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 15-21 September 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Major news from rugby union this week.  Regular readers will know that I have a healthy disrespect for some sports governing bodies.  The RFU is one body that seems to take one step forward and one back.  With World Rugby’s Development plan for the women’s game published last year, the RFU really had to up its own game, especially after the non-renewal of 15s contracts debacle post World Cup.  So, more on that to come, along with stories from triathlon, netball, rugby league, tennis, football, hockey, cricket, equestrianism and golf.

Let’s crack on….

Golf

First to the shocking news that leading Spanish amateur golfer, Celia Barquin Arozamena has been murdered in the USA.  She was found dead on the Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, Iowa on Monday 17 September.

Barquin, who was 22, won the European Ladies’ Amateur championship in July and was in her last year at Iowa State University.

A man has already been charged with her murder.

Evian Classic

The Evian classic was won by Angela Stanford of the USA.  It was her first major win and she took it by one shot.

Her compatriot, Amy Olson, was a shot clear of Stanford, who was in the clubhouse on -12.  But on the last hole Olson double-bogeyed with a six.

There was a tie for second between Olson, Austin Ernst and Mo Martin (USA) and Kim Sei-young (Kor).

Top British finisher was Georgia Hall who finished on -6.  Charley Hull was one behind her on -5, but Bryony Law saw a disappointing end to her challenge as she finished on +6.

Netball

Somehow the beginning of the Quad Series completely passed me by last week, so there is quite a bit to catch up on.

Round One – 15 September

New Zealand 39-52 England

Helen Housby scored 28 points as the Roses recorded their biggest ever win over the Silver Ferns.

Australia 61-44 South Africa

Caitlin Bassett scored 31 for the Diamonds as they produced a dominant display against the Proteas.

Round Two

18 September

New Zealand 61-37 South Africa

Solonaima Falau scored 35 points from 37 attempts as New Zealand sailed past South Africa.

19 September

Australia 52-47 England

The Roses were unable to repeat the heroics of the Commonwealth Games final as they fell to the Diamonds in Newcastle (Aus).  Caitlin Bassett was in the points again, scoring 37 points from 40 attempts.  Helen Housby was again top-scorer for England with 29 from 35.

Round three is on 23 September in Melbourne, with England taking on South Africa and Australia playing New Zealand.

World Cup

The group draw has been made for next year’s world cup:

Group A

Australia, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka

Group B

New Zealand, Malawi, Barbados, Singapore

Group C

Jamaica, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji

Group D

England, Uganda, Scotland, Samoa

Triathlon

Vicky Holland of Great Britain became triathlon world champion last weekend after she finished second in the Grand Final.

Katie Zafares of the US had held a 34-point lead going into the final, but finished third and thus 52 points behind Holland.

Final points standings

      1. Vicky Holland (GB) 5540
      2. Katie Zafares (USA) 5488
      3. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GB) 4183
      4. Kirsten Kasper (USA) 3887
      5. Jess Learmonth (GB) 3810
      6. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 3750
      7. Jodie Stimpson (GB) 3658
      8. Taylor Spivey (USA) 3603
      9. Laura Lindemann (GER) 3423
      10. Rachel Klamer (NET) 3306

    Tennis – Pan Pacific Open

    We’re at the semi-final stage at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.  In the quarter-finals, Camila Giorgi went through after Victoria Azarenka retired hurt, Donna Vekic beat second seed Caroline Garcia in straight sets 6-3 6-4, third seed and US Open Champion Naomi Osaka defeated eighth seed Barbora Strycova 6-3 6-4 and fourth seed Karolina Pliskova overcame Alison Riske in three sets, 6-1 6-77-6.

    The semi-final draw:
    Pliskova v Vekic
    Giorgi v Osaka

    Top Briton, Jo Konta, was knocked out in straight sets in the round of 16 by Vekic, 6-3 7-5.

    Rugby Union – off the pitch

    The biggest rugby news comes this week from the RFU, which has announced it is to introduce women’s full-time 15s contracts this season.  The new deals will come into effect on 1 January 2019.

    There will be 28 full-time contracts for England Women plus seven Elite Player Squad (EPS, the current agreements), making a total of 35 contracts.

    “We are delighted to be able to offer full-time contracts to our 15s players,” said RFU chief executive Steve Brown.

    “This has long been our ambition and demonstrates the RFU’s commitment to growing the women’s game and the belief we have in the future of the sport.”

    The England squad will now be based at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre, giving them a top-class permanent base with access to some of the best facilities in the country.

    With World Rugby showing its commitment to women’s rugby, the RFU could not really do anything else but fall into line.  It has always talked a good game, and for periods had backed it up with actions and resources.  Let’s hope that this time the RFU keeps its focus and does not get sidetracked by the lure of Sevens.

    Rugby union – on the pitch

    Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

    Wasps 20-40 Loughborough Lightning
    Saracens 43-7 Worcester Valkyries
    DMP Sharks 14-57 Gloucester-Hartpury Women
    Richmond 12-24 Firwood Waterloo
    Harlequins 26-26 Bristol Bears

    After two games, Saracens are top with two wins and two bonus points (10 points in total).  Loughborough are second on nine and Harlequins third on eight.  At the bottom there are two teams yet to register a win.  Richmond are bottom with one bonus point, with Worcester just above them with two bonus points.

    This weekend’s fixtures look like this:

    22 September 2018

    Firwood Waterloo v Wasps (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
    Worcester Valkyries v Richmond (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
    DMP Sharks v Saracens (3pm, Northern Echo Arena)
    Bristol Bears v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (4.50pm, Ashton Gate)
    Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins (5pm, Loughborough University)

    Hockey

    England goalkeeper, Maddie Hinch, has announced she is to take a break from international hockey.  In reality, this will probably mean only one international season as she has said,

    “I still have the goal of going to Tokyo 2020 if selected.”

    She is aiming to concentrate her efforts on playing for her club side, Stichtsche in the Netherlands.

    Investec Women’s Hockey League

    The domestic hockey season begins again this weekend.  The first round of Premier League fixtures are as follows:

    22 September

    Buckingham v East Grinstead (12 noon, Stowe School)
    Slough v Surbiton (12.30pm, Slough Hockey Club)
    Beeston v University of Birmingham (2pm, Nottingham Hockey)
    Canterbury v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Polo Farm SC)
    Holcombe v Bowdon (3pm, Holcombe Hockey Club)

    For hockey news, fixtures and results for all divisions, check out the England Hockey website.

    Equestrianism

    This week has seen the start of a somewhat disrupted World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina.  The advent of storm Florence meant that some events were cancelled and some moved around.  As you will all know by now, equestrian sports are not my favourite and probably a bit of a blind spot, but here is what has happened so far:

    Dressage

    Great Britain won bronze in the team event as Olympic champions Germany won gold and USA silver.  The team of Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester, Emile Faurie and Spencer Wilton took third, edging out Sweden and have now qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

    In the individual event Isabell Werth of Germany took gold, Laura Graves of USA silver and Charlotte Dujardin, bronze.

    Sophie Wells of Great Britain took gold in the individual para-dressage.  She finished ahead of Frank Hosmar of Netherlands , who took silver and Regine Mispelkamp of Germany, bronze.

    Eventing

    Great Britain dominated in the eventing, taking both individual and team gold.  Ros Canter won the individual title, Padraig McCarthy of Ireland took silver and Ingrid Klimke of Germany, bronze.

    In the team event Canter, Piggy French, Gemma Tattersall and Tom McEwan finished ahead of the Ireland team of McCarthy, Cathal Daniels, Sam Watson and Sarah Ennis – Ireland’s first team world medal since 1966.  France took the bronze.

    Show jumping is still to come with the team finals on 21 September and individual finals on 23 September.  For more information and results check out the WEG website.

    Football

    Just hours after last week’s column was published, Neil Redfearn resigned as manager of Liverpool.

    Continental Cup

    Sunday 16 September
    Group One – North
    Sheffield United 0-2 Birmingham City
    Staniforth, Hayles

    Leicester 0-1 Aston Villa
    Welsh 19’

    Bristol City 0-3 Manchester City
    Emslie 52’, Nadim 66’ (pen), Weir 72’

    Group Two – North

    Durham 3-3 Liverpool
    Roberts 3’ 19’, Cottam 61’
    Bradley-Auckland 2’, Babajide 71’, Sweetman-Kirk 87’

    Everton 3-2 Reading
    Walker 14’ 27’, Kaagman 56’
    Finnigan 24’ (OG), Chaplen 77’

    Group One – South

    Crystal Palace 0-4 Chelsea
    Engman 10’, England 56’ 64’, Spence 59’

    Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 London Bees
    Umotong 27’, Brazil 36’, Whelan 89’
    Howells 22’

    Yeovil Town 0-4 Tottenham Hotspur
    Wiltshire 7’, Haines 22’ 39’ 61’

    Group Two – South

    West Ham 4-0 Millwalll Lionesses
    De Graaf 6’ 86’, Visalli 9’, Kmita 12’

    Lewes 0-9 Arsenal
    Van de Donk 6’, Miedema 21’ 27’ 60’, McCabe 26’, Little 37’ 45’ (Pen) 68’, Evans 59’

    There were also midweek Super League and Championship matches:

    Wednesday 19 September

    FAWSL
    Bristol City 0-0 Chelsea
    Birmingham City 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
    West Ham 0-0 Reading
    Yeovil Town 0-7 Arsenal

    FAWC
    Charlton 2-0 Aston Villa
    Leicester City 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
    Lewes 2-1 Crystal Palace
    London Bees 2-1 Millwall Lionesses

    Thursday 20 September

    FAWSL
    Everton 0-4 Manchester City

    FAWC
    Manchester United 3-0 Sheffield United

    I mentioned a few weeks ago that the FA has a new website for the women’s game.  Having tried to extract information from it several times now, I have to say it really is hard work.  I’m “sure” it will improve as time goes on, but patience is not my strong point and at the moment it is pushing what patience I have to its limit!

    Rugby League

    There were three Super League fixtures at the weekend:

    Bradford Bulls 32-10 Featherstone Rovers
    Castleford Tigers 20-32 Leeds Rhinos
    York City Knights 6-38 Wigan Warriors

    Most teams have now played 11 matches.  Leeds are top with 18 points, with Wigan in second just one point behind.  At the bottom, York City and Featherstone Rovers both have two points, with York at the bottom on points difference.

    Cricket

    Sri Lanka v India

    Third ODI
    India 253/5 (50 overs)
    Sri Lanka 257/7 (49.5 overs)
    Sri Lanka won by 3 wickets

    Sri Lanka claimed their first win of the series in fine style at Katunayake on Sunday 16 September.

    Mithali Raj scored a huge 125 not out from 143 balls as India set Sri Lanka a big total.  Smriti Mandhana contributed with 51 and Deepti Sharma 38.

    But Sri Lankan captain, Chamari Atapattu, capped a fine all round personal ODI performance with a knock of 115 from 133 balls, to give her side a chance.  It went down to the final over, with Sri Lanka needing six to win.  They took three singles from the first three balls off Sharma then Dilhari scored two off the fourth.  She then scored a four off the fifth ball to take her own score to 12 and to win the match for the home side.  It also gave Sri Lanka two priceless points in the ICC Women’s Championship.

