Women’s Sports Column 2-8 June 2018

running trackWelcome to this week’s column.  After the marathon of the previous one, I’m hoping this offering can be more in the way of a sprint!  Stories this week come from football, triathlon, rugby union, athletics, cricket, tennis, golf, judo, mountain biking and…. darts!

So let’s crack on.

Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith broke her own British 100m records at the Diamond League Bislett Games in Oslo on 7 June.  She clocked 10.92, beating her previous best by 0.07 seconds.  In the race she finished second behind Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast, but beat Commonwealth Games 100m champion Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago into third.

Tennis

No doubt as to the disappointment of the week, when the much-anticipated match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at the French Open was scuppered by Williams withdrawing through injury.  Anyone who reads this column regularly will know whose camp I am firmly in, and although Serena was the underdog, I would have loved to have seen her take on and beat Sharapova without breaking sweat.

Needless to say, there has been much comment since Williams withdrew, for and against both players.  I’m not passing judgement.  I wish she had been out there, but an arm injury that would have prevented her serving to the best of her ability was not something she could have played through.

The final of the French Open will be between number one seed Simona Halep and tenth seed Sloane Stephens and the tournament progressed as follows:

Quarter-finals
Sloane Stephens (10) beat Daria Kasatkina (14) 6-3 6-1
Madison Keys (13) beat Yulia Putintseva 7-6 6-4
Garbine Muguruza (3) beat Maria Sharapova (28) 6-2 6-1
Simona Halep (1) beat Angelique Kerber (12) 6-7 6-3 6-2

Semi-finals:
Sloane Stephens (10) beat Madison Keys (13) 6-4 6-4
Simona Halep (1) beat Garbine Muguruza (3) 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 9 June and will be broadcast in the UK on ITV and ESPN and on the radio via BBC 5 Live.

Cricket

The England squad for the one-day series against South Africa has been announced.

Coverage of the first match, which is on Saturday 9 June is on TMS on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and via the BBC website and begins at 11am.

Heather Knight (capt, Berkshire), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (wicketkeeper, Warwickshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Sarah Taylor (wk, Sussex), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

England’s fixtures this summer:

England v South Africa

June
9 1st ODI, Worcester (11:00 BST)
12 2nd ODI, Hove (d/n) (13:00 BST)
15 3rd ODI, Canterbury (d/n) (14:00 BST)

Twenty20 tri-series

20 South Africa v New Zealand, Taunton (13:00 BST)
20 England v South Africa, Taunton (17:40 BST)
23 England v South Africa, Taunton (13:00 BST)
23 England v New Zealand, Taunton (17:40 BST)
28 South Africa v New Zealand, Bristol (13:00 BST)
28 England v New Zealand, Bristol (17:40 BST)

July
1 Final, Chelmsford (15:00 BST)

England v New Zealand
7 1st ODI, Headingley (11:00 BST)
10 2nd ODI, Derby (d/n) (13:00 BST)
13 3rd ODI, Leicester (d/n) (14:00 BST)

English Women’s County Championship

Hampshire have won the County Championship for the first time after beating Middlesex, which also condemned them to be relegated to division two.

Hampshire, promoted to division one this season and under new Director of Cricket, Charlotte Edwards, won six of their seven fixtures to secure the title.

Yorkshire finished as runners-up, while Middlesex and Somerset were relegated.   Sussex and Surrey are promoted from division two.

Aboriginal Tour

There are both men’s and women’s Aboriginal XIs touring England at the moment.  On Thursday 7 both sides played a Surrey XI at The Oval and on Friday 8 June they play a Sussex XI at Hove.

Thursday 7 June
Surrey Women 149/6 (20 0vers)
Aboriginal XI 113 all out (19.6 overs)
Surrey women won by 36 runs

Surrey captain Hannah Jones won the toss and elected to bat.  England’s Bryony Smith top scored with 58 with Amy Gordon making 37. Aboriginal captain Ashleigh Gardner had the best bowling figures, taking 2/28 from her four overs.

In response Gardner opened the batting but was out for six.  Hannah Darlington top-scored with 32 and there were good contributions from Emma Manix-Geeves (21) and Sally Moylan (27), but wickets fell too regularly for them to have a chance and the tourists fell short by 36 runs.

Mountain Biking

Great Britain’s Tahnee Seagrave won the Fort William leg of the Downhill World Cup last weekend.  She took the title in a time of 05:10.960, ahead of Myriam Nicole of France in second, 05:19.211 and Britain’s Rachel Atherton in third, 05:20.016.

Seagrave now lies second in the rankings on 1751 points, behind Myriam who has 1950.

Football

England Qualifier

England Head Coach, Phil Neville, will have decisions to make on Friday as there have been a series of withdrawals from his squad for Friday’s qualifier against Russia.

Captain Steph Houghton was the first to withdraw and now faces some time on the sidelines as she undergoes knee surgery.

Earlier this week Izzy Christiansen and Jordan Nobbs also withdrew.  Christiansen has a thigh problem, while Nobbs has a foot injury.

Lucy Staniforth of Sunderland and Lauren Bruton of Reading have been called up as cover and Lucy Bronze had been named captain.

Just to remind you, the Russia game will be on the BBC Red Button and online from 5pm.

Wales Qualifier

Wales 1-0

Wales took a one-point lead in Group A after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in Swansea on 7 June.

Kayleigh Green scored the only goal of the game in the 61st minute after Wales had spurned numerous chances, including a penalty, which was missed by Helen Ward.

Wales play again on Tuesday 12 June in Newport when they face Russia.

Scotland Qualifer

Scotland 2-1 Belarus

Scotland are up to second in Group B, three points behind Switzerland after they came from behind to beat Belarus at the Falkirk stadium on 7 June.

Belarus took the lead through Karina Olkhovik.  Scotland had plenty of chances to equalise and Jane Ross had a goal disallowed before Erin Cuthbert finally drew them level just before the break.

Cuthbert bagged her second on 65 minutes to give the Scots the win.

They play again in Poland on Tuesday 12 June, with leaders Switzerland travelling to Belarus on the same day.

Other football news

There has been another flurry of transfers/releasing of players/new contracts this week.  Here are the highlights:

  • Biggest news of the week, Reading and England goalkeeper Mary Earps has signed for German champions Wolfsburg on a one-year deal. This will be great experience for the 25-year old.
  • Second biggest news must be the appointment of former Liverpool coach Matt Beard as the new Head Coach of West Ham Ladies. Watch out, West Ham obviously mean business.
  • Birmingham City have released Freda Ayisi, Maddy Cusack and Coral Haines.
  • Manchester City have signed Scotland international Caroline Weir from Liverpool.
  • Fran Kirby has signed a new three-year contract with Chelsea.
  • David Haley is to step down as Celtic manager after five years to take charge of the Celtic Women’s Academy

Darts

Great news from the world of darts this week as it was announced that from 2019 the PDC World Championship will include two female players as part of an expanded field.

There will be 96 players taking part, an increase from 72.  There will be two women’s qualifying events for the UK and Rest of the World.  The winners of these events will get to the main draw.

The tournament takes place at the Alexandra Palace and runs from 13 December to 1 January.

Triathlon

Great Britain took silver in Nottingham on Thursday 7 June in the first of the Mixed Relay Series events.

The team, comprising Jonny Brownlee, Non Stanford, Tom Bishop and Vicky Holland finished 29 seconds behind the USA, who completed the course in one hour 21 minutes and 16 seconds.

France finished third in a sprint finish, nine seconds behind Brownlee and one second ahead of Australia’s Ryan Bailie in fourth.

Mixed Relay will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 and the Nottingham event was the first to earn teams Olympic qualifying points.

The second event will be in Edmonton, Canada, from 27-29 July.

Rugby Union

This weekend sees the final leg of the Women’s World Sevens in Paris.  Australia are currently top of the standings with 74 points, New Zealand lie second with 70 with France back in third on 54.  News and results next week.

It was also announced that next season’s series will include an extra leg, an opening event in Glendale, Colorado.  This will mean the women’s circuit will comprise six rounds; USA, Dubai, Sydney, Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris.

Netball

It was round 15 of the Netball Super League at the weekend and the results were as follows:

Friday 1 June
Team Bath 54-45 Benecos Mavericks

Saturday 2 June
Manchester Thunder 53-42 Wasps Netball
Team Northumbria 58-47 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 51-44 UWS Sirens
Loughborough Lightning 59-44 Severn Stars

With Wasps’ second defeat in a row, they and Lightning are level on points at the top on 36, but Wasps still have a game in hand.  Thunder are third, three points back but also with a game in hand over Loughborough.  The Dragons are bottom on six points with Northumbria above them on nine.

It’s round 15 this weekend – just three rounds to go until the semis and final!

Friday 8 June
Team Bath v Loughborough Lightning (7.30pm)

Saturday 9 June
Celtic Dragons v Wasps Netball (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Manchester Thunder (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Team Northumbria (6pm)

Monday 11 June
Severn Stars v UWS Sirens (Live on Sky Sports, 7pm)

Rugby League

There were no Super League games last weekend as it was a Challenge Cup weekend.  There were some big scores for the more established sides with Castleford Tigers knocking out current Challenge Cup holders, Bradford Bulls, in the process.  The quarter-final draw has been made.  Ties take place during the weekend of 30 June-1 July.

Barrow v York City Knights
Castleford Tigers v St Helens
Featherstone Rovers v Wigan Warriors
Leeds Rhinos v The Army

Judo

Britain’s Sarah Adlington took a silver medal at the European Judo Open in Madrid last weekend.

She was beaten by Kristin Bussow of Germany in the final of the +78kg category.

Golf – US Open

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand won the US Open on the fourth play-off hole in Alabama last weekend.

She had a seven-shot lead going into the back nine of the final round, but in the end had to settle for a play-off as she finished level with Hyo Joo Kim of Korea on -11.

They were still level after a two-hole play-off before it went to sudden death.  At their third play-off hole they both parred again before Jutanugam won the fourth with a par to win her second major.

Spain’s Carlota Ciganda finished third.  Charley Hull finished in a share of tenth place and was the highest placed Briton.

No spitting or ranting “And Finally” this week (relief all-round there), but I’ll be back next week with more news, scores and views.  

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Women’s Sports Column 14-20 October 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s epic, this column should be more within usual parameters!  But there’s still plenty of news; stories this week come from football, cricket, Aussie Rules Football, cycling, rugby, netball, taekwondo, hockey and boxing.

I was about to crack on, then I realised that the top three women’s sports stories are the debacle at the FA, the Danish women’s football team on strike and the fact that the IRB have advertised their women’s national side’s head coach job as a six-month part-time post.  Ho hum.  Don’t think I need to add anything there do I?

Let’s crack on.

Football

No doubt about the top story this week.  Really, if the FA were a soap opera you’d say it was too far-fetched.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs as I will assume everyone is keeping up with it.  Blame has two lie at two doors – and while we’re blaming the first, let’s not forget about the second, shall we?

Firstly, the Football Association, which has mismanaged the whole situation right from the start.  No, this is not a “witch hunt” as the apologists might have it, but, let’s face it, something has been very wrong at the FA for some time.

Now it appears they ignored the facts before them, initiated a thoroughly useless investigation, came up with totally spurious results and then tried to bribe the complainant into telling the world that it wasn’t “institutionally racist”.  What could possibly be amiss?

The second investigation and subsequent grilling by MPs didn’t take long to show up the FA’s incompetence.

The FA has now apologised both the Eni Aluko and Drew Spence after Mark Sampson was indeed found to have made comments that were “discriminatory on the grounds of race”.

