Women’s Sports Column 7-13 April 2018

the-ball-stadion-horn-corner-47343Welcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get our teeth into this week with the ongoing Commonwealth Games, World Cup qualifiers in the football, play-offs in rugby union, tennis, lacrosse, and top-class international cricket.

So, to coin a phrase, let’s crack on.

Commonwealth Games

So much going on, and so much I’m probably going to have to miss out or this column will be 5000 words long!  So, again, apologies to anyone who thinks I’ve missed something vital (which I probably have).

 Netball

England Roses are through to the semi-finals where they will face Jamaica.  They finished top of their group.  The other semi-final will be between Australia and New Zealand.  Although, after watching Australia demolish Jamaica I am tempted to say just give them the gold now, I am hoping that the Roses beat Jamaica and somehow can stun the Aussies in the final.

Basketball

More surprisingly, England’s basketball team (ranked 21 in the world) are through to the final of their tournament, having beaten Canada (ranked fifth in the world) in the semi-final 65-53.

They will face either Australia or New Zealand who play the second semi-final.

Hockey

England’s women lost out in the semi-final to New Zealand in a penalty shootout.  They now face India in the bronze medal match on Saturday.  The gold medal match will be between Australia and New Zealand.

Badminton

Mixed doubles pairings of Chris and Gabby Adcock and Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith are both through to the semi-finals.

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour is through to the semis in the singles.

Doubles pairing of Lauren Smith and Sarah Walker are through to the women’s doubles semi-finals.

Rugby Sevens

It’s the inaugural women’s sevens at Gold Coast 2018.

In Pool A: England won their first match, against Fiji, 17-5, but then lost to Australia 29-12.

Wales have lost both of their matches so far, 34-5 to Australia and 29-7 to Fiji.

England and Wales play each other in the final pool game on Saturday.

In Pool B: New Zealand beat Kenya 45-0 and South Africa 41-0.  Canada also won their first two matches.

Athletics

It’s been a mixed Games for home nations athletes.  Katarina Johnson-Thompson took gold in the heptathlon, while Niamh Emerson, also from England, took bronze.  Dina Asher-Smith (Eng) won bronze in a strong 200m field.  Eilidh Doyle took silver for Scotland in the 400m hurdles.  Shara Proctor won bronze in the long jump for England.

Also Caster Semenya of South Africa won the 800m/1500m double.

Sophie Hahn took gold for England in the T38 100m and Olivia Breen of Wales took bronze in the same event.  Breen also won gold in the T38 long jump.  Maria Lyle won silver for Scotland in the T35 100m.  Hollie Arnold won T46 javelin gold for Wales.

 Other medal highlights:

  • Fabulous diving from Scotland’s Grace Reid who took gold in the 1m springboard.
  • Bronze for Lesley Doig and Claire Johnston for Scotland in Women’s Pairs bowls
  • Laura Holford silver for Wales in the rhythmic gymnastics Hoop.
  • Kirsty Barr of Northern Ireland silver in the women’s trap and Sarah Wixey of Wales bronze in the same event.
  • Seonaid McIntosh two bronzes; women’s 50m rifle prone & 50m rifle 3 positions for Scotland

One more round-up next week, including how the team sports ended up, boxing, squash, table tennis, more athletics and anything else I can fit in!

Football – World Cup Qualifiers

There have been some excellent performances from the home nations over the last week.

England 0-0 Wales

Wales’ goalkeeper, Laura O’Sullivan, put in an outstanding performance to deny England three points at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium on Friday.

But it could have been even worse for England if Tash Harding’s shot in the ninth minute had been adjudged to have crossed the line.

It wasn’t, and England went on to have 22 shots on target, none of which went in, largely due to a stalwart Wales defence and the heroics of O’Sullivan.

Unsurprisingly, Wales manager Jayne Ludlow was ecstatic with the performance,

“From a female football perspective it’s probably the best (result in Wales’ history),” she said in an interview with the BBC.

Bosnia-Herzegovina 0-2 England

England were back to goalscoring form in Sarajevo on Tuesday.

There was a momentary wobble when Alex Greenwood was sent off before half-time for a second yellow card.  She was penalised for diving, when actually she was pretty obviously caught by the Bosnian defender.

But the home side couldn’t make the extra player count.  Toni Duggan scored the first and Jodie Taylor a stoppage-time penalty to ensure the three points.

