third quarter Marloes Keetels made it five and in the 34th minute Caia van Maasakker scored a sixth.

The Dutch then took their foot off the gas, but the Irish also showed great heart to keep them out and build up their own period of pressure.  They couldn’t quite force the ball over the line, but they gave it everything in the attempt.

And, we should remember they beat the United States and India in their pool matches, then India again in the quarter-final and Spain in the semi, all of whom were higher in the world rankings.

With their second place finish, Ireland move from 16th to 9th in the world.

One immediate result, apart from a truly stunning homecoming reception for the team in Dublin – if you haven’t seen it, check it out here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/hockey/45088396 is that the Irish Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, has indicated that hockey will receive better funding in the run up to the 2022 Olympics.

Spain finished third as they defeated Australia 3-1 in the bronze medal match.  Goals from Maria Lopez, Berta Bonastre and Alicia Magaz won it for the Spanish, with Australia’s score coming from Kathryn Slattery.

Rugby League – Challenge Cup Final

Castleford Tigers 14-20 Leeds Rhinos

The Tigers were well ahead 14-6 at half-time with tries from Katie Hepworth and Tara Stanley.

Sophie Nuttall got one back for Leeds before the break, but then Georgia Roche crossed again to stretch the lead.

On the resumption Leeds scored immediately through Caitlin Beevers.

Aimee Stavely put the Rhinos ahead and Lois Forsell scored again to ensure the victory for Leeds.

And it was great to see it on the TV!

Earlier on in the afternoon Bradford Bulls won the Women’s Shield 44-16 over Stanningley.  The Bulls’ tries came from Leah Jones, Shona Hoyle, Reagan Walker (2), Becky Conlon, Amy Hardcastle (2) and Jess Courtman.

Rugby Union

There is good news and a whole bundle of frustration from rugby union this week.  Next season’s fixtures for the Premier 15s have been announced although you have to search for them a bit.

Check it out here: https://www.premier15s.com/news/tyrrells-premier-15s-release-2018-19-fixtures/, as have those for Championship North and South https://www.englandrugby.com/fixtures-and-results/competitions/womens-competitions/#/fixtures.

On the other hand, there has been criticism levelled at the RFU over their handling of the women’s national side.  If you remember, after the World Cup, the 15s contracts were not renewed as they wanted to concentrate on sevens.

It is safe to say that the England Sevens side has not kicked on as was hoped and yet, there is no sign of 15s contracts.  Steve Brown, Chief Executive of the RFU, has said that their “ambition” is to award full-time contracts in both 15s and sevens.

But where are they?  Former England captain Catherine Spencer has been quoted as saying the RFU has shown “..a lack of effective leadership and a lack of direction.”

Is it a coincidence that this week has seen the retirement of England’s most-capped player Rochelle (Rocky) Clark from England duty?

The 37-year old won 137 caps for England in her 15-year international career and will continue to play domestically for Wasps.

This latest retirement comes in the wake of Izzy Noel- Smith’s in April and Danielle Waterman’s in May.

The last thing we need is another FA.  We don’t need another governing body that can talk a good game and then not follow through.  Let’s hope the RFU gets its house in order before too long.

Motor Sport

Another young British star in the making is Jamie Chadwick.  Last weekend at Brands Hatch she became the first woman to win a British Formula 3 race.

She won from fourth position on the grid, moving up to second and staying just behind leader Pavan Ravishankar of Singapore until Ravishankar was hit with a 10-second penalty for a jump start and Chadwick took the win.

European Championships

The multi-sports European Championships are happening as we speak.  I can’t do justice to all of the performances, so apologies if I’ve missed your favourites.   Here are some of the highlights so far:

Rowing

It was a disappointing event for Team GB with only one medal for the women.  This came in the women’s eight which finished in silver medal position.  There were only three boats in the race, however, so they were guaranteed a medal.

The women’s quadruple sculls were fourth in their final as were the women’s four.  The pair of Hattie Taylor and Rowan McKellar finished fifth in their final.

Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith’s fabulous form continued as she stormed to 100m gold in 10.85 seconds, yet another British record.   Gina Luckenkemper finished in silver and Dafne Schippers took bronze.

Holly Bradshaw won bronze in the pole vault – her first major outdoor medal.

Cycling

Laura Kenny came back to the track and won two gold medals.  The first was in the team pursuit alongside teammates Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Neah Evans and they beat Italy in the final.

Kenny also won the elimination race ahead of Anna Knauer of Germany and Evgenia Augustinas on Russia.

Katie Archibald took three medals in total – the first as part of the pursuit team, but then she also won silver in the individual pursuit, losing to German Lisa Brennauer in the final and silver also in the omnium behind world champion Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands.

Emily Kay took silver in the 10km scratch race.

Swimming

There were plenty of medals won by Team GB in the swimming.

Hannah Miley took the first, a bronze, in the 400m individual medley behind Fantine Lesaffre of France who took gold and Ilaria Cusinato of Italy who took silver.  Britain’s Aimee Willmott finished fourth.

Holly Hibbott won a bronze in the 400m freestyle as did Molly Renshaw in the women’s 200m breaststroke.

Imogen Clark won silver in the 50m breaststroke, behind Yuliya Efimova of Russia and ahead of Arianna Castiglioni of Italy.

Alys Thomas won bronze in the 200m butterfly.

Wales’ Georgia Davies won a gold in the 50m and silver in the 100m backstroke.

Team GB was particularly strong in the relays:

She was also part of the women’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay team alongside Freya Anderson, Eleanor Faulkner and Kathryn Greenslade that took gold.

There was a bronze for the women’s 4 x 100m team comprising Georgia Davies, Siobhan Marie O’Connor, Alys Thomas and Freya Anderson.

The 4 x 100m mixed medley relay team won gold.  The team comprised Adam Peaty, Freya Anderson, James Guy and Georgia Davies.

The 4 x 200m mixed freestyle team of Stephen Milne, Craig McLean, Kathryn Greenslade and Freya Anderson  took bronze.

Diving

Grace Reid and Ross Haslam won silver in the mixed synchronised 3m springboard.

Eden Cheng and Lois Toulson took gold in the 10m synchronised event.

Gymnastics

Team GB missed out on a medal in the team event, finishing fourth.  The event was won by Russia with France in silver and the Netherlands in bronze.

Triathlon

Jess Learmonth took silver in the triathlon.  Nicola Spirig won the title with Cassandre Beaugrand of France taking bronze.

There’s still plenty to come with more athletics, BMX and golf this weekend.

Other Athletics News

British javelin thrower Joanna Blair has been banned from the sport for four years.

She tested positive for anabolic steroids in June last year.  Her provisional suspension has now been upheld and she will be ineligible to compete until July 2021.

Blair maintains she unintentionally took the banned substance metandienone in a contaminated creatine supplement that she bought online.

But UK Anti-Doping (UKad) rejected this argument, saying she had not proved that she had not taken the drug intentionally.

Football – Signings

In a surprise move this week Jamie Sherwood has been appointed as Director of Football at Yeovil Town.  He stood down as manager in the summer and was replaced by Lee Burch, but has now rejoined to, in the club’s words, “provide the board with a link to the core work being undertaken by the management team”.

Yeovil have also re-signed striker Annie Heatherson.

Brighton & Hove Albion have signed midfielder Emily Simpkins from Doncaster Rovers Belles.

West Ham have been at it again, signing Swiss forward Alisha Lehmann from BSC Young Boys Frauen.

Not a signing as such, but an excellent and significant piece of news is that Jayne Ludlow has signed a four-year contract extension to her role as manager of the Wales national side.

Under 20s World Cup

England started their World Cup campaign with a 3-1 win over North Korea on Sunday.

Alessia Russo opened the scoring with Georgia Stanway bagging the second on the hour.

Ja Un-Yong got one back for North Korea in the second-half, but England sealed the win two minutes later as Russo got her second.

On Wednesday they played their second game against Brazil and drew 1-1.  England were ahead for much of the game after Georgia Stanway scored from the penalty spot in the 11th minute.  They conceded the equaliser in the last minute when Ariadina fired in to take a share of the points.

England’s last group game is against Mexico on Sunday 12 August.

The top two teams in the group go through to the quarter-finals.

Champions League Qualifying

Glasgow City 1-2 Anderlecht

Glasgow lost their first Champions League Group Three match in Edinburgh on Tuesday.  The away side took the lead through Ella Van Kerkhoven.  A few minutes later Leanne Ross missed a penalty, hitting the post with her spot-kick.  Elke Van Gorp scored a second for Anderlecht, before Lara Invanusa pulled one back for Glasgow.

Cardiff Met UFC 2-3 Olimpia Cluj

The Welsh Premier League champions fared no better in their first game in Group six as they too lost at home.

Cardiff opened the scoring through Naomi Clipston, but then Cluj had a period of pressure before Mara Batea equalised.

In the second-half, Cristina Carp scored for Cluj, Erin Murray equalised for Cardiff and Phoenetia Browne got a third for Cluj, all in the space of three minutes.  The Browne goal turned out to be the winner.

Football

Another week, another story of the FA’s lack of leadership.  I’m coming to the conclusion that the FA wants to offload the “burden” of the WSL as soon as possible.

This week the FA has said it would be “open to Premier League takeover” of the WSL.  But is it, as it stands, an attractive enough proposition for the Premier League to take an interest?

Obviously the game has grown under the FA, but last season some attendances stagnated or even went down.  It has been criticised for its constant revamping of the league structure and also last season’s fixture list which included large gaps followed by a crush of games.  The FA can’t even find a main sponsor for this year’s league.  So why would the Premier League take over?

Reaction from clubs to the idea has been mixed.  There is a belief from some that the league is not developed enough for the Premier League to take over, but those such as Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is in favour – back in January 2018 she said she thought it was a good idea as it would probably mean more money into the game.

If I were the Premier League, looking at its own package and how it brings in millions of pounds of revenue, at this moment I would run a mile.  I’d be telling the FA to come back when they’ve stopped messing with the product and everyone is settled and satisfied with the situation.

This one’s going to run and run.

Cricket

4 August
Southern Vipers 172/6
Loughborough Lightning 174/7 (19.4 overs)
Lightning won by 3 wickets with 2 balls remaining

Although Suzie Bates scored only nine and Tammy Beaumont a single, Sarah McGlashan scored 55, Danni Wyatt 36, Arran Brindle 26 and Mignon du Preez 24 to put together a sizeable total of 172 for the Vipers.

In response, Sophie Devine was out early for seven, but Rachael Haynes anchored the innings scoring 53 from 34 balls.  Amy Jones chipped in with 31 but it was Elyse Villani’s 61 not out from 38 balls that saw Lightning home as the lower order began to wobble.

Eventually Loughborough won the game with two balls to spare.

