Women’s Sports Column 10-16 February 2018

curlingWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get into this week with stories from the Winter Olympics, netball, AFL, football, cycling, rugby and cricket.

So let’s crack on.

Winter Olympics

I don’t plan to cover everything, just what I would consider the highlights.  Only one place to start…

Short track speed skating

What does Elise Christie have to do to get an Olympic medal?  At least she didn’t get disqualified from the 500m; if you remember, she was relegated from all three distances at Sochi, but this will be scant consolation for the Scot who fell in her first final this week.

She had been going so well, making the final with two Olympic record times.  But it seems to me that short-track is a lottery at the best of times and in this final it was even more congested as five skaters contested it instead of the usual four.

Christie fell on the penultimate lap, but that was not the end of the controversy as home favourite,  Choi Minjeong, was relegated and the Canadian, Kim Boutin took bronze.

Arianna Fontana of Italy took gold, with Yara van Kerkhof in silver and Kim Boutin of Canada in bronze.  Christie was officially placed fourth.  There have been reports that Boutin has received death threats after taking the bronze medal away from Choi, which, if true, is a pretty sad and ludicrous state of affairs.

Christie has two more chances to win a medal; in the 1000m and 1500m.

Skiing

Michaela Shiffrin duly took gold in the giant slalom on Thursday 15 February.  She took gold in a two-run combined time of 2:2.02.  Silver went to Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway with a time of 2:20.41 and bronze went to Italian Federica Brignone whose time was 2:20.48.

Shiffrin was going for four golds at Pyeongchang, but could finish only fourth in the slalom.  She complained of feeling unwell afterwards.  Frida Hansdotter of Sweden took the title, 0.05 seconds ahead of Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.  Katharina Gallhuber of Austria took bronze.

Shiffrin still has chances to add to her medal tally in the downhill and alpine combined.

Curling

It’s two wins and one loss for Team Muirhead so far as the round robin stage begins to take shape.

They began with an easy victory over the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) 10-3, but were then beaten by the US team 4-7.

It was back to winning ways in the third match with a tense 8-7 win over China that went to sudden death after the teams finished at 7-7 after 10 ends.

Bobsleigh

I have deliberately stayed out of the patronising “Cool Runnings” hype that has continuously done the rounds since the Jamaican women entered a team for the Olympic bobsleigh.  But things have taken a ridiculous turn for Jazmine Fenlater-Victorian and Carrie Russell.

Three days before the start of the Games, their coach Sandra Kiriasis quit, and in true tantrum style, took her bobsleigh with her.  She claimed that she had secured the sled through her contacts and was “legally responsible” for how and when it was used.

Now the team expects to compete with a sled “donated” by Jamaican beer producer, Red Stripe.

But the sled needs to be checked by the IBSF and cleared to run if they make it to the actual race runs.  They also need to make two runs in official training without crashing to be allowed to compete in the race proper.  It will take the duo some time to get used to a new sled – let’s hope they can get it together in time.

Netball – on the court

Vitality Netball Superleague

The 2018 Superleague season began on Saturday and the results were as follows:

Team Northumbria 39-52 Team Bath
Severn Stars 47-48 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning 55-44 UWS Sirens
Wasps Netball 68-43 Surrey Storm
Celtic Dragons 49-61 Benecos Mavericks

Round two is this weekend. The Sky televised match will be Manchester Thunder v UWS Sirens on Monday at 7pm. Here are the fixtures in full:

Saturday 17 February
Severn Stars v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Team Northumbria v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)

Monday 19 February
Celtic Dragons v Team Bath (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v UWS Sirens (7pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Surrey Storm (7.30pm)

Netball – off the court

England have announced their squad for this April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia:

Ama Agbeze, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Jade Clarke, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Jodie Gibson, Serena Guthrie, Jo Harten, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Helen Housby, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman.

Other squads to follow as they are announced.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Saturday 10 February
England 52-0 Wales

A more than comfortable win for England as they scored eight tries without reply at the Stoop on Saturday.  Poppy Cleall scored the first for the Red Roses after eight minutes and this was converted by Katy McLean.  Abigail Dow scored a second on 17 and scrum-half Leanne Riley grabbed a third four minutes later. On the half-hour England secured their bonus point as Ellie KIldunne scored the first of her two and it was 26-0 at half-time.

It was more of the same in the second period.  There was a second for Kildunne and a second for Cleall.  Marlie Packer and Rachel Burford scored the others and McLean kicked six conversions in total.