Bosnia-Herzegovina captain Amira Spahic was also sent off towards the end, also for a second yellow card.

With the win England went top of Group A, two points ahead of Wales.

Scotland 3-0 Poland

Scotland’s qualifying campaign got back on track with a comfortable win in Paisley on Wednesday.

The away side started well with Ewa Pajor in particular causing problems for the Scottish defence.

But in the second-half Scotland came into the game.  Lee Alexander saved a penalty from Pajor and the Paulina Dudek was sent off for the Poles for a second yellow card offence.

As soon as Poland were down to ten, Scotland took advantage.  Zoe Ness scored two and Erin Cuthbert a third to seal the game for the Scots, taking them to second in the Group 2, six points behind leaders Switzerland and with a game in hand.

Netherlands 7-0 Northern Ireland

Unfortunately, Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup are just about over.

They were thrashed by European Champions the Netherlands in Eindhoven on Saturday 7 April.

They were 4-0 up by half-time with two from Lieke Martens, one from Vivianne Miedema and a penalty scored by Sherida Spitse.

It was more of the same in the second-half.  Shanice van de Sanden, Spitse with her second and a Billie Simpson made it a woeful night for the Northern Irish.

Northern Ireland 0-3 Norway

It didn’t get any better for Northern Ireland on Wednesday as they slumped to a poor home defeat to Norway at Shamrock Park in Portadown.

After a goalless first-half, the away side took the lead on the hour through Caroline Graham Hansen.  She then poached a second late on with Isabell Herlovsen scoring a third for Norway.

Football – Domestic

Just the one result this week with the international break in full swing:

FAWSL2

London Bees 2-1 Aston Villa

Katie Wilkinson opened the scoring for the home side just before the half-hour.  Bees doubled their lead in first-half injury time through Destiney Toussaint.

It looked like three points and a clean sheet until the penultimate minute when Ebony Salmon grabbed a consolation goal for Villa.

The result took London Bees up to fifth, but still five points behind Durham in fourth, having played a game more.  Aston Villa stay second from bottom with seven points from 12 games.

Lacrosse

Home Internationals 6-8 April, Edinburgh

There were no less than four tournaments taking place in Edinburgh at the weekend.

England took all four titles, as they did in Cardiff in 2017.

Senior A team:

England 21-7 Wales

Scotland 6-14 England

Senior B team:

Wales 6-19 England

Scotland 6-19 England

England 17-2 Ireland

England also triumphed in the Under 19 A and B tournaments.

Cricket – on the pitch

India sealed a fine 2-1 series win against England this week.  In a see-sawing series, England took the second game easily, having been outplayed in the first.  They were, however, unable to maintain this form in the third match and succumbed to the home side again to lose the series.

Second ODI

India 113 all out (37.2 overs)

England 117/2 (29 overs)

England won by 8 wickets with 126 balls remaining

It was all about England’s spinners in game two.  Mithali Raj won the toss and elected to bat.

But 4/32 for Dani Hazell from her 10 overs and a career-best 4/14 from Sophie Ecclestone saw the home side slump to 113 all out.  Top scorer for India was Smriti Mandhana with 42 with Deepti Sharma chipping in with 26 not out further down the order.

In response England motored away.  Danni Wyatt scored 47 from 43 balls.  Amy Jones was the only player to miss out, going for a duck bowled by Ekta Bisht.  Tammy Beaumont and Heather Knight saw it home, scoring 39 and 26 respectively and reaching their total with more than 20 overs to spare.

Third ODI

England 201/9 (50 overs)

India 202/2 (45.2 overs)

India won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining

England couldn’t maintain their good form of the second ODI as they lost to India in the final game to win the series.

Knight won the toss and chose to bat.

Amy Jones was unluckily run out for 94, and while captain Knight scored 36, no-one else made a significant enough contribution to get England to a useful score.  The wickets were evenly shared by the Indian bowlers with Goswami, Gayakwad, Sharma and Yadav bagging two each.

Opener Jemimah Rodrigues fell for two, caught by Beaumont off the bowling of Shrubsole.  When Krishnamurthy went for seven, also to Shrubsole, England must have thought they were in with a chance.  When the home side had reached 99 Mandhana retired hurt.

But a 103-run third wicket stand between Raj (74 off 124 balls) and Sharma (54 off 61) saw them home.

In the process Raj also took Charlotte Edwards’ record for the most 50+ innings in ODIs.