5 August
Yorkshire Diamonds 172/5
Western Storm 174/3 (19.2 overs)
Storm won by 7 wickets with 4 balls remaining

Diamonds batted first and posted a decent score.  Beth Mooney top scored with 69 from 42 balls, while Lauren Winfield fell two short of her half-century.

In response, Smriti Mandhana continued her good form, making 56 from 36 balls. She was ably supported by Heather Knight who scored 45 and Rachel Priest with 37 and the Storm got home with four balls to spare.

7 August
Surrey Stars 167/8
Lancashire Thunder 112 all out (19.2 overs)
Stars won by 55 runs

An excellent and much needed win for the Stars as they skittled the Thunder for just 112.

Bryony Smith fell for just 10, but Lizelle Lee finally stepped up to show the crowd what she was made of and the partnership of 94 between Lee and Sarah Taylor really got the Stars going.  The lower order did not contribute much to the score, but it was a decent total to defend.

The Thunder made a good start in response with a 55 run stand between openers Nicole Bolton and Eve Jones.  After Bolton was dismissed by Dane van Niekerk for 24, there was then a disaster for Thunder as Harmanpreet Kaur was run out without scoring.  This precipitated a collapse with only Amy Satterthwaite (21) providing any resistance.  Van Niekerk took 3/20 from her four overs and Bryony Smith 2/9 from two.

8 August
Southern Vipers 159/7
Yorkshire Diamonds 143 all out (19.5 overs)
Vipers won by 16 runs

Vipers ended their losing streak with a win at Southampton.  Tammy Beaumont was back from sitting out through concussion and top-scored with 64.  Katie Levick was the pick of the bowlers for the Diamonds, taking 3/35 from her four overs.

It was the same old story for Diamonds though as they started relatively well but fell away down the order.  Thea Brookes top-scored with 45 from 36 balls, but wickets kept falling and the last five batters scored only eight between them.  Suzie Bates did much of the damage, taking 4/26 off 3.5 overs and Amelia Kerr chipped in with 2/22 off four.

9 August
Loughborough 100/7 (match reduced to 13 overs)
Surrey Stars 106/3 (11.2/13 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets with 10 balls remaining

Loughborough’s winning run came spectacularly to an end at Guildford as Stars cruised to the win.  Lightning made a fair 100 off 13 overs with Georgia Elwiss top scoring on 26.  They lost three wickets for 10 runs towards the end which prevented them posting a really good total.

But the Stars meant business.  Lizelle Lee starred, as it were, for the second game in a row, with 48 from 28 balls.  She was backed up by Bryony Smith who made 31 as Lightning struggled to take wickets.

9 August
Western Storm 185/4 (20 overs)
Lancashire Thunder 109 all out (18.2 overs)
Storm won by 76 runs

Not close.  Storm were ruthless in all departments as they crushed the Thunder at Taunton.  Priest went cheaply for just four, Mandhana was at it again with 49 from 25 balls and England captain Knight top-scoring with 76 from 50.  Stafanie Taylor hit 51 after the fall of Mandhana as they posted an excellent 185.

In response the Bolton scored a good 21, but fellow opener Eve Jones made only one, Amy Satterthwaite four and Harmanpreet Kaur eight before EllieThrelkeld came in to try to steady the ship.  It was a vain hope though – her 33 was easily the Thunder’s top score as the rest of the wickets fell around her.

We’re now just over half way through with all teams having played seven games.  Lightning’s loss at Surrey has seen them replaced at the top of the table by Western Storm.  It looks to be between Surrey Stars and Lancashire Thunder for the third place at finals day although there is still all to play for.

It may be significant that Loughborough Lightning’s two losses have been in reduced-overs matches.  With the weather becoming less predictable as the season progresses, will this cause Loughborough some problems?

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 21-27 July 2018

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to this week’s column.  It’s been yet another one of those weeks when I wish I hadn’t “read the comments” on various articles, but I’m not going to give the trolls any more publicity by giving details.

But there are also lots of positive stuff out there and lots to get through so here we go with stories from golf, football, hockey (there’s a World Cup going on, you know), cycling, rugby, cricket and athletics.

Snowboarding

Terrible news to start the column this week.  Snowboarder Ellie Soutter died on Wednesday, on her eighteenth birthday.

Soutter was a tremendous prospect and was in line to make the GB team for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

She had already won a bronze medal at the 2017 Youth Olympic Winter Festival and was picked for the GB team for the Junior World Championships in New Zealand in August and the senior GB squad for the snowboard cross Europa Cup.

Hockey

There have been shocks a-plenty in the first week of the Hockey World Cup in London.  Ireland, second lowest ranked side in the tournament, have become the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals.  England, meanwhile, can no longer qualify automatically and will have to go through play-offs.

Scores so far:

Pool A
China 0-3 Italy
Netherlands 7-0 Korea

Pool B
England 1-1 India
USA 1-3 Ireland
USA 1-1 England
India 0-1 Ireland

Pool C
Germany 3-1 South Africa
Argentina 6-2 Spain
Germany 3-2 Argentina
Spain 7-1 South Africa

Pool D
Australia 3-2 Japan
New Zealand 4-2 Belgium
Japan 2-1 New Zealand
Australia 0-0 Belgium

So far, Ireland have been the stars and England will need to up their game on Sunday if they are to beat the team with momentum on their side.  England have looked a bit nervous and even lethargic, but certainly unlucky at times.

The Netherlands look the team to beat.  They have only played one game so far against a poor Korean team, but they looked superb.  Australia, by contrast, have not impressed.  They nearly let a big lead against Japan slip and were unconvincing against Belgium.  The other team I have enjoyed watching so far is Japan.  They put in 100% effort all of the time and with no little skill.  The Cherry Blossoms (yes, really) deserved their win against the Black Sticks and will hopefully go further in the tournament.

For all the news, scores and fixtures check out the tournament website: http://www.fih.ch/events/world-cup/world-cup-2018/hockey-world-cup-london-2018-w/

Football – on the pitch

Women’s International Champions Cup

Manchester City are currently in the US playing in this new competition.  Three of Europe’s top teams; Olympic Lyonnais, Paris Saint-Germain and City are playing alongside the NWSL leaders, North Carolina Courage.

In the first match Courage beat PSG 2-1.  Jess McDonald scored the first after 19 minutes.  PSG drew level just before half-time with through an own goal.  But the US side claimed the points when they scored five minutes from time through Darian Jenks.

In the second match Manchester City were well beaten by European champions, Olympic Lyonnais.  The French side took the lead after just four minutes, through Eugenie Le Sommer.  Le Sommer bagged a second ten minutes later and three minutes after that Ada Hegerberg got the third and the game was effectively over before half-time.

Football – off the pitch

Signings

I may have seemed somewhat grumpy last week when I was questioning some of the overseas signings made by both Super League and Championship teams during the close season.  But there are also a fair few British players who will be plying their trade both on the continent and further next season, one of whom will be Izzy Christiansen.

Christiansen has signed a two-year contract with European champions, Lyon.  She will, of course, be joining up with former Manchester City teammate Lucy Bronze.

A selection of other signings:

Scotland midfielder Chloe Arthur has signed a two-year contract with Birmingham City from Bristol City.

Everton have signed striker Hannah Cain from Sheffield FC.

Reading Women have dabbled in the market yet again and have signed Doncaster Rovers Belles left-back Mayumi Pacheco and striker Millie Farrow from Bristol City.

West Ham are at it again too, signing German international midfielder Julia Simic from SC Freiburg.

Bristol City have been busy this week; left-back Ali Johnson has joined them from Liverpool and New Zealand international striker Katie Rood from Juventus.

Going the other way, Nadia Nadim has put in a transfer request at Manchester City.  She is clearly unhappy.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“It is a fantastic club in many ways, but not for me.

“I’ve never felt home either in Manchester or Man City. I have made it very clear to the management that I want out, and this is something I’ve felt for a long time.”

Let’s hope she finds a way that suits all soon.

The FA has Spoken (or at least this is what’s happening at the moment)

Unsurprisingly, the FA has dismissed both Sunderland and Blackburn’s appeals and the Women’s Super League and Championship will comprise 11 teams in each next season.

It has been confirmed that Sunderland will play in the third tier, the Women’s National League.  The club is, understandably, disappointed, and released a statement, which you can read here:

https://www.safc.com/news/ladies-news/2018/july/ladies-appeal-unsuccessful

So it seems that the FA is now satisfied that the 22 chosen ones have met the required criteria.  But then they seemed satisfied with Doncaster Rovers Belles and Sheffield FC, both of whom have had to withdraw with financial problems.

I can’t help thinking this season will be make or break for the future of women‘s football in England – let’s just hope it’s not “break”.

Best FIFA Women’s Coach Award

Chelsea Head Coach, Emma Hayes, is among those on the shortlist for the Best FIFA Women’s Coach award.  The shortlist in full:

  • Emma Hayes (Eng) – Chelsea Ladies
  • Stephan Lerch (Ger) – VfL Wolfsburg
  • Mark Parsons (Eng) – Portland Thorns
  • Reynald Pedros (Fra) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Alen Stajcic (Aus) – Australia national team
  • Asako Takakura (Jpn) – Japan national team
  • Vadao (Brz) – Brazil national team
  • Jorge Vilda (Spa) – Spain national team
  • Martina Voss-Tecklenburg (Ger) – Switzerland national team
  • Sarina Wiegman (Ned) – Netherlands national team

You can vote for your favourite – here is the link:

https://www.fifa.com/the-best-fifa-football-awards/best-fifa-womens-coach/

Golf – on the course

Scottish Open

Tiffany Joh leads the Scottish Open after a first round 62.  She is four shots ahead of In-Kyung Kim, Amy Yang and Jenny Shin, who lie at five under par.

Kelsey McDonald of Scotland is one further back, as is England’s Charley Hull.

Golf – off the course

The countdown to the Solheim Cup is officially on!

You know it’s getting serious when Europe names its vice-captains.  This week Europe captain Catriona Matthew named Suzann Petterson and Kathryn Imrie as her vice-captains.

Petterson is a veteran of no fewer than eight Solheim Cups and was also a vice-captain in 2017.

Imrie has only played in one Cup, in 1996.

The sixteenth Solheim Cup will be at Gleneagles from 13-15 September 2019.

Cricket

We’re underway in this year’s Kia Super League.  At the risk of inducing the curse, Loughborough Lightning lead the way at this early stage with two wins from two.

22 July

Surrey Stars 141/9 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 145/3 (17 overs)
Vipers won by 7 wickets

The Stars got off to an abysmal start at Guildford, losing both openers, Lizelle Lee and Bryony Smith for ducks.  Sarah Taylor, new to the Stars this season, made only six as the Stars slumped to 12/3.  Nat Sciver soon followed for two and they were deep in trouble at 18/4.

