Women’s Sports Column 16-22 September 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty of news and results again this week.  Stories from rugby, netball, tennis, cycling, golf, football, bobsleigh, and the BBC’s “100 Women” is back and this time has a sports angle – see “And finally” for details.

Here we go.

Unfortunately there’s only one place to start again this week.  I’d already written my piece about the Lionesses’ World Cup qualifier when the news about Mark Sampson broke.  As those who follow this column know, I have tried to be scrupulously fair in covering the situation with nothing proven and the investigation seemingly ongoing.  But this week, and let’s face it, it was coming, Sampson was sacked by the FA when “safeguarding issues” came to light from his time at Bristol Academy.

I’m still not going to go into the finer points here, and I know I’m not unique in saying this, but the FA have to take a long hard look at their systems.  What on earth have they been playing at throughout this whole thing – basically did they really think if they shoved it all in a corner it would all go away?  It was irresponsible at best and downright dangerous at worst.

And although it’s not my place, I can’t help feeling let down by Sampson.  We all invested time, words and faith in him.  As I said last week, I really resent the fact that all the column inches that should be devoted to the actual football, with the start of the new international campaign and the new WSL season, have been turned elsewhere.

I’ll say no more at this time except that women’s football deserves better, but sadly it’s no surprise that this is currently what it gets.

Rugby Union

The first round of Premiership 15s was played last weekend.  The results were as follows:

Saturday 16 October

Loughborough Lightning 46-12 Worcester Valkyries
Firwood Waterloo Ladies 13-22 Saracens
Wasps Ladies 32-38 Harlequins Ladies
DMP Sharks 3-32 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

17 September

Bristol Ladies 24-31 Richmond Women

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Saturday 23 September

Worcester Valkyries v Bristol Ladies – 2pm
Harlequins Ladies v Firwood Waterloo Ladies – 3pm
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Wasps Ladies – 4.30pm
Richmond Women v DMP Sharks – 5pm

Sunday 24 September

Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins Ladies – 12pm

Sevens

England Women under 18s sevens won the Rugby Europe U18 Championship in Vichy France, at the weekend.

After an impeccable group stage beating Wales 27-10, Russia 26-10 and 32-7, they went on to beat the Netherlands in the quarter-final 31-5, scoring five tries in the first half.

In the semi-final they met hosts France and won 17-0.  They crossed the try line three times with their opponents unable to score.

They faced Wales in the final, who had beaten tournament favourites Ireland 15-12 in their quarter-final and Portugal in the semis 28-5.

They won the game 31-0, scoring five tries in the process.

Netball Fast5

The British Fast5 All-Stars event takes place this weekend at the O2 Arena in London.

“Across a five-hour session the eight teams will play in a double elimination format; two wins and the team will advance straight through to the semi finals, two losses will result in being knocked out of the tournament with teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches playing a deciding match for a place in the last four.”

Hope you’re following that.  The teams taking part are Surrey Storm, Hertfordshire Mavericks, Manchester Thunder, Loughborough Lightning, Severn Stars, Wasps Netball, Team Bath and Team Northumbria.

There are big prizes up for grabs:
£25,000 for the winner
£20,000 runner up
£12,500 losing semi-finalists
If you win one game you get £10,000 and there’s even £5,000 for no wins!

So it’s well worth fighting for.

It all starts at 5pm and should be fast (as the name implies), furious and exciting.  If you’re in the area go along – there are tickets still available.  Check out the website for details: http://www.fast5allstars.com/

Goalden Globe Awards

Loughborough Lightning swept the board at the Goalden Globe Awards this week.

Goal shooter Peace Proscovia won Vitality Player of the Season and also Players’ Player of the Season.

Vicki Oyesola was named Young Player of the Season and outgoing Lightning coach Karen Atkinson won Coach of the Season.

The Vitality Netball Super League All Star VII was named as:
GK – Nicole Aiken-Pinnock (Sirens)
GD – Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)
WD – Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
C – Bongiwe Msomi (Wasps)
WA – Liana Leota (Manchester Thunder)
GA – Kathryn Turner (Manchester Thunder)
GS – Peace Proscovia (Loughborough Lightning)

The evening ended with a Special Recognition Award, which went to Sheelagh Redpath.  Redpath has been involved in netball for over 40 years, making a significant contribution to developing the umpiring and officiating of the game.  She was one of the original twelve women inducted into the England Hall of Fame in 2001.

