Women’s Sports Column 16-22 March 2019

curlingWelcome to this week’s column.  Back with a vengeance this week with stories from rugby union, netball, football, hockey, cycling, cricket, winter sports and tennis.

Rugby Union

Six Nations
England retained their Six Nations championship title at the weekend, winning the Grand Slam as they crushed Scotland in their final match, 80-0.  An improving Italy finished second in the table as they beat France on Sunday and Wales beat Ireland.

16 March
England 80-0 Scotland

The Red Roses scored their first try of 12 after just two minutes when flanker Sarah Beckett went over.

Jess Breach scored a second four minutes later, and after 12 minutes they were three up through Natasha Hunt.  Breach scored her second on 17 minutes and so after 20 minutes England were already 26-0 up.

Kelly Smith scored England’s fifth after a fine scrum and the bonus point was already secured.

Poppy Cleall then went over and it was 40-0.  Things then went from bad to worse for Scotland as their captain Lisa Thomson was yellow-carded.

England took advantage of the extra player and Amy Cockayne made it seven tries before half-time.

After the break, with Scotland still down to 14, England piled on the pressure.  Prop Sarah Bern and captain Sarah Hunter both going over before Thomson’s return.

The other tries came from Emily Scarratt, Cleall with a second and second-half replacement Cath O’Donnell.

Katy Daley-McLean was in excellent form with the boot, slotting nine conversions and Scarratt added one right at the end.

17 March
Wales 24-5 Ireland

Ireland went into the lead after 13 minutes with a try from Beibhinn Parsons, but this was to be their only score.

Wales were level five minutes later through Jess Kavanagh.

Siwan Lillicrap was sin-binned for a high tackle for the home side, but Wales didn’t buckle, instead taking the initiative and did not concede in the ten minute period.

Once they were back to 15, Wales scored through Carys Phillips and they were in the lead.

In the second-half Wales scored two more tries through Beth Lewis and Jasmine Joyce, the latter securing the bonus point for the home side.

Italy 31-12 France

Italy capped a fine Six Nations with another excellent performance against France, which gave them second spot in the table.

The home side opened the scoring on 20 minutes through Sofia Stefan.

France levelled shortly before half-time as Caroline Boujard ran in from a Pauline Bourdon pass.

But Italy weren’t finished as Michela Sillari put over a penalty and the Azzure went in 8-5 ahead.

After the break, Sillari slotted another penalty as Coumba Diallo was sin-binned for France.  Then Italy went over again through hooker Melissa Bettoni.

Sillari’s third penalty made it 21-5 to Italy.

France rallied to score their second try through Ian Jason, which was converted by Jessy Trémoulière.

But Italy were not to be outdone and scored a fourth through Manuela Furlan, securing the bonus point and second place.

Cricket

England v Sri Lanka

England completed a 3-0 ODI series win over Sri Lanka this week.  Sorry, no time for reports, but here are the details:

First ODI
England 331/7 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 159/8 (40 overs, target 314)
England won by 154 runs by D/L method

Nat Sciver scored 93 and Amy Jones 79.

Second ODI
Sri Lanka 187/9 (50 overs)
England 188/4 (33.4/50 overs)
England won by 6 Wickets with 99 balls remaining

Alex Hartley took 3/36 from 10 overs.  Amy Jones top scored for England with 54.

Third ODI
Sri Lanka 174 all out (50 overs)
England 177/2 (26.1/50 overs)
England won by 8 wickets with 143 balls remaining

Amy Jones top scored with 76 – that’s three half centuries in three games.  Tammy Beaumont scored 63.

There are three T20s to come: 24, 26, 28 March.

Tennis

Indian Wells

There was a surprise winner at Indian Wells last weekend as wildcard Bianca Andreescu defeated Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4.

Andreescu had three match points on her serve, but was eventually broken as Kerber brought it back to be just 5-4 behind.

But then Andreescu produced some of her best tennis to break the German back and take the match.

Football – on the Pitch

Champions’ League Quarter-finals First Leg
Chelsea 2-0 Paris St Germain

Goals from Hannah Blundell and Erin Cuthbert see Chelsea take a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their quarter-final which takes place in Paris on 27 March.

FA Cup Quarter-finals

Durham 0-1 Chelsea
Ji So-yun’s goal was enough to see holders Chelsea through to the semi-finals of this year’s FA Cup.

Manchester City 3-0 Liverpool

Janine Beckie scored the first for City in the first-half and they went into the break 1-0 up.  In the second-half, Georgia Stanway, on as substitute for Beckie, scored their second and added a third late on to see them through convincingly.

Reading 2-1 Manchester United
Neither side could make the decisive breakthrough in 90 minutes and the tie went to extra time.

United took the lead through and Alex Greenwood penalty, but Remi Allen equalised to make it 1-1.  Fara Williams looked to have won it for Reading as she scored direct from a corner, but it was ruled out for an infringement in the box.

But Reading didn’t give up and got their reward in the 120th minute when substitute and Iceland international Rakel Honnudottir scored from close range.

Aston Villa 0-1 West Ham
Scotland forward Jane Ross scored the only goal of the game to take West Ham through to the semi-finals.

Semi-Final Draw

Manchester City v Chelsea
Reading v West Ham United

Ties will be played on Sunday 14 April.

Spanish League
I couldn’t let this go by without a mention.  On Sunday, the crowd for the Liga Feminina match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid drew a crowd of 60,739.  I feel like I should write that out in words, sixty thousand, seven hundred and thirty-nine people.

Barcelona won the game 2-0 with goals from Asisat Oshoala and England’s own Toni Duggan.

Atletico are top of the table with 66 points from 24 games.  Barcelona are three points behind in second on 63.  Levante are third, way back on 51.

Football – off the Pitch
Women’s Super League BIG News

I hope you’ve all heard and digested this news already, but I couldn’t leave it out, could I?

At last, I say at last, the Women’s Super League is to have its first ever title sponsor.

Barclays have committed to a deal to the tune of what is thought to be in excess of £10m over three years.

The FA is, unsurprisingly, pleased with itself, calling it “the biggest ever investment in UK women’s sport by a brand.”

The WSL will be known as the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and there will be £500,000 of prize money at the end of the season.

Barclays will also be the lead partner of the FA Girls Football School Partnerships which aims to improve the availability of football to girls in schools.

We’re always using the term “game changer”, but this probably is.  Now trying telling us women’s football isn’t worth anything.  No business invests in a “useless” product.

And backwards we go…

However, it’s not woo-hoo all the way this week:

Yeovil Town

It has been reported this week that Yeovil may go back to being part-time at the end of the season.

They have already made three off-field personnel redundant.

The FA is believed to be trying to support them through this crisis but even if they avoid relegation (they are currently bottom of the league and five points away from safety), they may be demoted if they cannot assure the FA that their financial future is secure.

I hope there’s an answer to all this – I don’t want to see Yeovil go the way of Notts County.

Sophie Jones

There was a second unwelcome story this week as Sheffield United forward Sophie Jones was found guilty of racially abusing Tottenham Hotspur’s Renee Hector.

Jones has consistently denied the allegations, but has had her contract terminated by Sheffield United.   She has been suspended for five matches, fined £200 and must go on an educational course.

2023 World Cup

I know we’ve still got a World Cup to come this year, but the quest to hold the 2023 version is now underway.  And does it seem that countries are seeing the potential of women’s football at last?  A record nine countries have expressed an interest in hosting the event.  They are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.  Apparently North and South Korea are also looking at making a joint bid.

The closing date for expressions of interest is 16 April.  More news as it happens.

Winter Sports

Skiing

On Sunday Mikaela Shiffrin of the USA became the first skier to win World Cup titles in overall, slalom, giant slalom and super-G in the same season.

She completed the set in Andorra when she won the giant slalom in 23.17 seconds, beating Alice Robinson of New Zealand into second.  She had already won the super-G earlier at the event.

Curling

Women’s Curling World Championships
The Championships which is currently taking place in Silkeborg in Denmark, runs from 16-24 March.  We are currently at the round robin stage.

The defending champions are Canada and those taking part in addition to Canada are USA, Korea, Switzerland, Japan, China, Finland, Latvia, Scotland, hosts Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Germany.

We are nearly at the end of the round robin stage with the qualification games (3 v 6 and 4-5), semi-finals, bronze medal game and gold medal game taking place this weekend.

So far Sweden, Russia and Korea have qualified for the play-offs.  There are three places still up for grabs with Switzerland, China and the United States in prime position.  Scotland, unfortunately, will not be amongst them having won four and lost seven of their matches.

Cycling
Para-cycling Track World championships

Great Britain’s para-cyclists had a good event.

Sophie Thornhill and pilot Helen Scott won two golds: in the B 500m Time Trial and the B sprint.

Kadeena Cox won gold in the C4 500m Time Trial and Sarah Storey took silver in the C5 version of this event.  Katie Toft took silver in the C1 version, but only gold was awarded.

Sarah Storey also won two golds; in the C5 Individual Pursuit and C5 Scratch Race.  Crystal lane-Wright took silver in the same Scratch Race.

Lora Fachie won bronze in the B Individual Pursuit.

Volleyball

Super League Top 5
16 March
London Orcas 3-0 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21, 25-16, 25-12)
TeamBU Wessex 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (18-25, 17-25, 21-25)

Tendring are top with 36 points from 14 matches.  Durham Palatinates are a point behind with 35 from 13.

Super League Bottom 4
16 March
Sheffield Hallam 2-3 Polonia SideOut London (25-21, 17-25, 25-20, 14-25, 7-15)

Sheffield top the bottom four table with 16 points from 12 matches.

17 March
Bristol VC1 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (25-19, 25-23, 26-24)

Netball

What a fixture to be live on Sky this week!  Lightning beat leaders Wasps in a thrilling match, by one point.  The winner was scored by Mary Cholhok with just four seconds remaining on the clock.  Brilliant stuff from Loughborough as Wasps suffered only their second defeat of the season.

Last weekend’s Vitality Super League were as follows:

Saturday 16 March
Team Bath 56-50 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 53-44 Strathclyde Sirens
Saracens Mavericks 49-57 Manchester Thunder

Monday 18 March
Loughborough Lightning 60-59 Wasps Netball

Manchester Thunder have taken over at the top and are in ominous form.  They have the slightest goal average advantage over Wasps in second.  Both teams have 24 points from 10 games.  Saracens Mavericks are third with 21 and Loughborough Lightning are fourth, also on 21.  At the bottom, London Pulse still have only one win and three points.  Strathclyde Sirens are above them with six points and two wins.

Round 11 is this weekend:

Friday 22 March
Team Bath v Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm)

Saturday 23 March
Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball (5pm)
Severn Stars v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Surrey Storm (6pm)

Monday 25 March
Celtic Dragons v London Pulse (7pm, Live on Sky Sports)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

16 March results:
Canterbury 2-1 East Grinstead
University of Birmingham 0-1 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 1-4 Surbiton
Slough 0-0 Beeston
Buckingham 0-2 Holcombe

All teams have played 16 games.  Holcombe are top with 35 points, Surbiton second a point behind and East Grinstead are third with 28.  At the bottom, Canterbury have eight points.  Just above them are Slough on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures:

23 March
Buckingham v University of Birmingham (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Surbiton v Slough (1pm, Surbiton HC, water)
Beeston v Canterbury (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
East Grinstead v Bowdon (2pm, East Grinstead HC)
Holcombe v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Holcombe HC, P1)

FIH Pro League

There have been four games over the last week:

Saturday 16 March
Australia 0-1 Argentina

Sunday 17 March
Australia 1-3 New Zealand

Thursday 21 March
China 0-1 Argentina

Friday 22 March
China 5-3 New Zealand

Different teams have played different numbers of games, but currently Netherlands are top with a points percentage of 80.0 from five games.  Argentina are second with 76.2 from seven games and Belgium are third on 66.7, but have played only three games.  Great Britain are eighth with a points percentage of 22.2 from just three games.

And Finally,

Big, big news in sports media this week as the Daily Telegraph finally put its money where its mouth is and announced its first Women’s Sports Editor, the completely excellent Anna Kessel.  It’s not often I have cause to praise the Telegraph, but this move is a brilliant one and will hopefully cause many other news outlets to follow suit.  It has already signed up Dina Asher-Smith as a columnist.

You can read the full story, and its “manifesto” here

You will know that I have an issue with the “ghettoising” of women’s sport – do we give it its own space, far away from everything else, so those offended (and there are still plenty), do not have to view it (although they will still comment anyway)?  Or do we mix it in with everything else because essentially “sport is sport”.  It’s a difficult one, but at the moment the issue is that there’s little coverage at all.  Not in a ghetto, not on its own page, not anywhere (starting to sound a bit like Dr Seuss there).  So, let’s get it in there first.  Let’s get it its own pages, web page and identity and see where we go from there.

Come on, all you other media outlets, get with it.  You know it’s going to be big – AT LONG LAST.  Don’t get left behind.  If consumers don’t get what they want from their coverage of women’s sport, they will vote with their paper-buying, website-viewing feet.

And, and Finally,

Go for it, Tayla Harris.  Need I say more?

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 March 2019

the-ball-stadion-horn-corner-47343Welcome to this week’s column.  So much to get through this week and no prizes for guessing, with publication day due to be 8 March, that my “And Finally” may well have a flavour of IWD19 about it.  And why not – this column is all about celebrating the sporting achievement of women so let’s shout about it, enjoy it and be inspired!

Stories and news this week come from athletics, golf, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, tennis, football, volleyball, netball, hockey and cycling.

Let’s crack on….

Football

SheBelieves Cup

Only one place to start, this week!  England’s Lionesses have claimed their first SheBelieves Cup.  They finished top of the table on seven points with two wins over Brazil and Japan and a draw under their belts they went one better than the runners-up spot achieved last year.

One note of caution, though, before we all go “It’s Coming home” and Phil Neville starts donning a waistcoat and growing designer stubble; the Japan side was very young and without its established stars and Brazil will also undoubtedly come out stronger in the World Cup.

But let’s not deny England their moment.  It was an impressive tournament performance that bodes well for this summer in France.

USA 2-2 England
The home side took the lead in the first-half through a Megan Rapinoe volley.  The Lionesses hit back almost immediately.  They were awarded an indirect free-kick on the left-hand side of the penalty area.  Up stepped Steph Houghton, bending it prodigiously round the wall and into the far corner.

In the second-half, England stepped it up again and took the lead on 52 minutes when Nikita Parris hit home from a pinpoint Fran Kirby through ball.

But they couldn’t withstand the pressure of the USA’s set pieces and Tobin Heath scored from a corner.

Japan 3-1 Brazil
It looked to be heading for stalemate in the first-half until Yuka Momiki scored in the 44th minute to take Japan 1-0 up at the break.

On the resumption, Debinha equalised for Brazil, but two goals in the last ten minutes, from Rikako Kobayahi and Yui Hasegawa saw Japan take the points.

Japan 0-3 England
A blistering first-half performance by the Lionesses saw them go in three-nil up and cruising.  All that was left after the break was to defend the lead and take both the points and the trophy.