The inquiry also found that it did not believe Sampson to be racist but to have made “ill-judged attempts at humour” and also that Aluko’s bullying claim was not proven.

All through this ordeal Aluko has carried herself with dignity, sticking to her story and not bending, even when attempts were made to offer her “hush money.”

It is my view (neither original, nor unpopular) that the FA is an outdated, outmoded institution that needs to be looked at from the ground up.  Yes, there are black players and women on its satellite boards (see later for news of Dan Carter) but it still remains, at heart, a stale, pale, male, boys’ club.

Football is supposed to be the game of the people – and yet what does this tell us?  Who are the people, in the FA’s case?  Middle-aged (and older), white men.  As a consumer and lover of both women’s and men’s football, I can certainly say they don’t speak for me.

I listened to the debate on 5 Live on the subject this week.  It was really sad to hear Ian Wright, a great player, a role model for black teenagers (boys and girls), and an intelligent man, say he couldn’t work with the FA as it stands.  Mark Chapman was trying to get him to say he’d like to be involved, but obviously, looking at his conscience he said he wouldn’t be able to, even if approached.

And who can blame him?  I would like to think the top brass, Martin Glenn and Greg Clarke, are living on borrowed time.  But who knows?  Who can oust them?  And, more importantly, who would they be replaced by?

Going back to the second guilty party in this – let’s not forget Mark Sampson.  He has seemingly ruined his career over a spectacular inability to know his boundaries.  I don’t think he’s racist, he’s just another product of the “banter” culture, where people think it’s ok to say anything they want if they parade it under the label of “banter”.  Well it’s not.  The England set-up is a workplace, just like any other.  Such comment would not be acceptable in any other workplace, so it’s not acceptable here.  Anyone in such a position should have had courses in boundaries – and, equally importantly – should have known instinctively that he was crossing a line.

It’s not over yet, folks.  Let’s see what happens next.

Champions League Draw

The round of 16 draw was made on Monday.  Chelsea were not seeded, but managed to avoid the big guns of Lyon, Wolfsburg and Barcelona, but they still face a tough two legs against Rosenborg of Sweden.  Manchester City were seeded and will be happy with their draw against LSK Kinner of Norway.

First leg ties will be played on 8/9 November, with the return legs the following week.

Full draw:

Sparta Praha (CZE) v Linköping (SWE)
Gintra Universitetas (LTU) v Barcelona (ESP)
Chelsea (ENG) v Rosengård (SWE)
LSK Kvinner (NOR) v Manchester City (ENG)
Brescia (ITA) v Montpellier (FRA)
BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ) v Lyon (FRA, holders)
Fiorentina (ITA) v Wolfsburg (GER)
Stjarnan (ISL) v Slavia Praha (CZE)

More from The FA

England and Arsenal striker Danielle Carter has been appointed to the FA Council.  Carter has graduated from the “On the Board” scheme, which works to promote diversity within football.  She also sits on Hertfordshire FA’s disciplinary panel.

Denmark National Team

In an unprecedented move, Denmark’s women’s team will miss their World Cup qualifier against Sweden on Friday as their disagreement with their governing body, the Danish Football Association (DBU) goes on.

The team is still on strike after the two proposals put forward by the players were rejected by the governing body.  The men’s team was to give £60,000 to the women’s team and the women to have the same basic rights as the men do.  There is also still an issue as to who employs the women’s team.  The Danish FA has put forward a deal which means that the women’s team would no longer be employed by the FA.  The team has rejected this.   It doesn’t look as if this is going to be solved any time soon, so expect more updates.

Scotland – World Cup Qualifying

19 October
Belarus1-2 Scotland

Scotland registered a win in their first World Cup qualifier in Minsk on Thursday.  Scotland had chances to score early on through Caroline Weir and Jane Ross, but on 25 minutes it was Belarus who put the ball in the net first, Anastasia Kharlanova lobbing the keeper from six yards.

Three minutes later Scotland were level when Ross poked in from a Weir corner.

In the second-half the visitor had several chances, but spurned them all, until on 62 minutes the pressure told when Ross got through the defence, crossed and the ball was turned into her own net by Anna Kozyupa.

After just one match in group B Scotland lie third with three points.  Switzerland top the table with two wins from two.

Scotland’s next match is against Albania at The Paisley Stadium on Tuesday 24 October.

England

Friday 20 October sees England play France in a friendly at the Stade du Hainaut.  Kick-off is at 8pm BST.  Coverage is via the BBC red button and online.  Apparently 18,500 tickets have already been sold.  It will be Mo Marley’s first test as interim England manager, and in terms of European opposition, doesn’t get much tougher.

Cycling
La Course

It was announced this week that the 2018 La Course will be a one-day only event.  This year’s was over two days, with an added mountain stage.

It was generally agreed that the two-day format didn’t really work, but the riders are certainly in favour of a stiffer, and longer, test.  By reverting to the one-day format, the Tour de France organisers are shirking their commitments to women’s cycling.  Like many women’s sports, women’s cycling has to fight for any recognition at all.  It’s hard to see that calling one cut-down stage of the men’s race is showing it any respect or commitment.

European Track Championships

The British team pursuit foursome has won silver at the European Track Championships in Berlin.

The four; Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Manon Lloyd and Emily Kay were beaten by Italy in the final.

This is Team GB’s first medal at the Championships.

Eleanor Dickinson finished fifth in the women’s elimination race, and the women’s sprint team of Sophie Capewell and Katy Marchant lost to Germany in the first round of their event.

Katie Archibald

Scottish track cyclist Katie Archibald is to join road racing team Wiggle High5 in 2018.  She is not giving up on the track but sees the road racing as an addition to her career.

She is hoping to be selected for the Setmana Ciclista Valencia, Tour de Yorkshire and The Women’s Tour, but she will also compete at the track world championships next March.

Cricket – The Ashes

As you will all know, the Ashes are very nearly upon us.  It has not been the ideal warm-up for England’s women as they have managed to play only 18 overs so far due to rain.

Their first game, against a Cricket Australia XI was called off after 18 overs and they didn’t even get on the pitch for their second, which should have been against Queensland Fire.

However, it has been a similar story for both sides, with Australia’s warm-ups abandoned too.

Australia will, no doubt, miss captain Meg Lanning and her replacement, Rachael Haynes is somewhat of an unknown quantity.  England will be buzzing after their World Cup win in the summer.  All of this should point to an England victory, but it would be a brave woman who came right out and said it.  So I won’t.  The Test match will be key, even with fewer points riding on it.  Am I nervous?  Only completely.  More details and analysis, as ever, to come in this column.    

The fixtures are as follows:

22 October: 1st ODI Allan Border Field, Brisbane SOLD OUT!
26 October: 2nd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
29 October: 3rd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
9-12 November: Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, Sydney
 17 November: 1st T20 North Sydney Oval, Sydney
19 November: 2ndT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November: 3rdT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra

Full coverage, I’m delighted to say, is on BT Sport and begins on Sunday at 12.15am!  Be there, but if you can’t, make sure you watch the highlights later in the day.

ICC Women’s Championship

West Indies v Sri Lanka
Game two 13 October
Sri Lanka 162 all out (46.3 of 47 overs)
West Indies 163/3 (39.4 of 47 overs)

Although the top four batters got a start for Sri Lanka, 162 never looked like being enough to worry West Indies.  Afy Fletcher took 3/24 off 10 overs with Anisa Mohammed and Stafanie Taylor chipping in with two each.

In response West Indies made it look easy.  Taylor starred with bat as well as ball, scoring 60, with Deandra Dottin coming in late on to make 37 not out from 37 balls to seal the win and the two points.

Game three 15 October
West Indies 182/8 (45 overs)
Sri Lanka 142 all out (40.4 overs)

The Windies batted first, setting Sri Lanka a tough target.  Stafanie Taylor again led the way with 55, with Hayley Matthews contributing a fine 41 and Merissa Aguilleira 37.

Sri Lanka were always going to fall short.  Dilani Manodara top scored for them with 42.  Pick of the bowlers were Shakera Selman and Stafanie Taylor who took three wickets each.

So it’s so far, so good for the West Indies who lie top of the ICC Women’s Championship table with six points from three matches.

Tennis

Maria Sharapova claimed her first title since 2015 at the weekend, when she won the Tianjan Open.    She beat Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6 in the final.   It takes Sharapova up to 57 in the world rankings.

Kremlin Cup

A couple of days and a few thousand miles later Sharapova was knocked out in the first round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.  She lost to Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 7-6 6-4.

We’re now at the semi-final stage and only one seed remains.

The draw is as follows:
Daria Kasatkina v Irina-Camelia Begu
Natalia Vikhlyantseva v Julia Görges (7)

Luxembourg Open

Heather Watson made good progress to get to the quarter-finals of the Luxembourg tournament.  She beat third seed Anett Kontaveit in the round of 16 6-4 6-4.  But she fell in the quarter-final to fifth seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 6-4.

And then it was two.  Naomi Broady put in an excellent performance against an under-par Sabine Lisicki to win 4-6 7-5 6-3.  She was however, like Watson, unable to repeat the feat in the quarters, going down 6-0 5-7 6-1 to Mónica Puig of Puerto Rico.

The semi-final line-up is:
Pauline Parmentier v Carina Witthöft
Elise Mertens (5) v Mónica Puig

 Boxing

Natasha Jonas won again at the weekend with a third-round stoppage of Marianna Gulyas of Hungary.

It is Jonas’ third win since her return to boxing and turning professional in 2017, after initially retiring in 2015.

Aussie Rules Football

The AFL has banned transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey from taking part in the 2018 AFLW.

The governing body said it took into consideration “transgender strength, stamina, physique, along with the specific nature of the AFLW.”

The AFL Players Association (AFLPA) responded with a statement accusing the AFL of having no “clear guidelines on transgender players”.  It also stated that “No athlete should face such confusion around their eligibility for an elite competition just days out from a draft.”

Mouncey already plays for the Ainslie club in the Canberra Women’s League and previously played for the Australian men’s handball team.

Although she is now ineligible for this year’s draft, she may be able to be considered for future seasons.

In response to the ruling Mouncey said,

“While I am extremely disappointed with the AFL’s decision regarding my participation in Wednesday’s AFLW draft, I thank them for the genuine way in which they approached my situation.

“Despite not being able to take part in the draft, the AFL has given me the all clear to play for Ainslie next year in the AFL Canberra competition for which I am very grateful and look forward to doing in 2018, before hopefully being able to nominate for next year’s draft”.

This is going to become an issue in many sports and each sport will have to have its own policy.  The AFL clearly has not had to make this decision before but it’s good to see that their General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch is giving it consideration, although it is a shame they didn’t think to pre-empt such a situation,

“We acknowledge Hannah’s openness and cooperation. She has contributed to a process which will substantially inform the development of the AFL’s transgender policy and procedure for future players at the elite level,” she said.

Let’s hope they have that policy in place before such circumstances arise again.

Rugby Union

Ireland National Side

Your country has just hosted an incredibly successful World Cup.  As a host side you haven’t done too well, so unsurprisingly your coach steps down.  But the sport is on a high.  It’s finally getting the profile it deserves.  So what do you do?

Well, apparently you advertise the opening for the new coach of the national side as a part-time post for a six-month period.

That’s just what the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has done to the women’s national side.

Former coach, Tom Tierney, was their first coach employed on a full-time basis and showed the IRFU’s commitment to the women’s team in the run-up to the World Cup.