    19 September

    First T20
    India 168/8 (20 overs)
    Sri Lanka 155 all out (19.3 overs)
    India won by 13 runs

    Mandhana was out for a duck, but Bhatia top-scored with 46 and Rodrigues and Krishnamurthy scored 36 each as India posted a competitive total in the first T20.

    In response the Sri Lankan openers put on 39 in just under three overs before Mendis was out for 32 from 12 balls.  After that, wickets fell regularly and although Kaushayala made a spirited 45, Poonam Yadav weighed in with 4/26 off her four overs and Sri Lanka were all out 13 short.

    21 September

    Second T20

    Sri Lanka had reached 49/3 off 7.5 overs before the heavens opened in Colombo and the match was abandoned.

    There are three more T20s scheduled; 22, 24, 25 September.  More news next week.

    Meanwhile, South Africa are also in action in the West Indies.

    16 September

    First ODI
    South Africa 201/9 (50 overs)
    West Indies 161 all out (46 overs0
    South Africa won by 40 runs

    Lizelle Lee went for a duck, but Laura Wolvaardt scored 45, Sune Luus 58 and Dane van Niekerk 46 not out as South Africa posted a gettable 201/9.  Stafanie Taylor took 3/37 off her 10 overs.

    But Marizanne Kapp had other ideas. She took 3/14 off nine overs as West Indies were skittled out for 161.  Hayley Matthews was her first victim, caught by Lee for a duck.  Shemaine Campbelle scored 46, but wickets fell all around her and when Kapp took two more in three balls (Aguilleira 1, Fletcher 0) the target was looking distant.  Campbelle’s spirited resistance ended when she was last wicket to fall in the 46th and South Africa had won by 40 runs.

    19 September

    Second ODI

    South Africa had reached 177/8 off 38 overs when the rain hit Bridgetown and the match had to be abandoned.  This was a pity for West Indies as they had South Africa in a good deal of trouble.

    There is still one ODI (22 Sept) and five T20s to come.

    More news and views next week.

 

Women’s Sports Column 27 January – 2 February 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s somewhat truncated column.  It will probably seem particularly short this week, after last week’s mammoth effort.  No ranting this week, but stories from football, cricket, rugby union, hockey, Winter Olympics, WWE (yes, really – desperately pretending I know anything about this one) and this week’s “And Finally” comes from Formula 1.

Let’s crack on.

Winter Olympics

With just a week to go before the opening of the Pyeongchang games uncertainty still surrounds the participation of Russian athletes.

Speed skater Olga Graf has declined her invitation to compete as a neutral.  In an interview she said,

“As an athlete and as a citizen, I was extremely negative about the decision of the IOC to admit Russia to the Olympic Games under a neutral flag,” added Graf.

“Nevertheless, I was ready to defend the honour of the country even on these discriminatory and degrading conditions.

“But at the end of January we learned that the majority of athletes of our Olympic speed skating team will not be able to perform at the Olympics, which means all my hopes in the struggle for the Olympic pedestal will not come true because the sport has become a bargaining chip in dirty political games.”

British Build-up

A good performance from Izzy Atkin at the X Games in Colorado last week saw her take silver in the ski slopestyle.

The winner of the event was American Maggie Voisin on 92.33, Atkin scored 88.00 and Jennie Lee Burmansson of Sweden took bronze with 85.00.

Atkin is due to compete on 17 February and will, hopefully, be one to watch for Team GB fans.

Rugby Union

Just the one result from the Tyrell 15’s Premiership last weekend:

DMP Sharks 10-15 Richmond Women

This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

Saturday 3 February

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, venue tbc)
DMP Sharks v Firwood Waterloo (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Saracens Women v Richmond Women (2pm, Allianz Park)
Bristol Ladies v Harlequins Ladies (2pm, Cleve RFC)
Loughborough Lightning v Wasps Ladies (3pm, Loughborough)

Six Nations

But of course, this weekend also sees the start of the Six Nations Championship and it promises to be tighter, more competitive and more exciting than ever.  It all begins on Friday.

Friday 2 February

Wales v Scotland (6pm UK time, Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay)

Wales starting 15:
15. Jodie Evans, 14. Hannah Bluck, 13. Kerin Lake, 12. Rebecca De Filippo, 11. Jess Kavanagh-Williams, 10. Robyn Wilkins, 9. Jade Knight, 1. Caryl Thomas, 2. Carys Phillips (Captain), 3. Amy Evans, 4. Natalia John, 5. Mel Clay, 6. Alisha Butchers, 7. Beth Lewis, 8. Siwan Lillicrap

Scotland starting 15:
15. Chloe Rollie, 14. Liz Musgrove, 13. Lisa Thomson, 12. Lisa Martin (Captain), 11. Rhona Lloyd, 10. Helen Nelson, 9. Jenny Maxwell, 1. Jade Konkel, 2. Rachel Malcolm, 3.Megan Kennedy, 4. Emma Wassell, 5. Deborah McCormack, 6. Hannah Smith, 7. Louise McMillan, 8. Sarah Bonar

Saturday 3 February

France v Ireland (8pm UK time, Stade Ernest Wallon)

France starting 15:
15. Jessy Trémoulière, 14. Caroline Boujard, 13. Jade Le Pesq, 12. Camille Boudaud, 11. Cyrielle Banet, 10. Pauline Bourdon, 9. Yanna Rivoalen, 8. Romane Ménager, 7. Gaelle Hermet (Captain), 6. Marjorie Mayans, 5. Safi N’Diaye, 4. Celine Ferer, 3. Julie Duval, 2. Agathe Sochat, 1. Lisa Arricastre

Ireland starting 15:
15. Kim Flood, 14. Megan Williams, 13. Claire McLaughlin, 12. Sene Naoupu, 11. Alison Miller, 10. Niamh Briggs, 9. Ailsa Hughes, 1. Lindsay Peat, 2. Cliodhna Moloney, 3. Fiona Reidy, 4. Ciara Cooney, 5. Orla Fitzsimons, 6. Anna Caplice, 7. Claire Molloy, 8. Ciara Griffin (Captain)

Sunday 4 February

Italy v England (5.30pm UK time, Stadio Mirabello)

Italy starting 15:
TBA

England starting 15:
15. Ellie Kildunne, 14. Abigail Dow, 13. Lauren Cattell, 12. Rachael Burford, 11. Danielle Waterman, 10. Katy Daley-Mclean, 9. Leanne Riley, 1. Rochelle Clark, 2. Lark Davies, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Abbie Scott, 5. Tamara Taylor, 6. Poppy Cleall , 7. Marlie Packer, 8. Sarah Hunter (Captain)

It’s hard to see past an England championship win, but they will surely be pushed harder than ever before in this year’s tournament.

France will be the biggest test, but there could be a few surprises in store this year, especially between the home nations.

Media coverage is its usual patchy and inconsistent self (it is slowly getting better).  If I read it correctly, you should be able to catch at least highlights on terrestrial TV with some also live on the BBC red button and online:

BBC: Scotland, Ireland and Wales matches (but not Wales v Ireland or France!) – keep checking the BBC website for details.

Sky: All England games on Sky Sports Action and/or Sky Sports Mix

Sevens

Australia won the Sydney leg of the Sevens Series at the weekend without conceding a point.  Over the course of three days they scored 213 unanswered points.

In the final they beat New Zealand 31-0.  Australia’s tries came from Parry, Caslick, Green, Pelite and Sykes.

England made good progress at this event:

Friday
USA 24-27 England
New Zealand 33-12 England
England 10-17 Japan

Saturday
England 52-0 Papua New Guinea

Challenge Trophy Final
England 29-10 Fiji

Hockey

Bowdon Hightown won the Jaffa Super 6s last weekend, defeating Leicester in the final.

Bowdon took the lead in the fourth minute of a tightly contested final from a Sally Walton penalty corner.

The lead lasted into the second half but on nineteen minutes Leicester equalised through Rachael Mack.

But with just four minutes to go Charlene Mason hit the winner for Bowdon in open play.

Leicester pushed to draw level for a second time, but were unable to convert their chances.

Cricket

Women’s Big Bash League Semi-finals
Perth Scorchers 148/2 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 121/8 (20 overs)
Scorchers won by 27 runs

The Scorchers are through to the final after a convincing win over the Thunder at the Perth Stadium.

The Thunder won the toss and put the Scorchers in to bat.  But they found it hard to make inroads into the strong Perth batting line-up.  Villani and Bolton compiled an opening stand of 65 before Villani was out for 38 from 37 balls.  Bolton hit a battling 37 from 26 balls before she was caught by Stalenberg off the bowling of Taylor.

It was down to Sciver and Graham to take it on and they scored 38 and 27 respectively.

It shouldn’t have been beyond the Thunder, but several batters got bogged down as the run-rate went up.

Haynes was out early for just one and Blackwell, usually so dependable, went for nine from 22 balls.  The Thunder lost wickets at regular intervals.  Only Fran Wilson, with 46 from 28 balls showed any spark, and the Thunder possibly missed a trick by not moving her up the order.

In the end the Thunder were comprehensively beaten.  Player of the match was Emma King, who took 3/17 from her four overs.

Sydney Sixers 138/5 (20 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 121/9 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 17 runs

At one point it looked as if this was going to be a massacre.  But a fine 50 From Tammy Beaumont brought the Strikers closer to chasing their total than it seemed possible.

The Sixers got off to a bad start with Healy dismissed for just two, Ellyse Perry mustered 16 before she was caught by McGrath off the bowling of Devine.

But Ashleigh Gardner’s 72 off 45 balls took the Sixers to a decent 138.

The Strikers would have been confident of chasing down the total, but could not anticipate the devastating effect of Sarah Aley.  She took two wickets in her first two balls; Suzie Bates for 14 and Tahlia McGrath for a duck.  Kim Garth then took two in the next; Sophie Devine for seven and Bridget Patterson for a duck.  Then Aley was back into the attack.  In her second over she struck twice again, getting both Amanda Wellington and Tabitha Saville for ducks.  At that point the Strikers were 23/6.

Tammy Beaumont provided the resistance, scoring 50 from 46, but she was out in the seventeenth over.  From that point it was clear that the Strikers were going to fall short.

Unsurprisingly, Sarah Aley was player of the match for her 4/18 bowling performance.

The final, between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers takes place at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday 4 February (1am UK time) and will be live on BT Sport and BBC 5Live Sports Extra.

Netball
Quad Series

Australia finished top of the Quad series pile this week, defeating the New Zealand Silver Ferns by 19 goals thereby avenging their surprise defeat at the hands of the Ferns during last year’s series.  The England Roses finished an excellent second, their best final position in a Quad Series.

New Zealand 48-67 Australia
In the first quarter alone New Zealand conceded 13 turnovers and this set the tone of the match.

At half-time it was 35-22 to the Diamonds and the Ferns never looked like they would recover the deficit.  New Zealand coach, Janine Southby, made 14 changes in the game, but nothing seemed to work.

In the end the Diamonds ran away with it, claiming the Quad Series title in the process.

South Africa 47- 52 England
England finished an impressive Quad series as runners-up as they beat the Proteas in Johannesburg on Sunday.