Lucy Staniforth scored the first after 12 minutes.  On 23, Karen Carney doubled the lead with a close range header.  On the half-hour, England scored their third, and pick of the goals, when Keira Walsh picked out the excellent Beth Mead with a fabulous long-range pinpoint cross-field pass (and it was, folks, not a “hit and hope” as some kind gentleman on the BBC comments called it).  Mead cut in field and produced a fine finish to seal it before half-time.

Japan pressed in the second-half and deserved a goal, but were unable to break through the England defence.

The only downside for England was a serious-looking injury to Izzy Christiansen, who limped off in the first-half.

USA 1-0 Brazil
A goal from Tobin Heath after 20 minutes was enough for the hosts to seal victory against Brazil, who ended the tournament pointless.

Brazil had marginally more possession in the match, but only three shots on target throughout.

Algarve Cup

Scotland 0-1 Canada
Scotland were 10 minutes away from what would have been a fine draw against Canada when Chloe Arthur brought down Ashley Lawrence in the box and Christine Sinclair scored from the resultant penalty.

Iceland 1-4 Scotland
After their narrow loss to Canada, Scotland won their second group match comfortably.  Lizzie Arnot started the scoring on 14 minutes.  Erin Cuthbert got a second on 33 and Kim Little made it three on 56 minutes.  Iceland pulled one back through Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir a minute later, but the comeback was never really on and Scotland made it certain with a fourth and Arnot’s second on 66 minutes.

The win ensured that Scotland finished second in their group and played for fifth place:

Scotland 1-0 Denmark
Scotland secured fifth place through a Jane Ross goal on 35 minutes.

The final:
Poland 0-3 Norway
Norway were convincing winners over Poland in the final.   They took the lead on 24 minutes through Isabell Herlovsen and went into half-time with that lead.  In the second-half Caroline Graham Hansen made it two on 65 minutes and the third came nine minutes later through Karina Saevik.

Norway dominated with 61 per cent possession and 26 shots to Poland’s eight.

Rugby Union

Just a quick reminder, if one were needed, that it’s round 4 of the Six Nations this weekend.  The fixtures and kick-off times are as follows:

Friday 8 March
Scotland v Wales (Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm)

Saturday 9 March
England v Italy (Sandy Park, 12.05pm)
Ireland v France (Donnybrook, 7pm)

Rugby League

The 2019 rugby league Super League, Championship and League 1 fixtures were all announced today, 8 March.

In the first round of the Super League, champions Wigan Warriors will be at home to St Helens.

Super League newcomers, Wakefield Trinity, will be away to Leeds Rhinos, while York City Knights will face Castleford Tigers and Bradford Bulls are at home to Featherstone Rovers.

All three leagues will start on 7 April and end on 29 September.  The Super League and Championship will then to into top four play-offs.

Rugby league is a great and much underrated product.  Check out https://www.rugby-league.com/leagues__competitions/womens_rugby_league

for more details of venues, kick-off times and live streaming.

Athletics

European Indoor Championships

There were some good performances by Great Britain’s female athletes over the weekend.

Laura Muir was star of the show completing her second successive European Indoors double claiming 3000m and 1500m gold.  Melissa Courtney took bronze in the 3000m.

Katerina Johnson-Thompson and Niamh Emerson made it a British one-two in the pentathlon.

Shelayne Oskan-Clarke won the 800m.

Holly Bradshaw took silver in the pole vault and the women’s 4 x400m team also took silver.

Asha Philip took bronze in the 60m.

Great Britain’s four golds were all won by women.

Cycling

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Race

I think the best we can call it is a massive failure in organisation.  You’ll all have seen the story, but it doesn’t get any better on re-reading.  The women’s part of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race in Belgium was halted last week after the breakaway leader Nicole Hanselmann almost caught up with the back of the men’s race.

The men started 10 minutes before the women.  Hanselmann caught up with the men’s support vehicles after 35km.

She was stopped and the race was, horrible term, “neutralised” so that the gap could be created again.  At that point she had a lead over the peloton of two minutes.

When she was finally allowed to carry on, she was allowed to build a lead before the peloton was released.  But she was soon caught and in the end could finish only 74th.

I’m not saying Hanselmann would have won the women’s race but stopping her certainly ended her momentum and gave the chasers hope.

There was also a real risk of injury to riders who were potentially coming into contact with support vehicles.

The cynic in me says it was highly embarrassing for the organisers to see the women so close.

Golf

Women’s World Championship

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed the World Championship title in Singapore on Sunday.  She finished on -15, two ahead of Minjee Lee of Australia, with J-Y Ko of South Korea in third, two shots further back.

World number one Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand was one shot ahead going into the final round, but finished with a 75 to end on -8 and in joint eighth place.

Top British finisher was Jodi Ewart Shadoff who carded a fourth round 73 to finish on -8, also in a share of eighth place.

Park was not on the leaderboard going into the final found, but came up with nine birdies and one bogey to storm to the title.

Of the other British players, Bronte Law finished on -1, Georgia Hall on +2, Charley Hull +10 and Catriona Matthew on +15.

Cricket

First T20
England 160/4 (20 overs)
India 119/6 (20 overs)
England won by 41 runs

England posted a good total thanks to 62 from Tammy Beaumont and an opening partnership of 89 with Danni Wyatt and a storming 40 from 20 balls from captain Heather Knight.

Shikha Pandey (1/18 from four) and Poonam Yadav (2/33 from four) were the pick of the Indian bowlers, but the rest of the bowling attack was poor.

In response, the England bowlers were lively with none of the first four batters getting into double figures with the home side at one stage 46/5.  Dipti Sharma and Shikha Pandey offered the only resistance, finishing on 22 not out and 23 not out respectively, but India were always going to fall well short.

Katherine Brunt took 2/21 in her four overs and Linsey Smith 2/22 from her allocation.

Second T20
India 111/8 (20 overs)
England 114/5 (19.1 overs)
England won by 5 wickets with 5 balls remaining

India have not been at the races in this T20 series.  They are, undoubtedly, missing injured captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana is yet to grow into captaincy.  And yet, to some extent England made hard work of the chase – sometimes an issue when the target is a low one.

A few players got a start for India, but no-one went on to make a telling score, neither was there a decent partnership.  Top scorer was Mithali Raj, who has come in for some criticism this series for appearing uninterested, with 20.

Katherine Brunt took 3/17 off her four overs and Linsey Smith an impressive 2/11 off three.

Danni Wyatt made a fine 64 from 55 balls, leading from the front for England.  Tammy Beaumont went cheaply for just eight, with Jones, Sciver and Knight all failing to get into double figures.  When Knight fell they were 56/4.

But Lauren Winfield’s 29 steadied the ship and eventually England got over the line with five balls to spare.

They now have an unassailable 2-0 series lead, but will be looking to complete the whitewash in the last match, which is on Saturday 9 March.

Cricket – off the Pitch

England injuries

England, meanwhile are racking up a number of injuries, most of which seem to be stress fractures of the back.  Georgia Elwiss is the latest to be so diagnosed and is flying home from the tour.  This makes three players suffering with stress fractures, the other two being Kirstie Gordon and Katie George.  Sophie Ecclestone broke a hand whilst out in India and Laura Marsh is still doubtful with a side strain.

Lord’s Honours Board

Some good news.  There are now new honours boards at Lord’s for women’s performances in ODIs.

Centuries and five-wicket halls will be listed.

Anya Shrubsole’s 6/46 in the World Cup final in 2017 will be on.  Centuries by Claire Taylor, Sarah Taylor, Caroline Atkins and Lisa Keightley of Australia will be listed as will Katherine Brunt for her bowling.

Tennis

Mexico Open

In the semi-finals of the singles, the unseeded Wang Yafan defeated third seed Donna Vekic 2-6 6-3 6-1.  The other semi went to fifth seed Sofia Kenin, who overcame the unseeded Bianca Andreescu also in three sets 6-4 3-6 7-5.

Wang Yafan went on to beat Sofia Kenin in the final 2-6 6-3 7-5.

In the doubles, after a monster semi-final which went to 13-11 in the third against Maria Sanchez and Sharon Fichman, Zheng Saisai and Victoria Azarenka went on to a much easier win in the final, defeating Desirae Krawczyk and Giuliana Olmos 6-1 6-2.

Indian Wells

We’re still in the early stages at Indian Wells with some first round ties still to be completed.

There was a straight sets win for Jo Konta in the first round, beating Pauline Parmentier 6-2 6-3.  She plays 27th seed Hsieh Su-wei later on 8 March in the second round.

Netball

Last weekend’s Netball Super League results:

Friday 1 March
Team Bath 60-56 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 2 March
Surrey Storm 46-48 Celtic Dragons
Loughborough Lightning 56-51 London Pulse
Wasps Netball 61-34 Strathclyde Sirens

Monday 4 March
Severn Stars 46-64 Saracens Mavericks

Wasps remain top with seven wins from seven and 21 points.  Mavericks are second with 18 and Thunder and Lightning (!) on 15.  At the bottom, Pulse have three points.  Above them are the Sirens on 6.

This weekend’s round nine fixtures:

Saturday 9 March
Strathclyde Sirens v Saracens Mavericks (3pm)
Celtic Dragons v Loughborough Lightning (4pm)
Manchester Thunder v Surrey Storm (5pm)

Sunday 10 March
Wasps Netball v Severn Stars (4pm)

Monday 11 March
London Pulse v Team Bath (7.30pm, Live on Sky Sports)

Volleyball

Women’s Super League Top 5 result:
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 London Orcas (25-10, 25-22, 25-23)

Durham Palatinates are still top with 12 wins from 12 matches and 35 points.  Tendring VC Ladies are second on 30 from the same number of games.

Women’s Super League Bottom 4 results:

Sunday 3 March
Sheffield Hallam 3-0 Bristol VC1 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17)
Polonia SideOut London 3-1 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 25-20)

Sheffield Hallam are top with five wins and five losses from 10 games.  They have 15 points.  Behind them are Polonia SideOut London with nine points from 10 games.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

2 March
Buckingham 6-2 Canterbury
Nottingham 0-5 East Grinstead
University of Birmingham 1-0 Surbiton
Bowdon 1-2 Clifton Robinsons
Holcombe 4-1 Slough

Surbiton’s patchy form continues and Holcombe are top with 31 points, three points ahead of Surbiton.  East Grinstead are third on 25.  At the bottom, Canterbury have five points and Slough are just above them on nine.  All teams have played 14 games.

This weekend’s fixtures:

9 March
Slough v Clifton Robinsons (12.30pm Slough HC)
Bowdon v Holcombe (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Beeston v Buckingham (2pm, Nottingham Hockey P1)
East Grinstead v University of Birmingham (4pm, East Grinstead HC)
Surbiton v Canterbury (4pm, Surbiton HC Water)

Hockey – off the Pitch

There was disappointment for Irish hockey this week as women’s coach Graham Shaw resigned in order to take up a similar post with New Zealand.

Shaw was appointed in 2015 after serving as assistant to Darren Smith and took Ireland’s women to a stunning silver medal at the World Cup in 2018.

And Finally,

In case you missed it, today (Friday 8 March) is International Women’s Day.  Now there seems to be a day for just about everything, and I don’t tend to pay much attention, but this one I think is important and I’m so glad it falls on a Friday this year so that my blog can be my offering towards it.

I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t think things needed to change and I thought you could access your women’s sports fix in one place.  I wouldn’t be writing it if I thought all was fine and dandy in the world of women’s sport and we didn’t have to suffer vile levels of abuse just for daring to play/administrate/referee/write about/have views on the thing we love.

Similarly, I don’t suppose you’d be reading it if you felt you had adequate access to women’s sports stories elsewhere.

So to all of you who love sport of any kind, women’s or men’s (or both, for crying out loud), this is for you.  Stand up for women’s sport, shout down the abuse, be an advocate for those currently in sport and for those little girls looking for role models and careers in the future.

And one day, maybe, we’ll get there.

No column next week as I’m out and about. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 23 February – 1 March 2019

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  With new and competing claims on my time during the week, it may mean that my future columns are somewhat contracted.  I will endeavour to keep up the breadth of coverage, but please bear with me if some of the items may be in less detail.

Having said that, no problems this week and there’s plenty to get through.  Stories this week come from netball, hockey, rugby union, golf, athletics, cycling, football, volleyball, tennis and cricket.

So let’s crack on…

Rugby Union

Another good win for England, plus a first win for Italy over Ireland and a better performance from France in the third round of the Six Nations.

Wales 12-51 England

England had claimed the bonus point by the 26 minute mark.  Prop Sarah Bern scored the first after just two minutes.  Jess Breach went over shortly afterwards making it 0-12.

Then Marlie Packer burst through from a maul after a lineout for the third and Bern went over again for her second and England’s fourth and the bonus point with the score 0-24.

On 30 minutes Breach claimed her second try taking it to 0-29.

Five minutes before half-time, Wales hit back with their first try against England since 2016.  Keira Bevan made the break before the ball got to Jess Kavanagh who crossed the whitewash to score.  The score at the break was 5-29.

The home side started the second-half with renewed vigour.  They applied pressure and had most of the possession in the first 15 minutes, but were unable to score.

When England finally got back into it, Bern went over but the try was disallowed for a knock-on.  Shortly afterwards, Cath O’Donnell went over to take the score to 5-34.

There were further England tries from Abby Dow and Sarah Beckett and the score was then 5-46.

But Wales still had something to add.  Cerys Hale went over after sustained pressure to make it 12-46.

England rounded it off with a Katy Daley-Mclean try to make the final score 12-51.

Italy 29-27 Ireland

Italy recorded their first ever win over Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

The home side took the lead after just three minutes through a Michela Sillari penalty.  Four minutes later they scored their first try though Aura Muzzo, which Sillari converted.

Ireland hit back on 11 minutes with a try from Eimear Considine.  But the come-back short-lived as Italy went over just three minutes later through Giada Franco, converted by Sillari to make it 17-5.

Then Ireland had a sustained period of pressure.  Considine went over for her second, which was converted by Nicole Fowley.  Just after the half-hour the visitors were awarded a penalty that Considine duly slotted.  And then with just five minutes to go before the break, Ireland scored another try, this time through Anna Caplice.  Fowley kicked the conversion and it seemed that Ireland were bound to go into the break 22-17 up.

But Italy were having none of it.  On 39 minutes Sofia Stefan went over to score Italy’s third and with Sillari missing the conversion, the half-time score was 22-22.

Five minutes into the second-half, Franco went over for her second try, which was converted by Sillari to take the score to 29-22.  Laura Sheehan scored for Ireland on 64, but the conversion was missed.  It was this miss that was to prove decisive and with no further scoring the result was 29-27.

France 41-10 Scotland

Could France hit back after their mauling by England in the last round?  Yes, they could.  They made a nervous start, but soon began to dominate up front with the Scottish scrum unable to cope with the power.

Gabrielle Vernier went over for France’s first, with Pauline Bourdon their second to make it 10-0.