But now it’s over, it seems that commitment just isn’t there anymore.  England Rugby was similarly criticised when it announced that contracts for fifteens players would end after the World Cup and payments would be only made to sevens players.

It is, unfortunately, a story we see again and again in women’s sport, and I have covered it many times.  The governing bodies talk a good game, but usually that’s all it is.   I’m sick of writing it, and I’m sure you’re all sick of reading it.  But it seems as if the end of this kind of shoddy treatment is by no means nigh.

This weekend’s Tyrell’s Premier 15s fixtures are as follows:

21 October
Wasps Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (2pm Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v DMP Sharks (2.30pm venue tbc)
Harlequins Ladies v Bristol Ladies (3pm The Stoop)
Richmond Women v Saracens Women (5.15pm Richmond Athletic Ground)

22 October
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (2pm Sixways Stadium)

Netball

The England Roses squad for their three-match series against Malawi in November has been announced.

Ama Agbeze will captain the side, with England’s most capped player, Jade Clarke, serving as vice-captain.

The squad in full is:

Ama Agbeze (Capt.), Jade Clarke (Vice-Capt.), Eleanor Cardwell, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Sasha Corbin, Rachel Dunn, Jodie Gibson, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Josie Huckle, Vicki Oyesola, Natalie Panagarry

The series fixtures are:
Friday 24th November, Copper Box Arena, 7.45pm
Sunday 26th November, Copper Box Arena, 2pm
Wednesday 29th November, Genting Arena, 7:45pm

Hockey

The results from last weekend’s Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier League fixtures were as follows:

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

There was a shock defeat for Surbiton at the weekend as the reigning champions went down 3-1 in Birmingham.  England’s Lily Owsley scored the first for the home side from a penalty corner after eight minutes, but four minutes later the visitors were level through Rebecca Middleton.

On 50 minutes Alice Wills put Birmingham back in front and Erica Sanders ensured the win nine minutes later.

After four games Holcombe are top of the table with eight points.  Slough and Surbiton are second and third respectively on seven with Slough in second on goal difference.

Para-taekwondo

Britain’s Amy Truesdale has won gold in the K44 +58kg category at the Para-taekwondo World Championships in London.

It is Truesdale’s fourth medal in the event having claimed gold in 2014, and bronze in 2009 and 2015.

She was leading 17-3 in the final against Rajae Ajkermach of Morocco when her opponent had to withdraw with an injury.

And finally,

 There will be no column for two weeks now, as I’m off on my hols.  I’d like to say I was off to Oz for the Ashes, but I’m not, so I won’t.  I’ll be back on Friday 10 November with the all the news, views, fixtures and results from that week, plus any burning issue that has arisen while I’ve been away.

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 29 July – 4 August 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I’m still calming down after the amazing day that was the Women’s World Cup Final, but there’s no time to rest as the Women’s Euros come to their thrilling conclusion this weekend.  After that it’s the Rugby World Cup.  This fantastic summer of sport just goes on and on!

Stories this week come from football, tennis, cricket, lacrosse, and rugby.

Women’s Euros

Well it’s all over for the Lionesses. Can’t pretend I’m not gutted, but the better side won in the semi-final – England weren’t robbed or anything, so that’s the way the game goes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying this tournament a lot.  It has been great to see some teams, other than the usual suspects, progressing.  There certainly would have been long odds on the final four being Austria, Denmark, England and the Netherlands.  But surely it’s all the better for that.  Germany and Sweden were particularly disappointing, but at least it gives someone else a go.

In case you missed it (and where were you, if you did?), here’s what happened in the quarter-finals.

Austria 0-0 Spain
Austria won 5-3 on penalties

Spain were clear favourites to win this match and to progress to the quarter-finals, but Austria, in their first Euros, clearly hadn’t read the script.

Silvia Meseguer missed her penalty and Sarah Puntigam put hers away coolly to take the Austrians through.

Netherlands 2-0 Sweden

Goals from Lieke Martens and Vivianne Miedema were enough to see the tournament hosts beat a disappointingly disjointed Sweden side in front of a packed house in Doetinchem to reach the semi-finals.

After Martens had scored with a free kick, the Netherlands were always in control and Sweden quickly lost heart.

The immensely impressive Shanice van de Sanden rampaged down the wing, crossing to Miedema to tap in for the second and it was all over.

Germany 1-2 Denmark

The biggest shock came in Rotterdam where the unfancied Denmark beat reigning champions Germany.

The game had to be played on the reserve day as the torrential rain caused the original fixture to be postponed.

Germany took the lead through Isabel Kerschowski.  The Danish goalkeeper was at fault, parrying the shot into the net.  Germany held the lead until just after half-time when Nadia Nadim headed in the equaliser for the Danes.

Seven minutes from time Theresa Nielsen headed in the winner as she stood unmarked in the centre.

England 1-0 France

England hung on by hook or by crook to beat France for the first time in 43 years in a competitive game in Deventer on Sunday.

England were far from perfect and it was only the stalwart defence that kept France out.

Jodie Taylor scored the winner – her fifth in three games – after being put in by Lucy Bronze.  Bronze had another excellent game – her strength and consistency are phenomenal.

Two minus points for England; Jill Scott received her second booking, thereby missing the Semi-final on Thursday and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley broke her leg in a collision with her own captain, Steph Houghton.  Somehow she played on for 15 minutes, going down a couple of times for treatment, which earned whistling and howls of derision from the French fans.  In the end she was replaced by Siobhan Chamberlain and it was revealed later that Bardsley had suffered a fracture.

Semi-finals

Denmark 0-0 Austria
Denmark won 3-0 on penalties

This was a tight game with plenty of chances for both sides.  In the 13th minute Austria were awarded a penalty for handball, but Sarah Puntigam, who had so coolly slotted in the winning penalty in the quarter-final, this time blazed over.   At the final whistle they could not be separated and the tie went into extra time.    Denmark had had the lion’s share of possession, but could not force a goal.  Both sides again had chances during extra time but it remained stubbornly goalless and it was penalties.

Austria should have been confident going into penalties after their excellent display against Spain, but this time it all went wrong.  They missed their first three spot-kicks and Simone Sorensen put away hers to send the Danes through to the final.

Netherlands 3-0 England

A largely orange crowd of over 27 thousand saw the hosts rout England with an impressive display of attacking football.  The Netherlands were on the front foot from the off and England seemed to have no reply.

The hosts took the lead after just 22 minutes when Vivianne Miedema headed in and it was only then that England started to look calmer and more possessed.  They should have equalised when Jade Moore’s shot was deflected onto her own post by a Netherlands defender.

With Shanice van de Sanden (one of my stars of the tournament) and Lieke Martens raiding down the flanks the Dutch were consistently dangerous, but managed relatively few meaningful shots.

With England 1-0 down at the break and the crowd in full voice, it was up to Mark Sampson to rally the team and get them moving.  But the second half started very much as the first, with the Netherlands coming forward and England retreating.  Fara Williams, in for the suspended Jill Scott (who was very much missed) had a poor game and on 62 minutes Danielle van de Donk capitalised on a misplaced header back to the goalkeeper, making it 2-0 and the game was effectively over.

I feel Sampson made some odd decisions regarding substitutions.  Ellen White was having a stinker and should have been replaced.  I would have liked to have seen Toni Duggan on much earlier and someone creative like Izzy Christiansen to replace Williams.

But it was not to be for the Lionesses.  In injury time Millie Bright deflected the ball into her own net, which seemed to sum up the night for England.  It made the scoreline a little flattering for the Netherlands, but there can be no doubt that they were the better side on the night, by a considerable margin.

According to all reports the England squad is “devastated”.  And rightly so.  They were the highest ranked team left in the competition and could and perhaps should have gone on to win it.  The Netherlands of course had some stunning home support, but England have shown defiance in this kind of situation again and again.  Sampson will need to look at his plans again.  He’s been a great influence for good with this side, don’t get me wrong, but I think he will have to learn, along with his Lionesses, if they are to make that final push to win a major tournament.

The final between Denmark and the Netherlands is on Sunday at 4pm and is live on Channel 4.  The programme starts at 3pm.

Rugby Union

England contracts

As we know, Scrumqueens reported the demise of England women’s fifteens contracts some weeks ago and I mentioned it soon after in my column, but it looked as if the RFU’s decision had slipped under the mainstream media radar (surprise).

But in the last week or so the wider media has finally chipped in with its pennyworth.  The RFU has come under increasing pressure to reconsider its stance.  As yet, there’s no word of this actually happening, but should there be any changes in policy, hopefully I’ll bring it to you as soon as is possible.

Tyrrells Premier 15s.

Whilst the contracts controversy rumbles on, the RFU announced this week that the replacement for the Women’s Premiership will be called the Tyrells Premier 15s.

The crisp manufacturer has signed a three-year deal to sponsor the league.

The league, which comprises 10 teams will be in the usual home and away league format.  The top four will then go to semi-finals played over two legs and the final will be on 29 April 2018.

RFU director of professional rugby, Nigel Melville said of the announcement,

“The Tyrrells Premier 15s competition is an important step forward for women’s rugby to strengthen the foundations of the women’s game as it continues to grow in popularity.

“By investing at domestic level we can build a sustainable model to support the growth of the game at elite level.

“The competition will crucially expand the playing pool of players available for international selection which will enable us to reach our long-term objective of running dual professionalised 15s and sevens programmes and allow us to compeon all fronts at the highest level.”

I think we can safely say that this was the RFU’s “subtle” way of deflecting the criticism over contracts.

There will also be a new development league for the 10 clubs’ 2nd teams who will also play in the RFU Women’s Senior Cup alongside the Women’s Championship North and South teams.

World Cup News

Ireland suffered a massive blow this week when captain Niamh Briggs withdrew from the squad through injury.

Briggs had only just come back from the hamstring injury that kept her out of the Six Nations when she suffered an Achilles injury in training.

Louise Galvin has been called up as replacement for Briggs.

Ireland have announced that their captain will now be flanker Claire Molloy.  Molloy has plenty of experience, having won 53 caps.  This will be her third World Cup.

“I’m incredibly humbled to be given the opportunity to captain my country, it’s a massive honour to be selected to lead the team in a World Cup on home soil.

“I’m fortunate that I’ll be surrounded by players with great experience, and I’m just really looking forward to pulling on the green jersey and running out with my team-mates,” she said.

Ireland are in tough group C:

Pool games:
Wednesday 9 August v Australia (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7pm
Sunday 13 August v Japan (UCD Bowl Dublin) 5.15pm
Thursday 17 August v France (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7.45pm

Ireland women’s World Cup squad in full:

Forwards: Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemian/Munster), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Marie-Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Backs: Louise Galvin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster), Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins FC), Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Next week (a bit late, admittedly) I’ll be previewing the Women’s Rugby World Cup as we begin the fourth major women’s tournament in three months!

Tennis

Heather Watson was knocked out in the opening round of the Citi Open in Washington this week.  She lost to world number 134, Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, 7-6 7-6.  Watson had already had to play two rounds of qualifying before proceeding to the main draw.

Meanwhile Maria Sharapova beat Jennifer Brady 6-1 4-6 6-0 in the first round of Stanford’s Bank of the West Classic on her return from injury.  However, she then withdrew before her second round clash with Lesia Tsurenko with an arm injury.

Britain’s Jordanne Whiley has revealed that she was 11 weeks pregnant when she won the Wimbledon doubles title in July.

Cricket

Just when it looked like the possibility of the men’s Ashes being cancelled was a real one, Cricket Australia has finally come to agreement with both the men’s and women’s squads over pay and conditions.