They then rallied with Dane van Niekerk scoring 31 and Marizanne Kapp 19 but it was Sophia Dunkley’s 66 from 43 balls that saw them post a useful 141.   Fi Morris was pick of the bowlers with 4/22.

But the Vipers haven’t been champions and runners-up in the last two seasons for nothing.  Their openers (Danni Wyatt 6 and Suzie Bates 9) went cheaply, but Tammy Beaumont scored 62 from 45 balls, ably supported by Mignon du Preez with 48 from 31 balls.  Du Preez went with the Vipers needing just 22, and Beaumont and Sarah McGlashan saw it home with three overs to spare.

Lancashire Thunder 72 all out (16.5 overs)
Loughborough Lightning 74/4 (15.1 overs)
Lightning won by 6 wickets

At the top of the order Eve Jones tried to hold it together while those around were out cheaply.  She made 19 from 20 balls, while the next seven batters scored 20 between them.  Kate Cross and Natalie Brown hit 13 each towards the end of the innings but it all added up to a paltry 72.

New signing Jenny Gunn took 3/10 from three overs and Sophie Devine took 3/15 from 2.5.

Lightning took their time in getting the runs.  At one point they were 19/3 and Thunder may have sniffed a chance.  But Elyse Villani (13), Georgia Elwiss (19) and Georgia Adams (22) saw them home.

Yorkshire Diamonds 162/5 (20 overs)
Western Storm 166/3 (15.2 overs)
Storm won by 7 wickets

The Diamonds posted a creditable 162, but the Storm never looked in danger of losing this one.  Delissa Kimmince top-scored for Yorkshire with 55, Lauren Winfield made 41 and Alice Davidson-Richards 33.

In response, Rachel Priest went for a duck, but England captain Heather Knight and Indian star Smriti Mandhana took it on.  Mandhana hit 48 from 20 balls before she was caught by Winfield off the bowling of Davidson-Richards.  Knight continued, scoring a fine 97 off 62.  In the end they won with a huge 27 balls to spare.

25 July

Southern Vipers 105 all out
Loughborough Lightning 109/4 (18.5)
Lightning won by 6 wickets

Lightning bagged their second win and their first against the Vipers on Wednesday with a fine bowling display.

Tammy Beaumont top-scored for the Vipers with 37, but Arran Brindle (19) and Mignon du Preez (13) were the only others to make double figures.

The wickets were shared between the bowlers; Devine 3/21, Smith 2/18, Gordon 2/23, Gunn 1/20, Glenn 1/14.

Lightning again took their time to get to their target.  Amy Jones and Elyse Villani both scored 35, with Villani particularly impressing.  After those two were out the game was seen home by Jenny Gunn (9) and Georgia Adams (5)

26 July

Western Storm 132/9 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 136/3 (15.5 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets

Who can stop the Western Storm?  Well Surrey, for a start.  Not many would have predicted this result.

Storm made a good start as the openers made a 43 partnership.  Priest was first to go for 21 but big guns Knight and Stafanie Taylor made only 6 each.  Mandhana battled for 37 from 21 balls.  Others tried to make starts, but there were no further significant scores and the Storm could only muster a middling 132.

Sophia Dunkley was pick of the bowlers with 3/18 off just two overs.

All of the Stars batters got starts.  Lee (22) and Smith (33) started it off and Sarah Taylor made 50 not out.  She and van Niekerk (14) saw it home with 25 balls to spare.

Athletics

Anniversary Games –results

Last weekend’s Anniversary Games saw mixed results for Team GB:

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price of Jamaica took the 100m with Dezerea Bryant of USA in second and Jonielle Smith of Jamaica in third.   GB’s Imani-Lara Lansiquot was fifth and Bianca Williams seventh.

It was a USA one-two in the 200m.  Jenna Prandini finished first and Gabrielle Thomas second.    Shericka Jackson of Jamaica came in third while GB’s Dina Asher-Smith was fourth.

The 400m saw a Jamaica one-two.  Stephenie-Ann McPherson was first and Anastasia Le-Roy second.  Courtney Okolo of USA was third.  Anyika Onuora was the best-placed British athlete in fifth.

Ce’Aira Brown of USA won the 800m.  Natoya Goule of Jamaica was second, while Lynsey Sharp of GB was third.

Laura Muir was being lined up to beat Zola Budd’s British mile record, but in the end could only finish fifth.  Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands won the race with Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia in second and Hellen Obiri of Kenya in third.

Lilian Kasait Rengeruk of Kenya took the 3000m.  Susan Krumins of the Netherlands was second and Katie Mackey of the USA third.  GB’s Melissa Courtney was fifth and Steph Twell sixth.

The 100m hurdles was a one-two-three for the USA.  Kendra Harrison was first, Brianna McNeal second and Sharika Nelvis third.

The US also took the 400m hurdles.  Shamia Little won it, Janieve Russell of Jamaica in second and Dalilah Muhammed of USA in third.

In the field events, the high jump was won by Mariya Lasitskene of Russia, Elena Vallortigara of Italy second and Morgan Lake of GB was joint third with Vashti Cunningham of USA.

It was a GB one-two in the long jump with Shara Proctor taking it from Lorraine Ugen with Brooke Stratton of Australia in third.

Sandra Perkovic of Croatia took the discus with Yaime Perez  and Denia Caballero of Cuba second and third respectively.

Hui Hui Lyi of China won the javelin.  Nikola Ogrodnikova of the Czech Republic was second and Kelsey-Lee Roberts third.

Rugby Union

Rugby World Cup Sevens

England’s disappointing Sevens season continued in San Francisco when they were beaten in their first game by Ireland 14-19.

Ashleigh Baxter scored the first try for Ireland after three minutes.   The conversion was missed and three minutes later Emily Scarratt’s try drew England level.  Holly Aitchison scored the conversion to take them ahead.   Amee Murphy Crowe then bagged two tries, both of which were converted by Lucy Mulhall.  England pulled one back on 14 minutes, converted again, but it was not enough.

England went on to defeat Mexico 59-0, China 38-0 and Japan 31-5 in the Challenge competition final, but this was scant consolation for not going through in the Championship competition.

The Championship final was won by New Zealand 29-0 against France. Michaela Blyde scored a hat-trick of tries and Portia Woodman and Tyla Nathan-Wong one each.  Nathan-Wong also put over two conversions.

Australia took the bronze final, beating USA 24-14.

Cycling

Bad news from cycling this week as it was announced that Wiggle High5 will fold after this season.

The team was founded in 2013 and employed 17 riders and 14 full-time members of staff.

It is thought that they are folding due to a lack of sponsorship.  Among those who will need to find new teams are Lucy and Grace Garner, Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker.

Other team members Elisa Longo Borghini and Audrey Cordon-Ragot have already been linked with the new Trek team, led by Lizzie Deignan.

Although my cycling knowledge is not extensive, I do see it as a typical “two steps forward, one back” sport.  For every positive story, there seems to be a negative one and most seem to revolve around funding.  This may be something professional cyclists are prepared for when they start out, but it does seem to be a sport more prone to gaps and problems with sponsorship.  I know there are plenty of professionals out there working in sports sponsorship – and those who specialise in women’s sport.  But it’s not happening.  There are the high-profile success stories; Vitality, SSE, Kia, etc., but some sports obviously need a better strategy.

I’d  like to do some work in this areas so, if anyone dealing in sports sponsorship wants to talk to me about it, or if anyone has ideas they would like to share, please get in touch via the website.

And finally

 “Outrage”.  There’s a lot of it about.  I must admit I’m not immune and I do get sucked in to the vast stagnant pond of outrage that is social media.  Some of it I think is justified – women raped and blamed for it with nauseating regularity, immigrating parents separated from their children at the border, women’s rights over their own bodies constantly being eroded, the rise of Neo-Nazism, etc.

And then there’s the other kind of “outrage” usually promulgated by those such as the Daily Mail – those foreigners coming over here, using our services and taking our jobs, “Europe” robbing us blind at every turn, anyone who is unlike their white middle-aged middle-class readership doing absolutely anything!

So imagine my surprise when that same Mail calls the fact that Barcelona’s women’s team flew economy while their male counterparts flew business on the same plane an “outrage”.  All I can say is it did me good. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have described it as an “outrage” – disappointing, a rubbish decision, a backwards step – something like that, but not an “outrage”.

But just in case I may have been tempted to do so, this headline has made me see sense.  It’s a poor decision by the club, but it’s not an “outrage”.  Time to get things into perspective, I think.

No column next week as I am out and about (at the cricket, truth be told), but back in a fortnight with more news and views.

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2018

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  Lots to catch up with again this week with stories from cycling, tennis, netball, football, golf, cricket and athletics.

So let’s crack on.

Cricket

Just when you thought New Zealand had collapsed in a terminal heap, they came back in the third ODI to beat England convincingly and take a precious two points in the ICC Championship.

Third ODI
England 219 all out (47.4 overs)
New Zealand 224/6 (44.4 overs)
NZ women won by 4 wickets

It looked to be a case of same old, same old when England started with a stand of 10.  Beaumont was first to fall with 53 from 66 balls.   Winfield fell soon after on just five, but Jones was still going strong until she was stumped by Martin off the bowling of Watkin for 78.

After that, however, there was a succession of poor shots that saw England dismissed for 219.

Leigh Kasparek was, by far, the pick of the bowlers with 5/39 off 9.4 overs.

It should never have been enough, but we had seen collapses aplenty from this White Ferns side for nothing to be certain.

In fact it all went wrong to begin with when Jess Watkin was given lbw to Brunt for a duck in the first over.   But Sophie Devine was having none of it.  She smashed 117 not out from 116 balls, ably assisted first by Green (23), then Satterthwaite (25) and finally by Martin (23) to see them home with 32 balls to spare.

Sadly that sees the end of England’s international summer (July!) and now begins the women’s T20 showpiece, the Kia Super League.

The squads have now been announced.  It’s a quality product, so can I please suggest if you’re anywhere near a game, you go out and support it?  You can view all of the upcoming fixtures here:

https://www.ecb.co.uk/matches/super-league/fixtures

Loughborough Lightning

Georgia Elwiss (C),  Rachael Haynes, Sophie Devine, Kirsty Gordon, Georgia Adams, Tara Norris, Jenny Gunn, Sarah Glenn, Elyse Villani, Sonia Odedra, Lucy Higham, Abbey Freeborn, Amy Jones, Jo Gardner.

Western Storm

Heather Knight (C), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Stafanie Taylor, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Alice McLeod, Sophie Luff, Amara Carr, Naomi Dattani, Rebecca Silk, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Danielle Gibson, Freya Davies.

Yorkshire Diamonds

Lauren Winfield, Katherine Brunt, Beth Langston, Alice Davidson-Richards, Beth Mooney, Chamari Atapattu, Delissa Kimmince, Helen Fenby, Katie Levick, Sophie Munro, Bess Heath, Thea Brookes, Alice Monaghan, Gwen Davies, Katie Thompson.