Cricket – off the pitch

Excellent, and somewhat surprising, news this week from Wisden.  Three out of the five of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year are women!  Heather Knight, Nat Sciver and Anya Shrubsole all make the list.

Of course it was a sensational year for women’s cricket as a whole with the World Cup causing such a wow in the cricketing world and so many female cricketers becoming household names.   This is happening not just in England, but also particularly in Australia, New Zealand and India.

For three England players to be recognised by Wisden in this way, as well as Shrubsole appearing on the front cover is most definitely a breakthrough.  Only two women have been named in the list before – a list that started in 1889; England’s Claire Taylor and Charlotte Edwards.

India’s Mithali Raj was also named World’s leading Women’s Cricketer.

Heather Knight captained the England side with a cool calmness that belied her experience.  She was filling the giant shoes that belonged to Charlotte Edwards and didn’t miss a step in doing so.  She scored 364 runs during the World Cup, averaging 45.

Nat Sciver’s summer will be remembered for the “Natmeg”, but was actually so much more.  She scored 369 runs during the World Cup including centuries against Pakistan and New Zealand.  Her bowling has also progressed this year.

Anya Shrubsole’s contribution to the tournament has been well-documented already, not least in this column!  At the risk of alienating you all by saying “I was there” yet again, I can honestly say that England had lost that final if it hadn’t been for Shrubsole.  She took 6/46 including the last wicket and putting herself firmly into the history books.

For the sake of balance, I must add that two chaps also made the list: West Indies batsman Shai Hope was the shining light for the Windies during their tour of England last year.  He became the first man to score a hundred in both innings of a first-class match at Headingley during the second Test.

Finally, Jamie Porter of Essex was the leading wicket-taker in the County Championship Division one last season.  He took 75 wickets as Essex won their first title since 1992.

Tennis – on the court

Monterrey

Top seed Garbine Muguruza triumphed at the Monterrey Open at the weekend.  She beat second seed Timea Babos, 3-6 6-4 6-3.

There was also good news for Naomi Broady in the doubles as she won her first WTA Tour title with partner Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain.  They defeated Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos and American Desirae Krawczyk in the final, 3-6 6-4 10-8.

Volvo Car Open

Meanwhile in Charleston twelfth seed Kiki Bertens took the title, defeating fifth seed Julia Görges in convincing manner, 6-2 6-1.

Tennis – off the court

World number 83, Madison Brengle is suing the WTA and ITF for injuries she alleges were sustained in the course of anti-doping tests.

Brengle has a condition which means she reacts badly to injections.  Her solicitor says that,

“Tennis authorities ignored evidence of her professionally-diagnosed condition and refused to provide alternative testing or a medical accommodation.”

Brengle has been left with swelling and weakness in her serving arm and hand.

In a statement Brengle said,

“I am bringing this action in an effort to force those who control the sport I love to understand that players are not commodities and should be treated with respect and dignity.

“The unbridled authority of officials to subject players to the kind of abuse I suffered cannot be tolerated; players must have a say in matters involving our health and safety.”

News to follow as the case develops.

Rugby Union

It was the first leg of the Premier 15s play-off semi-finals at the weekend, as although Saracens look to have already secured their place in the final, it’s still all to play for between Harlequins and Wasps, with Quins taking a six-point advantage into the second leg.

Gloucester-Hartpury 0-62 Saracens

Saracens were out of sight in this match after just twenty minutes as they scored four tries without reply.  Marlie Packer drove over for the first before Helena Rowland scored a second then prop Samantha Martinez Gion and Lottie Clapp scored to put the Saracens firmly in control.

Bryony Cleall scored a fifth before half-time and the away side went in 33-0 up at the break.

There was more of the same in the second-half.  Hannah Botterman scored the sixth, Packer scored her second and Garnet Mackinder added an eighth.

But they weren’t finished there.  Poppy Cleall went in for a ninth and Mackinder a tenth and her second of the match.

Wasps 19-25 Harlequins

It was an altogether tighter affair at Twyford Avenue.

Wasps opened the scoring on nine minutes when Liz Crake went over to score her first try of the season.

But four minutes later Quins were level as Abbie Scott crossed in the corner.  They went ahead on 16 minutes when Deborah McCormack went over to make it 10-7.

Quins scored again through Natasha Bradshaw to make it 17-7 at half-time.

In the second-half Wasps brought themselves back into it with tries from Louise Dodd and Abby Dow, making it 19-17 to the home side.