Women’s pay will rise from AU$7.5 million to $55.2 million for a five year term.  For the first time there will be one agreement to cover both male and female cricketers.  A revenue-sharing scheme will encompass all cricketers.

Impressive stuff from Cricket Australia and something other governing bodies should look at.

Lacrosse

Last week the GB lacrosse team took part in the World Games in Wrocław, Poland.  It was the first time lacrosse had featured in the Games, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) having had its application to join the International World Games Association (IWGA) accepted in 2013.

Great Britain was one of six teams to compete, finishing a creditable fourth, just missing out on bronze, losing to Australia 8-10 in the bronze medal match.

Australia were well on top, going 5-1 up early on.  They went 2-0 ahead through Abbie Burgess and Sarah Mollison.  GB then pulled one back through Ailsa Stott.

But then Australia surged ahead with scores from Rebecca Lane, Theo Kwas and Burgess again, putting them 5-1 up.

Seven minutes before half-time GB struck back, and strongly.  They hit six goals without reply to take the lead.  Claire Faram got the first and Emily Gray and Sophie Morrill scored to take GB to just 4-5 down at half-time.

Gray, Faram and Morrill all scored again within five minutes of the re-start and GB were 7-5 in front.

Australia hit back through Mollison and Courtney Hobbs to level it and then GB took the lead again through Stott with 15 minutes to go.

But Australia were not to be outdone.  Mollison hit home again followed by Hobbs and Burgess to put the game beyond the Great Britain team.

The winners of the tournaments were USA who beat Canada 11-8 to take gold.

And finally,

As you know, I’ve been trying to wean myself off the hell that is the comments section of the BBC website and the comments after BBC tweets.  I’ve been managing quite well, but I thought I’d just have a quick peak tonight at the replies to one of the tweets about England in the Women’s Euros.  I was quite heartened.  I expected to see many misogynistic “back to the kitchen” comments, but actually there was just one lone very sad man “Man Utd Fan” bleating “no-one cares”.  One.  Very.  Sad.  Individual.  Did it look pathetic when he’d got none of his equally butch mates to back him up?  It certainly did!

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 May 2017

wembleyWelcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get through to again this week so let’s go straight into stories from football, tennis, rugby, cricket, netball and boxing.

Netball

The Final Four extravaganza is nigh.  And Loughborough Lightning are still top of the pile.  After round 15, they have 42 points, six points ahead of Wasps in second with Thunder back on third with 33 and Storm six points further back on 27.  But just behind are Bath on 27 and it seems to be between these two for the last place.

Monday 15 May

Team Northumbria 44-56 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 57-69 Surrey Storm
Sirens 59-45 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 44-58 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 72-51 Hertfordshire Mavericks

There are three rounds to go.  It’s round 16 this weekend and the Sky televised match is on Monday 22 May when Wasps Netball take on Surrey Storm at 8pm.

Football – On the Pitch

FA Cup Final

Birmingham City Ladies 1-4 Manchester City Women

After securing an encouraging draw the previous week, Birmingham City should have been in with a chance on Saturday, but truth be told they never looked as if they believed they could win the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

A crowd of 35,271 was there to see the WSL1 champions take Birmingham apart.

It was all too easy for Lucy Bronze to head home from Megan Campbell’s cross to take the lead on 18 minutes.  Seven minutes later they were two up, this time Bronze the provider and Izzy Christiansen firing home.

Carli Lloyd grabbed the third on 32 and it was really all over as a contest by this point.

In the second half Birmingham battled hard, pulling a goal back in the 73rd minute through Charlie Wellings, but Manchester City were to have the last word, scoring a fourth through substitute Jill Scott.

And now Manchester City women have not done the treble as some uninformed journalists would have it, but they do hold all three domestic titles.

Spring Series

Liverpool continued their storming start with a convincing win over Sunderland.  They are six points ahead of Chelsea in second, but have played two games more.  One of the strange things about WSL football is the distribution of games.  Thus some teams have now played five, while others only three.  Manchester City have only played three and lie third.

Wednesday 17 May

Liverpool Ladies 4-0 Sunderland AFC Ladies

The Black Cats had no reply to this in-form Liverpool side.  The home side took the lead on 10 minutes with Caroline Weir hitting the corner from 30 yards out.  Thwere two up on 21 with Natasha Harding getting her name on the score sheet.  It was 2-0 at half-time.

After the break Sunderland fought hard.  Maddie Hills hit the post just after the resumption and perhaps if her strike had gone it things might have been different.

But it was not to be.  Weir got her second and her side’s third on 57 minutes, with former England captain Casey Stoney rounding off the scoring ten minutes from time.

Yeovil Town Ladies 0-1 Reading FC Women

Yeovil are still yet to register a point as Reading took all three points at the Viridor Stadium.  The only goal of the game came on seven minutes when defender Mandy Van Den Berg  poked the ball over the line from a corner.

Chelsea Ladies 2-2 Arsenal Ladies

It was an excellent topsy-turvy match at Staines, which luckily was shown live on the BBC red button.

The away side took the lead on 34 minutes when keeper Carly Telford brought down Danielle Carter in the box.  It was a soft one, but Jodie Taylor stepped up to take the resultant penalty.  Telford looked to have redeemed herself as she saved the spot-kick but couldn’t keep out the rebound that Taylor put away to make it 1-0 to Arsenal.

There was no further scoring in the first-half although it was tightly fought and there were chances for both sides.

After the break Chelsea upped their game.  They drew level when the imposing Millie Bright met a Hannah Blundell free-kick in the box, heading it firmly past van Veenendaal.

The last ten minutes were frantic.

Chelsea looked to have taken the points when Drew Spence, scoring off the bench for her sixth in six games fired into the corner from a pinpoint pass from Crystal Dunn one minute into injury time.

But Arsenal were to have the last word as Jordan Nobbs deflected a Carter shot into the goal in the 95th minute to level the game.

It was clear by the body language of the team and of coach Emma Hayes, that Chelsea viewed the result as two points lost.

Birmingham City 2-0 Bristol City

Birmingham put the disappointment of the FA Cup final behind them on Wednesday as they took their first Spring Series win against Bristol City at Solihull Moors.

England striker Ellen White scored twice before half-time to put the home side two up and although Bristol tried hard in the second period, they could not break down the Birmingham defence.

Off the Pitch

Signings

The fallout from the Notts County debacle continues.

Defender Amy Turner has signed for Liverpool Ladies, while Wales international Angharad James has joined Yeovil Town Ladies.  Striker Rachel Williams has signed for Birmingham City Ladies again.  She previously played for them between 2011 and 2013.

England defender Laura Bassett meanwhile has decided not to sign for a new club before the Euros in the summer.

She is currently training with her previous club, Birmingham City, and is in Mark Sampson’s squad to go to the Netherlands.

She has decided to delay making any further decisions about her future until after the tournament.

Replacing Notts County

The Football Association has invited WSL2 clubs to apply to join WSL1 for the 2017-18 season to replace Notts County Ladies.

Whoever does fill the gap will have to meet WSL1 criteria around licences and finance (they should have perhaps checked Notts County for this).

Doncaster Belles, who were relegated last season, have released a statement expressing their disappointment that the FA is going through this process.  They consider that as a relegated side they should have had priority.

A decision will be made in June.

Scotland

Scotland’s women will play three warm-up matches in their preparation for this summer’s Euros:

9 June: Scotland v Romania (Falkirk)
13 June: Sweden v Scotland (Vaxjo)
7 July: Scotland v Republic of Ireland (venue to be confirmed)

Barcelona

Top Catalan women’s team, Barcelona, are in negotiations with the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with a view to entering a team into the2018 competition.

The club already has an office in New York and six academies across America.

There are currently 10 franchises in the NWSL, but none from Europe.  However, the noises coming from the League seem positive and it looks as if this proposal could have legs.

Motor Cycling

No, no new staggering news about a new women’s motor cycling initiative, but it’s that old, old story of the “grid girls”.

It seems that, at least in Spain, their days could be numbered – or curtailed.

Catalan political party Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds have called for new rules on the use of grid girls at the Moto GP Catalan Grand Prix in Barcelona in June.

The party would not ban the girls outright, but would impose a dress code and ensure that there were an equal number of “grid boys” employed.

This is the last in a number of attempts by various groups to alter or ban the practice.  Progress is slow, but progress there is.  Let’s hope that persistence pays and this outdated and ridiculous practice bites the dust soon.

Cricket

India seem to be playing themselves into fine form just in time for the World Cup.  The final of the Quadrangular series will be between India and South Africa.  The round robin section is now complete and the rest of the scores were as follows:

15 May

Zimbabwe 113 all out (40.2 overs)
South Africa 114/3 (21.2 overs)
South Africa won by seven wickets

A record-breaking game then took place between India and Ireland!

India 358/2 (50 overs)
Ireland 109 all out (40 overs)
India won by 249 runs

Some of the staggering statistics from that game:
Openers Deepti Sharma (188) and Punam Raut (109) shared a first-wicket stand of 320 runs.  This was the first 300+ stand by any pair in women’s cricket.  It was also higher than the current men’s record of 286 between Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya for Sri Lanka in 2006.  Sharma’s 188 came off 160 balls, the second –highest individual score in women’s ODIs, bettered only by Belinda Clark’s 229 not out for Australia.

In the next game the top two played a thriller.

17 May

South Africa 269/5 (50 overs)
India 261/9 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 8 runs

Ireland 150 all out (45 overs)
Zimbabwe 154/5 (41 overs)
Zimbabwe won by 5 wickets

19 May 2017

Zimbabwe 98 all out (42.3 overs)
India 99/0 (16 overs)
India won by 10 wickets

Also in action as we speak, Ireland unlikely to chase down this total but,

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 67/1 off 17
Ireland need 257 off 33 overs

Both the third place play-off and the final take place on 21 May.  Results and report next week.

Tennis

Off the Court

Maria Sharapova has not been given a wildcard for the French Open, which begins later this month.  There has been some hoo-hah in response to this, but the French Tennis Federation has defended its position,

“There can be a wildcard for the return from injuries – there cannot be a wildcard for the return from doping,” (FFT) chief Bernard Giudicelli Ferrandini .

Quite right – the FFT was under no obligation to grand this wildcard to Sharapova, but the WTA has chosen to say they had “no grounds to penalise” her.

On the Court

Madrid Open

The Madrid Open duly ended with an exciting climax, with third seed Simona Halep victorious over fourteenth seed Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7 6-2.  Halep seemed to be heading for a straight sets win, but Mladenovic fought hard to level the match at one-all.  But the Frenchwoman had perhaps pushed herself to exhaustion in the process and could not maintain her form to take the third.

Italian Open

Another week, another tournament.  The Italian Open is now well underway

British number one Johanna Konta started well with a straight-sets win over Yulina Putinseva of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-0.

She had a bye in the second, but went out in the third round (last 16) to the rejuvenated Venus Williams, 6-1 3-6 6-1.

World number one Angelique Kerber made a surprise exit in the second round as she was comprehensively defeated by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-4 6-0.

The quarter-final match-ups look like this:

Kontaveit v Halep (6)
V Williams (9) v Muguruza (3)
Bertens (15) v Gavrilova
Svitolina (8) v Pliskova (2)

Rugby Union

Harriet Millar-Mills was crowned Aviva Premiership Women’s Premiership Player of the Year 2017 this week.  It is the second year in a row that she has won the award.

Boxing

Nicola Adams won her second professional fight at the weekend.  She stopped Mexican Maryan Salazar in the third round in Leeds on Saturday.