Other Netball News

In other netball news, Hertfordshire Mavericks have re-signed England international Sasha Corbin.  This will be her third spell at the club and she will captain the side during the 2018 Super League season.

Last season Corbin played for Northern Mystics in the New Zealand Premiership.

Also this week, Loughborough Lightning announced that their new Director of Netball will be Anna Carter.  She had previously been the under-21 coach.  Emily Perry is the new Pathway Head Coach and will work with assistant coaches Olivia Murphy and Maggie Birkinshaw.

Football

World Cup Qualifiers

England 6-0 Russia
Prenton Park, Merseyside

In truth it was all too easy for England as they began their World Cup qualifying campaign.  Although Russia had Ksenia Tsybutovich sent off in the first half, the gulf between the two sides was already apparent and the extra player probably wouldn’t have made that much difference.

A crowd of over seven thousand saw Nikita Parris start the scoring on 11 minutes, latching on to an accurate back-heel from Fran Kirby to slip the ball home.  There was a somewhat heartening/uncomfortable (choose your adjective) celebration as Parris beckoned over the team and flung her arms around beleaguered coach Mark Sampson in an obvious show of support.

The Lionesses doubled their lead on 14 through Jodie Taylor.

On the half-hour Tsybutovich was given a second yellow card for handball in the area.  Fran Kirby missed the resultant penalty, scuffing it badly and presenting an easy save for the Russian ‘keeper.

But six minutes later England were three-up when it was Kirby again who provided a pinpoint pass for Jordan Nobbs to score.

The home side were four ahead before half-time with the best goal of the lot, from Lucy Bronze, who made it look painfully easy to volley into the top right corner from outside the box.

In the second-half, unsurprisingly England took their foot off the gas, but to give them their due, Russia also regrouped and fought hard.

Toni Duggan got a brace to make it six.  The first was the result of some fine close passing in the box.  Russia will be disappointed with the sixth, though, which came from a miss-kick from a defender.  Duggan pounced to lash the ball home for her second.

It was an all-round excellent performance from England.  The Russian goalkeeper was also excellent, and prevented the Lionesses from scoring more.  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan and Wales, the other teams in Group 1, will not be looking forward to playing England.

Northern Ireland 0-2 Republic of Ireland

The Republic took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Northern Ireland’s Rachel Furness headed in past her own goalkeeper and into the net.

Megan Campbell scored in the second to seal the win.

Kazakhstan 0-1 Wales

Jess Fishlock scored the only goal of the game to take the points for Wales.  Fishlock starred throughout with two efforts I the first half.

Other international news

It was also announced this week that the Lionesses will play a friendly against France in Valenciennes on 20 October.

Transfers

England defender Laura Bassett has joined Australian W-League side Canberra United.  Bassett had been without a club since Notts County Ladies folded in April.  She took time away to decide what to do, and was clearly affected by what went on at County.  She obviously wanted to try something completely new and she is looking forward to the move:

“It’s out of my comfort zone and something I’ve never done before and it will be a real challenge for me to go overseas.”

Golf

The Evian Championship

After high winds and heavy rain the first round was cancelled and the tournament played over 54 holes.

Moriya Jutanugarn was leading after two rounds, but on the final round Anna Nordqvist carded a five-under par 66 to force a play-off for the title with Brittany Altomare.

Nordqvist took it on the first extra hole, with the weather deteriorating yet again into pouring rain and hail.

  1. Anna Nordqvist -9, 2. Brittany Altomare -9, 3, (tied) Lydia Ko, Katherine Kirk, Moriya Jutanugarn -8.

Solheim Cup

Catriona Matthew will be the European Solheim Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2019.  The event will be held from 13-15 September.

In her time playing Solheim Cup she has won 18 matches and 22 points.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships are going on in Bergen this week.

Women’s Elite Individual Time Trial

Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten took the title just 12 seconds ahead of compatriot Anna van der Breggen.  Australian Katrin Garfoot claimed the bronze.

Van der Breggen had taken an early lead and stayed there until the third intermediate check.  But on the descent van Vleuten gained 16 seconds on the leader.

The riders kept up the same pace to the end with van Vleuten winning the 21.1km race in 28:50.35 at an average speed of 43.8 km/h.

Hannah Barnes was top Briton, finishing in ninth.  Elinor Barker finished in eighteenth.