Scotland 3-26 France

Scotland deserved so much more than three points for all their skill and effort in atrocious conditions at Scotstoun.

There were handling errors aplenty as the ball took on the aspect of a bar of soap, but it was France who held it together sufficiently to take the win.

The Scots took the lead through a Sarah Law penalty, but two storming tries from Agathe Sochat and Cyrielle Banet gave France a 12-3 lead at half-time.

There was no further score until nine minutes from time when France went over twice as Scotland tired.  Tries from Caroline Boujard and Jade le Pesq saw France take the bonus point win.  Tremouliere also kicked three from four conversions.

Sunday 11 February
Ireland 28-8 Italy

Italy were well in this match up to half-time.  The Irish went in 7-3 ahead but were not convincing.  Megan Williams scored the opening try after 10 minutes and this was converted by Niamh Briggs, but there was no further scoring until first-half injury time when Michela Sillari put over a penalty.

In the second-half Ireland got it together, scoring two further tries as the Italians tired.  Ciara Griffin scored both after 67 and 74, both of which were converted by Briggs.

Italy scored a consolation try in the last minute through Eleonora Ricci, but this went unconverted.

Round three takes place 23-25 February.

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Just one result from the weekend:

10 February
DMP Sharks 22-31 Harlequins

With that win, Harlequins are just six points behind Saracens at the top of the table. Sarries still top then on 65, with Harlequins second on 60, Wasps third on 49 and Gloucester-Hartpury fourth.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Saturday 17 February
Harlequins v Worcester Valkyries (1.30pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Bristol (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (2pm, Allianz Park)
Loughborough Lightning v DMP Sharks (3pm, Loughborough University)

Sunday 18 February
Richmond v Firwood Waterloo (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

Cycling

Sarah Storey has announced that she will compete for Great Britain at the Para-Cycling Track World Championships in March.  She is back on track after missing the 2017 season after the birth of her second child.

The full women’s team is:

Lora Fachie & Corrine Hall, Sophie Thornhill & Helen Scott, Katie Toft, Megan Giglia, Crystal Lane-Wright, Sarah Storey.

Australian Rules Football

There were more developments in the case of Hannah Mouncey this week.  The AFL has agreed to let her play women’s football for Victoria state.

She becomes the first transgender player to play at state level, having previously played at local level for Canberra.

Football

Scores from the weekend’s FAWSL matches were as follows:

Saturday 10 February
WSL1
Birmingham City 0-2 Chelsea
Bristol City 1-2 Sunderland AFC

Sunday 11 February
WSL1
Manchester City 4-0 Liverpool
Arsenal 4-0 Yeovil Town
Everton 2-1 Reading

Another big win for Man City sees them two points clear on 25 from nine games at the top of WSL1. Chelsea lie second on 23 from nine, with Arsenal third on 17 from nine.  Yeovil are still rock bottom after eight games and yet to take a point.

WSL2
Durham FC 1-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Aston Villa 0-2 Millwall Lionesses
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 London Bees
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Oxford United
Watford FC v Sheffield FC (postponed)

Doncaster Rovers Belles have a slender one-point lead at the top of WSL2.  They have 23 from nine matches with Millwall in second with 22 from nine.  Brighton lie third on 16 from eight games.  Watford are bottom of the pile with just one point from seven games.

Cricket – on the field

After pummelling their hosts in the first two ODIs, there was a somewhat surprising result in the third, which took place Potchefstroom on Saturday 10 February:

India 240 all out (50 overs)
South Africa 241/3 (49.2 overs)
South Africa won by 7 wickets with 4 balls remaining

Mithali Raj won the toss and elected to bat first.  They got off to a bad start when Smriti Mandhana was out for a duck, caught by Wolvaardt off the bowling of Ismail.  Raj was the second to go for just five.  There was a fine 79 from Dipti Sharma and 56 from Krishnamurthy, but the innings stuttered to 240 all out as Poonam Yadav was run out on the last ball.  Shabnim Ismail was the main wicket-taker with 4/30 off nine overs.

In response, Lizelle Lee went early for 10, but Wolvaardt scored 59 and Mignon du Preez 90 not out as they reached their total comfortably with Dane van Niekerk contributing 41 not out at the other end.

The series goes to India 2-1.

We are now into a five-match T20 series.