It was Adams’ first fight over three-minute rounds, rather than the usual two.

Her partner, American boxer Marlen Esparza also won her second fight the previous week and now (according to a nicely cosy BBC article) the two are in a “battle” to see who will win a world title first.

And finally

And finally, there was a blue plaque unveiled this week to the most successful women’s team ever – the Dick, Kerr Ladies.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies were founded in Preston at the Dick, Kerr & Co munitions factory in 1917.  Its original aim was to raise money for wounded troops.

In 1920 a crowd of 53,000 saw them play at Goodison Park.  In the same year they played in the first women’s international against a French XI, winning it 2-0.

Who knows what they could have gone on to do?

But in 1921, in their wisdom, the FA banned women’s football as apparently “unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

The team actually carried on regardless, playing all over the world and chalking up a 200-match unbeaten run in the process.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies disbanded in 1965 due to lack of players, just four years before the Women’s Football Association was founded.  If you are interested in their story, check out Gail Newsham’s book, In a League of their Own.

There are only two statues to sportswomen in the UK.  There is a new campaign surrounding blue plaques and general recognition.  On Twitter you can follow @blueplaquerebel or check out www.blueplaquerebellion.com and the hashtag #recogniseher.  Send them your nominations for women in sport who should be celebrated.

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 May 2017

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

So let’s crack on.

Tennis

Madrid Open

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

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

Bouchard v Sharapova

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

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

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

Bouchard v Kerber

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

The quarter-final line-up is as follows:

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

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

Kiki Bertens (NED) v Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

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

Netball

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

Round 14 results

Friday 5 May

Team Northumbria 60-48 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 6 May

Hertfordshire Mavericks 47-60 Sirens

Surrey Storm 52-59 Loughborough Lightning

Severn Stars 42-63 Manchester Thunder

Monday 8 May

Team Bath 55-53 Wasps Netball

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

Round 15 fixtures:

Team Northumbria v Team Bath

Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm

Sirens v Severn Stars

Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball

Loughborough Lightning v Hertfordshire Mavericks

Cricket

Quadrangular Series

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

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

Here are the results so far:

7 May

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

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

9 May

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

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

11 May

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

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

Women’s Sports Trust #Be a Game Changer Awards

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

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

North American Sport

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

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

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

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

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

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

Football

Off the Pitch

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

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

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

FIFA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lionesses

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

On the Pitch

Women’s Under 17s Euros

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

The semi-finals were played on 11 May:

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

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

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

Spring Series

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

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

Saturday 6 May

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Bristol City Women

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

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

Sunday 7 May

Birmingham City Ladies 0-2 Liverpool Ladies

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

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

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

Reading FC Women 2-3 Manchester City Women

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

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

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

Yeovil Town Ladies 1-5 Arsenal Ladies FC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 9 May

Bristol City Women 0-3 Manchester City Women

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

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

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

FA Cup Final

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

Formula 1

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

And finally

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

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

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

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

Women’s Sports Column 22-28 April 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  There is so much to get through this week I’m going to crack straight on!  Stories come from football, tennis, athletics, netball, squash, gymnastics, taekwondo, cricket, hockey and rugby.  You can probably guess my “And finally” again this week….

Football – Off the Pitch

World Cup 2019

The draw has been made for the European section of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.  England have been drawn in the same group as Wales along with Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.

The seven group winners will qualify automatically with the four best runners-up going into a two-round play-off to fill the last qualifying spot.

Qualifiers take place between 11 September 2017 and 4 September 2018

The draw in full:

Group 1: England, Russia, Wales, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan.

Group 2: Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, Belarus, Albania.

Group 3: Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland.

Group 4: Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia.

Group 5: Germany, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Faroe Islands.

Group 6: Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Moldova.

Group 7: Spain, Austria, Finland, Serbia, Israel.

PFA Awards

Lucy Bronze was awarded PFA Women’s Player of the Year this week.  The other shortlisted candidates were Jane Ross, Jill Scott, Ellen White, Karen Carney and Caroline Weir.

Jess Carter won the Women’s Young Player of the Year award.   Nikita Parris, Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir and Millie Bright were also shortlisted.

Kelly Smith was given a PFA Special Achievement Award.

On the Pitch

European Champions League

Saturday 22 April
Manchester City 1- 3 Lyon

Manchester City face an uphill battle if they are to overcome cup holders Lyon and qualify for the Champions League final.

Lyon went ahead after only two minutes after Carli Lloyd handled in the penalty area.  Saki Kumagai stepped up to score the penalty.

Kosovare Asllani equalised for City but the away side were quick to take the lead again, this time through Dzsenifer Marozsan.

French striker Eugenie Le Sommer scored a third in the second half.

The second leg takes place on Saturday 29 April.

Spring Series

The Spring Series is underway – without Notts County Ladies.

Saturday 22 April

Bristol City 1-3 Reading

After a goalless first half the visitors took the lead on 49 minutes when Rachel Furness headed home from a Rachel Rowe corner.

They were two up ten minutes later when Rowe carved out a chance to score herself and the tie was effectively over on 61 minutes when Melissa Fletcher poked home from a mistake in the Bristol defence.

Lauren Hemp pulled one back for the home side, but the points were gone.

Sunday 23 April

Birmingham City 0-0 Sunderland

With most of the possession and scoring opportunities, Birmingham City will be rueing missing their chances in this game, while Sunderland will be more than happy with a point.

Yeovil Town Ladies 1-4 Liverpool Ladies

The day started in a comedic fashion when it was revealed that Liverpool had forgotten to bring their away kit and so had to play in the home side’s away kit.  However, this was the end of the comedy for Yeovil Town’s as their first experience of the WSL1 was a tough one.

Liverpool took the lead on 23 minutes as Yeovil were penalised for handling in the box.  Alex Greenwood converted the penalty.

The away side doubled their lead in first-half injury time as Gemma Bonner poked home from a corner.

Yeovil were three down after 65 minutes when Katie Zelem scored from a Shanice Van De Sanden corner.  Zelem got her second on 75 to take it to 4-0.

Yeovil pulled one back in the 78th minute through a Sarah Wiltshire penalty.

Athletics

World Relays

Great Britain’s 4x400m team missed out on a bronze medal by 0.23 seconds in the Bahamas this week.  The team of Emily Diamond, Laviai Nielsen, Eilidh Doyle and Christine Ohuruogu finished fourth behind USA in first, Poland and Jamaica.

Germany took the 4 x 100m title ahead of Jamaica and China.

Kelly Sotherton

Heptathlete Kelly Sotherton has received her second upgraded bronze in five months after Russian athlete Tatyana Chernova was stripped of the bronze she won at Beijing in 2008 after she tested positive for a steroid.

She had already moved up to fourth from fifth after Ukrainian Lyudmila Blonska was disqualified.

London Marathon

Kenyan Mary Keitany won the women’s elite race, breaking Paula Radcliffe’s women-only record in the process.  She ran the marathon in a time of 2 hours 17 minutes 1 second, breaking the record by a massive 41 seconds.

Alyson Dixon was top British finisher in 12th, thus securing her World Championships place.   Jo Pavey was forced to pull out at around the 17 mile mark.

Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the wheelchair race, with Amanda McGrory of the USA in second and fellow American Susannah Scaroni in third.  Britain’s Jade Jones finished fifth.

 Cricket

It’s all change on the Subcontinent as both India and Pakistan have named new coaches just two months before the World Cup.

Pakistan

Sabih Azhar is the new Pakistan coach, taking over from Kabir Khan.  Pakistan also announced their squad for the upcoming tournament:

Sana Mir (Capt), Sidra Nawaz (wk), Ayesha Zafar, Nahida Khan, Marina Iqbal, Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan, Nain Abidi, Kainat Imtiaz, Asmavia Iqbal, Diana Baig, Waheeda Akhtar, Nashra Sandhu, Ghulam Fatima, Sadia Yousuf.

India

In a surprise move, Purnima Rau has been sacked by the BCCI and replaced by Tushar Arothe.  Arothe was women’s fielding coach and then head coach between 2008 and 2012.

Rau has voiced concern that she only found out about the sacking via the media.

“I was preparing the team for the World Cup when I heard of this from elsewhere.  I wasn’t given any explanation or reason by the board. In fact they didn’t even have the courtesy to inform me. In terms of results, we were successful. To be axed this way is disappointing and insulting.”

Arothe’s first test will be in May in a series in South Africa in a limited overs tournament that also features Ireland and Zimbabwe.

England v Ireland Series

England are currently playing Ireland in a three-match series in Abu Dhabi as their World Cup warm-up continues.

24 April

England XI 397/4 (50 overs)
Ireland 103 all out (44 overs)
England won by 276 runs

Jenny Gunn hit 94 not out and Georgia Elwiss 81 as England comfortably won the first match of the series.

The England bowling was equally impressive with Anya Shrubsole taking 3-11 and Alex Hartley 3-24.

Hockey

Surbiton did the double last weekend as both their men’s and women’s teams won their respective Hockey League Finals.

For the women it was their fourth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1.  Giselle Ansley scored Surbiton’s first and Rebecca Middleton the second before Eleanor Watton pulled one back for Holcombe.

Naomi Evans scored the third to ensure the title went to Surbiton.

Netball

Last weekend saw round 11 of the Netball Superleague.  Loughborough Lightning are still unbeaten and top the table by five points from Wasps as they won a thrilling game against the Thunder by just one point on Saturday.

Saturday 22 April

Team Bath 58-48 Celtic Dragons
Manchester Thunder 57-58 Loughborough Lightning
Team Northumbria 58-55 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Sunday 23 April

Wasps Netball 65-41 Sirens

Monday 24 April

Severn Stars 66-62 Surrey Storm

The next Sky televised game is on Saturday 29 when Mavericks take on the Storm (6pm), but all eyes will probably be on what happens an hour later when the top two, Lightning and Wasps, take on each other in Loughborough’s showcase game at the Leicester Community Arena.

Tennis

Lots of tennis news this week – mostly off the court, unfortunately.   Mr Nastase makes his appearance in my “And finally” comment, but there are other stories to cover.

Fed Cup

In amongst all the controversy and ill-feeling, there was actually some Fed Cup tennis going on last weekend.

Great Britain lost their World Cup Group II play-off against Romania, which means they are back in the Europe/Africa Zone.

Heather Watson lost the first rubber to Simona Halep 6-4 6-1.  Jo Konta levelled the tie when she beat Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-3.

On day two, though, Halep beat Konta 6-1 6-3 and Britain’s fate was sealed when Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Watson 6-4 7-5

In other Fed Cup news, it will be a USA v Belarus final.

USA beat the Czech Republic 3-2 and Belarus defeated Switzerland by the same margin.

Maria Sharapova

She’s back.  More pictures, film, social media comment and interviews have been devoted to Sharapova’s return this week than any other subject.

And she’s playing well.  After being given a wild card for the Stuttgart tournament she is now into the quarter finals.  She beat Roberta Vinci in the first round and powered past Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-1.

She faces Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit in the last eight.  Kontaveit put out fifth seed Garbine Muguruza in the previous round.

But not everyone is happy about her return.  Eugenie Bouchard has labelled Sharapova a “cheater” and said she should not be allowed back on the WTA tour.  The crowds have been respectful but cool.  It’s up to Sharapova to prove herself on the court if she is to win back the more general tennis watcher.

Stuttgart

In other Stuttgart news, Johanna Konta was knocked out in the second round by Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 7-5.