Women’s Junior Individual Time Trial

Elena Pirrone took gold in the junior event, over a 16.1km course.  She finished six seconds ahead of Alessia Vigilia, also of Italy.  Madeleine Fassnacht of Austria came in third.

Britain’s Pfeiffer Georgi finished in seventh and Lauren Dolan, having crashed and sustained a serious leg injury at the half way stage, carried on to finish twenty-seventh.  She will be unable to compete in the Junior Women’s Road Race and has been replaced by Lauren Murphy.

Women’s Team Time Trial

Similarly it was two teams from the Netherlands battling it out for the Team title.  Team Sunweb (Rivera, Kirchmann, van Dijk, Brand, Mackaij, Stultiens) were the victors, with Boels Dolman (Canuel, van der Breggen,  Blaak, Guarnier, Majerus, Pieters) finishing in silver.

Cervelo-Bigla Pro Cycling Team (Lepisto, Klein, Ludwig, Moolman-Pasio, Koppenburg, Gaumnitz) took bronze.

The Women’s Elite Road Race takes place on Saturday 23 September.  Full television coverage on the BBC.

Bobsleigh

The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BBSA) announced this week that they are to withdraw funding for the women’s team.  The announcement comes just five months before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Apparently they were told there was no more money to fund them because of “an overspend”.

It will, however, continue to fund three men’s teams.

The BBSA issued a statement in which it said,

“The GB Bobsleigh programme is currently focusing resources on winning medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“We are actively seeking commercial funding to further support our world class programme and we will continue to do so.”

The women’s team has already met the Olympic standard, but this is obviously not enough for the BBSA, which is basically saying that the women’s team have no chance of winning a medal, and therefore disappear off their list of priorities when money is tight.

The team is now hoping to raise £30,000 in order to fund themselves.

The BBSA is no stranger to controversy.  It has received £10m of public funding in the four year cycle running up to Pyeongchang, but during the summer UK Sport cut its grant by £50,000 after athletes had complained about the “toxic atmosphere” surrounding the sport, including allegations of bullying, racism and sexism.

Bobsleigh driver Mica McNeill has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money.  You can contribute here: https://www.gofundme.com/teammcneill

Tennis

Heather Watson’s poor series of tournaments continued this week with a first round defeat in Seoul.  She lost to Spanish world number 92 Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3 0-6 6-1.

The top three seeds are all safely through to the second round; Jelena Ostapenko (1), Kiki Bertens (2) and Kristyna Pliskova (3).

Meanwhile, in Tokyo Johanna Konta was knocked out of the Pan Pacific Open by Barbora Strycova 7-5 7-6.  Strycova will now face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-final.

And finally,

The BBC’s “100 Women” challenge is back.  And one of the categories is sexism in sport.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-41044889.  Check it out and get involved in the conversation.

Advertisements

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 February 2017

cricket-ballWelcome to this week’s somewhat shortened column.  Apologies for the brevity of the reports, but hopefully you will still find something to interest you.  Stories from netball, football, cricket, and rugby union.  On form again with an “And finally” that takes us back to the Stone Age.

Netball

The new Superleague season began last weekend.  The scores were:

Friday 17 February

Hertfordshire Mavericks 53-48 Team Northumbria

Saturday 18 February

Celtic Dragons 41-51 Team Bath

Loughborough Lightning 59-45 Manchester Thunder

Surrey Storm 58-50 Severn Stars

Tuesday 21 February

Sirens 43-57 Wasps Netball

This weekend sees a “Super Ten” event with all teams playing at the Genting Arena in Birmingham.  From 4pm on Saturday you can watch three games live on Sky Sports.

Cricket

World Cup Qualifying Tournament

The qualifying tournament has now concluded with India coming out on top and the four teams to qualify for this summer’s World Cup being India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

At the point of reporting last week there were still three Super Six matches to be concluded before the final.  These went as follows:

Sunday 19 February
India 70/3 (22.3 overs)
Pakistan 67 all out (43.4 overs)

Pakistan collapsed to 67 all out with only two players making it into double figures; Ayesha Zafar made 19 and Bismah Maroof 13.  The Indian star bowler, not for the first time was Ekta Bisht who took 5 for a miserly 8 runs off her 10 overs.

India made light work of the chase.  DB Sharma top scored with 29 and Harmanpreet Kaur 24 as they sailed home easily in under half the allotted overs.