The Roses were eight ahead, 30-22, at half-time and never lost the lead.  But South Africa fought hard, coming back to be trailing by only three going into the fourth quarter.

This was a much-improved performance by South Africa but Tracy Neville will be heartened by the fact that she made changes to the side established in the first two games and the Roses were still able to take the win.

Vitality Superleague
Next weekend sees the start of the 2018 Superleague.  There will be one match per week televised live on Sky and I would urge you, if you’ve never watched netball and have access to Sky, to give it a go.  Better still, go and watch it in the flesh.  It’s a breathless hour of entertainment.  The opening weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

 Saturday 10 February
Severn Stars v Manchester Thunder (6pm, University of Worcester Arena)
Loughborough Lightning v UWS Sirens (6pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps Netball v Surrey Storm (7pm, Ricoh Arena and Live on Sky Sports)

Monday 12 February
Celtic Dragons v Benecos Mavericks (7pm, Sport Wales National Centre)

Check out the Superleague website and book tickets!

WWE

Ronda Rousey has officially made the switch from UFC to WWE.

Rousey was the first woman to win a UFC bout and was the first UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

Since losing her title to Amanda Nunes in 2016 she has been repeatedly linked with wrestling and she will now take her place amongst the WWE elite.

Football – off the pitch

England defender Gemma Bonner is set to be out for up to 12 weeks with ankle ligament damage sustained in the game against Bristol City.

Birmingham City’s Norwegian midfielder, Andrine Hegerberg has signed for PSG.

Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park will host the Continental Cup final between Manchester City and Arsenal on 14 March.

Football – on the pitch

Saturday 27 January
FAWSL1

Liverpool 2-0 Bristol City

FAWSL2

London Bees 3-1 Watford FC

Sunday 28 January
FAWSL1

Chelsea 1-0 Everton
Birmingham City 3-0 Yeovil Town
Reading FC 0-0 Arsenal
Sunderland AFC 0-3 Manchester City

FAWSL2
Millwall Lionesses 3-2 Durham FC
Sheffield FC 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Doncaster Rovers Belles 4-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Oxford United 3-1 Aston Villa

Thursday 1 February
FAWSL1

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City

It was a tight, good quality game at Kingsmeadow, befitting the top two FAWSL1 sides, but neither team could break the deadlock.  It leaves City still two points clear at the top.

The downside for City was the loss of ‘keeper Karen Bardsley, who was stretchered off after just two minutes.  She was taken to hospital with x-rays taken on her left shoulder.  No news yet as to the extent of Bardsley’s injury.

This weekend sees the fourth round of the FA Cup.  For full match details click this link to the FAWSL website.

And Finally,

Formula 1 is one of those sports that divides people at the best of times.  It has a loyal (although diminishing) following, but it has an equal number of detractors who just, quite frankly, don’t see the point.

I used to be quite a fan in my younger days when Ayrton Senna was at his majestic peak, but recently I’ve tended towards the “What’s the point” camp.

But one thing’s for sure, any sport that needs scantily clad women to walk next to the participants and hold their umbrellas for them has a serious problem with its image.  And if they are needed as a “selling point”, there is something fundamentally wrong with the product.

So the decision by F1’s governing body to dispense with the services of “grid girls” from the start of the 2018 season works for me.

We need to see “girls” (that is, women) as drivers, engineers, team directors, etc., rather than as an adornment to the competitors.

It looks like darts (!) may follow suit and then it’s just up to cycling to get its house in order; the sooner the better in my view.

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 January 2018

gavelWelcome to this week’s column.  No prizes for guessing what’s been bugging me beyond endurance this week.  But actually there’s a bigger story that should be given prominence – the conviction of US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.  But there is plenty of news from other sports this week – news that, thanks to Mr Neville, has received even less (if that were possible) coverage than usual.

Stories this week come from netball, cricket, rugby union, football, Winter Olympics, tennis, bowls and Commonwealth Games.

Larry Nassar 

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years imprisonment for the abuse of girls and young women he was supposed to be caring for in his role as US Olympic gymnastics team doctor.

Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault.

The 54-year old had already been sentenced to 60 years for the possession of child pornography.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina delivered a devastating speech in sentencing Nassar.

“As much as it was my honour and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it was my honour and privilege to sentence you.

“Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.”

156 girls and women accused Nasser and the court heard seven days of testimony.

In response to the accusations Nassar said,

“What I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling.

“There are no words to describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred.”

 Football

Now let’s just get the next subject over with so we can move on other things as there is a lot to get through.

 FA appoints Phil Neville as new England Women’s Head Coach

It’s all been said.  I can add nothing new, but it won’t stop me putting my two penn’orth in.  The FA’s job advert said it was looking for:

“an outstanding football coach with a track record of consistent and successful management and development of elite players and coaches to high-performance levels.”

Or, alternatively, we can hire Phil Neville.  As I said last week, I’m ready to be converted, but if things do go well, will it because of Neville or in spite of him?

And, it never ceases to amaze me that hundreds of men who have never given a second’s consideration to women’s football unless it is to dismiss it as irrelevant, now feel it is their right, nay their duty, to give their opinion on this topic.  Should I be grateful that the “great and the good” of the men’s game now have an opinion – largely that the appointment is wrong?  No, I should not.  You’ve never shown any interest before – don’t pretend you’re commenting because you feel outrage at this appointment.  Can’t quite believe I’m going to say this, but at the moment those saying “who cares?” are the ones I want to read – at least they’re consistent……

Many of the social media comments over the last few days have been unpleasant and personal about Neville and have no place in any reasoned argument.  Neville’s tweets from way back have been a distraction from the real issues.  I don’t have much of an opinion either way on Neville as a person, but if the FA couldn’t find anyone better qualified for this role they are doing something wrong and Baroness Sue Campbell coming out and saying that the other candidates were “nervous” about the media grilling they would receive is not going to convince me otherwise.

Right, enough and onwards.

FAWSL

We’re up and running again in the WSL this weekend.  These are the fixtures:

Saturday 27 January

FAWSL1

Liverpool v Bristol City (5.30pm, Select Security Stadium)

FAWLS2

London Bees v Watford FC (2pm, The Hive)

Sunday 28 January

FAWSL1

Chelsea v Everton (12.30pm, Kingsmeadow Stadium)

Birmingham City v Yeovil Town (2pm, Solihull Moors)

Reading v Arsenal (2pm, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

Sunderland v Manchester City (2pm, Mariners Park)

FAWSL2

Millwall Lionesses v Durham (12 noon, St Paul’s Sports Ground)

Sheffield v Tottenham Hotspur (1pm, Sheffield FC)

Doncaster Rovers Belles v Brighton & Hove Albion (2pm, Keepmoat Stadium)

Oxford United v Aston Villa (2pm, Oxford City FC)

Other Football News

There has been a mixture of good and bad in the other news this week; I’m afraid it’s been one step forward, at least two back:

Manchester City

Manchester City are signalling their clear commitment to women’s football by launching their new “Same City, Same Passion” campaign.

As part of this they are merging their men’s and women’s social media channels and say that the campaign is,

“Focused on promoting women’s football by demonstrating that the same skills, same excitement and same passion exist wherever a ball is kicked”.

The club statement went on to say,

“Despite the rapid growth the sport has experienced since then, the general public perception of women’s football does not always match the reality of what can be seen on the pitch.

“In 2014, FIFA’s women’s football survey found that only 13 per cent of its member associations believed women’s football was perceived as a quality sport.

“Same City, Same Passion has been created to combat this misconception and to show that the similarities to the men’s game are far greater than the differences, and that men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ football can be enjoyed by everyone.”

“Same City, Same Passion aims to highlight that the similarities between men’s and women’s football are far greater than the differences and, regardless of who’s playing, it’s just football.

“Merging social media channels as part of this campaign offers us a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of our women’s team and to offer our supporters the chance to enjoy the excitement and passion that defines every Manchester City team.”

Let’s face it, the club is often accused of “buying” success, but, to be honest I say let them buy it if they are going to put this much faith in their women’s team.  Let it show the others how it’s done.  Hopefully, others will follow suit with similar commitment.  I’m not holding my breath, but it’s a definite step forward.

Boston Breakers

Bad news from the US this week as it has been announced that Boston Breakers have gone out of business.

The details are still sketchy, but it is believed that the players were told by email on Thursday.

England striker Natasha Dowie plays for the Breakers and the manager is former Liverpool boss Matt Beard.

More news in next week’s column.

Yeovil Town

It was announced today that Yeovil manager Jamie Sherwood will leave the club at the end of the season.  Sherwood has been doing the job part-time and with the league going fully professional from next season, he cannot carry on his other job in Wales and this one.  So he has opted to stand down from his role at Yeovil.

In a similar position is Ellie Curson, who is also to leave Yeovil to concentrate on her teaching career as she does not want to commit to a full-time professional team.

 Transfers

  • Chloe Kelly and Taylor Hinds have left Arsenal for Everton
  • England under-20 forward, Rinsola Babajide, has signed for Liverpool from Watford.

Netball

World Cup Qualifying

Scotland and Northern Ireland have qualified for the 2019 World Cup after the qualifying tournament at the weekend.

Friday, 19 January

Wales 40-52 Scotland

Wales were ahead at half-time 23-21, but the Scots came back and by the end of the third quarter were 32-31 up.  Then Nia Jones was sent off for Wales, the match had turned for good, Scotland extended their lead and took the match by 12.

 Saturday, 20 January

Northern Ireland 57-42 Wales

Northern Ireland were always ahead in this game.  They led 16-11 after the first quarter and 28-21 at half-time.  They were never headed and they took the match comfortably.

Sunday, 21 January

Scotland 52-31 Northern Ireland

Both sides had already qualified by beating Wales.  Scotland went on the offensive early and were 14-6 ahead at the end of the first quarter.  By half-time they were 27-14 up.

Scotland’s defence was stronger and their attackers more accurate as they stretched away to make the final gap 21 points.

Wales

The Welsh coach, Trish Wilcox, has already paid the price for failing to qualify for the World Cup as she was sacked this week.  She also leaves her role as Celtic Dragons coach.

Wales are now looking to appoint an interim head coach for the Commonwealth Games, before they make a permanent appointment later on in the year.

Wilcox had been in post for three and a half years.

Quad Series

 20 January (Copper Box)

South Africa 50-54 Australia

The Diamonds’ shooting was the difference in this match.  And yet, it could all have been different.  At half-time South Africa were one point ahead.

But they couldn’t maintain their form as Australia found theirs.  Going into the final quarter the Diamonds had reversed the deficit and were one point ahead 39-38.

The gap was stretched to four points by the end, but it was a whole lot tighter than expected.

England 64-57 New Zealand

What a game!  What a comeback from the Roses!

England came back from six down as the fourth quarter started, to tie the game 49-49 at the final hooter.  And so into extra time.

But it needn’t even have got that far, as Kadeen Corbin missed a shot in the last seconds which would have won the game in normal time.

The Roses powered through extra-time, forcing the Silver Ferns into mistakes and turning the ball over.  New Zealand seemed to visibly wilt as England got stronger and there was only going to be ne winner by the end.

Player of the match was Serena Guthrie, a ball of furious energy throughout.