The last eight looks like this:

K Mladenovic v C Suárez Navarro
A Kontaveit v M Sharapova
A Sevastova v S Halep (4)
L Siegemund v K Pliskova (2)

Squash

England’s women’s squash team are through to the semi-finals of the European Team Championships after finishing top of their qualifying group.

They beat Denmark 3-0, the Netherlands 3-0 and Wales 3-0 and will now face the Netherlands again in the semi on Friday 28 April.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones has won gold at the World Taekwondo Federation President’s Cup in Athens.  It was her first competition since December 2016.

She won five contests to take the -57kg title.

Gymnastics

After reaching every final in the European Championships last week, Ellie Downie made good and took the all-round gold at the weekend.

She was in silver position going into the final rotation, but ended up beating Hungary’s Zsofia Kovacs by 0.333 points.   Downie scored 55.765 and Kovacs 55.432.  Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France finished in bronze on 55.065.

To cap a stunning weekend Downie also won a silver in the vault and floor and bronze in the uneven bars in the individual competition.

Ellie’s older sister Becky fell and injured her hands and was unable to participate in the beam final.  Her place was taken by Claudia Fragapane, but she fell in the final and finished eighth.  Fragapane also finished seventh on the floor.

Rugby

Premiership Finals

Aylesford Bulls Ladies were the perhaps surprise winners of the last Premiership final before the new Super League starts next season.

Aylesford Bulls 17-8 Bristol

Although they finished third in the table in the regular season, Bulls brought their best rugby to finals day to beat top of the league Bristol.

Aylesford took the lead in the third minute with a try from Hanna Field under the posts.  Jess Wooden converted to make it 7-0.

Bristol were then awarded a penalty, which Amber Reed kicked, but Aylesford hit straight back with their second try, this time from Michela Sillari in the corner.  The conversion was missed and the half-time sc ore was 12-3.

In the second half Bristol got their game together.  On 54 minutes Chantelle Miell went over in the corner.  The conversion was missed, but the deficit was cut to just four points.

But it was not to be for Bristol as Sillari scored her second to take the match away from them and take the game 17-8.

In the 3rd/4th play-off Lichfield took the honours as they beat Saracens 41-14.

Lichfield went ahead in the 16th minute when Emily Braund went over.  Emily Scarratt then added a penalty.

Saracens came back with a try from Lotte Clapp.

But Lichfield hit back themselves with a second try from Braund just on half-time to take the score the 15-7 at the break.

In the second-half Lichfield consolidated their lead with tries from Sarah Bonar and Carys Williams.  Tash Jones and Amy Cockayne scored two more for Lichfield taking the game, with Saracens having the last word with a try from Bryony Cleall.

And Finally

And finally, let’s talk Ilie Nastase.  Great player and entertainer in his time, yes.  But last week he showed that his off-court behaviour is not all it should be.  Firstly he made a racist comment about Serena Williams’ baby (not going to repeat it here), and then he seemingly had a complete meltdown at the Fed Cup tie between Great Britain and Romania.  In my relatively sheltered, liberal world I watched and listened to the unfolding events with shock and, I’m afraid, disbelief.  Do people really speculate about the colour of someone’s baby?  Naive I am, possibly, and if so I apologise, but I’m still struggling to understand why anyone would even say what he did.

As regards his Fed Cup behaviour, I feel pretty much as I did about the David Moyes situation.  Not acceptable in any sense, ever.  I listened to BBC Tennis correspondent Russell Fuller as her tried to make sense of what was going on and you could hear the shock in his voice.  He couldn’t believe what he’d heard and when he interviewed the head of the Romanian Tennis Federation who said basically it was “Ilie being Ilie” you could tell Fuller was biting his tongue to prevent himself giving an inappropriate response.

It is not acceptable that anyone reduces an opposing player to tears.  It is not appropriate that anyone is called “F****** bitches” on a tennis court.  It is up to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to see that it doesn’t happen again.  Will they?  I hope so.

Women’s Sports Column 6-13 January 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Nearly half way through January already!  Plenty to get our teeth into this week with stories from hockey, tennis, football, cricket, rugby, winter sports and yet more awards.  This week’s “and finally” is a tricky one and I’ll leave you to form your own opinions.

Tennis

Johanna Konta has continued her good start to the season by winning the Apia International in Sydney.

She beat world number three, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4 6-2 to take the final in straight sets.

She broke Radwanska in the third game of the match and hit 18 winners in the first set alone.  She went 4-0 up in the second and never looked like letting it slip, winning the match with an ace.

Without wishing to curse her, she looks in great form going into the Australian Open.  She has, however, got a tough opening match in the first grand slam of the year; she faces the Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.

Laura Robson and Tara Moore have failed in their attempts to qualify for the Australian Open.  Both players lost in the first qualifying round.

Robson said she felt “flat” in losing in straight sets 6-2 6-4 to Amandine Hesse of France.

Moore was beaten 6-7 (7-2) 6-3 6-1 to Dalma Galfi of Hungary.

The Australian Open begins on Monday.  The top ten women’s seeds are as follows:

  1. Angelique Kerber (GER)
  2. Serena Williams (USA)
  3.  Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
  4.  Simona Halep (ROU)
  5.  Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
  6.  Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
  7.  Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)
  8.  Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
  9.  Johanna Konta (GBR)
  10.  Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)

The date for Maria Sharapova’s comeback has been announced.  She will return at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart on 26 April.

The tournament begins two days before her suspension ends and she will not be able to attend until the day of her first match.

Football

Kelly Smith

Biggest news of the week has to be the retirement from football of Arsenal and England striker Kelly Smith at the age of 38.

And what a playing career it was.  In 1999 she became Britain’s first female professional when she signed for American side New Jersey.

She won 117 England caps, scoring 46 goals.  She played in two World Cups and four European Championships.

She also had a prodigious career with Arsenal, winning five FA Cups in the process and in 2006-07 the UEFA Cup (now Champions League).

She was awarded an MBE in 2008 and was named FA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007.

For the past two seasons she has been assisting manager Pedro Martinez Losa at Arsenal.  She is studying for her coaching badges and is looking to go into coaching as soon as she can.

One thing‘s for sure, you’ll never be able to keep her out of the game and the game would indeed be poorer without her.

She Believes Cup

The schedule for this year’s cup was announced this week.  England will play on the following dates:

France – 1 March (Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania)

USA – 4 March (Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey)

Germany – 7 March (RFK Stadium, Washington)

FA Cup

The FA Cup third round draw was made this week:

Blackburn Rovers v Tottenham Hotspur
Charlton Athletic v Sheffield FC
Aston Villa v Cambridge United
Millwall Lionesses v London Bees
Leicester City v Liverpool Marshall Feds
Keynsham Town v Durham
Coventry United v Oxford United
West Bromwich Albion v Lewes
Doncaster Rovers Belles v Watford
Derby County v Nottingham Forest
Brighouse Town v Everton
AFC Wimbledon v Brighton & Hove Albion

Ties will be played on 5 February.

Rugby Union

World Cup

The schedule for the World Cup, taking place in July in Ireland, has been announced.

Wednesday 9 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

England v Spain 2pm

USA v Italy 4.30pm

Ireland v Australia (7pm)

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

New Zealand v Wales 2.55pm

USA v Italy 4.30pm

Canada v Hong Kong 5.15pm

Sunday 13 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

USA v Spain 2.45pm

Ireland v Japan 5.15pm

France v Australia 7.45pm

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

New Zealand v Honk Kong 12 noon

England v Italy 2.30pm

Canada v Wales 5pm

Thursday 17 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

Italy v Spain 2.45pm

Wales v Hong Kong 17.15pm

France v Ireland 19.45pm

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

Canada v New Zealand 12 noon

England v USA 2.30pm

Australia v Japan 5pm

Tuesday 22 August

Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

Semi-finals 5pm and 7.45pm

Saturday 26 August

Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

Final 7.45pm

Women’s Premiership

Bristol lost their second game of the season at the weekend.  Their lead is now cut to one point – gained from the bonus point loss at Lichfield.  For a full report see WSUK.

8 January 2017

Saracens Women v Wasps Ladies
Postponed

Richmond 17-50 Aylesford

DMP Sharks 24-10 Worcester

Lichfield 15-12 Bristol

Winter Sports

Skiing

Lindsay Vonn is nearing her return to competition after breaking her arm nine weeks ago.

She will compete at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee in Austria on 14 January.

Over recent years Vonn has had to cope with several injuries.  She missed most of 2013 and 2014 with a knee injury.  She then fractured a knee again in February 2016.

Speed skating

Elise Christie has announced that she will not compete in the European Championships in Turin later this month.

She is going to use the extra time to prepare for the World Championships in March.

Christie won overall gold at the last European Championships and so will not be defending her title.

The European Championships begin on 13 January and the World Championships take place in Rotterdam from 10-12 March.

Cricket

The WBBL continues.  The current table is as follows:

played won lost points Net run- rate
Sydney Sixers 10 7 3 14 0.413
Hobart Hurricanes 10 5 4 11 -0.038
Melbourne Stars 10 5 5 10 0.342
Perth Scorchers 10 5 5 10 0.196
Brisbane Heat 10 5 5 10 -0.167
Sydney Thunder 10 4 5 8 -0.022
Adelaide Strikers 10 3 5 8 -0.249
Melbourne Renegades 10 4 6 7 -0.536

Indoor Hockey

The four semi-finalists of the Women’s Super 6s hockey have been decided.

Slough finished top with five wins from eight games and one loss.

Also through are Bowdon Hightown, Canterbury and Sutton Coldfield.

The finals take place on Sunday 29 January at the SSE Arena, Wembley.  Gates open at 10am and the action starts at 11am.

Outdoor Hockey

The third part of my history of women’s hockey was published by WiSP Sports this week.  You can read this and all my other pieces for WiSP here: www.wispsports.com

Laureas World Sports Awards

The Laureas shortlists were released this week.  Two female Britons made the lists:

Sportswoman of the Year award

Simone Biles (US) gymnastics, Allyson Felix (US) athletics, Angelique Kerber (Germany) tennis, Katie Ledecky (US) swimming, Elaine Thompson (Jamaica) athletics, Laura Kenny (GB) cycling.

Action Sportsperson of the Year award

Rachel Atherton (GB) mountain biking, Pedro Barros (Brazil) skateboarding, John John Florence (US) surfing, Chloe Kim (US) snowboarding, Kelly Sildaru (Estonia) freestyle skiing, Tyler Wright (Australia) surfing.

The winners, as voted for by members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, will be announced in Monaco on 14 February.

And finally,

In a survey by England Athletics, more than a third of 2,000 women surveyed said they had suffered some form of harassment when out jogging alone and more than 60% said they feel anxious while running on their own.

It has been suggested that an answer to this is to go out running in groups.  Now I see the value of this, I really do, but it’s not the answer.  There are plenty of benefits to be gained by running with others; the feeling of comradeship, someone to encourage you, making new friends, giving confidence, etc.  Women new to running would especially benefit.

England Athletics has put together a new programme called “Run Together”.  You can access the details here: www.englandatheltics.org

However, I would also point out that running in groups is not for everyone.  Some people run specifically to have time on their own.

And, of course, the real issue is that the women running should not have to change their habits due to the harassment.  Gone are the days (almost) when we say a woman was “asking for it” when they wear short skirts or drink too much.  So why is it the fault of the runner that they receive such abuse?  The harassers should surely change their attitudes and behaviour, not the runners?

I’ll leave it with you.

Apologies but there will be no column next week as I’m away.