Lancashire Thunder

Danielle Hazell (C), Kate Cross, Emma Lamb, Sophie Ecclestone, Natalie Brown, Natasha Miles, Amy Satterthwaite, Ellie Threlkeld, Nicole Bolton, Georgie Boyce, Rachel Dickinson, Alice Dyson, Alex Hartley, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur.

Southern Vipers

Georgia Adams, Suzie Bates, Arran Brindle, Ellen Burt, Izzy Collis, Charlie Dean, Mignon du Preez, Charlotte Edwards, Tash Farrant, Katie George, Hayley Matthews, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Linsey Smith, Danni Wyatt.

Surrey Stars

Nat Sciver (C), Aylish Cranstone, Sophia Dunkley, Grace Gibbs, Gayatri Gole, Eva Gray, Hannah Jones, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee, Laura Marsh, Bryony Smith, Sarah Taylor, Rhianna Southby, Dane van Niekerk, Mady Villiers.

This weekend’s fixtures are on Sunday 22 July:

Surrey Stars v Southern Vipers (Woodbridge Road, Guildford, 2.30pm)
Western Storm v Yorkshire Diamonds (County Ground, Taunton, 2.30pm)
Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Trafalgar Road Ground, Southport 2.30pm)

Tennis

Wimbledon

Angelique Kerber took the singles title at Wimbledon, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets 6-3 6-3.

The doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Katerina Siniaková, who beat Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke (12) 6-4 4-6 6-0

Alexander Peya and Nicole Melichar (11) took the mixed doubles title, who defeated the unseeded Jamie Murray and Victoria Azarenka 7-6 6-3.

In the wheelchair singles, number one seed Diede De Groot beat the unseeded Aniek Van Koot 6-3 6-2

Diede De Groot then went on to take the doubles title with partner Yui Kamiji, as the number one seeds  beat Sabine Ellerbrock & Lucy Shuker 6-1 6-1.

The tournament has caused plenty of movement in the world rankings.  Serena Williams is up to 28th, but Jo Konta is down to 50th.

Netball

Mikki Austin has been appointed as Surrey Storm’s first Director of Netball.

Austin has played for the Storm since 2015, but she was injured for much of the 2018 season.

In an interview with the Netball Superleague website, Austin said,

“I am thrilled to be appointed as Director of Netball at Surrey Storm and, whilst the new season seems like a long way off at the moment, I cannot wait to get started on our preparations to make it a successful one.

“I am focusing on making sure we can attract some new players to add strength and bolster our already strong squad, so we are ready to compete at the highest level as we aim to compete for a top four spot.

“I have enjoyed every moment of my time with Storm so far, especially as we have enjoyed some great successes which I really want to be part of again; I have big aspirations for what we can achieve and I look forward to building an exciting next generation of Surrey Storm.”

Golf

Dame Laura Davies has won the first US Senior Women’s Open.

She took the title by a huge 10 shots at the Chicago Golf Club at the weekend.

Davies finished on 16 under par.  American Juli Inkster was second on six under and England’s Trish Johnson in third on four under.

Football

The biggest news of the week is that Marieanne Spacey-Cale is to leave the FA to take up the role of Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at Southampton FC.

With 91 England caps to her name, Spacey-Cale is considered to be one of England’s best ever female players.  She had been at the FA for 11 years as was part of Mark Sampson’s staff at the 2015 World Cup.

She was also Under 23s head coach and, most recently, England Women’s Player and Coach Developer.

This is a big move for Spacey-Cale and a big loss for the FA.  Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s Head of Women’s Football, must be wondering how to replace her.

“On behalf of everyone at The FA, I would like to wish Marieanne well – she leaves behind a great legacy through her work which has had a positive impact on the female game,” Campbell said on the FA website.

It also shows Southampton’s commitment to their women’s programme.

The transfer roundabout shows no sign of slowing.

This week:

  • England international Lianne Sanderson signed for Juventus, thus joining up with good friend Eni Aluko.
  • Scotland striker Christie Murray has signed for Liverpool.
  • Kirsty Smith and Lizzie Arnot also left Glasgow City this week, having been offered contracts at Manchester United.
  • Goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley has left Birmingham City to join Bristol City.
  • West Ham are still in the market and this week have signed American defender Brooke Hendrix from Brescia and Republic of Ireland striker Leanne Kiernan from Shelbourne Ladies.
  • Erin Cuthbert has signed a new three-year contract with champions, Chelsea.

Manchester United

Of course the major hoop-la of the week surrounded the announcement of the Manchester United squad.  England defender Alex Greenwood is club captain.  It is, no doubt, an impressive squad, packed with talent.  They have, however, got to work from scratch to make it into a team.  It will be fascinating to see what happens this season.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers
1 – Siobhan Chamberlain, 13 – Emily Ramsey, 22 – Fran Bentley

Defenders
2 – Martha Harris, 3 – Alex Greenwood, 4 – Amy Turner, 12 – Naomi Hartley, 15 – Lucy Roberts, 20 – Kirsty Smith

Midfielders
6 – Aimee Palmer, 8 – Mollie Green, 10 – Katie Zelem, 14 – Charlie Devlin, 16 – Lauren James, 17 – Lizzie Arnot, 21 – Millie Turner

Forwards
7 – Ella Toone, 9 – Jess Sigsworth, 11 – Leah Galton, 18 – Kirsty Hanson, 19 – Ebony Salmon

Athletics

The largely unheralded inaugural Athletics World Cup went to United States.  The US finished 57 points ahead of Poland, with Great Britain a further seven points behind in third.

The top GB women’s performance came from the 4 x 100m relay team of Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot, Bianca Williams and Shannon Hylton in 42.52 ahead of Jamaica in second in a time of 42.60 and China third in 42.94.  The US team didn’t finish.

The other GB performances of notes: Lorraine Ugen continued her good form with a win in the long jump with a distance of 6.86m.  Holly Bradshaw also won the pole vault with a season’s best 4.75m.

Beth Morgan won silver in the high jump, while Adelle Tracey also took silver in the 800m. Sophie Hitchon came second in the hammer with a season’s beat 73.48m and Meghan Beesley was also second in the 400m hurdles.

Beth Dobbin won bronze it the 200m as did Jemma Reekie in the 1500m.

Final Athletics World Cup standings:

  1. United States 219 points
  2. Poland 162 points
  3. Great Britain 155 points
  4. Jamaica 153 points
  5. France 146 points
  6. Germany 137 points
  7. South Africa 135 points
  8. China 81 points

Cycling

La Course

Annemiek van Vleuten retained her La Course title on Tuesday after overtaking Anna van der Breggen in the final 25 metres.

The one-stage race from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand was undertaken by 112 riders from 20 teams.

Van der Breggen looked odds-on to take the title as she pulled away up the final climb on the Col del a Colombiere and then further ahead on the descent.

But Van Vleuten was not to be beaten and took her chance as Van de Breggen tired at the very end.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa had kept up with the two Dutch riders, but falling away hung on to take third.

Top Ten Finishers:

  1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned/Mitchelton-Scott) 3hrs 20mins 43secs
  2. Anna van der Breggen (Ned/Boels-Dolmans) +1sec
  3. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SA/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 22secs
  4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 58secs
  5. Megan Guarnier (US/Boels-Dolmans) +2mins 19secs
  6. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol/Canyon SRAM) same time
  7. Katharine Hill (US/UnitedHealthcare) +2mins 22secs
  8. Amanda Spratt (Aus/Mitchelton-Scott) same time
  9. Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spa/Ale Cipollini) +2mins 24secs
  10. Erica Magnaldi (Ita/Bepink) same time

And so ends the women’s version of the Tour de France for another year.  Although it was a good race, there is no doubt that it is still a very unsatisfying experience, both for fans of women’s cycling and the cyclists themselves.

When will the (growing amount of) muttering stop and the action start?  When will we see a multi-stage event for women alongside the Tour de France?  I’m not holding my breath.  Until the big sponsors get on board there will be no change.  The will is there from the athletes and the teams, but without proactive movement from the governing body, the UCI, don’t expect anything to happen.

Other Cycling News

Lizzie Deignan will head up the new Trek Factory Racing team when she returns to the sport next season.

She is expecting her first child in September, but plans to be back in training in December.

In a telling statement she said,

“I chose Trek because rather than see me as a risk in pregnancy, they saw me as an investment and as a valued athlete.

“For me that was the biggest sign towards truly believing in equality.”

She leaves Boels-Dolmans at the end of the season, having ridden for them for five years.

And finally,

I’ve been listening to the BBC 5 Live coverage of The Open over the last two days.  And while I could definitely do without John Inverdale, there was a great discussion this morning about the perception of golf and how young people, minority ethnic people and women can be more attracted to it.  Absolutely loved Iain Carter’s impassioned arguments – brave of him to declare that however much the clubs and governing body say they are doing to be inclusive, there is, without doubt, still a problem with women in the game and they could and should be doing so much more.  I have a great respect for Carter – I pulled him up once for calling Caroline Wozniacki “Rory’s Belle” – she was engaged to Rory McIlroy at the time.  He responded to me immediately and was very apologetic that he had not recognised Wozniacki in her own right, but only as an appendage to McIlroy.  Keep at it Iain, perhaps they’ll listen eventually.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 March 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome 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.

Winter Paralympics

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.

 Football

 SheBelieves Cup

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
Northern/Southern Division
Tier Four:  Women’s Premier League              FA Women’s National League 1 (4 regions)
(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.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s Round Four of the Six Nations this weekend.  The fixtures are:

10 March
France v England (8pm GMT)

11 March
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:

10 March
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)

Cycling

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.

Golf

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

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)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Premier League

Several fixtures fell victim to the weather at the weekend, with just two taking place:

3 March
Surbiton 1-2 Holcombe

4 March
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

England

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).

Fixtures:

Twenty20 tri-series

(All matches played at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai)

March
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)

April
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.

Athletics

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.

London Marathon

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.

Tennis

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.

And finally,

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.

 

Women’s Sports Column 26 August – 1 September 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  We’re coming to the end of a stunning summer for women’s sport and while there are those knuckle-draggers who will never give recognition to any woman playing sport, I’m glad to say there are many more of us (women and men) who take a very different view and the numbers are rising all the time.  I can’t help feeling a tad melancholy this week as it draws to a close, but hopefully the news and stories below will help restore my mood (and cheer you too!).

Stories this week come from rugby union (obviously) tennis, netball, cricket, badminton, modern pentathlon, hockey, golf and cycling.  But there’s only one place to start isn’t there – and what a game it was.