But it was Quins who were to have the last word –Ellie Green kicked a penalty and Fiona Pocock scored a last minute try to take the game and the lead back to The Stoop on Saturday.

Join me for more next week. 

 

 

Women’s Sports Column End-of-Year Review

loveWelcome to this, the last column of 2017.  And what a year it’s been!  Instead of the usual news this week, I thought I’d review the year – in terms of heroes and villains!  Everyone loves a listicle, particularly at Christmas, so here’s mine.  I’m sure the majority of my choices will come as no surprise to regular readers of the column.

So, for the final time this year, let’s crack on.

Heroes

1) Women’s Cricket World Cup Final

No prizes for guessing my number one in the heroes department this year.  The Cricket World Cup was a fabulous event from start to finish and I’m privileged to say I was at the final at Lord’s in July.  The media coverage was pretty good, the organisation at the group games was excellent and, of course, the standard of cricket was generally superb.  But the actual day was something else.  Twenty-eight thousand cricket lovers (MCC members not included) packed into Lord’s to experience the game, the occasion and the atmosphere.  And the game had everything; great batting, bowling, fielding (and that drop from Jenny Gunn), the threat of rain, competition down to nearly the last ball…..

It was a brilliant game between two well-matched teams, which leads me on to number two:

2) Indian Women’s Cricket Team

They’ve made fans and friends wherever they go.  They’re on a massive upward trajectory and are set to get even better. Captain Mithali Raj is rightfully considered one of India’s outstanding sports personalities.  One of the moments of the World Cup was when it was reported that a little girl in a Nike store asked for her Indian cricket shirt to have the name “Mandhana” (as in opener Sriti Mandhana) on the back.  And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

India will be out for revenge in the New Year when they face England again in the Women’s Tri Series.

3) Rugby union – heroes and villains

Rugby union is on the up.  And while it is, I’m reluctant to stick it in both the heroes and villains categories so, on balance, it’s in the heroes.  The Rugby World Cup was a fantastic tournament rounded off by a spectacular final.  Laurel wreaths all round to New Zealand and England for such an outstanding display, with the Black Ferns worthy winners.

But it’s not all plaudits for the administrators and organisers.  Before the tournament started we had the announcement that the RFU was not going to re-issue contracts for the 15s, but instead would concentrate on the Sevens squad ahead of next year’s World Cup.  Then the tournament itself threw up some strange scheduling that meant people missed out on seeing matches they wanted to see.  And this was followed by the announcement from the Irish Rugby Football Union that its new women’s head coach would be employed only on a part-time contract – it hosts a World Cup, then cuts its commitment to women’s rugby?  How does that work?

World Rugby has since redeemed rugby’s hero status with its new World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-25.

So, as I say, some hits, some misses in the rugby department, but, on the whole, it’s heading the right way.

 4) Mica McNeill and Mica Moore

When British bobsleighers Mica McNeill and Mica Moore had their funding withdrawn, their Winter Olympic dream could have been over.  But they were not going to give up that easily.  McNeill launched a Crowdfunding page to raise the £30k needed to field a team.  They did it with time to spare and will now be in Pyeongchang in February.

5) Advocates, volunteers and campaigners for women’s sport

Last, but by no means least, I’d like to celebrate the legions of people out there working tirelessly (and sometimes it’s the original thankless task) to promote women’s sport.  I’m going to name a few, but I know I will have missed a lot so apologies as there’s not enough room to mention you all.  If we could only become “mainstream”, how amazing that would be.  So here we go, in no particular order, three cheers for: Women in Sport, Women in Football, Suzy Wrack, WiSP, Scrumqueens, Women’s Elite Rugby website, England Netball, FAWSL website, CricketHer, Martin Whiteley, Martin Woodward, Tracey Neville, Shelley Alexander, Kieran Theivam, 4TLOS, Jen O’Neill and She Kicks, Girls on the Ball, Eleanor Oldroyd, The Magenta Project, Darren Gilham, Sarah Williams (Tough Girl), Female Coaching Network, Coach Annie Zaidi, The Offside Rule, Natalie Germanos, Jane Martinson and so it goes on…

Apologies to those I missed out.