Sri Lanka 197/9 (50 overs)
 Bangladesh 68/5 (21 out of 21 overs)
Sri Lanka won by 42 runs via the D/L method

Jayangani top scored with 84 for Sri Lanka as they posted an impressive score batting first.  But the game was affected badly by rain and reduced to just 21 overs.  The revised total of 111 was too tough an ask for Bangladesh who made only 68.  Nigar Sultana made 24 and Shaila Sharmin 21 not out, but they never kept up with the required run rate.

Ireland 166 all out (49.5 overs)
South Africa 82/1 (21 out of 21 overs)
South Africa won by 36 runs via the D/L method

The third game of the day was also curtailed due to rain.  Ireland batted first and made a decent total with good contributions from Cecelia Joyce, Isobel Joyce, Gaby Lewis and Mary Waldron.

But the revised total of 47 from 21 overs was easily knocked off by South Africa for the loss of only Lee for 14.

The final, which took place on Tuesday 21 February, went to the wire.

India 245/9 (50 overs)
South Africa 244 all out (49.4 overs)
India won by 1 wicket

South Africa must have thought they had done enough to win it.  The top eight all made excellent contributions with Mignon du Preez 40,Lizelle Lee and Dane van Niekerk 37 apiece and Sune Luus 35.

But India were not to be beaten.  After fine knocks from Mona Meshram (59) and Deepti Sharma (71), Harmanpreet Kaur made a standout 41.  India needed nine to win off the last over, to be bowled by Marcia Letsoalo.  They ran one on the first ball but Yadav was run out going for a suicidal second.   There were then three dot balls and India needed eight off the last two balls.  On the fifth ball of the over Kaur launched Letsoalo for six.  Kaur then took two off the last ball to win the match by one wicket.

Australia v New Zealand

Meanwhile in Australia, two World Cup favourites have been warming up in a keenly fought three match T20 series.

1st T20, 17 February
Australia 151/4 (20 overs)
New Zealand 111/8 (20 overs)
Australia won by 40 runs

Elyse Villani scored 73 not out and captain Meg Lanning 60 as Australia posted a decent total of 151.

New Zealand made a good start to their response, but lost wickets at regular intervals and fell short in their chase.  Amy Satterthwaite was 40 not out for the White Ferns.   Amanda-Jade Wellington took three wickets for 15 from her four overs.

2nd T20, 19 February
New Zealand 101/9 (20 overs)
Australia 61/9 (13 overs – target revised to 70 from 13)
New Zealand won by 8 runs via D/L method

Australia would have been confident of chasing down 102 in 20, but in the end a rain-affected game meant they had to chase 70 from 13.

New Zealand got off to a good start with the top three into double figures.  But they subsided after Suzie Bates was out for 30 in the fifteenth over, with the score on 76.  In the end they posted a low 101.

Australia got off to a bad start and were three down for just 28 in the sixth over.  Anna Peterson then took three wickets in one over to rip the heart out of the Australian innings and New Zealand had drawn level in the series.

3rd T20, 22 February
New Zealand 113/8 (20 overs)
Australia 66 all out (16 overs)
New Zealand won by 47 runs

An unusual and catastrophic collapse by the Southern Stars saw New Zealand take the series 2-1 in Adelaide.

The away side batted first and made 113.  Top scorer was Suzie Bates with 31 and there were good contributions from Rachel Priest (17) and Amy Satterthwaite (18).  Wellington was again pick of the Aussie bowlers with figures of four for 16 from her four overs.

But Australia were in trouble for the off – slumping to nine for five in the fifth over.  There was some resistance from Healy and Blackwell, but with little support they had no chance and New Zealand had secured an historic series win.

Rugby Union

The Six Nations returns this week:

24 February 6.20pm
Broadwood Stadium

Scotland v Wales
Broadcast on S4C and BBC Wales

25 February 1pm
The Stoop

England v Italy
Broadcast on Sky and Eurosport IT

26 February 12.45pm
Donnybrook, Dublin

Ireland v France
Broadcast on RTE/France 4

Football

England

Mark Sampson has announced his squad for the She Believes Cup, which will begins on March 1 with England v France.  There is a surprise recall for former captain Casey Stoney.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading)

Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Jo Potter (Notts County), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Casey Stoney (Liverpool), Demi Stokes (Manchester City)

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

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Notts County), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

FA Cup

Meanwhile it was an exciting weekend in the SSE Women’s FA Cup fourth round

Coventry Ladies 0-1 Aston Villa Ladies
Durham Women 2-2 Everton Ladies
Everton win 4-3 on penalties
Millwall Lionesses 3-1 Nottingham Forest
Sheffield Ladies 0-1 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Tottenham Ladies 1-0 Brighton Ladies
West Bromwich Albion Women 2-1 Leicester City Ladies

The fifth round sees the entrance of the big guns and the draw has thrown up some mouthwatering ties, including three derbies; on Merseyside, in the West Midland and North London.