 22 January (Copper Box)

England 46-50 Australia

But it was the same old story against Australia as England fell short.

The Roses were 28-21 down at half-time, a gap too large to come back from against the World’s number one side.

They brought it back to 37-34 at the end of the third, but Australia held on for the win.

25 January (Johannesburg)

South Africa 46-51 New Zealand

The Silver Ferns led by five after the first quarter, 14-9.  They maintained the gap with the score at 25-21 at half-time.

The gap was five 39-34 going into the final quarter, and although the Proteas fought in the fourth, New Zealand took the game by five.

There are two games to go: 28 January (Johannesburg)

Australia v New Zealand

South Africa v England

Tennis

The Australian Open final will be between the top seed, Simona Halep and second seed, Caroline Wozniacki.

Halep overcame 21st seed Angelique Kerber in a semi-final epic, 6-3 4-6 9-7

Wozniacki defeated Elise Mertens in straight sets, 6-3 7-6

The final is on Saturday 26 January.

Winter Olympics

The GB team for Pyeongchang has been announced.  The games begin on 9 February.  It’s great to see the crowdfunded “Micas” on the list.  The women taking part are:

Skeleton

Lizzy Yarnold, Laura Deas

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill (Pilot), Mica Moore (Brakewoman)

Curling

Team Muirhead (In with a great chance of a medal)

Eve Muirhead (Skip), Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer

Figure skating

Penny Coomes (with partner Nick Buckland) (ice dancing)

Short Track Speed Skating

Elise Christie (500m, 1000m, 1500m) – (Great chance of a medal if she can stay out of trouble)

Charlotte Gilmartin (500m, 1000m, 1500m) (outside chance of a medal)

Kathryn Thomson (500m, 1000m, 1500m)

Biathlon

Amanda Lightfoot (7.5km Sprint)

Alpine skiing

Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley

Cross-country skiing

Annika Taylor

Freestyle skiing

Izzy Atkin, Rowan Cheshire, Emily Sarsfield, Katie Summerhayes, Molly Summerhayes

Snowboarding

Aimee Fuller, Zoe Gillings-Brier, Katie Ormerod.

Bowls

The World Indoor Bowls tournament is underway at Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk and the women’s singles has been won by Katherine Rednall from Ipswich.

This is Rednall’s third title.  She beat Rebecca Field from Norwich in the final 13-3 13-6.

She now goes on to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Commonwealth Games

Wales have already announced their team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which take place 4-15 April 2018.  Included is 11-year old Anna Hursey, who be representing the Principality in table tennis.

The hockey, sevens and netball squads are still be finalised.

Aquatics: Jazz Carlin, Georgia Davies, Kathryn Greenslade, Ellena Jones, Harriet Jones,  Beth Sloan, Alys Thomas, Chloe Tutton, Harriet West.

 Athletics: Hollie Arnold (para), Olivia Breen (para), Rebecca Chapman, Melissa Courtney, Bethan Davies, Seren Bundy Davies (still to reach qualifying standard), Caryl Granville, Beverley Jones (para), Caryl Jones, Elinor Kirk, Heather Lewis, Carys Parry-Evans, Sally Peake,

Boxing: Rosie Eccles, Lynsey Holdaway, Lauren Price.

Cycling: Elinor Barker, Eleanor Coster, Joe Holt, Ciara Horne, Rachel James, Manon Lloyd,  Dani Rowe (having switched from representing England to representing Wales),

Lawn bowls: Anwen Butten, Laura Daniels, Jess Sims, Caroline Taylor, Julie Thomas (para), Pauline Wilson (para), Emma Woodcock.

Shooting: Sian Corish, Coral Kennerley, Sarah Wixey.

Squash: Tesni Evans, Deon Saffery.

Table Tennis: Charlotte Carey, Anna Hursey, Chloe Thomas.

Triathlon: Olivia Mathias, Non Stanford.

Weighlifting & Powerlifting: Tayla Howe, Laura Hughes, Catrin Jones, Holly Knowles, Nerys Pearce (para), Faye Pittman, Hannah Powell, Christie Williams.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Tyrell 15s results were as follows:

20 January

Firwood Waterloo 0-29 Loughborough Lightning

Gloucester-Hartpury 34-17 Bristol

Wasps 5-0 Saracens

DMP Sharks v Harlequins Postponed

Worcester Valkyries 5-22 Richmond

Just the one fixture this weekend:

27 January

DMP Sharks v Richmond (4pm, Northern Echo Arena)

So Saracens lose their unbeaten record at Wasps.  They are still top on 60 points from 13 games.  Harlequins are second on 54, with Wasps third on 47.  At the bottom, luckless Worcester lie on two points with Firwood Waterloo above them on seven.

Sevens

It’s the Sydney round of the World Sevens this weekend.  Check out http://www.sydney7s.com.au/ for details.

Standings: Australia are top on 20 points, USA are second on 18, Russia third on 16 with Canada next on 14 and New Zealand fifth on 12.

England lie eighth on six points and Ireland are one further back on four.

Cricket – off the Pitch

 History will be made this year as Anya Shrubsole will become the first woman to appear on the cover of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.  It is the bible for cricket fans worldwide and this will be the 155th edition of the book.  Another small step in the right direction for women’s cricket.

Cricket – on the Pitch

WBBL

20 January

Melbourne Stars 118/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 118/6 (20 overs)

Stars won in Super Over

It was a thriller at the MCG as the teams finished dead level after 20 over and the game went into Super Over.

Stars won the toss and elected to bat.  Lizelle Lee top-scored with 31, with contributions from Alana King (22), Anna Lanning (21 not out) and Georgia Elwiss (18).  The wickets were evenly distributed between the Renegades bowlers.

In response, Amy Satterthwaite scored 31 not out, Sophie Molineux 25 and Claire Koski 19 as the Renegades managed to finish on exactly the same score.

In their Super Over, the Renegades scored a healthy 10 runs, but lost four wickets in the process, including ducks for Molineux, Brown and Satterthwaite.

Lee and du Preez took it on for the Stars.  Lee scored seven and du Preez, three and won the game having lost fewer wickets.

Sydney Thunder 148/4 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 111 all out (19.2 overs)

Thunder won by 37 runs

Rachel Priest scored 51 from 27 balls and Naomi Stalenberg 41 from 30 as the Thunder put on a good total of 148.

The Strikers lost wickets at regular intervals with Bridget Patterson scoring 30 from 20 balls.  But it wasn’t enough.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 from four overs and Stafanie Taylor and Nicola Carey two each.

Hobart Hurricanes 122/4 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 126/1 (16 overs)

Scorchers won by 9 wickets

Isobel Joyce top-scored for the Hurricanes with 52 not out and Georgia Redmayne 43, but no-one else made a significant contribution.  Katherine Brunt continued her good form with 2/22 off her four overs.

Elyse Villani attacked in response with 70 not out from 48 balls, Nicole Bolton scored 34 and Nat Sciver 18 not out as the Scorchers won with four overs to spare.

21 January

Sydney Thunder 114/5 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 114/4 (20 overs)

Strikers won by 1 in the Super Over

Strikers won the toss and chose to bat.  They struggled to 114 with Suzie Bates top-scoring on 40.  The Thunder top four all got into the twenties, but were unable to get over the line and the game went to a super over.

Sophie Devine bowled for the Strikers, conceding just six runs and taking one wicket. She then opened the batting for the Strikers – she scored six and Suzie Bates one and Adelaide had won by one run.

Melbourne Stars 106/7 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 107/5 (18 overs)

Sixers won by five wickets

The Stars’ top four managed only 15 between them, but Erin Osborne scored 39 and Anna Lanning 18 as they limped to 106.  Marizanne Kapp took 2/13 from her four overs.

Alyssa Healy scored 21 from 16 and Ellyse Perry 39 not out from 45 as the Sixers took the win.

Hobart Hurricanes 130/7 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 134/4 (18.5 overs)

Scorchers won by six wickets

Georgia Redmayne scored 53 from 49 before she was caught and bowled by Katherine Brunt.

But 60 not out from Nicole Bolton, 21 from Elyse Villani and 24 from Nat Sciver were the telling innings for the Scorchers who got home with seven balls to spare.

24 January

Melbourne Renegades 68 all out (15.5 overs)

Sydney Thunder 69/6 (16 overs)

Thunder won by four wickets

Renegades were skittled by the Thunder as five players scored only one and Amy Satterthwaite top-scored with 17.  Nicola Carey took 3/10 off 3.5 overs, while Rene Farrell and Stafanie Taylor chipped in with two each.

Thunder took it easy in response and lost wickets along the way.  Rachel Haynes scored 37, keeping her head as wickets fell.  She was fifth wicket to fall and it was up to Stafanie Taylor and Rene Farrell to see it home.

After 12 matches, Sydney Thunder are top on 18 points.  The Sixers and Strikers are second and third respectively on 16 and Perth Scorchers lie fourth on 14.

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 January 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Back to myself, just about so how about starting with a rant?  Honestly, I don’t know what to say about Phil Neville.  Perfectly amiable chap I would imagine, but the best candidate to manage the Lionesses?  I think not.  Yet again, the FA, in its inestimable wisdom, treats the women’s game with contempt.  Anyway, enough ranting for now – yes, more is promised later.

This week’s stories come from netball, cricket, football, rugby union and winter sports.

Let’s crack on.

Football – off the Pitch

 Lionesses

No doubt as to the biggest story of the week.  I mentioned it last week, in the hope that it was a giant hoax – let’s face it, if April Fools’ Day had been impending we’d have thought it was a none-too-subtle effort on the part of the FA.  But apparently it’s not.  If the mainstream media is to be believed, Phil Neville is about to be revealed as the Lionesses’ new Head Coach.

“I have the opportunity to go to a World Cup and be successful with a group of driven and professional players, and as coach it’s the best job I could ask for.” (my italics)

Is this a slightly disingenuous statement from Neville?  “the best job I could ask for”?  You’re not wrong, sir.  Whether it’s the best job you deserve is another matter.

The rumours are that Casey Stoney is going to be trained up to be his assistant, which has got to be a good move.  But it doesn’t deflect from the main event.

“I’m excited to see how discussions turn out,” says Neville.  I’m not sure “excited” is how I feel right now; more like angry and betrayed.  Not new emotions when I consider the FA.

I am more than ready to be proved wrong.  What I want is what is best for the England women’s team, both now and in the future.  If this is Phil Neville, then so be it.  But in my view it’s a big gamble and at this stage the Lionesses should be pushing on, not going backwards.  Let’s see.

Transfers and other news

    • Bristol City have signed England under-21 forward Millie Farrow from Chelsea. She had previously been on loan at City in 2016, but a knee injury cut the spell short.
    • Brighton & Hove Albion have signed Swedish full-back Amanda Nilden until the end of the season. She is set to make her debut on 28 January against Doncaster Rovers Belles.
    • England left-back Demi Stokes has signed a new three-year contract with Manchester City.
    • Birmingham City goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger is already back in training after her operation to treat thyroid cancer. Amazing, considering she was only diagnosed in November.