Women’s Sports Column 22-28 October

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It’s that time again – more women’s sports news than you can shake a stick at.   This week we have stories from cycling, cricket, football, tennis, rugby, horse racing, boxing and golf.  Also some sad news in “And finally”, but hopefully it will also give us the chance to recognise some particular achievements from a very particular woman.

Cycling

There were more medals for Britain’s women in the European Track Championships in Paris.  The day two tally stood at three.

Katie Archibald won two golds to add to her silver in the elimination race.  In the individual pursuit she finished four seconds ahead of her opponent, Justyna Kaczkowska, from Poland

She had already posted a personal best in qualifying.

Then she won her second gold in two nights as she took the omnium title with Dutch rider Kirsten Wild in second and Lottie Kopecky from Belgium in third.

Emily Kay and Emily Nelson won silver in the Madison.  They lay fourth with just 10 laps to go when they took maximum points in the final sprint to take the silver.  The winners were Lotte Kopecky and Jolien D’Hoore of Belgium.

In other events Elinor Barker finished fifth in the points race, but Rachel James fell in the final of the keirin.

Horse racing

 Josephine Gordon has become only the third woman to become Champion Apprentice jockey.

But it’s good to see her ambitions do not rest there.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I think in the next 15 years there will be a woman who becomes champion jockey,

“Hopefully it will be me. At this time, it’s probably quite unrealistic for me but that would be the biggest dream. I didn’t think I could achieve being champion apprentice.”

Female winners of the Champion Apprentice Jockey:

2005 Hayley Turner (tied with Saleem Golam) – 44 wins

2012 Amy Ryan – 40 wins

2016 Josephine Gordon – 50 wins

Football

Scottish football

Glasgow City Ladies have been crowned Scottish Women’s Premier league champions for the tenth successive season.

They only needed a point to ensure the title stayed at the Excelsior Stadium, but it was clear they wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than a win.  This they accomplished, defeating Hibernian Ladies 3-1.  Sarah Crilly opened the scoring after ten minutes and the lead was doubled when Savannah McCarthy headed a second.

Claire Shine put the tie past Hibs with the third before the away side pulled back a consolation goal through Siobhan Hunter.

Glasgow City could still make it a league and cup double when they face Hibs again in the Scottish Cup final on 6 November.

 Scotland 0-7 Netherlands

Scotland began their warm-ups for next year’s Euros with a crushing defeat against Netherlands in a friendly at Livingston.

Bayern Munich striker Vivianne Miedema got the first, but there were no further scores until first-half stoppage time when first Lineth Beerensteyn and then Miedema with her second put the visitors 3-0 up going into the break.

It was more of the same in the second-half with Scotland rarely venturing up the field.  On 66 minutes Netherlands made it four when Renee Slegers poked in, and then it was five through Ellen Jansen.

Scottish goalkeeper, Shannon Lynn was injured in the scoring of the fifth and had to be substituted with Gemma Fay taking over.

But things did not improve as the Netherlands put another two past the home side, Shanice van de Sanden scoring the sixth and Jackie Groenen the seventh to make it a thoroughly miserable night for the Scots.

 English football

By contrast, the Lionesses have seen their unbeaten run stretch to nine matches with two decent performances in friendlies against France and Spain this week.

 England 0-0 France

England knew the visitors would provide a tough test and so it transpired.  It was a tight first half of few chances, with England’s Lucy Bronze having the best, but she headed wide from a free kick.

The second half was equally tense with both defences on top and neither able to break the deadlock.  Toni Duggan did put the ball in the net but was adjudged to have used her hand in the build-up.

It was a good defensive display, but up front England lacked bite.  France were not fielding a full-strength team and Mark Sampson will be aware that, certainly in attack, France will be much more of threat in the Championships next summer.

 Spain 1-2 England

Spain may some way below England in the world rankings, but they are always a tough opponent, particularly at home.

England took the lead when a shot (or possible cross) from Karen Carney was deflected into the net by Marta Torrejon Moya.

England captain Steph Houghton then curled in a peach of a free-kick to double the lead.

Torrejon pulled one back, but England held on for the win.

Off the Pitch

Arsenal Ladies have announced that their three Spanish players, striker Natalia and midfielders Marta Corredera and Vicky Losada, are to leave the club at the end of the season.

Corredera has signed for Atletico Madrid, but both Losada and Natalia have not yet revealed their new clubs, although Natalia said on social media that she was looking for a new challenge in Madrid.

Losada and Corredera had been at Arsenal for just one season, while Natalia signed from Bristol Academy in December 2014.

The FA has announced it aims to double the number of women involved in football by the end of the decade.

FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, announced that the women’s game is the “prime candidate” for investment.

There is due to be a statement on an FA Cup TV deal worth more than £800m over six years.

The FA also helps that moving the FAWSL from summer to winter will improve coverage and gates.

My favourite line of the interview is with reference to England’s third place at the 2015 World Cup

“Unusually for an England team, we overperformed at a tournament.”

For that sentence alone I applaud the FA’s thinking.  But, and I’ve said this many times before, the announcements, initiatives and money have to be backed up with ongoing support.

He says all the right things; breaking down barriers, changing perceptions, getting support from parents and clubs, but the talk is not enough.

I implore the FA not to just fling money at the situation and hope that some of it sticks – back up your monetary input with time, personnel, expertise and anything else women’s football needs to actually come through with the targets.  Don’t expect money alone to do the job.

Cricket

The England squad for the Sri Lanka tour has been announced.

There is a recall for middle-order batter Fran Wilson.  Sophie Ecclestone is unavailable due to school commitments and Anya Shrubsole is still recovering from her neck injury and is not included.

Before they reach Colombo the squad will be in Abu Dhabi for a six day training camp that will also include some of the England Senior Academy.

England will play four ODIs in Sri Lanka, the final three of which will count towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

England squad:

Heather Knight, captain (Berkshire)
Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
Alex Hartley (Middlesex)
Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Beth Langston (Yorkshire)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Natalie Sciver (Surrey)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Fran Wilson (Middlesex)
Danielle Wyatt (Sussex)

Additional player for Abu Dhabi camp

Georgia Adams (Sussex)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Alice-Davidson-Richards (Kent)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Hennessy (Warwickshire)
Hannah Jones (Surrey)
Emma Lamb (Lancashire)
Bryony Smith (Surrey)

Sri Lanka fixtures:

9 November – 1st ODI (Sinhalese Sports Club)
12 November – 2nd ODI (R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium)
15 November – 3rd ODI (R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium)
17 November – 4th ODI (R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium

South Africa v New Zealand series

At the point of last week’s column, New Zealand had taken an unassailable 4-1 lead with two games to go.  Here’s what happened in the last two matches:

22 October Paarl

South Africa pulled one back in the sixth game in Paarl.  In a rain-affected game reduced to 39 overs, South Africa won the toss and put New Zealand in to bat.  This proved to be a good decision as they skittled out the tourists for 130 in 33.3 overs.  Katey Martin provided sole resistance with 65 not out with Masabata Klaas taking 3/32 off eight overs and Moseline Daniels and Odine Kirsten two each.

South Africa replied in sensible fashion and reached their target with eight balls to spare.  Top scorer was Mignon du Preez with 44 and South Africa won by five wickets.

24 October Paarl

New Zealand were not to be outdone though and won the seventh match in Paarl by 126 runs.  Suzie Bates won the toss and batted.  They posted an excellent 273/7 off their 50 overs with Katey Martin again starring with 81.  She was well supported by Amy Satterthwaite with 53 and Maddy Green with 46.

This was too stiff a target for South Africa to chase and they were all out for 147 in 45.5 overs.  Joint top scorers were Lizelle Lee and Odine Kirsten with 22.  The bowling damage was done by Erin Bermingham with 3/18 off 10 with Lea Tahuhu 2/36 off 7 and Satterthwaite 2/15 off 4.5.

New Zealand took the series 5-2.

Tennis

WTA Finals in Singapore

We now know three of the four quarter-finalists in the WTA Finals in Singapore.

In the red group Angelique Kerber has finished top with three wins from three, with Dominika Cibulkova in second.

In the white group Svetlana Kuznetsova has qualified with the final place to be decided between Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova, who play each other in the last round robin game on Friday.

Semi-final line-up

Kuznetsova v Cibulkova

Kerber v Radwanska or Pliskova

Off the court

British number one, Johanna Konta, has won the WTA award for Most Improved Player 2016.  It has indeed been a breakthrough year for Konta; reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January and then winning her first WTA Tour title at Stanford in June.

Her rise through the rankings has been marked; in 2015 she was at 147 in the world.  This year she has made it has high as ninth and is currently tenth.

The WTA Player of the Year award went to Germany’s Angelique Kerber.  She is currently world number one and won her first and second Grand Slams (Australian and US) this year.  She won a silver medal at Rio and was runner-up to Serena Williams at Wimbledon.

In other news, Maria Sharapova has been excluded from the WTA singles rankings as she has not competed in enough tournaments in 2016 to be eligible for a ranking.

She will return to the rankings after she has served her ban and has played three tournaments next year.

Boxing

Irish boxer Katie Taylor will make her professional boxing debut in November.

She has signed a professional contract with Matchroom boxing and will appear at the SSE Arena, Wembley on 26 November.

The fight will be live on Sky Sports.

Taylor has been considering her options for some time after failing to win an Olympic medal in Rio.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said,

“Today marks a significant day for our sport with the news that Katie is joining the professional ranks,

“She is one of the most decorated amateur boxers of all time and a public icon in Ireland. I met Katie for the first time last week and was fascinated by her desire to not just win world titles but to break down the barriers of women’s boxing; she is an incredible role model.”

Golf

Blue Bay LPGA tournament (China)

After leading from the off, Australian Minjee Lee duly took the title at the Blue Bay tournament at the weekend.   She carded a final round 70 to finish on -13, winning by just one shot from USA’s Jessica Korda.

Third was Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, with her compatriot Pornanong Phatlum tying with Caroline Masson of Germany for fourth.

Britain’s Charley Hull finished a further place back in sixth on -5.

Rugby Union

It was round six of the Women’s Premiership last weekend.  Bristol are looking nigh-on invincible as they won again, but the chasing pack haven’t given up as the weekend saw wins for second placed Lichfield and another big win for Worcester Valkyries who lie in third.

Results were as follows:

Wasps Ladies 19-66 Worcester Valkyries
Richmond Women 27-33 Bristol Ladies
Lichfield Ladies 42-16 DMP Sharks
Saracens Women 15-31 Aylesford Bulls Ladies

For a more detailed review of last weekend’s game please read my report for WSUK here.

New Zealand Black Ferns 67-3 Australia Wallaroos

This is a massive result, and not just by number of points for New Zealand as they continue to dominate their antipodean neighbours.

They scored 11 tries to nil in their 14th consecutive victory over the Wallaroos.

Full back Selica Winiata scored four tries and Kendra Cocksedge a try and four conversions.  The Kiwis were 31-3 up at half-time and there was no way back.

Ash Hewson put over a solitary penalty for the visitors.

There is a great deal of argument in Australia at the moment regarding the clash of Sevens v fifteens.  There has been plenty of comment that Australia is guilty of concentrating their efforts and resources in the shorter form to the detriment of the full game.  This may have brought home the Rio gold in Sevens, but Australia hadn’t played a full test since 2014.  And seeing this score, it’s no wonder the comments have been made.

And finally,         

And finally, the death was announced this week of Junko Tabei.   Not heard of her?  Neither had I.

But Tabei was the first woman to climb Mount Everest.