Scotland hit back through Rhona Lloyd and with 12 minutes to go before half-time the arrears were reduced to 10-5.

France, however, had other ideas and went over twice more before the break.  Vernier went in for her second and right on half-time Doriane Constanty went in to secure the bonus point for the home side and a lead of 24-5.

Vernier scored her hat-trick try 13 minutes after the resumption.  Then replacement Caroline Boujard started a move in her own half and was then on the end to finish it to go over and take the score to 36-5.

Emma Wassell went over for Scotland on 67 minutes, but the last word went to France when Lea Murie went over again to take the final score to 41-10.

Round Four is in two weeks:

Friday 8 March
Scotland v Wales (19.35, Scotstoun Stadium, BBC Alba & BBC Wales)

Saturday 9 March
England v Italy (12.05, Sandy Park)
Ireland v France (19.00 GMT, Energia Park, Donnybrook)

Golf

The second round of the Women’s World Championship in Singapore has been completed.

Amy Olson of the US leads on -7.  She is two ahead of five players; Azahara Munoz (Esp), Inbee Park (Kor), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (Eng), Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), and Minjee Lee (Aus).

Of the other British players Georgia Hall (Eng) is level, Charley Hull (Eng) is +1, Bronte Law (Eng) 3+ and Catriona Matthew (Sco) +8.

Defending champion, Michelle Wie of the US, had to withdraw during the first round due to an ongoing wrist problem.

Athletics

The European Indoor Championships begin today (Friday 1 March) and continue through the weekend.   The event is taking place in Glasgow and there is plenty of coverage via the BBC on BBC2, BBC4 and online.  Results and stories in next week’s column.

Cycling

The Track World Championships are also in full swing in Pruszkow, Poland.

After GB took silver to Australia in the team pursuit, Laura Kenny, who was due to race in the omnium today (Friday), pulled out through illness.  Katie Archibald (not a bad replacement!) will take her place.

Scratch Race 10km

Elinor Barker took gold for Great Britain in a time of 12:49.000, Kirsten Wild of Netherlands took silver and Jolien D’hoore of Belgium, bronze.

Team Pursuit

Australia (Ashlee Ankudinoff, Georgia Baker, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson) took gold by two tenths of a second, Great Britain (Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson) took silver and New Zealand took bronze.

Team Sprint

Australia took gold, Russia the silver and Germany the bronze.

Netball

Last weekend’s Super League results:

Friday 22 February
Strathclyde Sirens 37-56 Severn Stars
Team Bath 46-57 Wasps Netball

Saturday 23 February
Surrey Storm 50-66 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 25 February
Saracens Mavericks 65-37 London Pulse
Celtic Dragons 56-83 Manchester Thunder

Wasps are yet to drop a point and lie top with six wins from six and 18 points.  Mavericks are second with 15 from seven, Thunder are just below them on 15 from 6 with an inferior goal average.  At the bottom, Pulse have three points.  Above them are the Sirens and Dragons with six.

Next weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 1 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 March
Surrey Storm v Celtic Dragons (6.00pm)
Loughborough Lightning v London Pulse (6.00pm)
Wasps Netball v Strathclyde Sirens (7.00pm)

Monday 4 March
Severn Stars v Saracens Mavericks (7.00pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Tennis – on the Court

Last weekend’s tournament results:

Dubai Open

Both semi-finals went to three sets, with one seed losing to their unseeded opponent, and one getting through. In the first, Belinda Bencic knocked out sixth seed Elina Svitolina 6-2 3-6 7-6, while in the second, Petra Kvitova, seeded two, defeated Hsieh Su-wei 3-6 6-2 6-4.

The final also went to three sets with the Swiss player, Bencic, defying the odds to take the victory against Kvitova 6-3 1-6 6-2.

Hungarian Open

Meanwhile, top seed Alison Van Uytvanck beat eighth seed Markéta Vondroušová in the final, 1-6 7-5 6-2.

There was also a welcome return to form and fitness for Heather Watson in the doubles.  She reached the final with partner Fanny Stollar, and were seeded three, but they lost the final to unseeded pairing Ekaterina Alexandrova and Vera Zvonareva 4-6 6-4 10-7.

This week some of the top players have been in action at the Mexican Open:

Jo Konta, seeded eight, had a good run, going out in the quarter-finals to third seed Donna Vekic 6-3 7-5.

We are now at the semi-final stage:

Wang Yafan v Donna Vekic (3)
Bianca Andreescu v Sofia Kenin (5)

The semi-finals of the doubles looks like this:

Renata Voráčová/Cornelia Lister v Giuliana Olmos/Desirae Krawczyk (3)
Zheng Saisai/Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sanchez/Sharon Fichman

Tennis – off the Court

Fed Cup

It was announced this week that GB’s World Group II play-off against Kazakhstan will be played at the Copper Box in London.

The tie takes place on 20 and 21 April.

If they win, GB will be in World Group II for the first time since 1993.

Tickets go on sale next week.  Check out https://www.lta.org.uk/major-tennis-events/international-events/fed-cup/tickets/ for details.

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova has had surgery on her troublesome right shoulder and withdrawn from the Miami Open.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 23 February:
East Grinstead 2-0 Buckingham
Canterbury 1-2 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 3-0 Beeston
Surbiton 2-0 Holcombe
Slough 2-2 University of Birmingham

Surbiton are top on goal difference.  They and Holcombe have 28 points from 13 games.  East Grinstead are third with 22.  At the bottom, Canterbury have just five points and Slough are above them on nine.

This weekend’s fixtures:

2 March
Beeston v East Grinstead (12 noon, Nottingham Hockey P1)
Buckingham v Canterbury (12 noon, Stowe School P1)
University of Birmingham v Surbiton (1.15pm, Birmingham University P1)
Bowdon v Clifton Robinsons (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Holcombe v Slough (4pm, Holcombe HC P1)

Volleyball

 Last weekend’s results from Women’s Super League Top 5:

Durham Palatinates 3-1 London Orcas (25-19, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16)
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-15, 25-14, 22-25, 23-25, 15-11)

Durham are still top with a perfect 11/11 record and 32 points.  Tendring are second on 27.  TeamBU Wessex are bottom, but have only played 9 games; they have 13 points.

Football

Continental Cup Final
Arsenal 0-0 Manchester city AET
City win 4-2 on penalties

Manchester City claimed their third Conti Cup title on Sunday.

It was a cagey affair with few chances in normal time.  Beth Mead headed wide for Arsenal in the first-half.  Steph Houghton had a header saved and Gemma Bonner couldn’t turn in the rebound.

In the second-half, City were on largely on top with Nikita Paris, Caroline Weir and Parris again all having chances to win it.  In the last minutes Janine Beckie had a great opportunity, but hit the bar with her shot.

And so it went to penalties.  Karen Bardsley saved from Leah Williamson and Danielle van de Donk, before Beckie stepped up to take the decisive spot kick, which she confidently put away and the win was City’s.

Lionesses

England are without Millie Bright and Jill Scott as they have withdrawn from the England squad for the SheBelieves Cup.  Scott was withdrawn, according to the FA, “in order to manage her return to full fitness ahead of this summer’s World Cup”.  Bright is injured.  Chioma Ubogagu of Orlando Pride has been called up as a replacement.

27 February

England 2-1 Brazil

England came from one goal down to claim a fine win against Brazil in their first SheBelieves 2019 match.

England made a slow start and although they had plenty of possession in the first-half, Marta was fouled in the box on 16 minutes and Andressa Alves put Brazil ahead.  Some have called it controversial, but I saw Lucy Bronze’s shoulder barge as a penalty.

In the second-half, the Lionesses were a good deal more on the ball.  Three minutes after the resumption, Ellen White slotted home to equalize.

Beth Mead scored the winner from what was obviously (yes, obviously you knuckle-draggers out there, it was and Mead admitted it) a cross.  Spectacular result and warranted after England’s second-half performance.

28 February

United States 2-2 Japan

It was honours even between the US and Japan in Pennsylvania.

Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring for the US on 23 minutes.  Japan drew level in the second-half through Emi Nakajima.

The US went back ahead on 76 minutes through Alex Morgan, but Japan came back for a second time, equalising in the first minute of injury time through Yuka Momiki.

England’s remaining games are against the USA on 2 March and Japan on 5 March.

It has also been announced that all of England’s World Cup warm-up matches will be broadcast in the UK on the BBC.

Algarve Cup

The Algarve Cup is also in its early stages.

Scores so far:

27 February
Canada 0-0 Iceland
Norway 2-1 Denmark
Sweden 4-1 Switzerland
Spain 2-0 Netherlands

Scotland are in Group A, alongside Canada and Iceland.

Cricket

India claimed the three-match ODI series 2-1 at a canter and without Harmanpreet Kaur.

1st ODI
India 202 all out (49.4/50 overs)
England 136 all out (41/50 overs)
India won by 66 runs

Jemima Rodrigues top-scored with 48, captain Mithali Raj scored 40 and there were contributions from lower down the order Taniya Bhatia (25) and Jhulan Goswami (30)as India posted a decent score of 202.  The England bowlers shared the wickets, Sophie Ecclestone with 2/27 from her 10 overs, being the most economical.

In response, Jones fell early for just one.  Heather Knight and Nat Sciver held the innings together in the middle, scoring 39 not out and 44 respectively, but after Sciver fell, none of the last six got into double figures.  In fact England lost 7/25.  Spinner Ekta Bisht took 4/25 from eight overs.

2nd ODI
England 161 all out (43.3/50 overs)
India 162/3 (41.1/50 overs)
India won by seven wickets

India had no trouble chasing down a small England score in the second ODI.

Nat Sciver top-scored with 85, Lauren Winfield made 28 and Tammy Beaumont 20, but no-one else reached double figures.

The truly awesome Jhulan Goswami took 4/30 in 8.3 overs and Shikha Pandey 4/18 from ten.

India lost only three wickets in their chase.  Rodrigues went for a duck but Mandhana scored 63, Raut 32 and Raj 47 not out to see them home.

3rd ODI
India 205/8 (50 overs)
England 208/8 (48.5/50 overs)
England won by two wickets

England claimed two precious ICC Women’s Championship points in the third ODI, preventing a whitewash in the process.

After Rodgrigues was out for her second duck in two games, there was a stand of 129 between Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut before Mandhana fell for 66.  Katherine Brunt took the first five wickets of the innings and India subsided slightly, but  still managed to make the highest first innings score of the series.

In response, England made a better start even though it was only a partnership of 25 before Amy Jones fell for 13.  For once Nat Sciver (1) did not contribute, but captain Knight (47) and Danni Wyatt (56) made the bulk of the runs, before Georgia Elwiss (33 not out) and Katherine Brunt (18) got them nearly over the line.  Brunt was out with just two needed.  Anya Shrubsole came in and hit her one and only ball for four to win the game.

India deserved this series.  Several England players were significantly under par – most concerningly Sarah Taylor.  It’s on now to the three-match T20 series, which begins on 4 March.  Radio coverage via BBC 5 Live Sports Extra.

Sophie Ecclestone is on her way home with a broken hand.  This adds to a lengthening injury list that includes Laura Marsh (side strain) and Kirstie Gordon (stress fracture of the back).

And Finally,

There’s a fine interview with Kristina Vogel on the BBC website, where she talks with Sir Chris Hoy about the crash that ended her cycling career and how, as she puts it, “I’m in a wheelchair, but it’s not the end of my life.”  Don’t miss it.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/cycling/47407804

Women’s Sports Column 26 January – 1 February 2019

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  So much to get through – where to start, that’s the question!  Stories this week come from cricket, basketball, tennis, football, rugby union, motorsport, cycling and netball.

Better crack on…

Motorsport – W Series

As previously reported, opinion is divided on the new W Series, but whatever you think of it, more than 100 women applied to be a part of it.  The list has been whittled down to 28:

Sarah Bovy (Bel), Jamie Chadwick (UK), Sabré Cook (US), Natalie Decker (US), Marta García (Esp), Megan Gilkes (Can), Grace Gui (Chi), Esmee Hawkey (UK), Jessica Hawkins (UK), Shea Holbrook (US),  Vivien Keszthelyi (Hun), Emma Kimiläinen (Fin), Natalia Kowalska (Pol), Stéphane Kox (Ned), Miki Koyama (Jap), Francesca Linossi (Ita), Milou Mets (Ned), Sarah Moore (UK), Tasmin Pepper (SA), Vittoria Piria (Ita), Alice Powell (UK), Gosia Rdest (Pol), Naomi Schiff (Bel), Shirley van der Lof (Ned), Beitske Visser (Ned), Alexandra Whitley (Aus), Fabienne Wohlwend (Lie), Caitlin Wood Aus).

The 28 will be reduced to a final 18 and two reserves after a four-day test in Formula Three cars in Almeria, Spain in March.

When the W Series finally starts, there will be six rounds:

  1. Hockenheimring, Germany (4-5 May)
  2. Circuit Zolder, Belgium (18-19 May)
  3. Misano World Circuit, Italy (8-9 June)
  4. Norisring, Germany (6-7 July)
  5. TT Circuit Assen, Netherlands (20-21 July)
  6. Brands Hatch, GB (10-11 August)

The eventual winner will pick up $500,000 although there will be prize money right down to eighteenth place.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were:

26 January
Worcester Valkyries 0-24 Loughborough Lightning
Wasps 13-17 Harlequins
Saracens 17-14 Bristol Bears
DMP Sharks 14-8 Firwood Waterloo

27 January
Richmond 26-26 Gloucester-Hartpury

So Saracens go ploughing on and are top with 74 points from 16 games.  Harlequins are second on 67 and Lightning third on 65.  At the bottom, Worcester still have no wins and are on four points.  Firwood Waterloo are above them with 15.

We now break until towards the end of March for the Six Nations.

Six Nations

Happily, the Six Nations is upon us!  Round one is this weekend and the fixtures are as follows:

Friday 1 February
Ireland v England (5pm, Energia Park), Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Scotland v Italy (7.35pm, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow)

Saturday 2 February
France v Wales (8pm, GGL (Altrad) Stadium, Televised on S4C and France Televisions)

England’s new era of professionalism will bring with it the burden of being favourites to win the championship – they will be expected to perform.   It also means that the other five teams will be all the more determined to beat them.

France will be the biggest threat, without a doubt.  They had a great autumn, beating world champions New Zealand in the process.   But Jessy Tremouliere and Caroline Drouin will be unavailable for selection against Wales, having played in Sevens in New Zealand last weekend.

Scotland will be without Jade Konkel and Wales without Sioned Harries – two big losses.

Italy also had a good autumn with wins over Scotland and South Africa.

New Ireland coach, Adam Griggs, has rung the changes with former captain Niamh Briggs left out of the squad.

Whatever happens, it will be fiercely contested.  This is a tournament that deserves more; more media coverage, bigger audiences, more recognition.  If you can find a commentary or broadcast please tune in.  Reports next week.