The draw in full:

Notts County Ladies v Yeovil Town Ladies
Liverpool Ladies v Everton Ladies
Arsenal Ladies v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies
Sunderland Ladies v Aston Villa Ladies
Birmingham City Ladies v West Bromwich Albion Women
Bristol City Women v Millwall Lionesses
Manchester City Women v Reading Women
Chelsea Ladies v Doncaster Rovers Belles

FIFA

In a surprise move, Director of Women’s Football, Tatjana Haenni has been sacked from her post.  Haenni had held the position for 18 years.

In a statement FIFA said that the decision was based on organisational restructure.

Haenni has also released a statement:

“At the end of January, FIFA dismissed me, ended the employment contract and released me as soon as possible.

“I look back on 18 interesting, motivating, fascinating years in international women’s football. I have done my work and my activities with full commitment, conviction for the cause and with a lot of passion.

“For the future, I would like all sports organizations to make efforts to promote women’s sports and the representation of women in the decision-making committees and to make available adequate resources.”

Colombian Football

Another good news story in the world of women’s football this week as a new professional women’s league gets underway.

There will be 18 teams with three round-robin groups of six and each team will play home and away.

At the end of the round-robin stage the top two from each group and the two best third-placed teams will compete in quarter-finals.

The overall winner will represent Colombia in the Copa Libertadores.

Group A: Real Cartagena, Petrolera, R. Santander, Union Magdalena, Bucaramanga, Envigado.
Group B: Equidad, Santa Fe, Patriotas, Atletico Huila, Cucuta, Fortaleza.
Group C: Pasto, Cortulua, Pereira, Quindio, Orsomarso, America.

And Finally

And finally, just when you thought Australia had women’s sport in the bag (cricketing pregnancy clauses not withstanding), we revert to the Stone Age.

A boxing promoter on the Gold Coast is planning to hold two bouts of “lingerie boxing” in a boxing card at Surfers Paradise next week.  Surprisingly this will not be a professional bout, but seemingly between two women unused to the sport and are being trained especially for the fight.

As usual I’ll leave you all to draw your own conclusions and let you fume in the privacy of your own homes.  But it’s just another case of two steps forward, one back for women’s sport.

Mind you the same promoter is the man who also brought Australia the delights of “midget” boxing in 2008. Say no more.

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 September

img-20160915-006702Welcome to this week’s column.  Summer may be slipping away from us here in Britain, but there’s still plenty to look forward to in the world of women’s sport.

This week brings stories from the Paralympics, tennis, athletics, cricket, football, rugby union and a sailing update from Abby Ehler.

Paralympics

 Where to start?  As with the Olympics, there is so much to love, admire or indeed boggle at, that I can only cover a fraction.  So here are a few of my highlights from the last week:

Hannah Cockcroft

One of my sporting heroes, without doubt.  In Rio she has won gold in T34 400m with a world record and 100m.   And she’s still only 24!

Kadeena Cox

Wow, what a story!  To win gold in one Paralympic sport is amazing, but two in different sports?  On 10 September she took gold in the track cycling – the C4-5 time trial (and in a world record time) and then on 14 September she struck gold again, this time in the T38 400m (also a new world record).  Oh, and she also won a bronze in the T38 100m.

I know one shouldn’t refer it back to a person’s medical history and no-one should be labelled, but how can you not be amazed by this woman?  She’s 25 and suffered a stroke in 2014, leading to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.  She’s brilliant.

Canoeing

I love canoeing in all forms and Britain has done very well in this Paralympics.  Three golds in a day on 15 September with Jeanette Chippington winning the K1 200m KL1 title, 28 years after her first medal, a silver in the 100m backstroke L4 in Seoul in 1988.  Then Emma Wiggs blew the field away to take the k1 200m KL2 gold.  Thirdly Anne Dickens won gold in the KL3 200m final.  That was three golds in about half an hour!