Women’s Rugby World Cup Final

Well I hope you were all watching, because although words are my business, I don’t think I can do justice to this match.  Prime time TV, ITV1 in the UK – social media and conventional media alike crying out that it needed to be a great match to engage the masses and move women’s rugby up a level.  And it didn’t disappoint.

England pressed from the off but were unable to convert pressure into points and were shocked after eight minutes when Selica Winiata pounced on a kick to score the first try.  Cocksedge, who had a relatively poor game with the boot, missed the conversion.

On 15 minutes New Zealand were penalised for a dangerous tackle and Emily Scarratt duly slotted over the resultant penalty.

On 20 minutes Sara Goss was yellow-carded for another dangerous tackle and England knew they had to take advantage.

England pressed on towards the line i a series of scrums, but as they got closer to the line the Black Ferns realised they had to scrum with just seven or risk losing cover on the wing.  This they did but broke up the scrummage illegally and the Red Roses were awarded a penalty try, taking it to 10-5 to England.

Eight minutes before half-time England were over again and looking confident.  Lydia Thompson went over on the wing and Scarratt converted well to take it 17-5.

England probably thought this would be the half-time score and perhaps relaxed early, but this proved to be a fatal error.  Toka Natua got in after they secured good line-out ball.   The conversion was missed and the half-time score was 17-10.

And breathe.

The second-half was completely different.  New Zealand came out a different team.  They hustled and harried from the first minute and England had no answer.

Just five minutes in Natua went over for her second.  England still seemed to be in the dressing room.  And to make matters worse for the Red Roses Cocksedge began to find her kicking form as she popped over her first conversion to make it 17-17.

Five minutes later England were ahead again through another Scarratt penalty, but the lead was short-lived.  Two minutes later Charmaine Smith pushed over, hitting the sponge around the post and again it was converted – 20-24.

On 55 England scored again Thompson flying 40 metres down to wing to cross the line for her second try of the match.  Scarratt missed the conversion and England’s lead was just one point.

At this point England Head Coach Simon Middleton introduced a whole raft of changes, something that drew some criticism after the game.  But there can be no doubt England were tiring and the changes made were quality ones.

On 58 Natua got her hat-trick under the posts and Cocksedge converted. The tide was turning in the Black Ferns’ favour.

Five minutes later Cocksedge got a try of her own, but she missed the conversion. New Zealand were 36-25 ahead.  With 20 minutes to go, although the scoreline was still tight, it seemed to be one-way traffic.

On 69 Winiata went over for her second after another good kick from Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali.  Cocksedge missed yet another conversion, but it mattered not as England appeared to be a beaten side.

But England had not finished scoring.  Izzy Noel-Smith went over with three minutes to go and Scarratt converted.

Kefu was yellow-carded for New Zealand, but England didn’t have the time to make it count and before they knew it the game was over.

New Zealand had won 41-32.

The better team had won – no doubt about it.  England fought to the end, but the Black Ferns’ third quarter had battered England into submission.

Without wanting to sound mawkish or trite and realising that I sound both, it was women’s rugby that was the winner on Saturday.  So many people will now realise what a great product it is (and what a good scrum can look like guys).  Let’s hope it leads not only to young girls taking up the sport, but also that the new revamped championship gets the coverage it deserves (i.e., any at all –and yes, BBC Sport, I do mean you).

Football

Women’s Champions League

The round of 32 draw will be made on 1 September.  The 11 teams that made it through qualifying are:

Gintra Universitetas (LTU), Olimpia Cluj (ROU), Ajax (NED), Medyk Konin (POL), Apollon (CYP), Minsk (BLR), *Zürich (SWI), Stjarnan (ICE), BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ), Avaldsnes (NOR). PAOK (GRE)

*qualified as best runners-up.

The teams receiving a bye into the round of 32 are:

Lyon (FRA, holders), Wolfsburg (GER), FC Rosengård (SWE), Barcelona (ESP), Fortuna, Hjørring (DEN), Bayern München (GER), Brøndby (DEN), Rossiyanka (RUS), Manchester City (ENG), Glasgow City (SCO), Zvezda-2005 (RUS), Brescia (ITA), Slavia Praha (CZE), Sparta Praha (CZE), Linköping (SWE), Chelsea (ENG), Montpellier (FRA), LSK Kvinner (NOR), St. Pölten (AUT), Atlético Madrid (ESP), Fiorentina (ITA)

As you probably know, coverage in the UK will be absolutely minimal so I’d again recommend you check out the UEFA website for updates:

http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/index.html

These are the dates you need to know:

Round of 32: 4/5 & 11/12 October
Round of 16: 8/9 & 15/16 November

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Final: 24 May 2018, Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo StadiumKyiv

Other football news and signings

Lieke Martens was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 2016-17 this week.

The 24-year old plays for Barcelona and had a stand-out tournament for the Netherlands at the Euros earlier in the summer.

She finished ahead of Pernille Harder of Denmark in second and Dzsenifer Marozsán of Germany in third.

Final standings
1: Lieke Martens (Netherlands, Rosengård and Barcelona)
2: Pernille Harder (Denmark, Linköping and Wolfsburg)
3: Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany, Lyon)
4: Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands, Bayern München and Arsenal)
5: Eugénie Le Sommer (France, Lyon)
6: Wendie Renard (France, Lyon)
7: Jackie Groenen (Netherlands, FFC Frankfurt)
8: Lucy Bronze (England, Manchester City and Lyon)
9: Jodie Taylor (England, Arsenal)
10: Shanice van de Sanden (Netherlands, Liverpool)

Previous winners of the award:
2012/13 ─ Nadine Angerer (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2013/14 ─ Nadine Kessler (Germany, Wolfsburg)
2014/15 ─ Célia Šašić (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2015/16 ─ Ada Hegerberg (Norway, Lyon)

Arsenal

Striker Danielle Carter has signed a new contract with Arsenal.  The length of the contract has not been revealed although it is described as “long-term”.

Liverpool

Liverpool, however, have not had such a good week.  Their Dutch star Shanice van de Sanden has left to join Champions League holders Olympique Lyonnais Feminin.

Golf

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed another title at the weekend when she won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open by two shots from compatriot Lee Mi-rim.

She finished on -13, with M Lee on -11, with a tie for third between Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, Chun In-gee of Korea, Shanshan Feng of China and Cristie Kerr of USA on -10.

Park hit a seven-under 64 in the final round to overcome a four shot deficit from the third round.

Holly Clyburn was top British finisher on -3 while Charley Hull was way back in the pack on +6.

American star Michelle Wie had to withdraw before the start of the final round when she had to undergo surgery to remove her appendix.  This seems to be catching – see cycling below!

Hockey

England’s women secured a bronze medal at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam with a 2-0 win over Germany.

Hannah Martin and Alex Danson scored the goals.

The gold medal went to the Netherlands who beat Belgium 3-0 in the final.

Their goals came from Margot van Geffen, Kelly Jonker and Ireen van den Assem (Penalty stroke).

Modern Pentathlon

A sport featuring rarely in this column, but as the World Modern Pentathlon Championships were held in Cairo this week it should be in.

The events were pistol shooting, fencing, 200m swimming, show jumping and a 3km run (apologies if you already knew this).

In the women’s events the results were as follows:

Individual

Gold went to Gulnaz Gubaydullina of Russia with 1,292 points.  Silver was taken by Zsófia Földházi of Hungary, who was a mere seven points behind on 1,285 and in bronze position was Anastasiya Prokopenko of Belarus, again just behind with 1,281 points.

Team

The team title went to Germany with 2,815 points.  Second were Russia on 2,797 and third Italy on 2,791.

Relay

The relay winners were Germany on 1,276 points with Egypt in second on 1,243 and Japan third on 1,238.

Badminton

Women’s singles

Kirsty Gilmour was defeated in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Glasgow.  She lost 21-19 18-21 21-15 to Saina Nehwal of India.

The gold medal went to Nozomi Okuhara of Japan who beat PV Sindhu of India 21-19 20-22 22-20.

Bronze medals went to Chen Yufei of China and Saina Nehwal.

Mixed doubles

Chris and Gabby Adcock lost in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles to Chinese pair and top seeds  Zheg Siwei and Chen Qingchen 21-15 23-21.  This meant they secured a bronze medal but they were still disappointed with the outcome.  Gabby Adcock spoke to BBC Sport:

“We’re disappointed because we felt we had a chance today.

“It was one of our worst performances of the week and I’m struggling to find a reason as to why but we just couldn’t get going.”

The gold medal winners were Tontowi Ahmed and Liliyanna Natsir of Indonesia who beat the Adcocks’ vanquishers 15-21 21-16 21-15 in the final.

Women’s Doubles

The Women’s Doubles title was taken by Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China who beat Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan in the final 21-18 17-21 21-15.  Bronze medals went to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, also of Japan, and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark.

Netball

The Quad Series in Brisbane is in full swing.  England are finally showing how much they have improved recently and have so far recorded one loss and one win.

Australia 54-50 England

So tight and so close for the Roses!  But it wasn’t always that way.  At half-time England were trailing by 10 points 32-22 and it looked as if the Diamonds were in for yet another easy win.

By the end of the third quarter England had cut the deficit to six and were getting closer by the end but Australia managed to hold on.

Helen Housby top scored for England with 30 goals, an 88% conversion rate, but this was knocked into a cocked hat by Australia’s Caitlin Bassett who scored 43 goals at a conversion rate of 93%.

But England would have been buoyed by this performance going into their second game against New Zealand.

New Zealand 45-49 England

On Wednesday 30 England registered their first win against New Zealand in a Quad Series.

The Roses were down by just one point 37-36 going into the fourth quarter in Auckland and they had a storming last period to take it by four.  Kadeen Corbin scored seven goals in the final quarter as the Roses pulled away.

Helen Housby was top scorer again for England with 26 goals at a conversion rate of 81%.  Bailey Mes scored 28 for the Silver Ferns.

England play South Africa on Sunday to see if they can finish second in a Quad Series for the first time.

South Africa have lost both of their first two games, against New Zealand 63-56 and Australia 58-52.

Cycling

Lizzie Deignan’s participation in the World Championships is in doubt after she had her appendix removed this week.

The Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway, from September 17-24.  The women’s road race is on 23 September.

Deignan would be one of the favourites if she recovers in time to take part.

Tennis

It’s been a bizarre old start to the US Open with seeds falling like dominoes.  Everyone has an opinion on the participation of Maria Sharapova, including former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki who branded the scheduling of Sharapova’s matches all on the show courts to be “questionable”.  I’ll leave you to make up your own minds on that one.

Some of the high (and low) lights so far:

Both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson lost in the first round.  Konta lost to unseeded world number 78 Aleksandra Krunic 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Watson lost to Alizé Cornet of France in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber also departed in round one, losing in straight sets to world number 45, Japanese 19-year old Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-1.