Volleyball

Women’s Super League Top 5

The first fixtures of the Top 5 took place last weekend:

Malory Eagles UEL 1-3 Durham Palatinates (19-25, 25-16, 22-25, 20-25)
Team BU Wessex 0-3 London Orcas (12-25, 16-25, 24-26)

Palatinates are top with nine wins from nine games and have 26 points.  London Orcas are second with 20 points from nine games.

Basketball

WBBL Cup

Sheffield Hatters won the WBBL Cup for the first time at the weekend, beating Sevenoaks Suns in the final 62-60.

Although the Hatters had led for most of the game, including being 12-points ahead in the third quarter, it took a three-pointer in the last throes to win the game.

With just 0.9 seconds to go, Helen Naylor hit the three-pointer to take it from 59-60 to 62-60 to the Hatters.

Netball

It was the third round of the Netball Super League last weekend:

Friday 25 January
Saracens Mavericks 64-51 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 57-40 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 26 January
Manchester Thunder 70-45 Strathclyde Sirens
London Pulse 50-61 Wasps Netball

Monday 28 January
Team Bath 50-56 Surrey Storm

At this early stage, there are four teams with six points at the top; Wasps and Thunder from two games and Mavericks and Bath from three games.  Wasps have the best goal average.  All of the other teams have three points, having won one game each.

It’s round four this weekend and the fixtures are:

Friday 1 February
Team Bath v Severn Stars (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 February
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Strathclyde Sirens (6pm)

Monday 4 February
Celtic Dragons v Saracens Mavericks (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v London Pulse (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Cycling

At the National Track Championships in Manchester last weekend:

Katie Archibald won the women’s pursuit title, her third in a row, beating Neah Evans in the final.  Ellie Dickinson took bronze, beating Manon Lloyd.

Sophie Capewell took the sprint with Jess Crampton taking silver and Katie Archibald the bronze, ahead of Blaine Ridge-Davies.

On the second day of competition, Laura Kenny took the scratch race.  Elinor Barker took silver and Katie Archibald, bronze.

Jess Crampton retained her keirin title, taking gold ahead of Ellie Coster (silver) and Joanna Smith (bronze).

Team Breeze also defended their team pursuit title.  The team, comprising Jess Roberts, Jenny Holl, Becky Raybould and Anna Docherty, beat Team Velotec (Molly Patch, Anna Morris, Sophie Lankford and Jennifer Holden) in the final.  The bronze went to Liv CC – Halo Cycles (Ella Barnwell, Eluned King, Elena Smith and Amelia Sharpe).  They defeated RST/Cycle Division RT by just over a second.

On the final day of the championships, Neah Evans took gold in the points race.  Emily Nelson came second and Katie Archibald claimed another bronze.

Possibly the biggest news of the day came in the team pursuit.  Shanaze Reade, former BMX stalwart who initially retired from the sport in 2017 and has only been back in training for four months, took her first National Track Championships title with partner Blaine Ridge-Davies.  They beat Sophie Capewell and Milly Tanner to take the gold.  Vicky Williamson and Lusia Steele took bronze.

Finally, Ellie Coster (35.311) won the 500m time trial, ahead of Jess Crampton (35.509) and Lucy Grant (35.749).

Tennis

Australian Open

Singles Final

It was a spectacular, emotional final between Naomi Osaka of Japan and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.  It was always going to be so; Osaka going for back-to-back Grand Slams after the mixed emotions of her US Open triumph, and Kvitova in a Grand Slam final for the first time since the knife attack in 2016 which saw her tennis career hanging the balance.  There was also the little matter of the world number one ranking to play for.

And what a match it was.  The first set was a tight affair, going to a tie-break.  Osaka took the initiative in the tie-break and took it 7-2.

Kvitova hit back in the second, going into a 2-0 lead, but Osaka broke back and missed three championship points before Kvitova broke to take it 5-5.  The Czech then won 12 points in a row to take the set.

Osaka cried tears of frustration as she missed her chance for a straight sets win and went off for a bathroom break.

She returned with determination and focus and eventually took the match on her fifth championship point, with the final score 7-6 5-7 6-4.

It was an exhibition of power hitting and a fitting final to an entertaining and impressive women’s Australian Open.

Doubles

Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai beat defending champions and second seeds, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, to win the women’s doubles title.  The unseeded pair won in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.

The mixed doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Rajeev Ram, who defeated the unseeded Australians, Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith 7-6 6-1.

Thailand Open

We now know three of the four semi-finalists in the Thailand Open.

Tamara Zidanšek defeated Viktorija Golubic 4-6 6-1 6-2

Magda Linette beat Yang Wafan 6-2 6-3
Ajla Tomljanović (6) defeated Zheng Saisai (4) 6-1 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (1) plays Dayana Yastremska (8) later today.

St Petersburg Open

We are also at the quarter-final stage in St Petersburg.

Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4
Donna Vekic (8) beat Petra Kvitova (1) 6-4 6-1

Still to come:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Kiki Bertens (2)
Daria Kasatkina (3) v Vera Zvonareva

Cricket

Women’s Big Bash League Final

Brisbane Heat took the fourth WBBL title on Saturday 26 January, beating defending champions, Sydney Sixers by three wickets.

Sydney Sixers 131/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 132/7 (19.2 overs)
Heat won by three wickets with four balls to spare

A sell-out crowd of 5,386 at the Drummoyne Oval saw the Heat overcome the favourites with just four balls to spare.

But the damage was done in the first innings, when the Heat managed to restrict the dangerous Sixers top order of Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Ash Gardner and Erin Burns, with only Healy scoring at better than a run a ball.

Perry top-scored with 33 but it took her 37 balls to score it and Dane van Niekerk 32.  Grace Harris took 3/23 from her four overs and Delissa Kimmince 2/25.

In response, Harris was run out in the second over for just one from four balls, but Beth Mooney took it on in what was to be a match-winning knock of 65 from 46 balls.  The only other Heat player to get into double figures was captain Kirby Short who hit 29.  Mooney was out in the fifteenth over, but somehow the lower order kept it together with Laura Harris hitting the winning runs with a boundary.

The Sixers used eight bowlers with van Niekerk and Burns picking up two wickets each.

The tournament has really benefitted from being longer this year, with the teams playing each other home and away.   There has also been quite a lot of comment that this year’s WBBL has been more exciting than the BBL.  I couldn’t possibly comment, oh go on then – I’d have to agree.  There have been very few tight games in the BBL this year with the bowlers largely coming out on top.  I have no time for never-ending slog-fests, but for some reason, the balance has definitely tipped toward the bowlers this year and the batting has been poor.

T20 World Cup 2020 Draw

The group draw for the T20 World Cup was made this week.

England will face holders West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa and a qualifier.

England’s group fixtures:
v South Africa (23 February, Perth)
v Qualifier (26 February, Canberra)
v Pakistan (28 February, Canberra)
v West Indies (1 March, Sydney)

The other group comprises hosts Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and a qualifier.

The competition begins on 21 February and the final is at the MCG on 8 March.

Football – on the Pitch

WSL

Last weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

Sunday 27 January

Reading 0-3 Arsenal
Miedema 2’, Little 80’ (Pen), McCabe 94’

Chelsea 2-3 Birmingham City
Cuthbert 13’ 83’
Follis 36’, Quinn 61’, White 93’.

Manchester City 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 3’ (Pen) 40’, Bonner 31’

Bristol City 2-1 Yeovil Town
Graham 56’ (pen), Ayane 72’
Heatherson 46’

Monday 28 February

Liverpool 1-0 West Ham United
Sweetman-Kirk 49’

Manchester City are top with 34 points from 14 games.  Arsenal are second, a point behind having played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 14.  At the bottom, luckless Yeovil have three points and Everton are above them on six.

WC

Last weekend’s WC results were:

Sunday 27 February

Sheffield United 2-3 Charlton Athletic
Rayner 64’, Salmon 90’ (Pen)
Graham 26’, Agg 57’, Clifford 78’

Lewes 0-2 London Bees
Nunn 64’, Littlejohn 67’

Aston Villa 0-0 Leicester City

Millwall Lionesses 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Clarke 44’, Lumsden 91’
Wiltshire 36’, Beckett 84’, Dean 95’

Crystal Palace 0-2 Durham
Roberts 4’, Gears 49’

Tottenham top the Championship with 33 points from 13 games.  Charlton are second on 29 from 13 and Durham are third on the same points, having played one game more and with the same goal difference.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from 13 games.  Crystal Palace lie above them with seven.

Football – Off the Pitch

Charlton v Manchester United

Charlton have been fined £500 for failing to provide oxygen during their Championship match against Manchester United on 13 January.

As I understood it, the club ran out of oxygen while they were waiting for the ambulance arrived to take Charlotte Kerr to hospital.  But now it is being reported that Charlton did not have any oxygen and they had to use Manchester United’s supply.

The FA has charged Charlton with breaching competition rule 14.5: “Clubs shall ensure emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each competition match.

“Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

There still seems to be some confusion as to whether this was actually the case and Charlton are considering an appeal.

More FA obfuscation?  Possibly.  This story obviously has some way to run yet.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 12-18 January 2019

abstract-accuracy-accurate-262438Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week with updates on some of last week’s stories, plus all the results and news from last weekend and the rest of the week.  This week we look at darts, tennis, boxing, football, cycling, ultra-running, netball, rugby union and cricket.

Let’s crack on.

Darts

I don’t know why I start with the darts this week, but I have been very much taken with Mikuru Suzuki’s darts journey, which culminated last weekend in her becoming the first non-European to win the Women’s BDO World Championships.

Suzuki beat Maria O’Brien of England 2-0 in the semi-final, while Winstanley saw off Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia 2-1.

The unseeded Japanese player then proceeded to complete the biggest shock of the week as she beat top seed Lorraine Winstanley of England 3-0 to take the title.

Indeed, Winstanley took only two legs off Suzuki, who averaged 90.12 over the match.

Suzuki’s nickname is “The Miracle” and while I probably wouldn’t go that far, it was a very impressive, surprising win and she obviously has the potential to do much more.

Ultra-running

Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to win the Montane Spine Race.  The British ultra-runner completed the 268-mile competition in 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds, beating the old course record by no less than 12 hours.

The race is run along the length of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders and is open to both male and female runners.  Two-thirds of it is run in darkness.

And if running 268 miles, in winter, mostly in darkness was not enough, Paris stopped at the aid stations along the way to express breast milk for her baby daughter, Rowan.

I can’t even begin to understand what this kind of endurance event must be like to compete in.  She has my complete admiration.  What an achievement.

Tennis

Sydney International

Petra Kvitova took the Sydney title, defeating Ash Barty in the final in three sets, 1-6 7-5 7-6.

Hobart International

Sofia Kenin of the USA claimed the title in Hobart, defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in straight sets, 6-3 6-0.

Australian Open

As usual, there were mixed fortunes for Britain’s women in the first round at Melbourne.

Harriet Dart crashed out badly, admitting that she let the situation and nerves get to her in her hard-earned first round tie against Maria Sharapova.  She had worked so hard to come through qualifying, but lost 6-0 6-0 against the Russian in one hour and two minutes.

In an interview with BBC Sport she said,

“I think nerves got the best of me but I tried my best and that’s all I could do.

“She hits a huge ball and it comes at you quick. She doesn’t give you anything so it was always going to be difficult.

“I’m glad to have these experiences and hopefully get more of big experiences on big stages.”

Katie Boulter, on the other hand, had a fine win in her first round match against 2015 semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova.  She won 6-0 4-6 7-6 (10-6).  For the first time this year there is a tie-break in the final set, but it is first to 10 points rather than seven. Boulter apparently forgot this and celebrated at 7-4, but managed to maintain her composure to take the match, hitting 53 winners in the process.

She couldn’t, however, repeat the performance in the second round and went out to 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets 6-3 6-4.  Although she played well, she was clearly frustrated with her performance.  In her post-match interview she said,

“I didn’t feel like I put my best game on the court.

“I’ve learnt so much just from playing matches on courts I haven’t played on before. I feel a lot more settled now,” she said.

Heather Watson suffered another disappointing first round exit, losing 6-1 6-2 to 32nd seed Petra Martic.  Cue many, many Watson-haters on the BBC website/Facebook/Twitter.  Watson certainly suffered in the heat (as have others, causing retirements) and has cited this as among the reasons for her loss, but she has also indicated that her mental attitude is also a problem and she lacks confidence and self-belief.

There is no doubt that Watson has talent, but has she fulfilled her potential?  Perhaps sessions with a sports psychologist may do the trick.  It would take a major miracle to silence the haters, but her first priority should be to herself.

Johanna Konta won her first round match after a difficult battle with Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.  She won a final set tie-break to take the match 7-6 2-6 7-6 (10-7.

However, she was undone in the second by 18th seed Garbine Muguruza in a spectacular match which lasted two hours 42 minutes.  Unfortunately, only 250 fans were left in the arena to see it as the match started after midnight and finished at 3.12am.  Fabulous scheduling by the tournament organisers.

The final score was 6-4 6-7 7-5 to Muguruza.  Konta will feel heartened that she played a brilliant match in difficult circumstances.  And another point to make – I know the women’s matches generally take less time to complete, but would the organisers have started another men’s match at nearly 12.30am if there had been one to play? I don’t think so.

Other highlights so far:

Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 22, lost in the first round to Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Danielle Collins of the USA is having quite a tournament.  Having disposed of 14th seed Julia Goerges in the first round, she then saw off 19th seed Caroline Garcia in the third round 6-3 6-2.

Home favourite Sam Stosur also went out in the first round, losing 7-5 6-2 to Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.  Yastremska then put out 24th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second, 6-3 3-6 6-1.

Tenth seed Daria Kasastkina lost to the unseeded Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-0.

More seeds fell in the second round as we lost Donna Vekic (29), Lesia Tsurenko (24), Anett Kontaveit (20) and Kiki Bertens (9).

World number one and top seed Simona Halep survived a real scare, eventually winning her second round match 6-3 6-7 6-4 over Sofia Kenin of the USA.

We are now in the middle of the third round:

Maria Sharapova (30) beat defending champion Caroline Wozniacki (3) in the third round 6-4 4-6 6-3.

The unseeded Amanda Anisimova accounted for 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Football

Charlton v Manchester United

Hopeless FA Klaxon!  It had to happen.  The match between Manchester United and Charlton was abandoned on Sunday after Charlton player Charlotte Kerr was injured.

But why did they have to abandon the game?  Kerr was treated on the pitch for nearly an hour, but there was no ambulance on-site and one had to be called.  The ambulance did not arrive for 30 minutes and during that time the medical staff used up the available emergency oxygen.

As there is a legal requirement to have oxygen (but not an ambulance) at the game, the referee had to call it off.

The current rules state,

“Clubs shall ensure that emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each Competition Match. Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

If there had been an ambulance present, Kerr would have been treated quicker, taken off to hospital quicker and the game could have continued.

The good news is that the sternum and rib injury was heavy bruising and Kerr has been released from hospital, but at the time it was not clear that it was just bruising.