Swimming

Numerous medals in swimming.  Seven golds and six silvers.  Bethany Firth took two golds and a silver, Hannah Russell, Steph Millward, Ellie Simmonds, Susie Rodgers, Ellie Robinson (just 15) all took golds with Claire Cashmore, Jessica-Jane Appleton, Rebecca Redfern, Steph Slater and Harriet Lee took silvers.

I’m sorry I’ve just concentrated on gold medals and silvers; every competitor has a story, a performance to be proud of and a unique experience.  Without descending into the mawkish, it’s exciting, awe-inspiring and moving.

Tennis

Germany’s Angelique Kerber went to world number one in the rankings this week when Serena Williams was knocked out of the US Open in the semi finals.  She then went on to win the title, beating the Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-3 4-6 6-4.

Kerber had already won the Australian Open in January and was runner-up at Wimbledon, but Pliskova was in a rich vein of form, having beaten Williams in the semi in straight sets 6-2 7-6.

Kerber was not to be denied though, becoming the first German to win the US Open since Steffi Graf in 1996.

The women’s doubles title was taken by twelfth seeds Bethany Mattek-Sands (US) and Lucie Safarova (CZ).  They beat the top seeded French pairing of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic 2-6 7-6 6-4.

In other tennis news, the result of Maria Sharapova’s appeal against her two-year doping ban will be revealed in the first week of October.

Sharapova was banned by the ITF after testing positive for the banned substance, Meldonium, at the 2016 Australian Open.  She had been taking the drug since 2006, but it has only been listed as a banned substance since January this year.

Athletics

In athletics, the testing and re-testing of samples from the 2008 Olympics is still causing many medals to be re-awarded.  The latest is set to go to British javelin thrower, Goldie Sayers.  The silver medallist, Russia’s Maria Abakumova, will be disqualified after her re-test showed positive for the anabolic steroid turinabol.  Sayers, who finished fourth, will now receive a bronze medal.

Sayers has long been a critic of doping in athletics, particularly the systematic state-sponsored scheme employed by Russia.  In May 2016 she said she had considered withdrawing from the Rio games if Russian athletes were allowed to compete.

Cricket

In cricket, the ECB has announced that England’s women will complete their busy year with a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka in November.  The three games will take place at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in Colombo on Saturday 12, Tuesday 15 and Thursday 17 November.

It will be England’s last series in the ICC Women’s Championship, the qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Cup, which will be held in England.

At the moment England is placed in third on 19 points.  Sri Lanka lies eighth.

Before the series takes place, England will have a six-day training camp in Abu Dhabi from 1-7 November.

Football

England 5-0 Estonia

Carter (3), Scott, J, Carney (pen)

Meadow Lane, Nottingham

Attendance 7,052.

I was at Meadow Lane on 15 September for England’s latest qualifier.  England have already qualified for next year’s Euros, but Mark Sampson is obviously keen to send a signal to the other top teams in Europe that England will be a force to contend with next year.

The first half-hour was excellent from England.  They came out quickly and never gave Estonia a chance to gain a toe-hold, let alone a foot-hold.  There were some lovely passing moves, close control was good, as was communication.

They were 3-0 up at half time with two goals from Danielle Carter and a Jill Scott header.

Towards the end of the first half focus slipped.  Sampson will be aware that better sides would have taken advantage of this and when they came out in the second they had regained concentration.

However, the game was disrupted in the second-half with substitutions and England found it harder to put moves together.  There were too much convoluted play, and although they had plenty of chances, there was never going to be the hatful of goals that the first half promised.

They did score two though, with Carter claiming her hat-trick and Karen Carney calmly slotting home a penalty for the fifth for a comprehensive win.

Poor Siobhan Chamberlain was reduced to running on the spot to get warm.

Quite rightly, Carter was Player of the Match; her record stands at two caps, two hat-tricks, but my other stand-out player was Gemma Davison.  She flew down the right wing in the first half; her markers hadn’t got a clue how to deal with her.  With fifteen minutes to go until half-time, she had obviously had so much fun on the right that she swapped wings with Demi Stokes to cause mayhem on the left.  Truly the best half of football I have seen from Davison.

Wales 3-0 Israel

Ward (2), Estcourt

Newport

Wales put in an impressive display to beat Israel.  Wales record scorer, Helen Ward, scored two with Charlie Estcourt adding a third in the second half.  Jess Fishlock also missed a penalty.