The Japanese climber had been suffering with cancer and died in a hospital near Tokyo at the age of 77.

Tabei was the first to reach the summit of Everest in 1975 when she was 35.  She was part of a 15 strong party – all women.  When they left, she said, they faced criticism,

“We were told we should be raising children instead.”

In the end she did both, carrying on family life and climbing in parallel.

She founded the Ladies Climbing Club of Japan, which had the slogan, “Let’s go on an overseas expedition by ourselves.”  No mean feat for women living in a restrictive Japanese society.

In 1992 she became the first woman to climb the Seven Summits – the highest peaks on the seven continents.

By 2008 she had climbed the highest mountains of 56 countries.

But she was also involved in environmental campaigning, was a major voice in the campaign for sustainable mountaineering and was the Chair of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, which is dedicated to the protection of mountain environments.

Women’s Sports Column 1-7 October

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Welcome to this week’s bumper edition of the Women’s Sports Column.  There’s so much to tell and discuss this week I don’t rightly know where to start.  Plenty of good stuff to come including a few possibly controversial words from me and a pretty impressive (in a bad way) “And finally”.  Stories this week come from football, tennis, rugby, cricket, sailing and Women’s Sports Week.

Football

Continental Cup Final

Sunday 2 October, Academy Stadium Manchester

Manchester City Women 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Manchester City women made it a league and cup double this week as they beat Birmingham City Ladies 1-0 after extra time to clinch the Continental Cup.

The match, unfortunately played on City’s home ground, was never going to be a goal-fest, contested as it was between the league’s two meanest defences.

After a goalless ninety minutes it took a header from Lucy Bronze to seal he victory.

The crowd was an excellent 4,214.

FAWSL1

Doncaster Rovers Belles 0-5 Arsenal Ladies

Arsenal overran the league’s bottom side at the Keepmoat scoring five in the process.  Danielle Carter opened the scoring after 13 minutes, but they weren’t able to double the lead until midway through the second half when Natalia Pablos Sanchon made it 2-0.  Pablos Sanchon grabbed her second on the 84th minute as the Belles crumbled in the face of relentless pressure.  Carter took her second three minutes from the end and Kelly Smith made it five on the stroke of full-time.

Belles have lost all of their 12 games this season and are doomed to WSL2.  Arsenal are still looking to claim next season’s second Champions’ League place by finishing second in the table.

British clubs also played in the Champions’ League this week:

Chelsea 0-3 Wolfsburg

Chelsea were totally outplayed in the first leg of their round of 32 match in their first ever game at Stamford Bridge.

Hungarian midfielder Zsanett Jakabi scored a hat-trick and in truth there could have been several more in a poor defensive display from the home side.

The first goal was down to a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and England defender Claire Rafferty in the twelfth minute.  Jakabi scored a second before half time and completed her hat-trick just after the break.

A crowd of 3,783 saw Chelsea’s virtual elimination from the competition.  They play the return leg next week.

Hibernian 0-6 Bayern Munich

Munich were far too strong for a young Hibs side at Easter Road on Wednesday.

The German side were 3-0 up at half time through goals from Stefanie Van Der Gragt, Vivianne Miedema and Melanie Leupolz.

Miedema and Luepolz scored again in the second half and even had the luxury of missing a penalty through Nicole Rosler before Melanie Behringer scored a sixth, again from the penalty spot.

A crowd of 2,551 saw the game and the return leg is next Wednesday.

Manchester City 2-0 Zveda 2005

Manchester made a winning start to their Champions’ League campaign with a 2-0 home win.

Jill Scott scored the first and also had another chance before half-time.  But they didn’t double their lead until late on when Lucy Bronze scored a second with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.

The second leg is on 12 October.

Eskilstuna 1-0 Glasgow City

Glasgow endured a narrow defeat in Sweden that they will be hopeful of overturning in the second leg next week.

The only goal of the game came through a header from Mimmi Larrson in the second half.

The second leg takes place next Thursday and will take place at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium.

 

 Better news off the pitch for Chelsea this week as it was announced that winger Gemma Davison has signed a new contract until summer 2018.

In other football news, there have been two instances this week of players or clubs being brought to book for their attitudes to women.  See my “And Finally” for the second, but the first concerns WSL2 club West Ham Ladies.

Things have not been good at West Ham Ladies for some time.  I reported last year that former Hammer Julian Dicks, who managed the women’s team for the 2014-15 season, finally quit the job after revealing the lack of support offered by the parent club to the women’s side.

This week the situation threatened to spiral out of control when the Ladies’ side’s current Chair, Stephen Hunt, lodged a complaint with the FA accusing West Ham of breaking the rules on discrimination.

He told BBC Sport,

“West Ham need to be fined until they start to act like a 21st century club.”

He alleges that promised funds never materialised and that his side have been deprived of facilities to the point where they have had to train by the roadside.  They have had to buy their own kit and have not been allowed to find their own sponsors.

He also says they cannot afford a physio or a bus to take them to away games.  They have been playing in last season’s kits with names on the back crossed out.

Needless to say West Ham have disputed this version of events and issued a statement,

“The day-to-day management of West Ham United Ladies FC was transferred to a third party some time ago and unfortunately it is an arrangement that has simply not worked,

“Mr Hunt has refused to align with West Ham’s principles throughout his tenure as chairman and has, on a number of occasions, threatened the club.

“The club have been working for some time on plans to take West Ham United Ladies FC ‘in house’ and, in light of Mr Hunt’s most recent deeply concerning comments, we will now be seeking to do so at the earliest opportunity.”

This one is obviously going to run and run and we need to see the parent club taking action as soon as possible to right an embarrassing and unacceptable situation.

Tennis

British number one Johanna Konta is through to the China Open semi-finals after beating home favourite and world number 36, Zhang Shuai, 6-4 6-0.  Zhang had caused the biggest upset so far in the last round when she beat Simona Halep.

Konnta was 4-0 down in the first set, but won 12 games in a row to take the match in style.

She faces eighth seed Madison Keys in the semis.

Her performances this week again put Konta in contention for the WTA Finals in Singapore.  She currently lies 11th in the ranking, with the top eight qualifying.

World number one, Angelique Kerber, on the other hand, is out of the China Open after losing to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 6-3 7-5.

 

Off the court, the result of Maria Sharapova’s appeal against her two-year ban for doping was released this week.  She has had her ban cut to 15 months.

She will be able to return to the court on 26 April 2017.

“I am counting the days until I can return,” she said.

 

Rugby Union

 Big news for rugby in England this week as the RFU has announced its new focus for the development of the women’s game over the next four years.

Currently over 26,000 women and girls play rugby regularly in England.  The 2017 target was actually 25,000 and so it has been reached and surpassed a year early.  There are 300 clubs with a women’s or girls’ side.

They also unveiled the “Red Roses” as the new identity for the England national side.

RFU head, Ian Ritchie commented,

“England Rugby has demonstrated its commitment to the women’s game.

“We wanted to create an identity for England Women that would inspire more people to get involved whether playing or supporting the women’s game.”

England Rugby has already announced 48 professional contracts for women players and the first-ever sponsored women’s series takes place in November with the Old Mutual Wealth Series against France, New Zealand and Canada.  Also for the first time, and not to be underestimated, this season the Red Roses will wear the first custom-designed kit.

 

Cricket

Some bizarre news and some good news from cricket this week.  In an abrupt about-turn, the ECB announced this week that the Women’s Super League 50 overs tournament, due to start in 2017 will now not happen.

In a statement, the ECB said,

“As we start to map out the 2017 schedule ahead of the ICC Women’s World Cup, we also firmly believe that we must factor in sufficient time for the women’s county 50-over competition and for club cricket.”

2017 is going to be a big season with the World Cup taking place in England in July.

 But what on earth was the ECB thinking?  Did they not see this coming?   There was plenty of comment at the time the tournament was announced about fixture congestion and the availability of players.  Expect more fall-out from this to follow.

 Australian women’s cricket, however, seems to have a good news story every week.  Cricket Australia this week announced that the Lendlease Breakers will become Australia’s first fully professional domestic women’s sports team.

The Breakers, based in NSW, have signed a major sponsorship deal with Lendlease ensuring that players will earn a minimum wage of $35,00pa.

 In a statement, Cricket NSW CEO Andrew Jones said,

“This truly is a landmark moment.  Cricket NSW has always been a leader in women’s sport and today we are proud to announce another first.

“Every member of the Lendlease Breakers squad now has the opportunity to pursue a professional sporting career.

“I am confident that every state in Australia will now follow the lead of Cricket NSW by giving their female cricketers the opportunity to earn a living wage.”

This move comes hard on the heels of the new pay deal received by the Southern Stars, with their payment fund doubled to $4.23m from April 2016.

It’s impressive stuff from Cricket Australia and the ECB need to be having a close look at what their antipodean counterparts are doing, in real terms, to progress their women’s teams.

 

Sailing update from Abby Ehler

The Magenta Project takes a significant step towards realizing its ambition to bring more professional female sailors into high performance racing, this week. The entry into the Extreme Sailing Series™ Lisbon Act marks an exciting opportunity to provide some hard-core experience in the highly-charged, highly-competitive environment of stadium sailing.  The driving force behind the entry, called Thalassa Magenta Racing, is New Zealand’s Sharon Ferris-Choat a Magenta Project Ambassador and currently the only female racing in the GC32 circuits. The entry is the culmination of work behind-the-scenes to secure sponsorship, as-well-as on the water: providing practical training opportunities, which took place last July in the Solent.

Sharon Ferris-Choat says,

“It’s been a journey to get to this point, but having this team competing in the penultimate Act of this year’s Extreme Sailing Series™ in Lisbon is a massive achievement.

“Our squad get the chance to hone skills both in handling the GC32 and as a team, going head to head with nine, all male teams who’ve been racing regularly in the series throughout the year. And that’s what we are aiming for – the chance to provide top women sailors with exactly this kind of experience. Eventually we would like to see an all-female team taking part in the whole series rather than as a wildcard.”

The event is currently under way and can be followed at www.extremesailingseries.com  or www.themagentaproject.org

 

Women’s Sports Week 2016

3-9 October has been the second Women’s Sports Week, in case you missed it.  There has been plenty of media coverage for the event with the great and the good of women’s sport making one appearance after another to push the women’s sporting agenda.

The highlight for me was been the 5Live discussion on team sport with Kate Richardson-Walsh, Katy McLean, Tracey Neville and Casey Stoney (and Mark Sampson).  Another welcome announcement is the new England Rugby plan for the women’s game and the national side renamed as the “Red Roses”.

I’m yet to be convinced by “Team Up”, yet another initiative (as I tweeted somewhat wearily last week, “another day, another initiative”) which brings together England cricket, hockey and netball as they host world cups in England in 2017, 18 and 19 respectively.  Seems a bit of a tenuous link, but, as I say, I’m here to be convinced.

It has been a largely positive week, although I suggest you check out my blog next week when I devote a whole piece to it – the positive and the negative.

 

And finally, two players from Sparta Prague’s men’s side may think twice before they speak from now on.

After their 3-3 draw on Sunday, Sparta’s goalkeeper, Tomas Koubek tweeted that “women belong at the stove,” after the female referee missed an offside and their opponents equalised.  He added “Women should not officiate men’s football.”  His teammate, Lukas Vacha, tweeted a picture of the referee captioned “to the stove”.

Neither his club nor the Czech footballing authorities were not impressed.  The two players have been ordered to train with the women’s team (should be fun) and the Czech FA’s disciplinary committee will consider punishment in due course.