Whatever the critics of women’s football say, this is elite sport.  This is the highest level in the country but the FA does not seem able to see its way to ensuring, as far as it is able, the safety of the players.  There have been reports this week that the FA is now considering introducing a new rule on ambulances.  Let’s hope that this is the case, before something more serious happens and we lose a player for want of an ambulance.

Transfers

As predicted last week, Marc Skinner has now left Birmingham City to take up the role as head coach of Orlando Pride.  He has side a 2.5 year deal.

West Ham United have been busy in the transfer market this week.  They signed Canadian forward Adriana Leon from Seattle Reign at the weekend.  Leon has 54 caps for Canada and has scored 12 goals.  Then at the beginning of the week they signed South Korean captain Cho So-hyun from Avaldsnes of Norway, an experienced midfielder with 120 caps.

FAWSL

Results from 13 January were as follows:

Yeovil 1-2 Liverpool
Donovan 52’
Sweetman-Kirk 27’ (Pen) 93’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Everton

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Miedema 80’
Cuthbert 26’ 63’

West Ham Utd 1-3 Manchester City
Ross 58’
Weir 15’, Hemp 39’, Parris 86’

Birmingham City 0-1 Bristol City
Evans 15’

Manchester City are now top of the table with 31 points from 13 games.  Arsenal are one point behind and have played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 13 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 12 games with Everton above them on six points from twelve.

Championship

The Championship results from 13 January were:

London Bees 2-1 Crystal Palace
Wilkinson 6’, Pickett 24’
Georgiou 17’

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Lewes
Naz 31’, Dean 52’, Schillaci 60’

Leicester City 3-2 Millwall Lionesses
Johnson 2’, Smith 35’ (Pen), Franklin-Fraiture 53’
Clarke 30’ 76’ (Pen)

Durham 2-2 Aston Villa
Robertson 21’, Salicki 75’
Hutton 22’, Welsh 45’

Charlton Athletic v Manchester United
Suspended

Tottenham are top with 30 points from 12 games.  Manchester United are second with 28 from 11, having had their game on Sunday postponed.  Charlton are third on 26 from 12.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from twelve.  Crystal Palace are above them with seven points from 13.

Continental Cup

The draw has been made for the semi-finals of the Continental Cup:

Tuesday 5 February
Arsenal v Manchester United

Wednesday 6 February
Chelsea v Manchester City

Cricket

WBBL

We now know the four teams who will take part in the WBBL semi-finals.  Sydney Sixers finished top of the pile with 20 points from 14 games.  Sydney Thunder finished second on 19 with Brisbane Heat third on 18 and Melbourne Renegades fourth on 15.

Saturday 19 January
First semi-final
Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 11.40pm)

Second semi-final
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 2.50am, Sunday morning)

UK coverage via BT Sport and BBC 5 Live Sports Extra radio.

The final is next Saturday, 26 January.

England tour of India

The schedule for England’s tour of India has (finally) been released.

There will be three ODIs played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and three T20s to be played at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Guwahati.

The ODIs will each score two points towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

All UK times:
ODIs – 22, 25, 28 February, Mumbai, 3.30am
T20s – 4, 7, 9 March, Guwhati, 4.30am

Boxing

Nicola Adams will challenge for the WBO World Flyweight title on 8 March at the Royal Albert Hall.  She faces Arely Mucino of Mexico.

Mucino became world champion in February and her ten years as a professional boxer has seen her amass 27 wins, two draws and three defeats.

Rugby Union

Saturday’s Premier 15s results:
DMP Sharks 14-53 Loughborough Lightning
Saracens 31-28 Harlequins
Worcester Valkyries 7-27 Gloucester-Hartpury
Firwood Waterloo 0-14 Bristol Bears
Richmond 12-38 Wasps

All of the teams have played 14 games.  Saracens are top with 65 points.  They have opened up quite a gap now, with Harlequins second on 58.  Loughborough Lightning are third on 55.  At the bottom, Valkyries are marooned on just four points.  Above them are DMP Sharks on 13 and Firwood Waterloo on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:
Loughborough Lightning v Firwood Waterloo (12pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Worcester Valkyries (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Saracens (4.30pm, Gillman’s Ground)
Harlequins v Richmond (5.30pm, The Stoop)

Netball

Quad Series

The first weekend of the Quad series saw two excellent games:

England 54-41 New Zealand
After a tight first half, England did the job in the second to stretch the lead and take the game away from the Silver Ferns.  At half-time the Roses had just a one point lead, 25-24.  By the end of the third quarter the lead was up to 10 points and the Roses kept up that momentum to take the win by 13.  Jo Harten scored 27/32 and Helen Housby 25/31.  For New Zealand, Solonaima Maria Folau shot 29/32 and Ameliaranne Ekanasio 12/13.

Australia 62-45 South Africa
Australia, having to cope with the loss of their captain, Caitlin Bassett, who is sidelined with a broken arm, made a slow start.  South Africa, in contrast, were quick out of the blocks and took an early lead.  They managed to maintain this good form until well into the second-half, but the Diamonds went into the break 27-25 up.  They then upped their game in the third quarter, taking control by the end of it and pushing their advantage to extend the gap to 17.  For Australia, Gretel Tippett shot 30/32 and Caitlin Thwaites 17/18.  South Africa’s main shooters, Lenize Potgieter and Ine-Marie Venter scored 35/40 and 7/9 respectively.

This weekend sees rounds two and three at the Copper Box in London.  There is TV coverage on Sky Sports and on BBC 5Live Sports Extra on the radio.

Vitality Netball Super League

Last weekend’s results:

Friday 11 January
Strathclyde Sirens 45-55 Team Bath

Saturday 12 January
Loughborough Lightning 52-44 Team Bath
Surrey Storm 39-59 Saracens Mavericks
London Pulse 40-67 Celtic Dragons

There are no fixtures this weekend as we concentrate on the Quad Series.  It’s early days of course, and most teams have only played two games.  Team Bath are on top with two from two.  Wasps and Thunder are next, although they have only played one game each and have one win.

Volleyball

The Women’s Super League is now entering into the second half of its season.  The league has split into top five and Bottom four.  Fixtures get underway again this weekend.  More news in a couple of weeks when I’m back.

Cycling

Former Team GB cyclist Jess Varnish has failed in her attempt to prove that she was an employee of both British Cycling and UK Sport at an employment tribunal.

This means she will, in effect, be unable to sue the bodies for wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination.

Varnish had claimed that British Cycling’s control over her made it an employer-employee relationship, but the governing body said it was more like a university grant situation.

There is no doubt that UK Sport will be heaving a huge sigh of relief at this decision, but it may yet have to review its processes and attitude to athlete welfare.

For more on this story see this excellent piece in Cycling Weekly.

And Finally,

First “And finally” of the year must go to Imke Wubbenhorst.  I know many of you will be asking “Who?” as I was, to be honest.  But she’s top of my pile this week for her fantastic response to yet another puerile question from a journalist.

Wubbenhorst is manager of BV Cloppenburg – a men’s fifth tier team in Germany.  She is the first woman to hold a managerial position at a men’s club at this level.

She was asked by a journalist whether she warned her players to make sure they put their pants on before she came into the changing room.

To which she replied,

“Of course not, I’m a professional; I pick my players based on their penis size.”

Love it.  No more need be said.

No column next week as I am out and about.

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 5-11 January 2019

new tennisSo here it is – 2019!  I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all my followers and, if I might be so bold, suggest that this is going to be a mammoth year for women’s sport.  I’m rather chuffed to say that my husband came up with the goods for my “big” birthday, giving me Netball World Cup tickets.  We have one session that should, all being equal, include an England Roses game.  So what with that, the football World Cup and Women’s Ashes coming up this summer, it’s going to be all systems go.

But there’s still plenty to get our teeth into this winter.  Stories for the first column of 2019 come from football, cricket, rugby union, netball, darts and tennis.

So for the first time this year, let’s crack on…

Tennis

After what seems a miniscule couple of weeks off, the WTA season has begun again with tournaments in the Far East and Australia, leading up the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, which begins on 14 January.  This week sees two tournaments in Australia:

Sydney International

It has been a bad week for British number one Jo Konta who was forced to withdraw from the Sydney International twice in two days.  She was working her way through qualifying when she had to retire in the second round with a neck injury.  She still went through to the main draw as a lucky loser and was due to Kiki Bertens in the first round, but withdrew again.

World number one Simona Halep fared no better as she was beaten in the second round after a first round bye, losing to Ash Barty 6-4 6-4.  It was Halep’s first competitive match in three months after she ended last season early with a back injury.

Quarter-finals
Petra Kvitova (5) beat Angelique Kerber (2) 6-4 6-1
Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-3
Ash Barty beat Elise Mertens (10) 6-3 6-3
Kiki Bertens (7) beat Yulia Putintseva 6-2 6-2

Semi-finals
Ash Barty is into the final, having defeated Kiki Bertens 6-7 6-5 7-5.  Sasnovich v Kvitova is still to take place at time of publishing.

Hobart International

No better news for British number two Heather Watson as she crashed out of the Hobart International in the first round, losing in straight sets to Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-1 6-4.

Quarter-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Kirsten Flipkens (7) 7-5 7-5
Alize Cornet (6) beat Greet Minnen 6-1 6-4
Belinda Bencic beat Dayana Yastremska 7-6 6-3
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5 7-5

Semi-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Alize Cornet (6) 6-2 6-4
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Belinda Bencic 7-6 4-6 6-2

The final is tomorrow, Saturday 12 January

Australian Open Qualifying

There are 16 spots up for grabs in Qualifying.  Of the British players, Naomi Broady lost in the first round, beaten by Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-4 3-6 6-3.  Gabriella Taylor also departed in the first round, losing to Kirstie Ahn of USA 6-1 6-1.

But Harriet Dart is through to the first round proper of the Australian Open.  She beat her first qualifying round opponent, Chloe Paquet of France 6-3 4-6 6-2.  She then defeated Ivana Jorovic of Serbia 1-6 6-3 6-1.  No easy draw for Dart though.  She now faces Maria Sharapova in the first round.

There are four British women in the main draw as Jo Konta seems to have declared herself fit: Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart.

Heather Watson faces 31st seed Petra Martic, Katie Boulter also has a tough one against Ekaterina Makarova (all Monday 14 January).  Jo Konta has an extra day to recover; her first match is on Tuesday against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.

Fed Cup

Great Britain have named a full-strength team for February’s matches in Bath.

The team, along with their world rankings, is Jo Konta (38th), Heather Watson (93rd). Katie Boulter (99th), Harriet Dart (132nd) and Katie Swan (181st).

It is the first time in 26 years that Great Britain has hosted a Fed Cup event.

The Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 event will comprise eight teams.  The teams will be in two groups of four, the draw for which is on 14 January.  The winners of each group will then play each other to determine who will go into the World Group II play-off, which takes place in April.

The event from 6-9 February is at the University of Bath.  Check out the ticket situation here.

Football

Racism Allegation

Tottenham Hotspur defender Renee Hector used social media to allege that she was the subject of racist abuse by a Sheffield United player during their game on Sunday 6 January.

She tweeted:

“Such a shame that racism seems to be rising up again in football.  I received some monkey noises from an opposition player. The only reaction was to let football do the talking.”

Sheffield United Women have made a statement that they:

“are aware of the post on social media and have already begun an investigation to determine the full facts”.

Hector also reported the incident to the referee during the game and Tottenham reported it to the Football Association.

There will be more on this as the situation progresses.

FA Cup Third Round Results:
Billericay Town 3-4 Loughborough Foxes
Coventry United 1-2 Crawley Wasps
Derby 1-2 Stoke
Huddersfield 4-1 Leeds
Hull City 0-3 AFC Wimbledon
Keynsham 2-1 Fylde
Middlesbrough 2-7 Watford
Cardiff 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest 0-1 MK Dons
Oxford United 1-2 Blackburn

FA Cup Fourth Round Draw

The FA Cup fourth-round draw has been made.  Crawley Wasps, AFC Wimbledon and Keynsham Town are the lowest ranked sides left in the competition – they all play in the fourth tier of women’s football.  This is the point at which the Super League and Championship teams make their first appearance:

Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United
West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Manchester City v Watford
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
AFC Wimbledon v Bristol City
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses v Lewes
Durham v Cardiff City
Everton v Chelsea
Crawley Wasps v Arsenal
Leicester City v London Bees
Reading v Keynsham Town
Liverpool v Milton Keynes Dons

Ties will be played on Sunday 3 February.

Continental Cup

We now know the semi-final line-up after the quarter-finals were completed this week.

Manchester City 7-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 6’, Hemp 23’ 86’, Weir 59’, Emslie 88’, Stanway 90’, Beckie 92’
Buet 9’

Manchester Utd 2-0 West Ham Utd
Sigsworth 17’ 53’

Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham City
Van de Donk 83’, Miedema 90’
Quinn 61’

Chelsea 4-0 Reading
Kirby 3’ 86’, Asante 37’, Riley 90+1

WSL

Sunday 6 January
Bristol City 1-1 Manchester City
Graham 62’ (pen)
Parris 36’

Chelsea 3-0 Everton
England 6’, Spence 60’, Blundell 69’

Liverpool 0-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Rafferty 34’, Umotong 49’

Birmingham City 2-1 Reading
Harrop 72’, Sargeant 89’
Hampton 88’ (OG)

West Ham Utd 2-4 Arsenal
Ross 11’, 43’
Williamson 26’, Arnth-Jensen 31’, van de Donk 59’ 65’

Arsenal are top with 30 points from 11 games.  Manchester City are second, two points behind and having played a game more.  Chelsea are third on 25 points from 12 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 games and above them are Everton with 5 points from 11.

Championship

Sunday 6 January
Sheffield Utd 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Schillaci 6’ (OG)
Dean 5’, Wiltshire 51’

Leicester City 4-0 Lewes
M Johnson 41’, Worts 50’ 55’, L Johnson 89’

Manchester Utd 9-0 London Bees
Devlin 2’ 57’, Toone 28’ 66’, Arnott 39’, Green 40’, James 68’ 73’, Zelem 80’ (Pen)

Crystal Palace 3-1 Millwall
Burr 6’, Mackenzie 52’, Bryan 63’
Ravenscroft 53’

Charlton Athletic 2-2 Durham
Bailes 20’, Gurr 85’
Ness 42’ 45’

With their thumping win over the Bees, Manchester United are top by one point.   They have 28 points from 11 games.  Just behind them are Tottenham with 27 from 11 and Charlton Athletic are third on 26 from 12. At the bottom, Millwall Lionesses have just two points from 11 games and Crystal Palace have seven from 12.

Transfers

The transfer window is upon us.  Pick of the transfers so far:

Ann-Katrin Berger has signed for Chelsea from Birmingham on a contract which takes her up to 2022.  Best bit of transfer business so far?  Probably.  Don’t forget Berger was still battling with thyroid cancer in November 2017.  Her comeback has been nothing short of stunning and she is bound to be a real asset to Chelsea.