Football – on the pitch
14 January – WSL1

Birmingham City Ladies 2-0 Bristol City Women
Mannion (54) pen
Wellings (61)

14 January – Continental Cup semi-finals
Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City

An eighteenth minute goal from Danish international Nadia Nadim was enough to see the league champions through to the final.  There were plenty of chances for Chelsea to equalise, but they couldn’t take one.  Nikita Parris had a couple of chances to double the away side’s lead, but in the end one goal sealed the tie.

Reading Women 2-3 Arsenal

Manchester City will face Arsenal in the final as the Gunners left it late to defeat Reading at Wycombe.  The away side took the lead through Beth Mead in just the fifth minute.  But two minutes later Reading were level as Brooke Chaplen hit a fierce shot to beat Arsenal goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.  The sides went in level at half-time.  As the game opened up in the second-half there were plenty of chances, but the third goal did not come until the 70th minute when Lauren Bruton hit home from the edge of the area.  But Arsenal were not done.  Seven minutes later Viviana Meidema drew the Gunners level and on 82 Jordan Nobbs won it for Arsenal.

Rugby Union

 Last weekend’s Tyrell’s 15 Premiership scores were as follows:

13 January
Wasps Ladies 31-10 DMP Sharks
Saracens Women 105-0 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins Ladies 17-10 Loughborough Lightning
Bristol Ladies 57-7 Firwood Waterloo

14 January
Richmond Women 15-37 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

So that’s eight from eight for Saracens, and in some style against beleaguered Worcester.  They lead the table by five points on 59, with Harlequins second on 54.  Third are Wasps, but way back on 43.  Worcester are bottom with just two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on 7 with Richmond just above them on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:

20 January
Worcester Valkyries v Richmond Women (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
DMP Sharks v Harlequins Ladies (2pm, Darlington RFC)
Wasps Ladies v Saracens Women (2.30pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Bristol Ladies (2.30pm, venue tbc)
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (4.45pm, Firwood Waterloo RFC)

Netball
World Cup

The launch event for the Netball World Cup 2019 took place this week in the host city, Liverpool. The event featured an exhibition game in the Great Hall of St George’s Hall and countries from across the netball-playing world were represented.

The “branding” of the tournament, the flag under which it is being played (a better term, I think) is “This is Netball” and comprises four ‘pillars’; *Elite Sport*, *Empowering Women and Girls*, *One Incredible Destination* and *Welcoming the World*.

It’s going to be a fantastic event and I would encourage as many of you as possible to make the effort to attend.  You can keep up to date with the build-up to next year’s event via the World Cup 2019 website: https://www.nwc2019.co.uk/

This weekend sees all of the home nations in action as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland take on each other at the European qualifying tournament for the World Cup in Perth, Scotland.  Two teams will qualify.

Coverage of the qualifiers is on the BBC website:

Friday, 19 January
19:30-21:00: Wales v Scotland, Connected TVs & online

Saturday, 20 January
15:00-16:30: Northern Ireland v Wales, Connected TVs & online

Sunday, 21 January
12:00-13:30: Scotland v Northern Ireland, Connected TVs & online

England, who have already qualified will be taking on New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the Quad Series.  It will be played over six test matches at the Copper Box in London and in Johannesburg.  Please be aware that if you haven’t already booked your tickets, several of the games are already sold out.  Check the venue for details.

Full coverage on Sky Sports plus one random game on the BBC – Eng v NZ 17:45-20:00, coverage on the BBC Red Button, Connected TVs & online

20 January (Copper Box)
South Africa v Australia
England v New Zealand

22 January (Copper Box)
England v Australia

25 January (Johannesburg)
South Africa v New Zealand

28 January (Johannesburg)
Australia v New Zealand
South Africa v England

Tennis – off the court

Shenzhen has been awarded a 10-year contract to host the WTA Finals.  It beat off competition from Manchester, Prague, St Petersburg and Singapore.

 Tennis – on the court

Not much to shout about for British women’s tennis this week. Naomi Broady fell in the last round of qualifying for the Australian Open.  She was beaten by Bibiane Weijers of the Netherlands 7-6 6-2.

So, just two through to the first round proper.  Heather Watson bit the dust in quick time, losing to Yulia Putintseva 7-5 7-6, while British number one, Jo Konta, lasted into the second, suffering a shock defeat to world number 123 Bernarda Pera of USA, 6-4 7-5.

As you know, I’ve stopped reading the comments on the BBC sports pages when it comes to women’s sport.  I had to make a conscious effort to stay away from these – Konta usually receives a ridiculous and shameful amount of vitriolic comment even when she’s winning.  I’m glad I did.  There’s no escaping the bad results for both of the British players, but they are both human and no-one should suggest they weren’t trying their best.  They’re both talented individuals who had off-days.  End of story.

They weren’t the only ones.  Casualties in the first round included Aussie favourite Sam Stosur, 25th seed Peng Shuai, Americans Jennifer Brady, Coco Vandeweghe, Alison Riske and Venus Williams, 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova and 31st seed Ekaterina Makarova.

The second round saw the surprise exit of third seed Garbine Muguruza, beaten 7-6 6-4 by world number 88 Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan.

There are still some big names progressing, though, so looking forward to updating you all next week.

Winter Sports – ice hockey

Intriguing news before the start of the Olympics as it was revealed this week that North Korea and South Korea are to field a combined women’s ice hockey team in Pyeongchang.

In a spirit of détente the team will combine and the two countries will also march under the same flag.

But the move has not gone down well in Seoul.  The move essentially means that half of the South Korean team will have to be left out to make way for those from the North.

“I think there is damage to our players,” Sarah Murray, the coach of the South Korean team, said.

“It’s hard because the players have earned their spots, and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players.”

There have been online petitions and protests against the idea, but it seems the politics will win out.

Cricket – WBBL

13 January
Perth Scorchers 87/9 (16 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 88/4 (15.5 overs)
Strikers won by 6 wickets

Heather Graham top-scored with 19 as the Scorchers were nearly bowled out for an obviously under-par score.  Tahlia McGrath took 3/17 from her three overs, with all the other bowlers contributing.

In response, Suzie Bates led the way with 49 not out.  Tammy Beaumont was out for a duck, lbw to Katherine Brunt, but the Strikers took their time and claimed the win with one ball to spare.

Sydney Sixers 113 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 114/6 (19 overs)
Thunder won by four wickets

After Alyssa Healy went cheaply, Ellyse Perry took on the scoring, making 25 from 25 balls.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 off four overs and the Sixers lost wickets regularly as they posted a middling score of 113.

Thunder lost Rachel Priest and Alex Blackwell without scoring, but Rachael Haynes with 17, Harmanpreet Kaur with 27 and Naomi Stalenberg with 48 took them to the brink of victory.  It was down to Stafanie Taylor (9 not out) and Rene Farrell (5 not out) to see it home.

Brisbane Heat 93/8 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 94/4 (17.2 overs)
Stars won by six wickets

Another low scoring match saw the Heat muster just 93.  Jess Jonassen top-scored with 46.  Erin Osborne was pick of the bowlers, taking 4/20 off four overs.

The Stars chased it down with over two overs to spare.  They lost Lizelle Lee early on but Katie Mack’s 20 and Mignon du Preez with 36 not out broke the back of the total, with du Preez hitting the winning runs with a boundary.

14 January
Hobart Hurricanes 100 all out (18.5 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 102/0
Renegades won by 10 wickets

Hurricanes started well with opening stand of 62 between Hayley Matthews and Stefanie Daffara.  But once they were gone there was little contribution from the others and they were all out in 18.5 overs.  There were three wickets for Maitlan Brown in 3.5 overs with two each for Lea Tahuhu and Amy Satterthwaite.

It was not enough though.  A fine batting display from openers Sophie Molineux (53 not out) and Emma Inglis (42 not out) saw the Renegades home by 10 wickets.

Adelaide Strikers 107/7 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 76 all out
Strikers won by 31 runs

A second poor batting performance in a row saw the Scorchers slump to a 31 run loss at Alice Springs.  Tahlia McGrath scored 34 off 28 balls as the Strikers posted a low-ish score of 107.

But the Scorchers had another off-day in the batting.  Nicole Bolton scored 30 but no-one else made much of a contribution.  The wickets were shared pretty evenly – Suzie Bates was player of the match with her 2/6 off three overs and 27 with the bat.

15 January
Hobart Hurricanes 120/9 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 116/6 (20 overs)
Hurricanes won by 4 runs

A solid start saw the first four wickets put on 97.  After that things tailed off but 120 was always going to be competitive.

Amy Satterthwaite scored 65 for the Renegades, but they fell just short in the chase.

18 January
Sydney Sixers 160/5 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 151 all out (20 overs)
Sixers won by 9 runs

Alyssa Healy scored a fine 70 off 43 balls opening for the Sixers.  Ellyse Perry chipped in with 25 and Dane van Niekerk 44 not out as the Sixers posted a competitive score.

The Heat started well in response with Beth Mooney and Kirby Short putting on a first wicket partnership of 94.  Deandra Dottin scored 18, but then things fall apart for the Heat and they could not reach the Sixers’ total.  Sarah Aley took 3/31 from four overs and Dane van Niekerk 2/28 off her four.

19 January
Sydney Sixers 144/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 126/4 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 18 runs

Two wins in two days for the Sixers.  Healy went for duck this time, but 54 not out from Erin Burns was the standout batting performance as the Sixers scored a good 144.  Delissa Kimmince took 3/23 off four.

The Heat fell short of their chase.  Beth Mooney went for a duck.  Everyone else contributed well with Jess Jonassen finishing on 55 not out, but they just could not overtake the Sixers’ total.

It’s all Sydney at the top of the table.  Sixers head it with 14 points from 11 games.  Thunder are second on the same points from just nine games but on an inferior net run rate.  The Strikers are third, again on 14, this time from 10 matches and again with an inferior net run rate.    The Hurricanes prop up the table with just two points from 10 games.  Second to bottom are the Stars with six points from 10.

And finally,

I’m sure you all follow Jacqui Oatley on social media, and if you do you’ll probably know what I’m going to say.  But if you don’t I would encourage you to seek out just what has been happening this week as regards the Sheffield Star newspaper and a man named Ken.  Google it – sexist bites off more than he can chew when taking on women’s sports reporters (God bless ‘em).

 

Women’s Sports Column 26 August – 1 September 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  We’re coming to the end of a stunning summer for women’s sport and while there are those knuckle-draggers who will never give recognition to any woman playing sport, I’m glad to say there are many more of us (women and men) who take a very different view and the numbers are rising all the time.  I can’t help feeling a tad melancholy this week as it draws to a close, but hopefully the news and stories below will help restore my mood (and cheer you too!).

Stories this week come from rugby union (obviously) tennis, netball, cricket, badminton, modern pentathlon, hockey, golf and cycling.  But there’s only one place to start isn’t there – and what a game it was.

Women’s Rugby World Cup Final

Well I hope you were all watching, because although words are my business, I don’t think I can do justice to this match.  Prime time TV, ITV1 in the UK – social media and conventional media alike crying out that it needed to be a great match to engage the masses and move women’s rugby up a level.  And it didn’t disappoint.

England pressed from the off but were unable to convert pressure into points and were shocked after eight minutes when Selica Winiata pounced on a kick to score the first try.  Cocksedge, who had a relatively poor game with the boot, missed the conversion.