First T20 – 13 February
South Africa 164/4 (20 overs)
India 168/3 (18.5 overs)
India won by 7 wickets with 7 balls remaining

India put South Africa in to bat in the first T20 at Potchefstroom on Tuesday.  All of the South Africa batters got in but couldn’t get to the big score that would take the game away from India.  In the end, the visitors reached their total with seven balls to spare, Mithali Raj top-scoring on 54 not out.

The other four fixtures take place on 16, 18, 21 and 24 February.  More news and match reports next week.

Cricket – off the field

Ellyse Perry is now top of the ODI batting rankings, taking over from Mithali Raj.  She also leads the all-rounders rankings.

Raj is second, with Meg Lanning in third.

 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 February 2018

skisWelcome to this week’s column.  The Winter Olympics is upon us, the Six Nations has kicked off in style, the FA Cup is progressing and, sadly, the WBBL is now a distant memory.  Relive everything that’s happened this week here with stories from the Winter Olympics, cricket, tennis, golf, football, netball and rugby.

Let’s crack on

Winter Olympics

There was the worst news for British snowboarder Katie Ormerod this week as she was forced to withdraw before the Games even started, after suffering not one, but two crashes in training.

On Wednesday she fractured her wrist, but was determined to carry on, but on Thursday she crashed again, this time fracturing her heel.

She has now had surgery in Seoul and will stay in hospital for at least a week.

Ormerod was a real Olympic medal hopeful for Great Britain.

In other news, Great Britain’s flagbearer in the opening ceremony is Lizzy Yarnold.  Yarnold, who won gold in the skeleton at Sochi will be defending her title on 16-17 February.

There was also good news for Sochi Paralympic gold medallist, Kelly Gallagher.  She was originally not allocated one of the two places for visually impaired skiers, but has now been given one of the spare slots.  She will be partnered by new guide, Gary Smith.

Much more from the Games next week, when we will be in full swing.

Tennis

Fed Cup

Great Britain started their Fed Cup campaign with aplomb this week, defeating Portugal 3-0 in Tallinn.

Heather Watson beat world number 796 Francisca Jorge in the first singles rubber 6-4 6-1.  Then Johanna Konta won against Maria Joao Koehler, 6-1 6-0.

Anna Smith and Katie Boulter took the doubles against Jorge and Koehler 6-0 6-2.

Great Britain now plays Estonia, a different prospect from the Portuguese team.  If they win the tie and top the group, they will go into a play-off against the winners of Group C.  The winner of the play-off will qualify for the World Group II plays-offs in April.

It’s quite a complicated format, but here is Europe/Africa Group I:

Group A: Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia
Group B: Great Britain, Estonia, Portugal
Group C: Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Sweden
Group D: Latvia, Poland, Austria, Turkey

 St Petersburg Open

Petra Kvitova won the St Petersburg Open, beating Kristina Mladenovic in the final 6-1-6-2.

It is Kvitova’s 21st WTA title and she won it as a wildcard entrant to the tournament.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Wales 18-17 Scotland

Wales started well with wings Jess Kavanagh-Williams and Hannah Bluck scoring tries in the first half.  They led 13-0 at the break.

On the restart Scotland pressed until Chloe Rollie went over, but Wales came back with a try from Kerin Lake.

Wales hit Scotland again with a second for Rollie, but the visitors launched a late comeback.

Ten minutes from time Jade Konkel pushed her way over and the conversion from Sarah Law cut the lead to 18-17.

But Scotland couldn’t quite overtake Wales as they opened their Six Nations account with a single point win.

France 24-0 Ireland

France claimed their first win, and bonus point, of the Championships on Saturday in Toulouse.

Les Bleues scored their first try of four after just six minutes through Cyrielle Banet.

Ireland then had a period of pressure that should have led to a try, but somehow the Irish just couldn’t break through, but then Jade Le Pesq went over for a second for France and it was 12-0.

Jessy Trémoulière scored a third before half-time to take the score to 17-0 at the break.

The second-half was more even but then Ireland suffered a blow as Ciara Cooney went down with a knee injury.

France were still looking for the bonus point, though, and seven minutes from time they got it as Le Pesq scored her second.  Ireland had no answers and the final score was 24-0.

Italy 7-42 England

England captain Sarah Hunter bagged three tries in the second-half to see England pull away in what had been a tight match up to this point.

At half-time it was 7-7.

England took the lead with a try from Sarah Bern, which was converted by Katy McLean.  But Italy pressed and Valentina Ruzza scored in the 34th minute and was converted by Michela Sillari to make it all square at the break.
Three minutes into the second-half McLean hit a penalty.  After that, England went up a gear (or several).