Danish winger Katrine Veje has signed for Arsenal from Montpellier. Veje has already won more than 100 caps for Denmark.

Jade Bailey has signed for Reading from Chelsea on loan until the end of the current season.

Scottish forward Abbi Grant has left Glasgow City to play for Anderlecht.  Her aim is to make the Scotland World Cup squad and she believes the only way to do that was to leave Glasgow.  So far she has just one cap.

I’m not one to repeat gossip (often), but rumour has it that Birmingham City head coach Marc Skinner has been approached by Orlando Pride with respect to joining them as their head coach.  No confirmation or denial on either website, but just what I’ve heard from fans’ forums.  If it does turn out to be true, this will be a massive loss for Birmingham.  More news when I get it.

Finally, can I add my congratulations to Annie Zaidi, who has been named as the new Solihull Moors Ladies coach.  I have met Annie on several occasions and she is a brilliant example to any woman wanting to become a football (or any sports) coach.  In addition to the new role she will continue as the Under 16s boys.  If you don’t know her story, check it out here.

Netball – off the Court

When are Benecos Mavericks not Benecos Mavericks?  When they’re Saracens Mavericks, of course!

Having just got used to calling them Benecos Mavericks, as opposed to Hertfordshire Mavericks, they’ve gone and changed their names again.  With good reason.  Saracens Rugby Club have bought a 50% stake in the Mavericks.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Kathryn Ratnapala, Mavericks’ Director of Netball said,

“This has been a fantastic opportunity to join forces with Saracens and continue to push to be the standout, ultimate franchise within Vitality Superleague.”

“Saracens have proved to be role models and leaders in their field and merging with this high-performance culture and club is a great step forward for Mavericks.

“We would like to thank Benecos for their support for the last two years as we continue to work with them as our title sponsor this season.”

Tim Hunt, who oversees the commercial operation at Saracens said,

“Netball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and we are excited to be joining forces with Mavericks. Part of our growth strategy is to collaborate with others that share our ethos and help widen our audience reach.”

“To achieve this, the dual-priority is to create an environment where our elite teams continually strive for sporting excellence and to inspire our local communities to lead healthier, happier lives through the positive power of sport. Mavericks mirror our culture making them a perfect match for Saracens.”

Seriously, it is great to see another sport realise the potential that surrounds netball.  I hope it’s a beneficial relationship for both clubs.

Netball – on the Court

The Vitality Netball Super League 2019 is underway in this huge year for netball!

Last weekend saw the Super 10 opening extravaganza at the Birmingham Arena.  All ten Super League teams were in action over the course of the day.  The scores were as follows:

Celtic Dragons 41-58 Team Bath
Wasps Netball 72-42 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 49-51 London Pulse
Strathclyde Sirens 56-38 Surrey Storm
Manchester Thunder 58-61 Saracens Mavericks

The second round is this weekend and then there is a break for the Quad Series.

11 January
Strathclyde Sirens v Team Bath (7.30pm) (Live on Sky)

12 January
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Saracens Mavericks (6pm)
London Pulse v Celtic Dragons (7pm)

Quad Series aka Vitality International Series

The latest Quad series takes place in Liverpool and London between 13-20 January.

Sunday 13 January (Liverpool)
South Africa v Australia (3.15pm)
England v New Zealand (5.30pm)

Saturday 19 January (London)
Australia v New Zealand (4.15pm)
England v south Africa (6.30pm)

Sunday 20 January (London)
South Africa v New Zealand (3.15pm)
England v Australia (6pm)

All games live on Sky Sports

England have already named a 12-strong squad. There is no place for captain Ama Agbeze as she is still recovering from injury.

Roses squad: Helen Housby, Chelsea Pitman, Geva Mentor, Jo Harten, Jade Clarke, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Serena Guthrie, Layla Guscoth, Rachel Dunn, Razia Quashie, Fran Williams

Darts

We are at the semi-final stage of the BDO Darts Professional Ladies Championships at Lakeside.

The semi-finals take place today, Friday 11 January.

Lorraine Winstanley of England takes on doubles partner Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia while Mikuru Suzuki of Japan faces Maria O’Brien of England.

More news next week.

Cricket

WBBL

With just one round of matches to go, Sydney Thunder are still on top with 19 points (nine wins).  Both they and the Hurricanes have played 13 matches, one more than everyone else.  Just behind them, on 18 points and also with nine wins are Sydney Sixers.

The other two finals day qualifying places are currently held by Brisbane Heat on 14 points and Melbourne Renegades on 13.  At the bottom, the luckless Hobart Hurricanes still have only two wins from 13 and are on four points.  Perth Scorchers are currently in fifth, just one point behind fourth place.

The two standouts over the past couple of weeks have both involved New Zealand all-rounder Sophie Devine.  Her display with both bat and ball for the Adelaide Strikers on 23 December against the Melbourne Stars led them to a fine win and she was at it again as the Strikers triumphed in a Super Over win over the unlucky Hobart Hurricanes on 8 January.

Sophie Devine

Devine became the first WBBL player to hit a half-century and take five wickets in a match.  She hit 95 off 66 balls (5 sixes, 8 fours) for the Strikers and was out in the penultimate over as they posted a total of 172/3.  She then took the wickets of Lizelle Lee, Angela Reakes, Erin Osborne, Georgia Elwiss and Nicola Hancock as the Stars fell 19 runs short in their chase.

On 8 January, the Strikers posted 189/5 with Devine scoring 99 not out from 53 balls, an innings that included 10 fours and four sixes.  Tahlia McGrath also made 63.  In chasing 190, the Hurricanes always looked to be up against it.  Smriti Mandhana made 52 at the top of the order, but she lost three partners in quick succession.  The lower order took it on though and the Hurricanes managed to end on 189/8, which took it to a Super Over.

The Hurricanes could only post 12/1 from their one over, hampered by the wicket of Mandhana second ball.  The Strikers, needless to say in the form of Devine, hit six, six, four to win the game and end as player of the match yet again.

Rugby Union

England Roses
I know I’m a bit late to this, but I think it bears repeating: the RFU have awarded 28 full-time 15s contracts.  There are also seven EPS agreements where players will take part in camps and England training, but not the full-time programme.

England Women Elite Player Squad 2019

Forwards
Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women), Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women), Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)*, Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies), Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women)*, Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women), Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies), Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Justine Lucas (Loughborough Lightning), Cath O’ Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens Women), Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)*, Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

Backs
Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies), Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies), Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning), Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women), Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies)*, Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Lagi Tuima (Bristol Bears Women), Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

* EPS agreement

It is great news and shows England Rugby’s commitment to women’s and girls’ rugby.

Premier 15s

Premier 15s rugby is back this weekend.  The fixtures are as follows:

12 January
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol Bears (1pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Richmond v Wasps (3pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Harlequins (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Get out there and support them if you can.

That’s all for this week.  More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 23-29 June 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  You will be glad to know I did indeed get to swim in the sea last week! (briefly) and I lived to tell the tale, so here I am.  It’s been a mixed week for women’s sport (and women in, whisper it, men’s football) yet again – certainly two steps forward, one step back.  Heartily sick of it now – let’s stick it in “and finally” and see what happens.

Anyway more interesting and sensible stories this week come from football, cricket, netball, cycling, tennis, rugby union, athletics and rugby league.

Tennis

Wimbledon is nearly here!  Qualifying is well underway as is the run-up Eastbourne

Eastbourne semi-finals:
Agnieszka Radwanska v Aryna Sabalenka
Caroline Wozniaki (1) v Angelique Kerber (4)

Eugenie Bouchard is one of those who has come through qualifying to reach the main draw at Wimbledon, the tournament proper beginning on Monday 2 July.

Serena Williams has been named as 25th seed.  This has caused some comment, both for and against, from current players and others in the sport.  I think it’s a tricky one and I can see both sides.  Should a tennis player’s seeding be protected while on maternity leave?  There is already the protected ranking rule for those out of the game due to injury from six months to two years.  You would think the ITF would have inserted something into their maternity policy to cover it, but of course, it’s a relatively new thing that women should want to return to elite competition after giving birth (!)  Come on ITF sort it out.

Cricket

The Women’s World Twenty20 groups were announced this week.

Group A: England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa + 1 qualifier
Group B: Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan + 1 qualifier

Venues are Guyana, St Lucia and Antigua and the tournament takes place from 9-24 November.

England’s fixtures:
Saturday 10 v Sri Lanka
Monday 12 v Qualifer
Friday 16 v South Africa
Sunday 18 v West Indies

Radio coverage on Test Match Special, TV broadcast news to follow.

The remaining qualifiers will come from the tournament in the Netherlands, being held 7-14 July.  The eight teams competing for two places are: Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Thailand and United Arab Emirates.

Tri-Series

The final of the England – South Africa – New Zealand Tri-Series will be between England and New Zealand.

England finished top of the table with three wins from four games, New Zealand second with two wins and two losses and South Africa third with just the one win, against England last weekend.

The last double-header was on Thursday 28 June:

South Africa 148/6 (20 overs)
New Zealand 151/2 (15.2 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining

South Africa won the toss and elected to bat.  They made a good start with a 40-run partnership between the openers, Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt.  Lee was the first to go for 25.  Sune Luus went for a duck soon after and although there were good contributions from Wolvaardt (25), Dane van Niekerk (25) and particularly Chloe Tryon (35), they still finished possibly 20 runs light.

New Zealand made a strong response.  They had reached 130 before Bates was caught by Lee off the bowling of Marizanne Kapp for 62.  Katey Martin was bowled by Zintle Mali for 10, but Sophie Devine finished 68 not out as the White Ferns won with more than four overs to spare, sealing their place in the final.

New Zealand 129 all out (18.1 overs)
England 130/3 (15.5 overs)
England won by 7 wickets with 25 balls remaining

In the final game, a dead rubber, England won with four overs to spare.  The key was the bowling performance, and in particular, the dismissal of Suzie Bates for a duck.  Sophie Devine took on the anchor role, making 52 off 45 balls, but apart from 37 from Amy Satterthwaite, there was little in the way of support for the opener.  Anya Shrubsole took 3/16 from 3.1 overs, while Dani Hazell took 2/21 off her four.

In response the England openers fell cheaply (Wyatt, 2 and Beaumont 11), but Sarah Taylor made 51 from 37 before she was stumped (!) off the bowling of Amelia Kerr.  Nat Sciver and Heather Knight took it on and New Zealand could not take another wicket.  Sciver finished on 39 and Knight on 24.

The final is this Sunday, 1 July at Chelmsford and the match begins at 3pm.

Athletics

The British Athletics Championships take place this weekend (30 June-1 July) at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.

As well as the titles on offer, athletes will be looking to qualify for the European Championships, which are in Berlin from 7-12 August.

Scotland’s Eilidh Doyle will not be there to defend her 400m hurdles title as she is still nursing an injury and aiming to be fit for Berlin.

Coverage is via the BBC on TV, online and the Red Button.  See here for details: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/43572549

Caster Semenya

The row over the new Court of Arbitration for Sport’s testosterone rules rumbles on.

Unsurprisingly, South African 800m champion Caster Semenya had vowed to fight the new ruling, calling it “unlawful”.

But it seems that amongst the governing bodies of the sport she will have little or no support.  Both the IAAF and Athletics South Africa have now said they will honour any ruling made by CAS when it comes in on 1 November.

As we know, the rule only applies to women who run in track events from 400m up to a mile and although Lord Sebastian Coe, IAAF president, in a statement on Wednesday said,

“No individual athlete has been targeted in the creation of the regulations”

It’s hard not to see that Semenya is indeed the target.

The statement said that the IAAF needs

“to create competition categories within our sport that ensures that success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work, rather than by other factors that are not considered fair or meaningful, such as the enormous physical advantages that an adult has over a child, or a male athlete has over a female athlete.

“We therefore need to come up with a fair solution for intersex/DSD athletes wishing to compete in the female category which is what the new regulations set out to do, based on the evidence the IAAF has gathered about the degree of performance benefit that such intersex/DSD athletes get from their higher levels of circulating testosterone.”

Is the new ruling this “fair solution”?  I’m certainly not sure and from Semenya’s point of view, no aspect of it is fair.  Expect no resolution by the due November 1 introduction date.

Football

Sheffield FC

Biggest and most disturbing news of the week comes from the new FA Women’s Championship.  Sheffield FC has withdrawn from the new league due to financial issues.

The club issued a short statement:

“Following a meeting of the directors, the Club has taken the very difficult decision to withdraw from The FA Women’s Championship. The financial commitments necessary to compete at this level are proving now too onerous.

“Sheffield FC has been a pioneer of women’s football in Sheffield over the past 15 years, and has competed with honour, pride and considerable success against clubs with much greater resources. Sheffield FC will continue to participate in girls’ and women’s football.

“The structure of the women’s game at elite level is moving towards a full-time operation which is no longer consistent with where Sheffield FC is positioned as a club.”

Sheffield FC Ladies was founded in 2003.  It was promoted to WSL2 in 2015.  I don’t know where to start.  Is it time for me to wheel out the oldest and most-used phrase of all, “What are you playing at FA?”  Wasn’t all this application process supposed to stop all of this – weren’t all the checks supposed to ensure that those awarded licences were able to fulfil the criteria?  And yet, here we have a well-established club forced to withdraw without a ball being kicked.  Who will replace them?  There were no shortage of applicants – should be Blackburn, Sunderland or Oxford I think.  But I’m sure I’m not alone in picturing this new structure as resembling a house of cards – and we all know what happens to those.

Manchester United

Former Bristol City manager, Willie Kirk, has been named as assistant coach to Casey Stoney at Manchester United.

In an interview with the club’s website, Kirk said,

“To have the chance to work with Casey Stoney and to be part of a team that is being set up from scratch, to me, is an opportunity not to be missed.

“Manchester United is renowned around the globe for developing young talent and that will continue in the women’s team.

“I would like to thank Casey for giving me this opportunity and I know that our skills and experience will complement each other as we work together to develop an exciting new team.”

Signings

  • Chelsea have signed New Zealand captain Ali Riley.
  • Liverpool have signed Millwall Lionesses defender Leighanne Robe.
  • West Ham have been busy, largely signing players from champions Chelsea! Matt Beard obviously means business (you would expect nothing else), signing England centre-back Gilly Flaherty, left-back Claire Rafferty and goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer.
  • Birmingham City striker Lucy Quinn has signed a new one-year contract.
  • Reading have also offered midflelder Jo Potter a contract extension, the length of which has not been revealed and Jade Moore has also signed a new contract.
  • Manchester City have signed Belgian striker Tessa Wullaert from Wolfsburg on a two-year deal.

 Rugby Union

The Women’s European Grand Prix Series starts today (Friday 29 June) in Marcoussis.  All of the home nations are taking part.  For more news and live video feed click below:

https://www.rugbyeurope.eu/competitions/2018-women-7s-gps

 Rugby League

Two results from the Super League this week:

24 June
Featherstone Rovers 20-31 Wigan Warriors
Leeds Rhinos 30-10 Bradford Bulls

All teams have now played either six or seven matches.  Leeds top the table with 12 points from seven games.  Wigan are second a point behind from seven and St Helens are third with nine points, but have a game in hand over the top two.