Although Wales are third in Pool H, they cannot qualify for next year’s finals.

Sad news from football this week as it was announced that Sylvia Gore, the scorer of the first official goal for the England’s women team, has died from cancer at the age of 71.

In 1972 she scored England’s first goal in a 3-2 win against Scotland in Greenock.

Gore had a career in football that spanned over 60 years.  As a player she once scored 134 goals in a season.  After her playing career ended, she went on to become Wales manager.  She was also an FA Women’s committee member for 20 years.  Earlier this year she was unveiled as a Manchester City Women’s FC Club Ambassador.

Rugby Union

England Rugby has announced the Elite Player Squad for 2016/17 season.  As reported in an earlier column, this will be the first time England has awarded 15-a-side professional contracts.

The 54 names are split into full-time, part-time, short-term and non-contracted players.  38 contracts have so far been awarded.

The move is with the Women’s Rugby World Cup in mind, which takes place in Ireland in August 2017, where England will be looking to retain their title.

Full time contracts – 18
Claire Allan (Saracens)
Abbie Brown (Bristol)
Rachael Burford (n/a)
Amy Cokayne (Lichfield)
Heather Fisher (n/a)
Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Megan Jones (Bristol)
Alex Matthews (Richmond)
Sarah McKenna (Saracens)
Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park)
Marlie Packer (Bristol)
Amber Reed (Bristol)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Emily Scott (Thurrock)
Danielle Waterman (Bristol)
Kay Wilson (Richmond)
Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol)

Part time – 9
Natasha Brennan (n/a)
Lauren Cattell (Saracens)
Lotte Clapp (Saracens)
Deborah Fleming (Saracens)
Katie Mason (Bristol)
Fran Matthews (Richmond)
Kelly Smith (Worcester Valkyries)
Millie Wood (Lichfield)
Rachael Woosey (Darlington Mowden Park)

Short Term – 11
Emily Braund (Lichfield)
Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries)
Vickii Cornborough (Aylesford Bulls)
Sarah Hunter (Bristol)
Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries)
LaToya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park)
Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol)
Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park)
Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park)
Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries)

Non Contracted – 16
Sasha Acheson (Bristol)
Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park)
Sarah Bern (Bristol)
Bianca Blackburn (Worcester Valkyries)
Poppy Cleall (Bristol)
Emma Croker (Richmond)
Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)
Abby Dow (Wasps)
Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park)
Ceri Large (Worcester Valkyries)
Poppy Leitch (Bristol)
Justine Lucas (Lichfield)
Fiona Pocock (Aylesford Bulls)
Alice Richardson (n/a)
Leanne Riley (Aylesford Bulls)
Joanne Watmore (n/a)

England’s upcoming fixtures:

 Old Mutual Wealth Series:

England v France, Wednesday 9 November,The Twickenham Stoop 7.30pm

England v New Zealand, Saturday 19 November, The Twickenham Stoop 12pm

England v Canada, Saturday 26 November,Twickenham 5.05pm
Free entry after the men’s game

Also one-off:

Ireland v England, Sunday 13 November,University College Dublin 2pm
 

Sailing news from Abby Ehler

Paralympics from the British side: Helena Lucas, who became Britain’s first Paralympic sailing champion winning gold at London 2012 sailing the 2.4mR, 1-person keelboat is defending her Gold medal and currently leading the fleet, with more racing scheduled over the next few days, weather permitting.  In the 3-person Keelboat, Hannah Stodel and her team mates who have been together for 4 consecutive Games are currently placed 5th in the fleet with 5 races to go and all to play for.

In the single handed offshore racing circuit, Justine Mettraux (SUI) and Sophie Faguet (FRA) are 150 miles from their finish, having been at sea since September 10th up against gruelling conditions as they race from the Azores to France in the 15-strong fleet. The teams are expected into Douarnenez, near Brest this weekend.  Justine is currently lying in a respectable 7th place, neck and neck with 3 other competitors, so it will be a nail biting finish for the leading pack.

 

 

Women’s Sports Column

cricket25-11 March

Welcome to this week’s column. This week’s stories come from tennis, football, netball, cycling and cricket.

A good week again for British women’s tennis. After reporting on Heather Watson’s progress in the Monterrey Open last week, she only went on to win it! She beat Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the final 3-6 6-2 6-3. It is Watson’s third WTA title win.