Sarah Hunter bagged her first and England’s second, quickly followed by their third, this time through Poppy Cleall.

Abigail Dow crossed for England’s fourth and it was Hunter again for the fifth.

Ellie Kildunne slid over with ten minutes to go and then, with the final play of the game, Hunter claimed a loose ball from the scrum to go over for her hat-trick.

The only disappointment for England was McLean’s kicking form – something that will need to be remedied in future, tighter, fixtures.

This weekend sees round 2:

Saturday 10 February
England v Wales (12.15)
Scotland v France (19.05)

Sunday 11 February
Ireland v Italy (13.00)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Here are the results from last weekend’s fixtures:

Gloucester-Hartpury Women 80-0 Worcester Valkyries
DMP Sharks 10-18 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens Women 41-0 Richmond Women
Bristol Ladies 13-12 Harlequins Ladies
Loughborough Lightning 26-20 Wasps Ladies

Saracens are 10 points clear at the top on 65.  Second, on 55, are Harlequins with Wasps third on 49.  Worcester Valkyries are still clearly bottom with just two points and a massive points difference of -712.  Firwood Waterloo are second bottom on 11 points.

Just one fixture again this weekend:

DMP Sharks v Harlequins (4pm, Darlington RFC)

Golf

Three cheers for the Oates Vic Open!  The event, held at Barwon Heads near Melbourne, had men and women competing at the same time, on the same course and for the same prize money of £370,000 apiece.

It’s an innovation that seems to be admired by both the women and the men.  The women’s winner was home favourite Minjee Lee, who won by five shots.  Another Australian, Simon Hawkes, won the men’s version.

The crowd gets to see both sets of players in action, widening both the fanbase and exposure of the sport to those who may not ordinarily have watched.

Some of the best Ladies European Tour golfers were in action as the tournament counts on the LET.

In an interview with the BBC, Cheyenne Woods said,

“They do value the equality in both men and women’s golf together.

“I think a lot of tours and sponsors can learn from that. You see it in the tennis game, just watching tennis the last few weeks, the Aussie Open. I think that hopefully in the next few years it will get more like this.

“I love the format.  It’s different from any professional event that we play. I think a lot of tours could learn from this format because it brings so many different fans to come and appreciate not only the men’s game, but the women’s game as well.

“From a player’s point of view, I love it. I love being alongside the men and from a fan’s perspective, it’s nice to get the best of both worlds.

“A lot of tours could take something from this, including the LPGA and PGA Tour and I’m hoping that in the next few years we can get a little something similar to this.”

Cricket

WBBL Final

The Sydney Sixers retained their WBBL title in style as they thrashed Perth Scorchers at Adelaide.

Perth Scorchers 99 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 100/1 (15 overs)

It was not the fitting end to an entertaining WBBL3 that we’d all been hoping for.

The Scorchers won the toss and elected to bat.  But from then on it all went wrong for the Scorchers.  It began with acceptable, if slow, opening partnership of 23, but as soon as Villani was out for 16 in the seventh over, all hell broke loose.  Bolton went for five and Sciver, two, in quick succession as the Scorchers slipped to 29/3.

Only Piepa Cleary with 18 not out provided any resistance as the Scorchers slumped to 99, taking 20 full overs to get there too, with Emily Smith run out for duck on the last ball.

Sarah Coyte (player of the match) was standout bowler, taking 3/17 off her four overs.  Erin Burns took 2/26 off her four.

It’s not unfair to say the Sixers cruised home, losing only one wicket in the process.  Alyssa Healy was probably kicking herself as she fell, stumped by Smith off the bowling of Emma King for 41.

Ellyse Perry (36) and Ash Gardner (22) took it home for the Sixers, in a mere 15 overs.

South Africa v India Series
Counts towards ICC Women’s Championship (qualifying for 2021 World Cup)

First ODI
India 213/7 (50 overs)
South Africa 125 all out (43.2 overs)
India won by 88 runs

The home side was out-classed in the first ODi in Kimberley.  The visitors won the toss and batted.  Opener Smriti Mandhana made 84 from 98 balls and Mithali Raj 45 as they posted a competitive total.  Marizanne Kapp was the standout bowler for SA, taking 2/26 off her 10 overs,

But it was the Indian bowling that caught the eye. The brilliant Jhulan Goswami took 4/24 from 9.2 overs and Shikha Pandey 3/23 from 8 as the hosts were skittled out with more than six overs to go.