On 15 minutes New Zealand were penalised for a dangerous tackle and Emily Scarratt duly slotted over the resultant penalty.

On 20 minutes Sara Goss was yellow-carded for another dangerous tackle and England knew they had to take advantage.

England pressed on towards the line i a series of scrums, but as they got closer to the line the Black Ferns realised they had to scrum with just seven or risk losing cover on the wing.  This they did but broke up the scrummage illegally and the Red Roses were awarded a penalty try, taking it to 10-5 to England.

Eight minutes before half-time England were over again and looking confident.  Lydia Thompson went over on the wing and Scarratt converted well to take it 17-5.

England probably thought this would be the half-time score and perhaps relaxed early, but this proved to be a fatal error.  Toka Natua got in after they secured good line-out ball.   The conversion was missed and the half-time score was 17-10.

And breathe.

The second-half was completely different.  New Zealand came out a different team.  They hustled and harried from the first minute and England had no answer.

Just five minutes in Natua went over for her second.  England still seemed to be in the dressing room.  And to make matters worse for the Red Roses Cocksedge began to find her kicking form as she popped over her first conversion to make it 17-17.

Five minutes later England were ahead again through another Scarratt penalty, but the lead was short-lived.  Two minutes later Charmaine Smith pushed over, hitting the sponge around the post and again it was converted – 20-24.

On 55 England scored again Thompson flying 40 metres down to wing to cross the line for her second try of the match.  Scarratt missed the conversion and England’s lead was just one point.

At this point England Head Coach Simon Middleton introduced a whole raft of changes, something that drew some criticism after the game.  But there can be no doubt England were tiring and the changes made were quality ones.

On 58 Natua got her hat-trick under the posts and Cocksedge converted. The tide was turning in the Black Ferns’ favour.

Five minutes later Cocksedge got a try of her own, but she missed the conversion. New Zealand were 36-25 ahead.  With 20 minutes to go, although the scoreline was still tight, it seemed to be one-way traffic.

On 69 Winiata went over for her second after another good kick from Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali.  Cocksedge missed yet another conversion, but it mattered not as England appeared to be a beaten side.

But England had not finished scoring.  Izzy Noel-Smith went over with three minutes to go and Scarratt converted.

Kefu was yellow-carded for New Zealand, but England didn’t have the time to make it count and before they knew it the game was over.

New Zealand had won 41-32.

The better team had won – no doubt about it.  England fought to the end, but the Black Ferns’ third quarter had battered England into submission.

Without wanting to sound mawkish or trite and realising that I sound both, it was women’s rugby that was the winner on Saturday.  So many people will now realise what a great product it is (and what a good scrum can look like guys).  Let’s hope it leads not only to young girls taking up the sport, but also that the new revamped championship gets the coverage it deserves (i.e., any at all –and yes, BBC Sport, I do mean you).

Football

Women’s Champions League

The round of 32 draw will be made on 1 September.  The 11 teams that made it through qualifying are:

Gintra Universitetas (LTU), Olimpia Cluj (ROU), Ajax (NED), Medyk Konin (POL), Apollon (CYP), Minsk (BLR), *Zürich (SWI), Stjarnan (ICE), BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ), Avaldsnes (NOR). PAOK (GRE)

*qualified as best runners-up.

The teams receiving a bye into the round of 32 are:

Lyon (FRA, holders), Wolfsburg (GER), FC Rosengård (SWE), Barcelona (ESP), Fortuna, Hjørring (DEN), Bayern München (GER), Brøndby (DEN), Rossiyanka (RUS), Manchester City (ENG), Glasgow City (SCO), Zvezda-2005 (RUS), Brescia (ITA), Slavia Praha (CZE), Sparta Praha (CZE), Linköping (SWE), Chelsea (ENG), Montpellier (FRA), LSK Kvinner (NOR), St. Pölten (AUT), Atlético Madrid (ESP), Fiorentina (ITA)

As you probably know, coverage in the UK will be absolutely minimal so I’d again recommend you check out the UEFA website for updates:

http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/index.html

These are the dates you need to know:

Round of 32: 4/5 & 11/12 October
Round of 16: 8/9 & 15/16 November

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Final: 24 May 2018, Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo StadiumKyiv

Other football news and signings

Lieke Martens was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 2016-17 this week.

The 24-year old plays for Barcelona and had a stand-out tournament for the Netherlands at the Euros earlier in the summer.

She finished ahead of Pernille Harder of Denmark in second and Dzsenifer Marozsán of Germany in third.

Final standings
1: Lieke Martens (Netherlands, Rosengård and Barcelona)
2: Pernille Harder (Denmark, Linköping and Wolfsburg)
3: Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany, Lyon)
4: Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands, Bayern München and Arsenal)
5: Eugénie Le Sommer (France, Lyon)
6: Wendie Renard (France, Lyon)
7: Jackie Groenen (Netherlands, FFC Frankfurt)
8: Lucy Bronze (England, Manchester City and Lyon)
9: Jodie Taylor (England, Arsenal)
10: Shanice van de Sanden (Netherlands, Liverpool)

Previous winners of the award:
2012/13 ─ Nadine Angerer (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2013/14 ─ Nadine Kessler (Germany, Wolfsburg)
2014/15 ─ Célia Šašić (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2015/16 ─ Ada Hegerberg (Norway, Lyon)

Arsenal

Striker Danielle Carter has signed a new contract with Arsenal.  The length of the contract has not been revealed although it is described as “long-term”.

Liverpool

Liverpool, however, have not had such a good week.  Their Dutch star Shanice van de Sanden has left to join Champions League holders Olympique Lyonnais Feminin.

Golf

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed another title at the weekend when she won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open by two shots from compatriot Lee Mi-rim.

She finished on -13, with M Lee on -11, with a tie for third between Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, Chun In-gee of Korea, Shanshan Feng of China and Cristie Kerr of USA on -10.

Park hit a seven-under 64 in the final round to overcome a four shot deficit from the third round.

Holly Clyburn was top British finisher on -3 while Charley Hull was way back in the pack on +6.

American star Michelle Wie had to withdraw before the start of the final round when she had to undergo surgery to remove her appendix.  This seems to be catching – see cycling below!

Hockey

England’s women secured a bronze medal at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam with a 2-0 win over Germany.

Hannah Martin and Alex Danson scored the goals.

The gold medal went to the Netherlands who beat Belgium 3-0 in the final.

Their goals came from Margot van Geffen, Kelly Jonker and Ireen van den Assem (Penalty stroke).

Modern Pentathlon

A sport featuring rarely in this column, but as the World Modern Pentathlon Championships were held in Cairo this week it should be in.

The events were pistol shooting, fencing, 200m swimming, show jumping and a 3km run (apologies if you already knew this).

In the women’s events the results were as follows:

Individual

Gold went to Gulnaz Gubaydullina of Russia with 1,292 points.  Silver was taken by Zsófia Földházi of Hungary, who was a mere seven points behind on 1,285 and in bronze position was Anastasiya Prokopenko of Belarus, again just behind with 1,281 points.

Team

The team title went to Germany with 2,815 points.  Second were Russia on 2,797 and third Italy on 2,791.

Relay

The relay winners were Germany on 1,276 points with Egypt in second on 1,243 and Japan third on 1,238.

Badminton

Women’s singles

Kirsty Gilmour was defeated in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Glasgow.  She lost 21-19 18-21 21-15 to Saina Nehwal of India.

The gold medal went to Nozomi Okuhara of Japan who beat PV Sindhu of India 21-19 20-22 22-20.

Bronze medals went to Chen Yufei of China and Saina Nehwal.

Mixed doubles

Chris and Gabby Adcock lost in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles to Chinese pair and top seeds  Zheg Siwei and Chen Qingchen 21-15 23-21.  This meant they secured a bronze medal but they were still disappointed with the outcome.  Gabby Adcock spoke to BBC Sport:

“We’re disappointed because we felt we had a chance today.

“It was one of our worst performances of the week and I’m struggling to find a reason as to why but we just couldn’t get going.”

The gold medal winners were Tontowi Ahmed and Liliyanna Natsir of Indonesia who beat the Adcocks’ vanquishers 15-21 21-16 21-15 in the final.

Women’s Doubles

The Women’s Doubles title was taken by Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China who beat Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan in the final 21-18 17-21 21-15.  Bronze medals went to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, also of Japan, and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark.

Netball

The Quad Series in Brisbane is in full swing.  England are finally showing how much they have improved recently and have so far recorded one loss and one win.

Australia 54-50 England

So tight and so close for the Roses!  But it wasn’t always that way.  At half-time England were trailing by 10 points 32-22 and it looked as if the Diamonds were in for yet another easy win.

By the end of the third quarter England had cut the deficit to six and were getting closer by the end but Australia managed to hold on.

Helen Housby top scored for England with 30 goals, an 88% conversion rate, but this was knocked into a cocked hat by Australia’s Caitlin Bassett who scored 43 goals at a conversion rate of 93%.

But England would have been buoyed by this performance going into their second game against New Zealand.

New Zealand 45-49 England

On Wednesday 30 England registered their first win against New Zealand in a Quad Series.

The Roses were down by just one point 37-36 going into the fourth quarter in Auckland and they had a storming last period to take it by four.  Kadeen Corbin scored seven goals in the final quarter as the Roses pulled away.

Helen Housby was top scorer again for England with 26 goals at a conversion rate of 81%.  Bailey Mes scored 28 for the Silver Ferns.

England play South Africa on Sunday to see if they can finish second in a Quad Series for the first time.

South Africa have lost both of their first two games, against New Zealand 63-56 and Australia 58-52.

Cycling

Lizzie Deignan’s participation in the World Championships is in doubt after she had her appendix removed this week.

The Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway, from September 17-24.  The women’s road race is on 23 September.

Deignan would be one of the favourites if she recovers in time to take part.

Tennis

It’s been a bizarre old start to the US Open with seeds falling like dominoes.  Everyone has an opinion on the participation of Maria Sharapova, including former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki who branded the scheduling of Sharapova’s matches all on the show courts to be “questionable”.  I’ll leave you to make up your own minds on that one.

Some of the high (and low) lights so far:

Both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson lost in the first round.  Konta lost to unseeded world number 78 Aleksandra Krunic 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Watson lost to Alizé Cornet of France in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber also departed in round one, losing in straight sets to world number 45, Japanese 19-year old Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-1.

Maria Sharapova, who is, as I’ve already said never far from the headlines, is through to the third round.  Her first round defeat of world number two, Simona Halep 6-4 4-6 6-3 sent shockwaves around Flushing Meadows.

She defeated Timea Babos of Hungary in the second 6-7 6-4 6-1 and faces the unseeded Sofia Kenin of the United States in the third.

Other players of note to go through to the third round are world number one, Karolina Pliskova, who had to fight off a strong challenge from Nicole Gibbs to win 2-6 6-3 6-4.  French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is still in the mix after she defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4 6-4.

One seed to bite the dust in the second round was number 23, Barbora Strycova, who was soundly beaten by American Jennifer Brady 6-1 6-1.  Three more Americans through to the third round are Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

I think it’s safe to say it’s wide open!