I’ve not included the links to the individuals and organisations above, but if anyone would like any more information, just message me.

villainsVillains

1) The FA

As we all know, some sports governing bodies are better than others.  But the nadir of the governing body world has to the Football Association (FA).  It easily makes it to the top of my villainous tree this year.  First we had the scandal surrounding Mark Sampson and his behaviour towards Eni Aluko and Drew Spence in particular.  Its attempts to sweep the “problem” under the carpet backfired spectacularly and when asked to account for its actions by a House of Commons Select Committee, was unable to come up with the faintest useful answer.  So much for the organisation’s duty of care, vetting process and grievance procedures.

If that wasn’t enough it then decides to restructure the women’s elite game once again.  Just when we were getting used to the current structure the FA, in its wisdom, decides that WSL1 has to be organised to a “stronger commercial model” to “improve the performance of the women’s game on and off the pitch.”  In doing so it immediately put immense pressure on some of the less well-equipped teams, who are currently in their position on merit, to come up with £350k, amongst other things, in order to be able to apply for a licence.  Unfortunately, this has meant that Sunderland and Watford (with probably more to come) have taken the chance not to press forward with their investment in the women’s game, but to scale it back.  Yes, the teams may have been looking for an “out”, or as they euphemistically put it “becoming more community-focussed”, but the FA needn’t have handed it to them on a plate need they?

2) Neanderthal Man

As ever, ‘Neanderthal man’ is pretty much at the top of my list too.  These are the knuckle-draggers who think their views on absolutely everything are required reading – particularly their views on women’s sport.  The “Women’s sport will never be as popular”, “women aren’t as fast/strong/good/add your own adjective, as men”, the “the only way women would get equality would be to compete against men”, the “she looks like a man, anyway”, the “get back to the kitchen” comments, even “they’re all lesbians” is still doing the rounds after all these years.  I have reported a few in my “and finally” section this year and, I’m afraid it doesn’t look as if I’m going to run out of examples any time soon.

Get over it chaps!  Katie Taylor doesn’t have to fight Amir Khan to be a good boxer, Sarah Taylor doesn’t have to keep wicket to the bowling of Jimmy Anderson to be a good cricketer and Nikita Parris doesn’t have score for Manchester City’s men’s side to be a good footballer.

3) The ECB

The ECB was due to be in my “heroes” section, but I’m afraid the news of the last couple of days means that it also makes it into my “Villains” list too.

It appears that the Kia Super League will be no more after 2019.  It looks like it will be rebranded in line with the new city-based men’s competition.  So no more Western Storm, Loughborough Lightning et al…  Each of the current franchises (yes, I have deigned to utter the word) has tried so hard to develop its USP, expand its fan-base and facilities.  The tournament is still in its infancy, but the teams are already recognisable and have their own following.  It did have a good sponsor and commitment to TV and radio coverage.  But we have to start again.

So, yet again, a governing body has seen fit to “fix it” when it hasn’t been “broke”.  We’re yet to see the details of what’s to come, but I haven’t yet got past “why?”

4) BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think the event is a good thing.  I find the whole evening a bit cringe-worthy, but the idea is a sound one.  But it was beyond disappointing this year that the four women nominated came in the last four places after the public vote.  Obviously there has been a lot of mansplaining on this issue – the women weren’t “good” enough, it’s a public vote so people vote for who they want to, some of the women are from minority sports, etc.

But they’re missing the point.

Women’s sport still consistently flies under the radar.

The popularity and media profile of Women’s cricket is at an all-time high, and yet this was not enough for Anya Shrubsole to finish higher than eighth from twelve nominees in the individual category.  How do we know these women are so good if we rarely see their achievements celebrated in the media?  And if their achievements are denigrated by the “usual” sport-watching public so much, how are we to know that taking six wickets in a Women’s World Cup final is worth rewarding?

How do these women ever raise their profile sufficiently to make a dent in the minds of the general public?   I’m afraid to say that at the moment they still don’t.  They are coming from such a low level of coverage, investment, support and recognition that it’s still a mountain to climb, all of which leads me on to my fifth villain:

5) Anyone who says it’s been a “watershed year” for women’s sport

Sorry to throw such a dampener on things, but while there’s been so much to celebrate this year (see heroes!), there is still so much work to do that I really don’t think it has been a “watershed” year.  There have been countless fantastic achievements, tournaments, records, performances, but in the eyes of the general public it counts for nothing until the “mindset” (ugh horrid word) of the sport-loving public is changed beyond recognition.  So while there has been undoubted progress and I personally have loved every minute of it this year, it’s not a “watershed year”.