York City Knights are the only team not to have scored a point so far, having played six games.

Cycling

German Double Olympic champion Kristina Vogel crashed in training on Tuesday and is in hospital in Berlin.

She is described as having suffered a “serious spinal injury”, when she crashed into another rider at full speed at the Cottbus track.

She has had surgery and is in a stable condition, although she remains in intensive care.

Updates as they come through.

Netball

Somehow we have already reached the business end of the Super League season already.  The regular season finished with Wasps on top with 48 points from their 18 games.  Loughborough Lightning finished second with 45 and these two teams have secured home semi-finals.  Lightning face Manchester Thunder, who finished third, while Wasps play fourth-finishers Team Bath.

The semi-finals are this Saturday, 30 June and will both be shown live on Sky Sports:

Wasps v Bath (5.45pm)
Lightning v Thunder (7.45pm)

The Grand Final will be on Saturday 7 July at the Copper Box Arena in London and again will be shown live on Sky Sports.

And finally,

It will not have escaped your notice (and I’m not saying that it should) that the men’s football World Cup (as I like to call it) is taking place in Russia at the moment.  For the most part, except for the massive amounts of feigning injury, rolling around, wrestling players to the ground, surrounding the referee etc., it has been enjoyable so far.

But, it seems, women are not destined to enjoy the World Cup.  How very dare they?  How dare they commentate?  Summarise or offer opinion?  Or even be part of the crowd?

1)  Jason Cundy (former Chelsea, and to my shame, Ipswich player and Talksport “pundit”), who hopefully is regretting ever opening his mouth, said in an interview that women shouldn’t commentate because their voices are “too high-pitched”.  Good Morning Britain then ran a poll “should women commentate?” (on men’s football – the only thing that counts).  Cue meat-heads far and wide to weigh-in with their “opinion” (and the word “whiny” appeared several times).  You’ll all know where I stand on this.  But let me just sum it up in one sentence; if you say you don’t like X’s voice or Y’s voice when commentating, this is ok.  Everyone has this kind of preference and there is nothing wrong with that.  If, however, you say you don’t like “women’s” voices, it is discrimination and nothing else.  You are discounting 50% of the population without any basis.

2) Secondly, Eni Aluko and Alex Scott have been employed as “pundits”, and boy have they received flak, particularly Aluko.  Scott is much more experienced in this and has been praised as well as insulted, but Aluko is still learning, but has been given no credit for this.  One of the more astounding comments I’ve seen (more than once) is that when anyone mentioned their 242 England caps between them as proof of knowledge and experience, the commenter said “242 women’s caps = 1 men’s cap”?  Really?  Is this the case?  I don’t think so?

3) Getty Images released a rather ill-judged gallery of the World Cups “Sexiest fans” this week.  Men and women?  Just men?  Nope, just women.  For crying out loud, Getty, what century are we in again?  They have since shamefacedly withdrawn the piece.

Here’s a novel idea, how about women being allowed to watch, comment on, write about, speak about and likewise give an opinion on the World Cup without the misogynist bile and objectification?

More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 June 2018

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

So let’s crack on.

Athletics

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

Tennis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

England’s fixtures this summer:

England v South Africa

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

Twenty20 tri-series

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

July
1 Final, Chelmsford (15:00 BST)

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

English Women’s County Championship

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

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

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

Aboriginal Tour

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

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

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

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

Mountain Biking

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

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

Football

England Qualifier

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

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

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

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

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

Wales Qualifier

Wales 1-0

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

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

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

Scotland Qualifer

Scotland 2-1 Belarus

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

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

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

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

Other football news

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

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

Darts

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

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

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

Triathlon

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union

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

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

Netball

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

Friday 1 June
Team Bath 54-45 Benecos Mavericks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby League

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

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

Judo

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

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

Golf – US Open

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Sports Column 26 May – 1 June 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column.  I missed quite a bit last week, didn’t I, so this week’s bumper offering will include a few highlights from the previous one.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s another week, another women’s sport initiative (yay!), likewise I get to play yet another game of “What on earth was the FA thinking?”  News and results also from cricket, rugby union, rugby league, golf, netball, tennis and lacrosse plus a round-up of who won what at the Women’s Sport Trust #Be a Game Changer Awards.

Football – off the pitch

No doubting the top women’s sports news of the week – the FA announcement as to who has been handed licences for the new Women’s Premier League and Women’s Championship.  I don’t know what you’ve read about it, but there’s precious little positive reaction out there.  Some clubs are even considering appealing the decision.  There are always winners and losers in such a process, but yet again the FA has done nothing to endear itself to supporters of women’s football and the clubs themselves.

Tony Farmer, founder of Chelsea Ladies and vocal supporter of women’s football through WSL Fans Utd, tweeted this (and I think this sums it up)

Team finishes 7th in WSL1 removed
Team wins WSL2 not promoted
Team wins FAWPL South promoted to T2
Team wins FAWPL North not promoted to T2
Team finishes 7th in FAWPL promoted to T1
Team finishes 4th in FAWPL MID1 promoted to T2
Club with no team placed in T2
Confused?

So to recap, the winners are, no doubt, Lewes, Manchester United (!), Leicester City and West Ham, while the losers are Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Watford, Blackburn Rovers, Oxford United, Southampton and Derby County.

14 teams applied for five licences in the part-time Championship.  They were awarded to Manchester United, Charlton (champions of third-tier in a play-off against Blackburn.  Blackburn didn’t make it even though they finished top of the Premier League North), Leicester City, Lewes FC and Sheffield United.

Current WSL1 side Sunderland were the big losers.  They had already indicated the need to go part-time and should have been confident of making the Championship, but they didn’t and are now due to languish in the new third-tier, the Women’s National League North.  Watford and Oxford United are also demoted to the third-tier.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, the FA’s head of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell said of Sunderland,

“They were in a very competitive competition to get in to the two leagues and we had to judge people on merit.

“Yes, it’s tough on them, but unfortunately, whenever you create these kind of step-changes, there are casualties, and I’m afraid they’re one of them.

“As we move the WSL to full-time, in order to improve competitive balance, get better broadcasts and eventually better commercial income. Some clubs couldn’t make that step.

“Others have stepped up to the mark. It has to be a commitment from the club to step up and move forward together with us.

“We’re in a very good place and I think in a few years from now, we’ll have a league that is the envy of the world.”

Well I certainly hope so, but serious doubts remain as to some of the decision-making.  Why 11 teams in the WSL?  Apparently this will be upped to 12 at the end of next season through promotion, but if the winners of the Championship are unable to fulfil the “professional” criteria, will they still be promoted or will it be a random appointment of a club that finished mid-table?

There have been some admirable statements from the unsuccessful clubs; both Oxford United and Derby County have committed to progressing their women’s sides and contesting to rise through the leagues via promotion.

I think I’ve exhausted myself with the ramifications of this now, so here’s the list of who is where in the top two tiers for next season:

Women’s Super League 2018-19
Arsenal
Birmingham City
Brighton & Hove Albion
Bristol City
Chelsea
Everton
Liverpool
Manchester City
Reading
West Ham United
Yeovil Town

Women’s Championship 2018-19
Aston Villa
Charlton Athletic
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Durham
Leicester City
Lewes FC
London Bees
Manchester United
Millwall Lionesses
Sheffield FC
Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur

Other football news

What a week for England’s Lucy Bronze.  She began the week by winning the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year award and ended it as a Champions League winner!  In a public vote she beat Netherlands star Lieke Martens into second, while Australia striker Sam Kerr was third.

Chelsea Ladies are no more – well they’re changing their name (not before time, in my opinion) to Chelsea Football Club Women.

Also with Chelsea, midfielder and Norway captain Maren Mjelde has shown her commitment to the club by signing a new three-year contract.

Reading, meanwhile, have released Harriet Scott, Melissa Fletcher and Kirsty Linnett after deciding not to renew their contracts.  Fletcher, a Wales international, had been with the club since she was eight years old.

US midfielder Heather O’Reilly has left Arsenal after 18 months.  But Netherlands international Danielle van de Donk, Sari van Veenendaal and Dominque Janssen have all signed new contracts.

Bristol City Women’s head coach Willie Kirk has left the club after three years.  He had been offered a new contract, with his current one expiring in the summer, but turned it down.

Manchester City are also in the transfer news; Jane Ross and Tessel Middag have been released on the expiry of their contracts, but they have signed Bristol City forward Lauren Hemp.

England squad for Russia World Cup Qualifier

The squad has been announced for the qualifier against Russia:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Abbie McManus (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City)

Forwards: Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

The game is on Friday 8 June with a 5pm kick-off UK time and will be on the BBC red button.

Football – on the pitch – Champions League Final

Wolfsburg 1-4 Lyon (aet)
0-0 after 90 mins

It was all too easy for Lyon in the end, but in the early stages Wolfsburg went toe-to-toe with the holders.

But Lyon always had the better chances and had goal-line technology been in place the match could have been over in normal time as Lyon’s Amandine Henry’s shot looked to have crossed the line before Noelle Maritz cleared it from inside the goalmouth.

After a goalless 90 minutes, the German side took the lead with a deflected shot from Pernille Harder.

But the game arguably turned on the sending off of Wolfsburg defender Alexandra Popp for a second yellow card.

Lyon capitalised quickly and ruthlessly and Wolfsburg soon tired.  Amandine Henry scored the equaliser before substitute (and why wasn’t she starting as she was fantastic when she came on) Shanice van de Sanden put in two pinpoint crosses for Eugenie le Sommer and Ada Hegerberg to score and take the game away from Wolfsburg.

Camille Abily scored the fourth, somewhat flattering Lyon and hard on Wolfsburg and the French side had won their fifth Women’s Champions League title.

Tennis – on the court

French Open

We’re reaching the end of the first week at Roland Garros.  British number one Jo Konta continued her poor French Open form, exiting in the first round, losing to Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 4-6 3-6.  Heather Watson got to round two; in the first round she played an excellent match to defeat      Océane Dodin of France 6-3 6-0.  She was, however, unable to replicate this form in the second and was soundly beaten by sixteenth seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 3-6 4-6.

Over the next couple of days the round of 32 in the singles will be completed.  Conqueror of Konta, Putintseva, is still going strong, having defeated Wang Qiang 1-6 7-5 6-4. Others through to the round of 16 so far are thirteenth seed Madison Keys, 6-1 7-6 winner over twenty-first seed Naomi Osaka and fourteenth seed Daria Kasatkina 6-1 1-6 6-3 winner over Maria Sakkari.

There are plenty of seeds still in it and don’t forget Serena – more news next week.

Tennis – off the court

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is to bestow its highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award, on Evonne Goolagong Cawley for her contribution to tennis both on and off the court.

During a distinguished career Goolagong Cawley won the French Open and Wimbledon at the age of 19 in 1971 and in total won seven Grand Slam singles title, six Grand Slam doubles titles and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title.

She was also part of the Australian Fed Cup team that won in 1971, 1973 and 1974.

Since her retirement she has been active in promoting tennis for women in Australia and is an ambassador, advocate and role model for indigenous Australians.

For 12 years she has run the Goolagong National Development Camp which aims to improve the health, education and employment prospects of indigenous youngsters through tennis.

Rugby League

Just a couple of results from the Super League this week:

Saturday 26 May
Featherstone Rovers 22-46 Bradford Bulls

Sunday 27 May
Leeds Rhino 40-12 Castleford Tigers

St Helens are still top on points difference from Leeds Rhinos.  York City Knights have yet to register a point although they have at least one game in hand over most teams, and two over some.

Lacrosse

There was sad news from the world of lacrosse this week with the announcement of the death of Celia Brackenridge at the age of 67 from leukaemia.

Brackenridge had an illustrious career playing for and captaining both the England and Great Britain lacrosse sides.

On her retirement from the game she got into coaching and was England coach for the 1986 World Cup.  She was a scholar and student of the game and wrote several books on the sport.

But she was also passionate about equality in sport and was a part of the founding of the Women’s Sports Foundation UK.

At the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s she researched and worked in the field of the sexual abuse of young athletes by coaches, especially in football and in 2001 she worked with the FA on a new child protection strategy.

She was awarded an OBE for her serviced to Equality and Child Protection in Sport in 2012.

Netball

It was round 14 of 18 in the Netball Super League last weekend.  Performance of the weekend went to Loughborough Lightning, who ended Wasps Netball’s unbeaten run in stupendous style.  The full results were:

Friday 25 May
Celtic Dragons 38-78 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 26 May
UWS Sirens 51-43 Team Bath
Benecos Mavericks 59-40 Team Northumbria
Wasps Netball 47-60 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 28 May
Surrey Storm 42-51 Severn Stars

That win for Lightning could be vital as Wasps (36) lead at the top is cut to three points.  However they do have a game in hand over Loughborough (33) in second with Thunder (30) in third a further three points back.  Celtic Dragons and Team Northumbria prop up the table on 6 points.

Round 15 is this weekend:

Friday 1 June
Team Bath v Benecos Mavericks (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 June
Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball (2.15pm Live on Sky Sports)
Team Northumbria v Celtic Dragons (6pm)
Surrey Storm v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (7pm)

Be a Game Changer Awards

The Winners were:

Sporting role model (Individual)
Stacey Copeland

Sporting role model (Team)
England Women’s cricket team

Ambassador for Women’s Sport
Lorna Boothe
Boothe is the most senior black woman in athletics administration

National Governing Body of the Year
England and Wales Cricket Board

Brand/Sponsor partner of the year
Investec (Principal Partner of GB and England Women’s Hockey)

Inspiring Initiative (Local)
Crawley Old Girls
Enabling older women to learn to play football

Inspiring Initiative (National)
England Rugby’s inner warrior campaign

Imagery of the year
“Standing in the light”

Media initiative of the year
The Tough Girl Podcast

Outstanding contribution
Carol Isherwood
Former England rugby captain and founding member of the Women’s RFU.

Golf

Changes are afoot in the world of golf.  I’m not going to lump this into the wonderful world of hashtagged initiatives, as it seems there could be more substance to this one.

I do see stormy times ahead for the R&A though if it truly wants to improve the lot for women and girls who want to get into the sport.

In an interview with the BBC, Chief Executive, Martin Slumbers (could have been nominative determinism gone mad, but it’s obviously not) has said that “Doing nothing is not an option” when it comes to improving the “recruitment, retention and progression” of women in golf.

Considering it is only four years since the R&A voted to admit women members, this is somewhat of a seismic shift.

Enter the Women in Golf Charter.  Actually it’s inspiring stuff.  Give it a read.  There will be huffing, puffing and some rebellion I don’t doubt, but the old order is changing throughout sport and although golf may be one of the more difficult ones to crack, it is doable if enough people have the will.