And the tournaments keep on coming. Watson is in action again this week, this time in Indian Wells. She is through to the second round after beating Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 7-6 4-6 6-1. She takes on 32nd seed Monica Niculescu in round two.

One of the most heartening sights of the week was the return of Laura Robson to the WTA tour. She was beaten in the first round at Indian Wells 7-6 6-2 by Magdalena Rybarikova, but the result didn’t really matter. It was the first time Robson had been in a tournament since the US Open in August 2015.

“I’m 100% better. The last time I felt pain was in January,” said Robson in an interview with the BBC.

Of course, we can’t ignore the other big tennis story of the week. Maria Sharapova announced this week that she had failed a drugs test during the Australian Open in January. She tested positive for the banned substance, meldonium. She had been taking the substance since 2006, apparently for health reasons. Meldonium has only been on the banned substances register since the beginning of this year.

The ITF (International Tennis Federation) has provisionally suspended Sharapova. She could face a 2-year ban.

Not wanting to be controversial, but I just wonder what the reaction would have been had it been Serena Williams who had failed the test….

 

After reporting Laura Trott’s first gold medal at the World Track Cycling Championships, needless to say she won again before the event was out, this time in the omnium. She was 12 points ahead when it came to the final 100-lap points race. And she never looked in trouble. She dominated from the start and the gold medal was confirmed with 20 laps to go.

France’s Laurie Berthon finished second with American Sarah Hammer in third.

 

England finished third in the SheBelieves Cup on goals scored after losing against Germany and drawing with France this week.

England were incredibly unlucky against Germany. They led through Toni Duggan header up until the 76th minute when they conceded an own-goal and a penalty to lose the game. Gilly Flaherty put the ball into her own net, which was unlucky enough, but the penalty award was a real shocker. Fara Williams, winning her 150th cap was adjudged to have foul tackled Alexandra Popp, when it was obvious to all except the officials that she took the ball cleanly.

England Head Coach, Mark Sampson, was unhappy about the standard of officiating. This has been a recurrent theme in women’s football recently and will have to be tackled by football’s governing bodies.

Good football was at a premium during the France match, not because the teams weren’t capable, but because the pitch was so dire. France really should have taken the lead in the first half as they had several chances, and England were relieved to go in level at half-time.

To counteract the pitch, both sides resorted to the long ball in the second half, but the deadlock was not to be broken and the game finished 0-0.

The winners of the tournament were USA after they beat Germany 2-1. Germany took the lead through Anja Mittag, but the hosts came back with two goals in six minutes from Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis.

Wales finished the Cyprus Cup without a win. Their last hope was against Hungary on Wednesday, but they lost 2-1 to a goal in the last minute. This was the 5th/6th place play-off. Four games, two draws, two defeats. The tournament winners were Austria. They beat Poland in the final 2-1.

Really sad news from Doncaster Belles this week. Their midfielder Ashleigh Mills has had to retire at the age of 20 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

She posted on Twitter:

“I have tried so hard to get back but my legs just won’t go. Unfortunately this disease cannot be beaten and has taken my dream.”

 

The latest round of Netball Superleague results were as follows:

Friday 4th March
Celtic Dragons 53 45 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 60 44 Loughborough Lightning
 

Saturday 5th March

Yorkshire Jets 44 49 Manchester Thunder
Surrey Storm 50 55 Hertfordshire Mavericks
 

Monday 7th March

Hertfordshire Mavericks 67 45 Celtic Dragons

 

The World T20 Cup starts on Tuesday in India. I’ll be covering it for WSUK, so expect plenty of match reports, news and comment. I’ll keep posting the links on my blog so you can follow it all. England begin on Thursday against Bangladesh. The media coverage is, surprisingly, a bit hit and miss. Some of it is on Sky, some on TMS. So if you can’t follow it live, I suggest you check in on my blog or on WSUK to keep up with what’s going on.

I have previewed the tournament and the chances of the two groups for WSUK: group A and group B.

And finally, Women in Sport has announced its first patron – England women’s football Head Coach, Mark Sampson. Yes, it’s a man. But he is, in my opinion, a really good choice. He is unstinting in his promotion of women’s sport and has the ear of people who may actually be able to make a difference.

In accepting the position he said,

“Greater equality in sport is a cause men need to get behind as much as women do and I look forward to working more closely with the charity to further its mission.”