But let’s not end on a negative note.  No, I’m not going to “look for the positives” (ugh again), but there has been so much to celebrate this year and we should ensure that 2018 builds on this.  As well as the usual annual tournaments, we have the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Rugby World Cup Sevens, the Hockey World Cup at Surrey Sports Park, two teams still in the Champions League, and so it goes on.  And we sports-lovers will be there to see it all.  So let’s make every week of 2018 Women’s Sports Week and let’s cheer every extra televised fixture, every column inch and every interview.

Thank you for reading the column this year.  I’ve loved writing it, which I hope comes out in every word.  I’m having a couple of weeks off now, but will back in the New Year with more news, features, reports and interviews and I hope you’ll join me. 

I’d also like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a lovely sport-filled New Year. 

 

England win a thrilling World Cup Final – and I was there!

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What a day!  I know thousands of words have already been published on the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final which, in itself, is a miracle, but it won’t stop me adding my few hundred.  But if you’re looking for a straight up-and-down account of the match you will be out of luck.  My little Joe Friday voice keeps saying “just the facts ma’am, just the facts”, but if I stuck the facts it would only be half the story.  So, read on for my account of one of the best days of my sporting life.

The day dawned bright and clear.  Actually it was largely mucky and grey and the threat of prolonged rain was a real one.  I did wonder whether I was about to make it four from four washouts (see previous blog entries), but someone somewhere was obviously not going to let that happen and we got through relatively unscathed.

Top marks for the organisation skills of Lord’s – I suppose they have been doing it for a while (!), but although there were queues the staff and cricketeers were helpful, polite and largely smiling.  The queues moved at a pace and everything seemed to go like clockwork.  Not like Edgbaston, I might add, which seemed understaffed and underprepared in comparison.

Anyway, we were in and seated before the toss.  And that’s when it got a little bit much for me.  Either I had multiple pieces of grit in my eye or I found myself crying.  The crowds of people, the atmosphere, the very occasion just got to me.  I should have realised what sort of crowd it was going to be with the size of the cheer greeting Heather Knight winning the toss!

My occasional tear developed into full-blown sobbing when Eileen Ash (Whelan) was revealed as the ringer of the five-minute bell.  This small, wiry 105-year-old woman stood there with composure and grace as her list of achievements was read out and the sense of history being made was palpable throughout the ground.

And then to business.

I thought it was vital that Heather won the toss and that England batted.  England are, generally, not good at chasing.  I thought the batters would settle the side down, calm heads and all that.  But it was not to be.  In truth the batting performance was not good.  After Winfield and Beaumont were out there were a series of poor shot selections as England proceeded to lose wickets regularly.  Jhulan Goswami was pounding in with purpose and venom, scaring the life out of me and I was not 22 yards away.

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Nat Sciver was the pick of the batters, with a good 51.  Sarah Taylor probably deserved more – my but she looks fabulous when she strokes that ball!  But it was only a late flourish from former opener Laura Marsh and Jenny Gunn that saw them reach a half-decent total.  Even then I thought they were 30 or so light.

The wonderful Goswami took 3/23 off her 10 overs and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

At the break I ventured out to answer a call of nature (as you do).  The queue for the ladies’ was beyond imagining.  I tweeted that I would have taken a photo of the queue but would have needed a panoramic lens!  The facilities at Lord’s are good, but I don’t suppose they’d ever seen this many women at one game before.  Still, the atmosphere was good-natured – I feel sometimes I may be overstating it – but it really seemed that everyone was aware they were part of something special.

Then it was time for tears again as Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s son, Ben, rang the bell for the second innings.  There were nerves aplenty, at least in our stand, as the Indian innings began.

These lessened somewhat as England made the perfect start when Smriti Mandhana was lbw to Anya Shrubsole for a duck.  But Raut and Raj rallied beautifully until the captain was run out unnecessarily for 17.  In came Harmanpreet Kaur.  Could she repeat her performance of the semi-final?  For a while it seemed she could as she hit three fours and two sixes (there wasn’t a six in the whole of the England innings), but all at once she tried one big shot too many as she swept Alex Hartley and was caught by Tammy Beaumont on the boundary.  A big wicket.   Shall I say it again – a big wicket.

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But we all knew there was more to come with Raut still playing beautifully, now joined by Krishnamurthy.  India were always just behind the rate, but never out of the game.