Maria Sharapova, who is, as I’ve already said never far from the headlines, is through to the third round.  Her first round defeat of world number two, Simona Halep 6-4 4-6 6-3 sent shockwaves around Flushing Meadows.

She defeated Timea Babos of Hungary in the second 6-7 6-4 6-1 and faces the unseeded Sofia Kenin of the United States in the third.

Other players of note to go through to the third round are world number one, Karolina Pliskova, who had to fight off a strong challenge from Nicole Gibbs to win 2-6 6-3 6-4.  French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is still in the mix after she defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4 6-4.

One seed to bite the dust in the second round was number 23, Barbora Strycova, who was soundly beaten by American Jennifer Brady 6-1 6-1.  Three more Americans through to the third round are Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

I think it’s safe to say it’s wide open!

Cricket

The past week has seen and will see the culmination of the women’s cricket season in England.  Last weekend the County Championship was decided and on Friday 1 September it’s Kia Super League Finals day.

County Championship

Lancashire have been crowned Division 1 champions, having won five of their seven games this season.  The full standings were as follows:

Team Played Won Lost Points
Lancashire 7 5 2 99
Yorkshire 7 5 2 98
Warwickshire 7 5 2 96
Nottinghamshire 7 4 3 88
Middlesex 7 3 4 76
Kent 7 3 4 71
Sussex 7 3 4 66
Berkshire 7 0 7 24

Sussex and Berkshire are relegated to Division 2.  Their places are taken by the top two finishers in the second division this year, which were Hampshire and Somerset.

Kia Super League

The last three matches took place on Saturday 26 August.  Loughborough won again, but with Western Storm also taking the points it was not enough for the Lightning to go through.  To be honest, they didn’t deserve to anyway on the performances I saw.

Match 13
Bristol County Ground
Lancashire Thunder 122/5 (20 overs)
Western Storm 123/5 (17.1/20 overs)
Western Storm won by 5 wickets

Match 14
The Oval
Loughborough Lightning 171/3 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 90 all out (18 overs)
Loughborough Lightning won by 81 runs

Match 15
Arundel Castle
Southern Vipers 138/6 (20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 108 all out (18.3 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 30 runs

Finals Day – Hove

Southern Vipers automatically qualify for the final with the other place being fought out between Surrey Stars and Western Storm.

And Finally,

This has just popped up into my inbox and so I had to share it, especially as it is about my Leicestershire neck of the woods.  Good grief Cycling Weekly.  Sort yourselves out:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-41122033

Apologies, but there will be no column next week as I am out and about elsewhere.

 

Women’s Sports Column 19-25 August 2017

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  I went to see a poor Loughborough Lightning well beaten by Yorkshire Diamonds at Loughborough last Friday.   I thought our rain curse was going to pan out yet again as we sat in the car listening to and watching the hail come down.  But we did get a game – 13 per side and actually Loughborough would probably have preferred it to hose down as it was the only way they were ever going to get a point.  Hey ho.  Onward.

Stories this week come from rugby, golf, badminton, cycling, football, snooker, cricket, hockey and tennis.  I’m also happy to say this week’s “And Finally” is a good story.

Badminton

The Badminton World Championships are taking place in Glasgow this week.  Britain’s Gabby and Chris Adcock are through to the quarter-finals.  They went through to the last 16 of the missed doubles by beating French pair Bastian Kersaudy and Lea Palermo, 21-10 21-13.

The fifth seeds played the 11th seeds, Kenta Kazuno and Ayane Kurihara from Japan in the next round, winning 21-15 21-16.

In the quarter-finals they face Tse Ying Suet and Tang Chun Man of Hong Kong on Friday 25 August.

Kirsty Gilmour, Britain’s best women’s singles hope is also through to the quarter-finals after beating He Bingjiao of China 21-14 15-21 21-16.  She plays Saina Nehwal of India in the next round.

Rugby

Women’s Rugby World Cup

The final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup will be between New Zealand and current holders, England.

Two contrasting semi-finals on Tuesday 22 August saw New Zealand pull away from a tiring USA to win comfortably, while England had to fight to the hooter to see off France.

New Zealand 45-12 USA

Although most this was only going to go one way, the USA gave it everything they had to cause New Zealand more of a challenge than they had faced in the World Cup so far.

The Black Ferns took the lead after just three minutes, an unconverted try by Subritzky-Natafali.  But USA were ahead 12 minutes later with a try from Thomas, converted by Kelter.

Cocksedge kicked her first points of the afternoon two minutes later, a penalty to take New Zealand 8-7 ahead.  On 25 they looked to be warming to their task as player of the match Portia Woodman went over for her first try, converted by Cocksedge.

At half-time it was 15-7 to the Black Ferns but there was a palpable feeling that they could still be beaten.

But it was not to be.  Woodman scored her second on 48 minutes.  It went unconverted, but a matter of minutes later Cocksedge popped over another penalty to make it 23-7.

Three minutes later USA were back in it with a try from Kelter, but she was unable to add the conversion.

On 62 Woodman went in for her hat-trick – my goodness she’s a force that England will have to keep quiet if they are to win this final.

Cocksedge missed the conversion but the score was 28-12.

The Eagles must have thought they were in with a chance three minutes later when Itunu was yellow-carded.  However, it only seemed to spur the Black Ferns on.  Woodman scored her fourth try on 71 minutes and although it went unconverted, just four minutes later they were in again, this time through Ngata-Aerengamate and they were home and hosed at 38-12.

They still had time to cross the line one more time Brazier scoring and Cocksedge converting to take the final score to 45-12.

England 20-3 France

This was a marvellous, bruising, brutal game, with plenty of hard-hitting tackling and powerful running.  France, who had been so majestic in their previous game against USA, were not allowed the same freedom by England, who smothered any attempt by the French backs to break away.

The sides went in level at half-time with just three points each on the board; one penalty from Emily Scarratt  and one from Shannon Izar.

After the break England went ahead again through another Scarratt penalty.  And then came the play of the match as prop Sarah Bern drove over to score a try which was also converted by Scarratt.

It was clear France were not going to give up and only a stunning last-ditch tackle from Megan Jones prevented Julie Annery from going over as her foot went into touch.

Jones then did some attacking herself, breaking French hearts as she pounced on a loose French ball behind the line and touched down for England’s third.

What a fine, well-fought match it was – it would have made an excellent final.

One blow for England is that Danielle Waterman will be unable to play in the final having suffered concussion during the semi-final.

Ireland 24-36

Ireland played for the fifth place semi-final, but were unable to come away with the victory and now play Wales in the seventh-place play-off.

Australia scored five tries with Williams, Riordan, Samoa, Boyle and Murphy all crossing the whitewash.  Four were converted by Hewson, who also kicked a penalty.

Ireland scored four tries through Egan, Miller, Spence and Fitzpatrick.  Conversions were by Stapleton and Tyrrell.

Everyone plays on Saturday 26 August for the placings.  The games are as follows:

11th place play-off Japan v Hong Kong (12noon)
9th place play-off Italy v Spain (2.30pm)
7th place play-off Ireland v Wales (2pm)
5th place play-off Australia v Canada (5pm)
Bronze Final France v USA (5pm)
Final England v New Zealand (7.45pm)

Tennis

Cincinnati Open

Britain’s Johanna Konta went out in the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati event, beaten by world number two Simona Halep 6-4 7-6.

Halep then defeated American Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-1 to get to the final.  There she met Spaniard Garbine Muguruza who had a tougher route; she beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 5-7 7-5 in the quarters before facing and defeating number one seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3 6-2.

Muguruza then obliterated Halep in the final 6-1 6-0.

US Open

The final grand slam of the season, the US Open, begins at Flushing Meadows on 28 August.

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka has withdrawn due to an “ongoing family situation”, but one player who will be there is Maria Sharapova who has been handed a wildcard.

Cricket

The Ashes

Australian captain Meg Lanning is out of the Women’s Ashes following shoulder surgery.

It is thought she will be out of action for six to eight months.

The Ashes begin on 22 October in Brisbane.

No replacement has been announced as yet.

Kia Super League

It’s been an odd Super League this season.  I’m afraid it’s felt very much “after the Lord Mayor’s show” of the World Cup.  Apparently crowds are up on the back of it though, so it’s not all bad.  There have been some good performances and some stinkers.  Last year’s zeros, Surrey Stars, have suddenly become heroes, while Lancashire Thunder can’t seem to get their act together at all.   Loughborough Lightning have suffered from a combination of over-performing last season and doing badly out of the “redistribution” of players that was supposed to make things more even.  Consequently they have had a poor tournament.  And for the second season in a row, who can stop the mums’ army, Southern Vipers?

Personally I’m looking forward to next season when the tournament is expanded to home and away fixtures – five fixtures just isn’t enough.

Anyway, here are the results from the last week:

Sunday 20 August

Match 8, Stanley Park, Blackpool
Loughborough Lightning 140/5 (20 overs)
Lancashire Thunder 90 all out (17.2 overs)
Loughborough Lightning win by 50 runs

Match 9, Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Southern Stars 127/8 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 100/7 (16.2 overs)
Surrey Stars win by 4 runs via D/L method

Match 10, York Cricket Club
Yorkshire Diamonds 160/7 (20 overs)
Western Storm 161/0 (17 overs)
Western Storm win by 10 wickets

Wednesday 23 August

Match 11, Aigburth, Liverpool
Lancashire Thunder 87 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 88/4 (14.5 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 6 wickets

Match 12, The Oval, London
Surrey Stars 169/6 (20 overs)
Western Storm 117 all out (19.3 overs)
Surrey Stars win by 52 runs

Table:

  Played Won Lost Tied N/R Net RR Points
Surrey Stars 4 4 0 0 0 +1.445 18
Southern Vipers 4 3 1 0 0 +2.155 15
Yorkshire Diamonds 4 2 2 0 0 -0.001 8
Western Storm 4 2 2 0 0 -1.391 8
Loughborough Lightning 4 1 3 0 0 -0.269 5
Lancashire Thunder 4 0 4 0 0 -1.851 0

With one round of games to go the top two are through with the next three teams fighting for two places.  Lightning can still go through with only two wins, although their last match is against the in-form Surrey Stars.

Golf

Solheim Cup

The USA retained the Solheim Cup at the weekend with a convincing 16½-11½ victory over Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Although Europe won the singles on Sunday, the damage had already been done on the previous two days.

Europe started well.  In the first session on day one, they took the foursomes 2½-1½, but the afternoon saw a big swing as USA achieved their first clean sweep in a session, leaving the first day totals at 5½-2½.

This was always going to be a large deficit to pull back.

On day two the morning foursomes were tied, taking the score to 7½-4½, but USA again did well in the afternoon session, extending their lead to five points, 10½-5½ going into the singles.