Cricket

The past week has seen and will see the culmination of the women’s cricket season in England.  Last weekend the County Championship was decided and on Friday 1 September it’s Kia Super League Finals day.

County Championship

Lancashire have been crowned Division 1 champions, having won five of their seven games this season.  The full standings were as follows:

Team Played Won Lost Points
Lancashire 7 5 2 99
Yorkshire 7 5 2 98
Warwickshire 7 5 2 96
Nottinghamshire 7 4 3 88
Middlesex 7 3 4 76
Kent 7 3 4 71
Sussex 7 3 4 66
Berkshire 7 0 7 24

Sussex and Berkshire are relegated to Division 2.  Their places are taken by the top two finishers in the second division this year, which were Hampshire and Somerset.

Kia Super League

The last three matches took place on Saturday 26 August.  Loughborough won again, but with Western Storm also taking the points it was not enough for the Lightning to go through.  To be honest, they didn’t deserve to anyway on the performances I saw.

Match 13
Bristol County Ground
Lancashire Thunder 122/5 (20 overs)
Western Storm 123/5 (17.1/20 overs)
Western Storm won by 5 wickets

Match 14
The Oval
Loughborough Lightning 171/3 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 90 all out (18 overs)
Loughborough Lightning won by 81 runs

Match 15
Arundel Castle
Southern Vipers 138/6 (20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 108 all out (18.3 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 30 runs

Finals Day – Hove

Southern Vipers automatically qualify for the final with the other place being fought out between Surrey Stars and Western Storm.

And Finally,

This has just popped up into my inbox and so I had to share it, especially as it is about my Leicestershire neck of the woods.  Good grief Cycling Weekly.  Sort yourselves out:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-41122033

Apologies, but there will be no column next week as I am out and about elsewhere.

 

Women’s Sports Column 5-11 August 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I realise I am terribly late with my Rugby World Cup preview, and the KSL also returned this week, but, as you know, I’m struggling for time at  the moment – the World Athletics Championships have nearly passed me by completely!  I will do the best I can to keep up, but I’m giving my apologies now if I fall short.  The good stuff just keeps on coming with the Solheim Cup and the Netball Quad Series still to look forward to.

So, less blathering, more reporting.  This week’s stories come from rugby, golf, athletics, tennis, hockey, netball, football and cricket.

Firstly to the football and the final of the Women’s Euros.

Football

Women’s Euros Final

Netherlands 4-2 Denmark

What a fitting final to grace an excellent tournament!  It had everything; goals, tackles, great defending, great goalkeeping, mistakes and a fabulous crowd.

The largely orange crowd were silenced after six minutes when Nadia Nadim slotted home a penalty, but the Dutch were level four minutes later Vivianne Miedema poked in from close range.

Player of the tournament, Lieke Martens scored the Netherlands’ second with a 20-yard strike.  But five minutes later the Danes were level again through Pernille Harder.

2-2 at half-time after a breathless, end-to-end 45 minutes.

The second-half was just as competitive.  Six minutes after the re-start through a Sherida Spitse free-kick.  Denmark gave everything they had to come back, but in the 89th minute Danish hearts were finally broken when Miedema got her second.

Netherlands were the best team overall, no doubting that.  England’s Jodie Taylor received the Golden Boot for her five goals.

Other football news

It was announced on Wednesday that the English FA will bid to host the 2021 Women’s Euros.  England last hosted the tournament in 2005 and the current boom in the women’s game has prompted the FA to bid again.

FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, said,

“The Lionesses’ performances at the Euros this summer gave the country great pride.  It also showed the significant impact that hosting a major European tournament can have on growing and developing women’s football.”

Can’t wait for unreconstructed man commenting on this.

The bidding process begins in September, with a decision due in 2018.

The FA has also announced that it is looking into fielding a women’s GB side at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.  Let’s hope the home nations come to an agreement in time, after their singular failure to do so for Rio.

Women’s Under-19 Euros

Hot on the heels of the Euros comes the under-19 version, which is taking place in Northern Ireland from 8-20 August.

Eight teams have qualified for the finals – split into two groups of four.

Group A: Germany, Spain, Northern Ireland, Scotland

Group B: Italy, France, Netherlands, England

The first round of matches produced the following results:

Group A:

Scotland 0-3 Germany

It could have been more for Germany had it not been for the excellent display from Scots goalkeeper Rebecca Flaherty.  Germany took the points with goals from Giulia Gwinn (19), Annalena Rieke (39) and Ereleta Memeti (80).

Northern Ireland 0-2 Spain

Likewise Spain were too strong for the host nation.  Lucia Garcia scored the first on the half-hour with captain Patricia Guijarro scoring on 53 minutes to seal the win.

Group B:

France 0-2 Netherlands

The Netherlands scored an impressive win over Cup-holders France with two goals in the first-half.  Victoria Pelova opened the scoring after just 10 minutes and an own goal from Julie Piga sealed the points for the Netherlands.

Italy 1-2 England

Two goals from Georgia Allen in the second-half were enough to take the points against Italy.  Italy pulled one back in second-half injury time through Annamaria Senturini.

The second round takes place on Friday 11 August.

Women’s Rugby World Cup

Having watched most of the first round of games, I can, with some relief, say that my original thoughts as to the ultimate destiny of the Cup have not changed significantly.  There were some unsurprisingly big wins as minnow were rolled over, with the undoubted highlight of the round being the game between Ireland and Australia.

England and New Zealand are the teams to beat and everyone will be looking to overturn them.  Canada and France will also be in the mix and as dark horses we have to include Ireland.  Can the “Netherlands effect” work in their favour?  It certainly helped at the first game against Australia.  Actually Australia were a good deal sharper than I expected and their sevens speed will be an asset, but I do question their ability, with so many sevens players in the squad, to last 80 minutes on a regular basis.

Right, on with the scores:

England 56-5 Spain

Clinical, but not perfect for England

England ran in 10 tries in their first game with four for Kay Wilson.  The other tries came from Emily Scarratt, Amy Cockayne, Harriet Millar-Mills, Alex Matthews, Lydia Thompson and Megan Jones.  Conversions came from Kay McLean (2) and Emily Scarratt.

Spain’s dogged persistence finally paid off towards the end of the first half as they scored from and England handling-error through Diana Gasso.

Although this was a good first result for England they know they will have to tighten up in certain areas if they are to progress.  They had 88% of territory, making 911 metres compared with Spain’s 258.  But the kicking was not too sharp and the line-outs positively ropey.  Their next game is against Italy on Sunday.

New Zealand 44-12 Wales

It was a tough start for Wales and by half-time they were 20-0 down.  Sioned Harries and Melissa Clay went over for Wales, but they were undone by merciless attacking speed from the Black Ferns, whose tries came through Winiata (3), Waaka, Wickliffe (2), Woodman and Blackwell.

USA 24-12 Italy

A tight game saw the Eagles claim the win with four tries to Italy’s two.  Kris Thomas scored the USA’s first after just two minutes with Kimber Rozier adding the conversion. Rozier went in for a try of her own on 17 minutes, but missed the conversion, to make it 12-0 to the USA.  Nine minutes later Italy were back in with scoring through Lucia Cammarano, which was converted.   In the second-half Thomas and Gustaitis went in for the USA.  Italy pulled one back with a late try from Giordano after Thomas had been yellow-carded.  A good confidence-building win for the USA.

Canada 98-0 Hong Kong

A crushing win for Canada, not really doing anything for the game, but Hong Kong have to start somewhere.  I fear for Hong Kong as things don’t get any easier as they face the Black Ferns next on Sunday 13 August.

Ireland 19-17 Australia

What a match!  Gosh, so tempting it is to trot out a whole line of clichés – they went toe to toe, knocking lumps out of each other, no quarter asked or given, etc.  But it’s also all true!  Before the game I thought Ireland, even without Niamh Briggs, would have it in the bag against such and inexperienced 15s side.  But Aussies never know when to quit (another cliché) and it was mighty tight to the end.

Ireland took the lead with at try from Larissa Muldoon, converted by Nora Stapleton.  But Australia hit back with a try of their own from Mahalia Murphy.  In what soon became a kicking nightmare for Australia, the conversion was missed by Samantha Treherne as the ball fell from the kicking tee just as it was about to be kicked.

After half-time Australia silenced the crowd by going in front with a try from Shannon Parry but there was further embarrassment in the kicking department as Treherne then took, what I would consider, to be one of the worst kicks I’ve ever seen.  We all laughed at the time, but in the end the difference was two points.

Ireland went back in front with a converted try by Ciara Griffin.  And when they scored again with ten minutes to go, the try by Sophie Spence adjudged legitimate by the TMO, Ireland were well ahead and the Aussies seemed to be tiring.

But it was Australia who were to have the last word, prop Hilisha Samoa tunnelling her way through a pile of Irish bodies to get over the line.

The TV coverage kept cutting to poor Niamh Briggs in the stand who was clearly playing every ball.  I hope she has some less-close matches to watch otherwise she’ll have no nails left.

France 72-14 Japan

Japan were touted as a possible outside threat before the tournament began, but this first game surely showed that they still have some way to go before being competitive in the big arena.  Twelve tries for France saw them win easily and a red card for Makiko Tomito for Japan in the second-half did not have improved the situation.

Live coverage is on ITV4.  It’s quite good (thank goodness for Maggie Alphonsi) – sorry can’t be more enthusiastic than that.  And as beggars can’t be choosers, I’d encourage you to tune in.

Tennis – Rogers Cup

There was disappointment for Heather Watson this week as she pulled out with injury in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

She was behind 6-1 4-1 to Naomi Osaka of Japan when she forfeited the match with a shoulder injury.

The quarter-finals take place on 11 and 12 August and the line-up is as follow:

K Pliskova (1) v C Wozniacki (6)

S Stephens v L Safarova

E Svitolina (5) v G Muguruza (4)

C Garcia v S Halep (2)

Athletics – World Championships

I think it’s safe to say that this has not been a vintage World Championships for Team GB.

So far we have only one medal – a gold for Mo Farah in the 10,000m.

Best results for British female athletes:

Laura Muir was a whisker away from taking a bronze in the 1,500m as she came in fourth.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson came in fifth in the heptathlon after really blowing her chances on the first day.

Holly Bradshaw came a creditable sixth in the pole vault but was not far away from getting a medal.

Sophie Hitchon came seventh in the hammer and Eilidh Doyle eighth in the 400m hurdles.

We still have potential medallists though on Friday 11 August with Dina Asher-Smith qualifying for the 200m and Lorraine Ugen in the long jump final.

There are plenty of events still to come through the weekend, so keep watching.  Blanket coverage on the BBC.

Netball

The netball Quad Series begins at the end of the month with England’s first game against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday 26 August at 6am.

They then play New Zealand in Auckland on Wednesday 30 August (8.30am) and South Africa in Invercargill on Sunday 3 September (3am).

Australia have already suffered a blow with top (and scariest) defender Sharni Layton pulling out of the squad, having been diagnosed with physical and mental exhaustion.

England have named a full-strength squad:

Ama Agbeze (captain), Jade Clarke (vice-captain), Joanne Harten (vice-captain), Sara Bayman, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Eleanor Cardwell, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Stacey Francis, Jodie Gibson, Serena Guthrie, Helen Housby, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman.