Cricket

Women’s T20 Challenge

A women’s IPL is surely a step closer as the Trailblazers and Supernovas put on a fine show, with the fight going down to the last ball, as the prelude to the men’s IPL final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

Trailblazers 129/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas 130/7 (20 overs)

Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers batted first.  Top scorer was Suzie Bates with 32, while Jemima Rodrigues got 25.  The Australian duo of Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry did the bowling damage with Schutt taking 2/18 and Perry 2/20.

In reply the Supernovas started well.  Openers Danni Wyatt and Mithali Raj scored 47 inside the first six overs, but as they lost wickets the run-rate rose until they needed four runs to win off the final over.  Poonam Yadav took 2/21 and Bates 2/16 and it was Bates to bowl the final over.  Perry drew the scores level with a single from the penultimate ball and Pooja Vastrakar hit the winning run with a thrash to mid-wicket.

So come on BCCI and the many potential sponsors out there – recognise a 24-carat gold opportunity when you see one.

#ShowUp

Let me start by saying it’s laudable.  Any initiative that encourages people to attend women’s sports events can’t be bad.  But I’ve got initiative fatigue and although I’d like to raise a glass to this fine new idea, I’m struggling.  What it has got going for it is that it’s not run by the FA….. Here’s the gist:

This partnership between Sky Sports and the Women’s Sports Trust encourages sports fans to try something different by attending a women’s event.  People are being asked to pledge their support by using the hashtag #ShowUp across their social media platforms.

All of the big names in women’s sport are backing it and Sky is also giving away 5,000 tickets to women’s sports events this year.

For all of us who have been #showingUp for years it’s nothing new, but the further we can reach into new audiences the better.  Get behind this new campaigning and check out the Youtube video here.

And finally,

Before we carried away on the big fluffy #ShowUp cloud, there was a more disturbing announcement this week from Women in Football (WIF).

It has seen a 397.2 per cent increase in the number of sex discrimination and harassment incidents reported than in the preceding 12 months.

Unsurprisingly social media accounts for a huge number of complaints.  Of the 271 incidents reported:

Match day incidents were up 133.3%
Workplace incidents up 112.5%
Social media incidents up 285.4%

Of course, before we all run for the hills we must also remember that it is only recently that the reporting of incidents has been made easy and is actively encouraged.

Any regular reader of this column will realise that the abuse is widespread, particularly in social media, and particularly in football.  There are a large number of women and men out there aiming to change this and little by little we’re making a difference.  But don’t expect this behaviour to be eradicated any time soon.  All we can do is keep at it and call it out when we come across it.  We will get there.  I do believe that, otherwise I’d have given up long ago.

Until next week.  Enjoy your sport!

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 June 2017

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  I got the feeling when I was preparing this that it would be a big one – so much news from so many different sports.  So forgive me if I’m brief with each piece – just trying to get as much in as possible.

So here we go.  Stories this week come from athletics, hockey, diving, netball, football, rugby union, cycling, tennis, triathlon and cricket.  It’s also Women’s Sport Week next week, so this makes my “and finally”, with my usual combination of enthusiasm and cynicism.

Netball

Super League Final Four

I made no secret of it as I nailed my colours firmly to the Loughborough Lightning mast at the beginning of the season.  But I could not help but have that sinking feeling at the weekend when both Lightning and Wasps won well to go into the Final Four final.  And so it was borne out by the final result.  Loughborough will have the satisfaction of winning the league (by a whopping nine points), but they will be angry that the only team they couldn’t beat during the whole season was Wasps – twice.

Saturday 10 June

Semi-Finals

Loughborough Lightning 66-45 Team Bath

Wasps Netball 63-48 Manchester Thunder

Sunday 11 June

Third place play-off 

Manchester Thunder 56-48 Team Bath

Final

Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

So congratulations to Wasps.  It’s been a great Super League season.

Tennis

French Open

Twenty-year old Jelena Ostapenko became French Open champion on Saturday.  She defeated third seed and tournament favourite Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3.

The unseeded Ostapenko was one set and 3-0 down before she came roaring back and in doing so became the first unseeded woman to win at Roland Garros since 1983. She also became Latvia’s first Grand Slam champion.

It was an amazing performance and hopefully the world number 47 will have a great future.

Surbiton Trophy

Magdalena Rybarikova won the Surbiton trophy, beating Britain’s number two Heather Watson in in the final in straight sets, 6-4 7-5.

Nottingham Open

Laura Robson exited the Nottingham Open in the first round.  She went out to American Julia Boserup 6-4 6-3.

Heather Watson also lost in the first round, going out to fourth seed Alison Riske of the USA 6-2 6-3.

Meanwhile Britain’s number one, Johanna Konta is through to the quarter-final.  Her first round opponent, fellow Briton Tara Moore, retired with a foot injury.  At the time Konta was up 6-2 3-0.  It was Konta’s 300th career singles win.

She played Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in round two, winning comfortably 6-4 6-1.

Konta plays Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the last eight.

Aegon Trophy, Manchester

Britain’s number three, Naomi Broady is through to the quarter-finals with a second round win over American Maria Sanchez 7-6 7-6.

She will play top seed Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei in the last eight.

Injuries

Simona Halep

The French Open runner-up has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham next week with an ankle injury.

This means that wildcards will now be given to Naomi Broady and Heather Watson and there will, therefore, be three Britons, including British number one Johanna Konta, in the draw.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton due to a thigh injury.  She had been awarded a wildcard to compete in Birmingham.

She is not expected to return until the end of July.

Cycling

The Women’s Tour

Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma claimed the overall Women’s Tour at the weekend, after the final stage in London.

The Stage Five results were:

  1. Jolien D’Hoore – 1hr 28mins 23secs
  2. Hannah Barnes – same time
  3. Christine Majerus – same time
  4. Roxane Fournier – same time
  5. Katie Archibald – same time

Overall standings:

  1. Katarzyna Niewiadoma – 16hrs 34mins 53secs
  2. Christine Majerus – +1min 18secs
  3. Hannah Barnes – +1min 30sec

Other British finishers were Alice Barnes in 6th, Dani King in 9th, Katie Archibald in 18th and defending champion Lizzie Deignan who finished in 42nd place.

Hockey

England had a disappointing international weekend at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

10 June

England 1-5 Argentina

Argentina took the lead through an Agustina Habif penalty corner on 17 minutes.  Lily Owsley almost equalised a couple of minutes later but her shot went wide.

On 22 minutes England were level from Surbiton’s Hannah Martin’s well worked penalty corner.

The teams went in all square and with all to play for in the second-half.

But it was all downhill for England as two penalty corners, from Martina Cavallero on 44 and Magdalena Fernandez on 48 took Argentina well in front.

And English misery was complete when Delfina Merino on 56 and Eugenia Trinchinetti on 60 scored field goals to make it 5-1.

It was a somewhat experimental England side with several new faces but it was also an excellent performance from the Argentinians.

11 June

England 2- 2 Netherlands

Netherlands won 4-3 on penalties

As always seems to be the way between these two, this was a game to savour as England came from 2-0 down to force the game into a penalty shootout.

The Dutch took the lead on just three minutes with a goal from Laura Nunnink after a pinpoint Frederique Matla cross.

They doubled their lead on 15 minutes after some fine counter-attacking hockey – the shot from  Laurien Leurink to powerful for Maddie Hinch to keep out.

But England were not out of it.  Alex Danson scored on 42 minutes and and then Sophie Bray pulled them level on 52 from a great cross by Susannah Townsend.

The shootout went to sudden death.  Hollie Webb thought she had scored the winning goal, but it was disallowed for having touched her foot.

Matla put the next Dutch penalty away, Nicola White’s was saved and the Netherlands had won.

 EuroHockey Club Cup (EHCC)

With German teams finishing as runners-up in the top division of the women’s EHCC and winning the second division (the Trophy), they will have two places for next year’s event and England will only have one.

Surbiton Ladies will be the England’s representatives in 2018.

Rugby Union

Red Roses on Tour

England 53-10 Australia

England started their International Women’s Rugby Series with a convincing win over Australia at Porirua Park, New Zealand.

Although the Wallaroos took the lead in the third minute when Ashleigh Hewson went over for a try, it was pretty much all Red Roses action from then on.

They scored nine tries in all with Sarah McKenna bagging a hat-trick and Kay Wilson a brace.  The other tries came from Izzy Noel-Smith, Abbie Scott, Vicky Fleetwood and Harriet Millar-Mills.  Emily Scott put over four conversions.

Canada 20-27 England

The Red Roses continued their fine form against Canada in Christchurch.  They scored four tries; two from Lydia Thompson and one each for Abbie Scott and Kay Wilson.  Emily Scarratt kicked seven points.

Canada’s tries came from Carolyn McEwen and Karen Paquin, while Magali Harvey kicked two penalties and two conversions.

New Zealand are also in fine form.  They defeated Canada in their first match, 28-16 and Australia in their second, 44-17.

The two unbeaten sides, the Black Ferns and the Red Roses meet on Saturday at the Rotorua International Stadium in a winner-takes-all shoot-out.

Japan

Just as Japan were the surprise package at the men’s World Cup in 2015 (who can forget their incredible win over South Africa?), it seems the Japanese women should not be underestimated in this year’s tournament in Ireland.

They have just undertaken a short tour of Ireland and Wales and although they lost narrowly twice to an Ireland XV, they defeated Wales 52-10 this week.

They have been drawn in Pool C with Australia, France and Ireland.  And all should ensure they don’t take the points for granted when playing the Asian Champions.

Sevens

England’s sevens squad, meanwhile takes part in the Malemort Sevens at the weekend.  The squad is Natasha Brennan, Katie Mason, Alice Richardson-Watmore, Millie Wood, Olivia Jones, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Kelly Smith, Lotte Clapp, Jo Richardson-Watmore, Holly Aitchison and Chantelle Miell.

Malemort is the first leg of Rugby Europe Women’s Grand Prix Series.

Pool A: Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain

Pool B: France, Belgium, Wales, Sweden

Pool C: England, Ireland, Italy, Portugal

England’s pool games will be as follows (all times BST):

Saturday 17 June
v Portugal, 9.44am
v Italy, 12.29pm
v Ireland, 3.14pm

It’s an important two-part series for England as it will be their last chance to quality for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July 2018.  Qualification through the HSBC Rugby Women’s Sevens Series is unlikely as England are currently eighth after five of the six rounds.

Football

On the Pitch

England’s Euros warm-up

Switzerland 0-4 England

England put in another impressive display in Biel to win comfortably against Switzerland this week.

After a first half-hour’s stalemate Jordan Nobbs broke the deadlock with a fine 20-yard curler.

Ten minutes later they were two-up when Fran Kirby went round the Swiss Goalkeeper, Gaelle Thalmann to score from close range.

In the second-half Jodie Taylor scored twice and England could have had more.

Scotland’s Euros warm-ups

Mixed fortunes for Anna Signeul’s side as they prepare for the Euros next month.

Scotland 2-0 Romania

Lisa Evans started the scoring for the home side after just two minutes, when she headed in from a Fiona Brown cross.  They went in 1-0 up and then doubled their lead just after half-time when Jane Ross headed in another cross from Brown to seal the win.

It was a good, positive, attacking performance from the Scots.

Sweden 1-0 Scotland

Scotland’s second game was against altogether tougher opponents.

Although Sweden dominated the game they were unable to break through the Scottish defence until the 84th minute, when Caroline Seger headed home after almost constant Sweden pressure.

Off the Pitch

News broke this week that Dame Heather Rabbatts has announced she is to step down from her role as an FA non-executive director and board member.

In her resignation letter she cited her frustration “at the lack of progress for BAME coaches.”

The FA will now have to recruit three, not two women to its board in time for the beginning of the 2018/19 season, in order to adhere to the new Code for Sports Governance.

She made such a significant contribution in what must have been, at the very least, an unhelpful atmosphere.  She will be missed and I hope those women that come after her can harness some of her confidence and strength and will be able to make their own telling contributions.

Signings

Manchester City have made their first signing of the summer.  They have signed defender Mie Jans from Brondby for next season.

City fans will also be relieved that captain Steph Houghton has signed a new contract.  The club’s website stated:

“I’ve only ever seen my future at the club.

“This will be my fourth season and I’ve loved every single minute of it. I had no intention of going anywhere else and this is my home now.”

The length of the contract has not been disclosed.

Bristol City Women have also been dabbling in the transfer market this week.  They have signed Belgian striker Yana Daniels from Anderlecht.

WSL Structure

Everton will be the team to replace Notts County in WSL next season.

Only they and Doncaster Rovers Belles applied.  Everton finished top of the WSL2 Spring Series.

The Belles have seven days to appeal the decision.

Cricket

England continued their World Cup warm-up with a match against India this week.

They beat India by 140 runs in Loughborough.  Returning captain Heather Knight took three wickets, as did left-arm spinner Alex Hartley.  Nat Sciver continued her fine form with 69.  Lauren Winfield also put in a good knock of 50.

England 243 all out

India 103 all out

Next warm-up will be against Sri Lanka on 19 June in Chesterfield.

Triathlon

Leeds Triathlon (World Triathlon Series)

The winner of the Leeds event was Flora Duffy of Bermuda in a time of one hour 57 minutes, 02 seconds.  Second was Taylor Spivey of the USA in one hour 58 minutes, 32 seconds and in third was Alice Betto of Italy in one hour 59 minutes, 36 seconds.

First Briton home was Jessica Learmonth, who finished sixth in a time of two hours, one minute and 06 seconds.

Non Stanford finished in 11th.

Speaking of whom, Stanford has had to withdraw from the European Championships in Kitzbuhel, Switzerland at the weekend, due to illness.  No further details have been given, but she is believed to have been feeling ill since competing in Yokohama in May.

Diving

Britain’s Lois Toulson won 10m platform gold at the European Championships in Kiev this week.

She scored 330.70, with Russians Anna Chuinyshena (326.90) and Iuliia Timoshinina (313.3) capturing silver and bronze.

The World Championships take place from 14 July in Budapest.

Athletics

There was sad news this week as it was revealed that double Paralympic champion Kadeena Cox has had two of her gold medals stolen.

She had left the medals, from the 2015 IPC World Championships T37 100m and T35-38 4 x 100m relay, in her car outside her house in Prestwich.

Let’s hope they are returned.

And finally,

It’s that time again!  It’s Women’s Sport Week next week.  And those of you who have been with me for some time will know of my mixed feelings about this.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for shouting about women’s sport (as well you know), but I still think every week should be “Women’s Sport Week”.

But until this is the case, and let’s face it this is a long, long way away, let’s celebrate.  I want you all to go out and talk about women’s sport next week.  Tweet about it, Facebook it.  Do all those lovely social media things.  But also watch it and read about it.  I know you’ll have to make a bit of an effort to find it (hence this column), but I promise you it will be worth it.

And of course, if you’re a female reader of this column, you can always get out and play something!  Book a court, go for a run, go bowling, walk up a hill, have a kickabout in the park – then shout about it!

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to celebrate Women’s Sport Week.  Let me know and I’ll Tweet the best and check out www.womeninsport.org for more ideas and information.