Europe fought well and hard on the last day, but, as I have already said, the gap was too large to close.  The singles scores were as follows:

Lexi Thompson Halved Anna Nordqvist
Paula Creamer wins 1UP Georgia Hall
Cristie Kerr wins 2&1 Mel Reid
Stacy Lewis loses 1UP Catriona Matthew
Angel Yin Halved Karine Icher
Michelle Wie loses 4&2 Caroline Masson
Lizette Salas wins 1UP Jodi Ewart Shadoff
Brittany Lang loses 1UP Charley Hull
Brittany Lincicome loses 4&3 Carlota Ciganda
Gerina Piller wins 4&2 Florentyna Parker
Austin Ernst loses Madelene Sagstrom 3&2
Danielle Kang 3&1 Emily Pedersen

Europe will be looking to regain the trophy at Gleneagles in 2019.

Football

Retirments and Transfers

Scotland captain Gemma Fay has retired from international football.  She won 203 caps for her country.

This announcement came in the same week that both midfielder Leanne Ross and defender Ifeoma Dieke also declared themselves unavailable for further selection for international duty for Scotland.

The biggest (and shock) transfer news this week came from Manchester City, who announced that their England star and England’s standout player of the Euros, Lucy Bronze is to leave the club to join Champions League holders Lyon.  She has signed a three-year contract with the top French club in a deal that also saw Lyon forward and German international, Pauline Bremer, join City.

Arsenal have also been busy in the transfer market.  This week they signed Swedish right-back Jessica Samuelsson and have re-signed Germany defender Josephine Henning from Lyon.

European Under-19s

Spain 3-2 France

It was holders v three-time running losing finalist in the final in Belfast.

Spain, having lost the last three finals were in no mood to lose a fourth in a row, but it was France who took the lead with a tap-in from Mathilde Bourdieu as early as the fourth minute.

Fourteen minutes later Spain drew level through Patricia Guijarro and the sides went in level at half-time.

France went ahead again with 19 minutes to go with a curler from Emelyne Laurent, but with five minutes to go Damaris Egurrola headed in from a free kick to make it 2-2.

Two minutes later France were down to ten, as Pauline Dechilly was sent off for two yellow cards.

Spain seized their chance with Guijarro scoring her second in the last minute to take the game and the trophy.

Champions League

The Women’s Champions League is set to be bigger than ever.  61 teams from 49 football associations have applied to compete, including first-time appearances from Fiorentina and Ajax.

We are currently in qualifying with 40 clubs competing for 11 places in the round of 32.  There are 10 groups of 4 with group winners + just one best second placed team going through.

The only British teams involved in qualifying are Hibs and Swansea, who are, unluckily drawn in the same group.  Hibs already have a European pedigree which showed when they played their first group game this week – against Swansea

Hibernian 5-0 Swansea

Goals came from Small (11), Turner (18), Graham (42 P, 87) and Hunter (48)

There will be more Champions League coverage from me in the column this year, so watch this space.  It’s good to say something positive about UEFA, so I will.  There is an excellent website dedicated to the Champions League and I would encourage you all to take a look: http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/index.html

Eni Aluko

I hummed and hawed before deciding to include an item about the ongoing racism allegations that have hit England women’s football this week.  I have the utmost respect for Eni Aluko as both a footballer and a person, which leads me to think that her allegations must have substance and so I thought I owed it to her to say my piece.

It’s doubly hard though, as since taking over as England manager, Mark Sampson has been a breath of fresh air and a fantastic advocate for women’s football and women’s sport in general.

You can’t help but notice that since Sampson has been in post, the number of black players in an England shirt has dropped dramatically – some down to international retirement, such as Rachel Yankey, but others not so easy to explain.

The FA, as usual, has not come out of this well.  If Aluko hadn’t made it public, the FA would have been quite happy to never let a whiff of any investigation come to light.

Now Anita Asante and Lianne Sanderson have come out to back Aluko and the issue shows no sign of going away.

The FA needs to take action now.  There needs to be a more exhaustive investigation as any kind of discrimination has no place in sport, football and indeed the England set-up.

Goodness knows I write about this stuff every week and every week the level of abuse, discrimination and hate that I see women in sport having to face grinds me down just a little bit further.  If this was found to have basis it would be a terrible indictment of the England set-up.

I truly hope it’s a series of misunderstandings, but Aluko is an intelligent woman – she would have weighed it up in her mind before making anything public.  Sadly we can expect much more to come out in the ensuing weeks and months.

Snooker

The Paul Hunter Women’s Classic takes place in Fürth, Germany from 24-27 August.  As it has only just started as I post this column, I’ll defer until next week and give you the full lowdown then.  It is the tournament’s second year and it’s good to see it getting some (very limited) exposure.

More next week.

Hockey

It was heartbreak for England’s women on 24 August as they lost in the semi-final of the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam to the hosts 1-0.  England were the defending champions.

They had finished runners-up in group B, having beaten Ireland 4-1 and Scotland 2-0, but losing to Germany 1-0.  This meant they faced the Netherlands in the semi-final.

It was an incredibly tight game settled by a single goal, scored by Marloes Keetels in the fourth-quarter.

The Netherlands now play Belgium in the final on Saturday, while England play the other losing sem-finalists, Germany, for the bronze medal.

 Cycling

Marianne Vos won the Ladies Tour of Norway this week, finishing the final stage in third and taking the title by 13 seconds.

Megan Guarnier of the USA was in second and another Dutch rider, Ellen van Dijk in third.

The team title was taken by Team Sunweb and Vos also won the points title.

And Finally

Thanks to Jennie Powell of 4The Love of Sport for making me aware of the organisation Opening Boundaries, whose aim is “to use sporting initiatives as a platform for campaigns that facilitate gender equality & peace around the globe.”

On Sunday they held a cricket match between a combined India & Pakistan team and the UK Armed Forces Ladies team.  The fixture, now in its second year, is gaining coverage worldwide and is raising awareness both of women’s roles in sport and of violence against women and girls as part of its Bowling Out Domestic Violence campaign.  You can read a report of the game here.

So it’s a combination of women’s sport and empowering women and girls through sport – what’s not to love?  Check it out at the links above.  You can also follow them on twitter @OB_Official.

Women’s Sports Column 5-11 August 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I realise I am terribly late with my Rugby World Cup preview, and the KSL also returned this week, but, as you know, I’m struggling for time at  the moment – the World Athletics Championships have nearly passed me by completely!  I will do the best I can to keep up, but I’m giving my apologies now if I fall short.  The good stuff just keeps on coming with the Solheim Cup and the Netball Quad Series still to look forward to.

So, less blathering, more reporting.  This week’s stories come from rugby, golf, athletics, tennis, hockey, netball, football and cricket.

Firstly to the football and the final of the Women’s Euros.

Football

Women’s Euros Final

Netherlands 4-2 Denmark

What a fitting final to grace an excellent tournament!  It had everything; goals, tackles, great defending, great goalkeeping, mistakes and a fabulous crowd.

The largely orange crowd were silenced after six minutes when Nadia Nadim slotted home a penalty, but the Dutch were level four minutes later Vivianne Miedema poked in from close range.

Player of the tournament, Lieke Martens scored the Netherlands’ second with a 20-yard strike.  But five minutes later the Danes were level again through Pernille Harder.

2-2 at half-time after a breathless, end-to-end 45 minutes.

The second-half was just as competitive.  Six minutes after the re-start through a Sherida Spitse free-kick.  Denmark gave everything they had to come back, but in the 89th minute Danish hearts were finally broken when Miedema got her second.

Netherlands were the best team overall, no doubting that.  England’s Jodie Taylor received the Golden Boot for her five goals.

Other football news

It was announced on Wednesday that the English FA will bid to host the 2021 Women’s Euros.  England last hosted the tournament in 2005 and the current boom in the women’s game has prompted the FA to bid again.

FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, said,

“The Lionesses’ performances at the Euros this summer gave the country great pride.  It also showed the significant impact that hosting a major European tournament can have on growing and developing women’s football.”

Can’t wait for unreconstructed man commenting on this.

The bidding process begins in September, with a decision due in 2018.

The FA has also announced that it is looking into fielding a women’s GB side at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.  Let’s hope the home nations come to an agreement in time, after their singular failure to do so for Rio.

Women’s Under-19 Euros

Hot on the heels of the Euros comes the under-19 version, which is taking place in Northern Ireland from 8-20 August.

Eight teams have qualified for the finals – split into two groups of four.

Group A: Germany, Spain, Northern Ireland, Scotland

Group B: Italy, France, Netherlands, England

The first round of matches produced the following results:

Group A:

Scotland 0-3 Germany

It could have been more for Germany had it not been for the excellent display from Scots goalkeeper Rebecca Flaherty.  Germany took the points with goals from Giulia Gwinn (19), Annalena Rieke (39) and Ereleta Memeti (80).

Northern Ireland 0-2 Spain

Likewise Spain were too strong for the host nation.  Lucia Garcia scored the first on the half-hour with captain Patricia Guijarro scoring on 53 minutes to seal the win.

Group B:

France 0-2 Netherlands

The Netherlands scored an impressive win over Cup-holders France with two goals in the first-half.  Victoria Pelova opened the scoring after just 10 minutes and an own goal from Julie Piga sealed the points for the Netherlands.

Italy 1-2 England

Two goals from Georgia Allen in the second-half were enough to take the points against Italy.  Italy pulled one back in second-half injury time through Annamaria Senturini.

The second round takes place on Friday 11 August.

Women’s Rugby World Cup

Having watched most of the first round of games, I can, with some relief, say that my original thoughts as to the ultimate destiny of the Cup have not changed significantly.  There were some unsurprisingly big wins as minnow were rolled over, with the undoubted highlight of the round being the game between Ireland and Australia.

England and New Zealand are the teams to beat and everyone will be looking to overturn them.  Canada and France will also be in the mix and as dark horses we have to include Ireland.  Can the “Netherlands effect” work in their favour?  It certainly helped at the first game against Australia.  Actually Australia were a good deal sharper than I expected and their sevens speed will be an asset, but I do question their ability, with so many sevens players in the squad, to last 80 minutes on a regular basis.

Right, on with the scores:

England 56-5 Spain

Clinical, but not perfect for England

England ran in 10 tries in their first game with four for Kay Wilson.  The other tries came from Emily Scarratt, Amy Cockayne, Harriet Millar-Mills, Alex Matthews, Lydia Thompson and Megan Jones.  Conversions came from Kay McLean (2) and Emily Scarratt.

Spain’s dogged persistence finally paid off towards the end of the first half as they scored from and England handling-error through Diana Gasso.

Although this was a good first result for England they know they will have to tighten up in certain areas if they are to progress.  They had 88% of territory, making 911 metres compared with Spain’s 258.  But the kicking was not too sharp and the line-outs positively ropey.  Their next game is against Italy on Sunday.