The response started badly as South Africa slumped to 23/3 with Lizelle Lee (3), Trisha Chetty (5) and Mignon du Preez (0) all falling early.  Dane van Niekerk showed some resistance, scoring 41, before she was stumped off the bowling of Rajeshwari Gayakwad.

Laura Wolvaardt, Kapp and Sune Luus all made it into the 20s, but couldn’t push on.  No-one else got into double figures and India won by 88 runs.

Second ODI
India 302/3 (50 overs)
South Africa 124 all out (30.5 overs)
India won by 178 runs

It went from bad to worse for SA in the second ODI.  They won the toss and put India in to bat.  But India put them to the sword.

Smriti Mandhana showed her excellent form once again and was player of the match for the second game running.  She scored 135 from 129, finally stumped by Chetty off Raisibe Ntozakhe in the 44th over.

Harmanpreet Kaur scored 55 not out and Veda Krishnamurthy 51 not out as South Africa were only able to take three wickets in the innings.

Lizelle Lee top-scored for the home side with 73, but began to run out of partners before she was lbw to Deepti Sharma.

Marizanne Kapp was the only other player to get into double figures with 17.

Poonam Yadav took 4/24 off just 7.5 overs with Gayakwad and Sharma taking two apiece.

The third ODI will be on Saturday 10 February.</em

Football

FA Cup Fourth Round

There were some hefty defeats for lower-league sides in the fourth round with Chelsea putting 10 (ten) past London Bees and Sunderland 13 (thirteen!) against Brighouse Town.  The Chelsea score should give cause for concern considering the Bees are only one league down in WSL2 and so we see the ever-widening gap between the two divisions, a gap that is not going to close any time soon, if the FA’s new plans are anything to go by.

Liverpool 5-0 Watford
Aston Villa 4-0 Middlesbrough
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester City
Cardiff City 0-0 Oxford United
Durham 2-1 Sheffield FC
Everton 3-1 Bristol City
London Bees 0-10 Chelsea
Reading 0-1 Birmingham City
Sunderland AFC 13-0 Brighouse Town
Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Yeovil Town 0-3 Arsenal
Millwall Lionesses 4-1 Coventry United

FAWSL1
Wednesday 7 February

Liverpool 0-3 Arsenal

Meidema 29 (pen), Janssen 45, Evans 62

England

According to reports, new England boss Phil Neville is looking to those English players who play abroad to possibly strengthen his squad.  Obviously stalwarts such as Lucy Bronze (Lyon) and Toni Duggan (Barcelona) will be firmly in his sights, but there are others, not so well known, who are also playing overseas and may come into the reckoning.

Australia: Jodie Taylor – Melbourne City, Laura Bassett – Canberra United
Cyprus: Ashleigh Bullock and Rosella Ayane – Apollon Limassol
Finland: Sarah Burn – Aland United
France: Lucy Bronze – Lyon
Germany: Leah Galton – Bayern Munich, Lily Agg – Frankfurt, Jessica King – FF USV Jena
Italy: Ellie Brazil – Fiorentina, Katie Zelem – Juventus, Emma Lipman – Verona, Sophie Williams – Calcio Latina
Netherlands: Abby Holmes – PEC Zwolle
Spain: Chloe Richards – Zaragoza, Toni Duggan –Barcelona
United States: Natasha Dowie – formerly Boston Breakers, Rachel Daly – Houston Dash

It’s a fair point.  Some of the European leagues, especially, are far ahead of the WSL when it comes to facilities, fanbase and player-experience.  Anything these players bring to a squad could be of benefit.  But it’s also true to say that the WSL has no shortage of excellent English players to choose from.  So Neville must balance the squad between home-based (and therefore easily accessible) members and those playing further afield.

It has also been reported that Neville has petitioned Manchester United in the hope that they will start a women’s senior team.  Good luck with that.

Netball

Don’t forget the Vitality Netball Superleague begins again this week.  Get out and support your local team!  But if you can’t, tune into Sky Sports on Saturday when they will be showing Wasps Netball v Surrey Storm at 7pm.

And Finally,

It would be remiss of me this week not to mention and celebrate the glorious 6th.  One hundred years ago on Tuesday, the Representation of the People Act 1918 became law, granting property-owning women over 30 the vote.  And yes, there was still plenty of opposition (there’s probably still some today!), and yes, there was (and is) still plenty of work to do if women are to play their fair part in all sectors of society.  Of course, that includes in sport, as inch by inch we redress the balance.