When Raut went there were murmurs around the ground as England fans dared to hope.  Then three more wickets went in quick succession.  The last of these was Goswami and with Deepti Sharma the only recognised bat left England sniffed victory.  Pandey was then run out.  England needed two wickets but India only needed 11 off 12 balls to win.

Enter Anya Shrubsole bowling the penultimate over.  Ball one and Sharma has gone, caught beautifully by Sciver.  Five wickets to Shrubsole.

But it’s not over.  Ball three, Poonam Yadav spoons it straight to Jenny Gunn at mid-off.  The crowd is on its feet roaring with delight (and relief) and Gunn – drops it!

But it’s not over.  Ball four and Shrubsole steams in.  Gayakwad is bowled.  Full and straight and the tail-ender plays down the wrong line.

Now it’s over.

And, to coin a phrase, the crowd goes wild.

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All the way through it had been India’s to lose – what a game they played.  And at the last minute Anya Shrubsole had taken it from them.  A great match and a fitting finale to a fine tournament.  As I said at the beginning, many words have already been written – some going into ridiculous hyperbole.  Will this tournament change the face, the perception, of women’s cricket?  I don’t know.  But if that crowd, the TV and radio audience are anything to go by, it will.   Already we now know that there will be new honours boards for women at Lord’s.  What else is to come?

0 out of 10 for the MCC Members, by the way, who couldn’t be bothered to turn out – so startlingly obvious in a full ground.  Where were you “chaps”?

We stayed for quite a while afterwards to watch the celebrations and to see the team greet friends and family in the stands.  The joy is something I will never forget.

And finally, many congratulations to England’s Lacrosse team who won a brilliant bronze medal at the Lacrosse World Cup at the weekend, beating Australia in overtime through a golden goal from Megan Whittle.

Women’s Sports Column 8-13 July 2017

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

So let’s crack on.

Lacrosse

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

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

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

A brief history:

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

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

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

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

Pool B
Italy
Hong Kong
Haudenosaunee
Korea
Switzerland

Pool C
Israel
Netherlands
Czech Republic
China
Belgium

Pool D
Japan
Germany
Latvia
Spain
Mexico

Pool E
New Zealand
Ireland
Sweden
Colombia

Wow – that’s some worldwide spread!

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

England 12-6 Wales

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

There, I’ve done my best!

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

Tennis

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

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

Women’s Singles

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

Women’s Doubles

The semi-final line-up is:

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

Mixed Doubles

The semi-final line-up is:

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

Wheelchair Singles

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

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

Football

On the Pitch

Scotland 1-0 Republic of Ireland

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

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

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

Off the Pitch

Lewes FC

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

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

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

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

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

Toni Duggan

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

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

Yeovil Town Ladies FC

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

Her successor has not yet been named.

Rugby Union

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

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

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

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

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

Kazan Sevens

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

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

Match 17

All too easy for New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

Match 18

Another Van Niekerk masterclass does for India’s top batters

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

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

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

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

Match 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 20

West Indies chalk up their first win

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

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

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

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

Match 21

West Indies win again as rain hits Leicester

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

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

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

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

Match 22

South Africa ease past Sri Lanka

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

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

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

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

Match 23

Indian total never a problem for Australia at Bristol

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

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

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

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

Match 24

Sciver does it again as England too strong for New Zealand

England v New Zealand
Derby
England won the toss and batted

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

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

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

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

It was a good team performance by England.

Sports Politics

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

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

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

Netball

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

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

England

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

Wales

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

Scotland

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

Northern Ireland

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

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

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

Hockey

Hockey World League semi-final – Johannesburg

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

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

And finally

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

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

Women’s Sports Column 17-23 June 2017

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

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

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

Football

Signings – WSL

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

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

Indian Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italian Football

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

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

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

England Football

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

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

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

Spacey said:

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

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

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

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

Gender Prize Money Gap

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

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

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

Rugby Union

New Zealand 21-29 England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sevens

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loughborough Lightning (Rugby!)

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

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

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

In a press release from the University Edwards said,

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

Boxing

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

She fights Monika Antonik of Poland.

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

Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Several women have been awarded honours this June:

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

Athletics

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

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

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

Formula 1

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

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

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

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

Tennis

Johanna Konta

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

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

Other British scores:

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

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

Birmingham quarter-finals

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

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

Victoria Azarenka

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

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

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

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

Injuries

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

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

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

Daily Telegraph 20 most influential women in sport

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two other World Cup snippets:

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

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

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

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

And Finally

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

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

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

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

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