New Zealand 44-12 Wales

It was a tough start for Wales and by half-time they were 20-0 down.  Sioned Harries and Melissa Clay went over for Wales, but they were undone by merciless attacking speed from the Black Ferns, whose tries came through Winiata (3), Waaka, Wickliffe (2), Woodman and Blackwell.

USA 24-12 Italy

A tight game saw the Eagles claim the win with four tries to Italy’s two.  Kris Thomas scored the USA’s first after just two minutes with Kimber Rozier adding the conversion. Rozier went in for a try of her own on 17 minutes, but missed the conversion, to make it 12-0 to the USA.  Nine minutes later Italy were back in with scoring through Lucia Cammarano, which was converted.   In the second-half Thomas and Gustaitis went in for the USA.  Italy pulled one back with a late try from Giordano after Thomas had been yellow-carded.  A good confidence-building win for the USA.

Canada 98-0 Hong Kong

A crushing win for Canada, not really doing anything for the game, but Hong Kong have to start somewhere.  I fear for Hong Kong as things don’t get any easier as they face the Black Ferns next on Sunday 13 August.

Ireland 19-17 Australia

What a match!  Gosh, so tempting it is to trot out a whole line of clichés – they went toe to toe, knocking lumps out of each other, no quarter asked or given, etc.  But it’s also all true!  Before the game I thought Ireland, even without Niamh Briggs, would have it in the bag against such and inexperienced 15s side.  But Aussies never know when to quit (another cliché) and it was mighty tight to the end.

Ireland took the lead with at try from Larissa Muldoon, converted by Nora Stapleton.  But Australia hit back with a try of their own from Mahalia Murphy.  In what soon became a kicking nightmare for Australia, the conversion was missed by Samantha Treherne as the ball fell from the kicking tee just as it was about to be kicked.

After half-time Australia silenced the crowd by going in front with a try from Shannon Parry but there was further embarrassment in the kicking department as Treherne then took, what I would consider, to be one of the worst kicks I’ve ever seen.  We all laughed at the time, but in the end the difference was two points.

Ireland went back in front with a converted try by Ciara Griffin.  And when they scored again with ten minutes to go, the try by Sophie Spence adjudged legitimate by the TMO, Ireland were well ahead and the Aussies seemed to be tiring.

But it was Australia who were to have the last word, prop Hilisha Samoa tunnelling her way through a pile of Irish bodies to get over the line.

The TV coverage kept cutting to poor Niamh Briggs in the stand who was clearly playing every ball.  I hope she has some less-close matches to watch otherwise she’ll have no nails left.

France 72-14 Japan

Japan were touted as a possible outside threat before the tournament began, but this first game surely showed that they still have some way to go before being competitive in the big arena.  Twelve tries for France saw them win easily and a red card for Makiko Tomito for Japan in the second-half did not have improved the situation.

Live coverage is on ITV4.  It’s quite good (thank goodness for Maggie Alphonsi) – sorry can’t be more enthusiastic than that.  And as beggars can’t be choosers, I’d encourage you to tune in.

Tennis – Rogers Cup

There was disappointment for Heather Watson this week as she pulled out with injury in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

She was behind 6-1 4-1 to Naomi Osaka of Japan when she forfeited the match with a shoulder injury.

The quarter-finals take place on 11 and 12 August and the line-up is as follow:

K Pliskova (1) v C Wozniacki (6)

S Stephens v L Safarova

E Svitolina (5) v G Muguruza (4)

C Garcia v S Halep (2)

Athletics – World Championships

I think it’s safe to say that this has not been a vintage World Championships for Team GB.

So far we have only one medal – a gold for Mo Farah in the 10,000m.

Best results for British female athletes:

Laura Muir was a whisker away from taking a bronze in the 1,500m as she came in fourth.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson came in fifth in the heptathlon after really blowing her chances on the first day.

Holly Bradshaw came a creditable sixth in the pole vault but was not far away from getting a medal.

Sophie Hitchon came seventh in the hammer and Eilidh Doyle eighth in the 400m hurdles.

We still have potential medallists though on Friday 11 August with Dina Asher-Smith qualifying for the 200m and Lorraine Ugen in the long jump final.

There are plenty of events still to come through the weekend, so keep watching.  Blanket coverage on the BBC.

Netball

The netball Quad Series begins at the end of the month with England’s first game against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday 26 August at 6am.

They then play New Zealand in Auckland on Wednesday 30 August (8.30am) and South Africa in Invercargill on Sunday 3 September (3am).

Australia have already suffered a blow with top (and scariest) defender Sharni Layton pulling out of the squad, having been diagnosed with physical and mental exhaustion.

England have named a full-strength squad:

Ama Agbeze (captain), Jade Clarke (vice-captain), Joanne Harten (vice-captain), Sara Bayman, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Eleanor Cardwell, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Stacey Francis, Jodie Gibson, Serena Guthrie, Helen Housby, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman.

Reserves: Summer Artman, Sasha Corbin, George Fisher, Natalie Haythornthwaite

Hockey

Just a quick notice!  The public ballot for tickets to the 2018 World Cup, to be held in London from 21 July -5 August opens on 19 August.  Follow this link to register – it’s a short window, the ballot closes on 6 September.

 Golf

Solheim Cup

The teams, including the captains’ picks, are in!  The Solheim Cup is nearly upon us.  The USA are the current holders, having won in Germany in 2015, 14½-13½.

Europe captain Annika Sorenstam had four wildcard picks and chose Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Madelene Sagstrom (Swe), Caroline Masson (Ger) and Emily Pedersen (Den).

Julie Inkster had two wildcard picks for the USA and chose Austin Ernst and Angel Yin.  Although not originally included, Paula Creamer has now been drafted in, as Jessica Korda has pulled out through injury.

The teams in full:

Europe: Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Mel Reid, Florentyna Parker, Carlota Ciganda, Karine Icher, Suzann Pettersen. Wildcards: Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Masson, Emily Pederson, Magdalene Sagstrom.

USA: Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Danielle Kang, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome, Lizette Salas. Captain’s Picks: Austin Ernst, Angel Yin.

The Solheim Cup takes place at the Des Moines Country Club in Iowa from 18-20 August and is live on Sky Sports.

British Open

Kim In-Kyung of Korea has won the British Open at Kingsbarns in Scotland at the weekend.  She won by two shots over Jodie Ewart Shadoff of England, finishing on -18.  Michelle Wie of the United States took a share of third with Caroline Masson of Germany and Georgia Hall of England as they finished on -13.

Kim had a six-shot lead going into the last round, but in the end she had to hold on as Ewart Shadoff shot a storming course-equalling round of 64 to pull the deficit back to just two shots.

Cricket

Kia Super League

The second season of the Kia Super League gets underway this week.  Each team still only plays each other once, with Finals Day this year at Hove on 1 September.

The ECB has revealed this week that next year’s competition will be expanded so that each team will play a more usual format of home and away ties.  This good news comes in the wake of an earlier announcement that the ECB has shelved plans for a similar women’s 50-over completion.  When the T20 competition was announced, the ECB said its plans were to extend it to a 50-over competition in a matter of a couple of years.  This is a massive U-turn and somewhat of a slap in the face for a country that has just won a 50-over World Cup.

Not sure how many times I’ve said this, but the various governing bodies have to stop using women’s sport as a guinea pig – so many initiatives announced, so many either dropped before they’ve started or after a limited time – see the RFU and its contract scandal, for example.

The ECB obviously want the women to be concentrating on T20, when really it is the grassroots county game that needs the money.  Where will the much vaunted “pathway” be for county players to get into the England one-day side? It’s a huge jump.

The odds are it will all change again in 2020 when the men’s “franchises” (hush my mouth, dirty word) for the T20 Blast will be revealed.  It is thought that the women’s Super League will then be revamped in line with these franchises.

Anyway, it all began again on Thursday 10 August with a somewhat underwhelming start at the Ageas Bowl as reigning champions the Southern Vipers took on Western Storm.

Western Storm 70 all out (18.5 overs)
Southern Vipers 73/1 (9 overs)

Not a storming start (sorry) to the KSL as the Vipers thrashed the Storm, knocking off their target in just nine overs.  Not even the missing Anya Shrubsole could have turned this round.

Top scorer for Storm was opener Georgia Hennessy, who dug in in the face of the carnage around her.

England captain Heather Knight, made only one before being bowled by Linsey Smith.  The only other player to make double figures was Fran Wilson who made 10.

In an attempt to up the scoring to make some kind of defendable total, Storm suffered three run-outs towards the end of the innings, including that of Sophie Luff who was dismissed by a direct hit from Charlotte Edwards.

In response the Vipers made it look all too easy.  They have a truly scary batting order, which was not needed on this occasion.  Hayley Matthews was the only wicket to fall as she hit out with freedom in attempt to get the game won.  She was caught by Hennessy off the bowling of Stafanie Taylor for 15.

New Zealand captain Suzie Bates (47) and Georgia Adams (3) saw them home.

Coverage is on Sky and BBC TMS.

And finally,

I still must try harder to stop reading the comments sections, particularly on the BBC.  I thought the rugby had cracked it and it was accepted that the women’s game is a quality product (not that I care whether you accept it or not), but this is not the case.  Cue the usual misogyny on the BBC comments sections.  Bored now.

Sorry, no column next week as I’ll be working elsewhere.  Don’t forget, if you’ve enjoyed reading the column please share it with your networks.  I’m also happy to discuss any (non-troll) aspects of women’s sport.

Women’s Sports Column 1-7 April 2017

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

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

Tennis

Miami Open

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

She now climbs to seven in the world rankings.

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

Monterrey Open

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

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

Football

Republic of Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

England

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

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

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

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

Full squad:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scotland

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

Anna Signeul will leave after being in charge since 2005.

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netball

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

Round Seven scores:

Friday 31 March

Sirens 51-45 Team Bath

Saturday 1 April

Team Northumbria 61-39 Severn Stars

Surrey Storm 51-58 Wasps Netball

Monday 3 April

Celtic Dragons 45-65 Loughborough Lightning

Manchester Thunder 59-50 Hertfordshire Mavericks

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

Weightlifting

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

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

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

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

Ice Hockey

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

They lost their first three games in Group A:

Netherlands 5-4 Great Britain

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

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

South Korea 3-1 Great Britain

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

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

North Korea 3-2 Great Britain

(after overtime)

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

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

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

Great Britain 8-2 Slovenia

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

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

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

Golf

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

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

She lost the play-off at the first hole.

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

The LPGA said Thompson had

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

This turned her carded 67 into a 71.

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

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

Badminton

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

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

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

Badminton England performance director Jon Austin said,

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

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

Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race

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

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

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

Boxing

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

And finally,

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

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

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

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

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

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

She went on to say,

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

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

And, and finally,

David Moyes – wrong.

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