Reserves: Summer Artman, Sasha Corbin, George Fisher, Natalie Haythornthwaite

Hockey

Just a quick notice!  The public ballot for tickets to the 2018 World Cup, to be held in London from 21 July -5 August opens on 19 August.  Follow this link to register – it’s a short window, the ballot closes on 6 September.

 Golf

Solheim Cup

The teams, including the captains’ picks, are in!  The Solheim Cup is nearly upon us.  The USA are the current holders, having won in Germany in 2015, 14½-13½.

Europe captain Annika Sorenstam had four wildcard picks and chose Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Madelene Sagstrom (Swe), Caroline Masson (Ger) and Emily Pedersen (Den).

Julie Inkster had two wildcard picks for the USA and chose Austin Ernst and Angel Yin.  Although not originally included, Paula Creamer has now been drafted in, as Jessica Korda has pulled out through injury.

The teams in full:

Europe: Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Mel Reid, Florentyna Parker, Carlota Ciganda, Karine Icher, Suzann Pettersen. Wildcards: Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Masson, Emily Pederson, Magdalene Sagstrom.

USA: Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Danielle Kang, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome, Lizette Salas. Captain’s Picks: Austin Ernst, Angel Yin.

The Solheim Cup takes place at the Des Moines Country Club in Iowa from 18-20 August and is live on Sky Sports.

British Open

Kim In-Kyung of Korea has won the British Open at Kingsbarns in Scotland at the weekend.  She won by two shots over Jodie Ewart Shadoff of England, finishing on -18.  Michelle Wie of the United States took a share of third with Caroline Masson of Germany and Georgia Hall of England as they finished on -13.

Kim had a six-shot lead going into the last round, but in the end she had to hold on as Ewart Shadoff shot a storming course-equalling round of 64 to pull the deficit back to just two shots.

Cricket

Kia Super League

The second season of the Kia Super League gets underway this week.  Each team still only plays each other once, with Finals Day this year at Hove on 1 September.

The ECB has revealed this week that next year’s competition will be expanded so that each team will play a more usual format of home and away ties.  This good news comes in the wake of an earlier announcement that the ECB has shelved plans for a similar women’s 50-over completion.  When the T20 competition was announced, the ECB said its plans were to extend it to a 50-over competition in a matter of a couple of years.  This is a massive U-turn and somewhat of a slap in the face for a country that has just won a 50-over World Cup.

Not sure how many times I’ve said this, but the various governing bodies have to stop using women’s sport as a guinea pig – so many initiatives announced, so many either dropped before they’ve started or after a limited time – see the RFU and its contract scandal, for example.

The ECB obviously want the women to be concentrating on T20, when really it is the grassroots county game that needs the money.  Where will the much vaunted “pathway” be for county players to get into the England one-day side? It’s a huge jump.

The odds are it will all change again in 2020 when the men’s “franchises” (hush my mouth, dirty word) for the T20 Blast will be revealed.  It is thought that the women’s Super League will then be revamped in line with these franchises.

Anyway, it all began again on Thursday 10 August with a somewhat underwhelming start at the Ageas Bowl as reigning champions the Southern Vipers took on Western Storm.

Western Storm 70 all out (18.5 overs)
Southern Vipers 73/1 (9 overs)

Not a storming start (sorry) to the KSL as the Vipers thrashed the Storm, knocking off their target in just nine overs.  Not even the missing Anya Shrubsole could have turned this round.

Top scorer for Storm was opener Georgia Hennessy, who dug in in the face of the carnage around her.

England captain Heather Knight, made only one before being bowled by Linsey Smith.  The only other player to make double figures was Fran Wilson who made 10.

In an attempt to up the scoring to make some kind of defendable total, Storm suffered three run-outs towards the end of the innings, including that of Sophie Luff who was dismissed by a direct hit from Charlotte Edwards.

In response the Vipers made it look all too easy.  They have a truly scary batting order, which was not needed on this occasion.  Hayley Matthews was the only wicket to fall as she hit out with freedom in attempt to get the game won.  She was caught by Hennessy off the bowling of Stafanie Taylor for 15.

New Zealand captain Suzie Bates (47) and Georgia Adams (3) saw them home.

Coverage is on Sky and BBC TMS.

And finally,

I still must try harder to stop reading the comments sections, particularly on the BBC.  I thought the rugby had cracked it and it was accepted that the women’s game is a quality product (not that I care whether you accept it or not), but this is not the case.  Cue the usual misogyny on the BBC comments sections.  Bored now.

Sorry, no column next week as I’ll be working elsewhere.  Don’t forget, if you’ve enjoyed reading the column please share it with your networks.  I’m also happy to discuss any (non-troll) aspects of women’s sport.

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 February 2017

12928352_10201803729532769_8195423317764149816_nWelcome to this week’s column.  There are things good and bad this week, as usual.  I have found it difficult to be upbeat this week, some of the reasons for which I outline in “And finally”, but I hope that the news I give here is largely positive and makes you all feel positive about women’s sport.

This week’s stories come from rugby, football, cricket, golf, athletics, netball, winter sports and tennis.

Football

Notts County

Things are looking up for Notts County.  I reported a couple of columns ago that a winding-up order had been issued.  This threat now seems to be receding.

The petition has now been adjourned for 49 days.  The new Notts County owner, Alan Hardy, attended the hearing.

They still have to find the money to pay off their debt to HMRC.

But there seems to be no exodus of players from the club – in fact they are still making signings.  They are also advertising for a physio, so hopefully they will pull through.

Watford

Another club seemingly in trouble is Watford Ladies.

Last week they conceded their FA Cup tie against Doncaster Belles without a ball being kicked.  The club statement said that this was done,

“in order to ensure necessary preparations were fully in place ahead of the start of the league fixture programme”.

But since then they have appointed a new head coach, Keith Boanas, and held a series of meetings to discuss the future.  They have assured the league and their fans that “we believe we’re now on a very firm footing”.

Hopefully the club is in the process of ironing out its problems and will be back on course soon.

Indian Women’s League results

5 February

FC Pune City 0-5 Rising Student FC 

6 February

Aizawl FC 0-3 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Jeppiaar Institute 1-1 Alakhpura FC

8 February

FC Pune City 4-0 Aizawl FC

Rising Student FC 7-0 Jeppiaar Institute

9 February

Alakhpura FC 0-1 Eastern Sporting Union FC

That concludes the league stage.  The semi-finals, which take place on 11 February line-up as follows:

Rising Student FC v FC Pune City

Eastern Sporting Union FC v Alakhpura FC

I’m sorry I’ve only been able to bring the bare results, but it is all the information I have been able to glean.  I wish I could have seen some of the action, but I think it’s important just to mention it.

Cricket

The Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament is underway in Colombo.  The top three finishers go through to a “Super-6” section (it’s never simple with the ICC).  This is how it stands at the moment:

Team Matches played Won Lost tied No result Points
GROUP A            
India 2 2 0 0 0 4
Sri Lanka 2 1 1 0 0 2
Ireland 2 1 1 0 0 2
Zimbabwe 1 0 1 0 0 0
Thailand 1 0 1 0 0 0
GROUP B
Pakistan 3 2 1 0 0 4
South Africa 2 2 0 0 0 4
Bangladesh 3 2 1 0 0 4
Scotland 2 0 2 0 0 0
Papua New Guinea 2 0 2 0 0 0

Tennis

Great Britain have made a fine start to the Fed Cup this week.

Britain are seeded third out of the 14 nations taking part in Tallinn and first in their group.

They began their group C campaign with a 3-0 win against Portugal:

Both Heather Watson and Johanna Konta won their singles matches and then Jocelyn Rae and Laura Robson won the doubles to make it 3-0.

Heather Watson beat Ines Murta 6-1 6-1

Johanna Konta beat Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-2 6-4

Rae and Robson beat De Brito and Murta 6-2 6-3

The team then went on to beat Latvia by the same margin

Heather Watson beat Diana Marcinkevica 6-3 6-0

Johanna Konta beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-3

Rae and Robson beat Daniela Vismane and Marcinkevica 6-0 6-7 6-2

Great Britain play Turkey today (Friday).   The four group winners will play promotion play-offs on Saturday.  The two winning nations will then qualify for World Group II play-offs in April .

The group winners will play-off against the Group B winners on Saturday.

The groups line-up as follows:

Pool A: Poland, Georgia, Austria

Pool B: Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia/Herzegovina

Pool C: Great Britain, Turkey, Latvia, Portugal

Pool D: Serbia, Israel, Bulgaria, Estonia

Golf

Britain’s Laura Davies equalled the course record with an eight-under-par 65 in the first round of the Oates Vic Open in Victoria, Australia.  She hit six birdies and one eagle in the process.

She heads the leaderboard by two going into the second round:

-8 L Davies (Eng), -6 N B Larsen (Den), H Clyburn (Eng), S Gal (Ger), W Hillier (Aus), M Reid (Eng), -5 H-J Choi (Kor), K Kirk (Aus), M Parra (Spa), A Yin (US)

Speed Skating

 Elise Christie will miss a second World Cup event because of concussion.  She was unable to compete in Germany last week and will also miss this weekend’s event in Belarus.

Christie is now focussing on the World Championships which take place in the Netherlands from 10-12 March.

Athletics

 US athlete and former Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson has been banned from athletics for three months after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

She said she was given hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure but didn’t understand the ramifications regarding doping.   Her ban has been in place since 1 December.

Netball

England were disappointingly well beaten by New Zealand in their second game of the Quad series in Liverpool.  They lost the game 61-37.  By half-time they were 11 behind and were never going to make up the difference.

They needed to improve greatly if they were to make it a game against Australia.  And this they did.  They still lost 47-46, but the improvement in their work-rate, shooting and defending will give coach Tracey Neville great heart.

With 10 seconds to go England only needed one goal to take into extra time, but Sharni Layton, so often the thorn in her opponents’ side intercepted to prevent the goal and win the game.

As expected, Australia retained their Quad series title this week, but they were made to fight for it every step of the way by the England Roses.

To some extent Neville will be frustrated.  She will wonder how three such different performances were produced.  They won in extra time against the Proteas, lost catastrophically to the Silver Ferns and ran the Diamonds close.  I don’t envy her trying to draw conclusions from this.

It was also good to see the BBC covering some of the games.

Wales v New Zealand

After the Quad series was over the Silver Ferns played two tests against Wales this week.  Although Wales are improving as a netballing nation, in truth it wasn’t much of a contest.  It was, however, a chance for netball fans to see Wales play one of the world’s best teams in Wales.

Wales 27-92 New Zealand

Wales 39-72 New Zealand

Wales were somewhat overawed in the first game, but fought well in the second to produce a much-improved display.  Wales will now be working towards the Commonwealth Games which take place on the Gold Coast in 2018.

Rugby

 Six Nations

There were wins for England, Wales and Ireland in the first round of the Six Nations last weekend.

Scotland 15-22 Ireland

Broadwood Stadium 3 February

Ireland took a bonus point win in the first game of the 2017 Championship to leave them top of the table after the first round of matches.

Scotland scored first through Jade Konkel, powering over after just five minutes.  Sarah Law scored the conversion to make it 7-0 to the home side.

Then Ireland had a period of sustained pressure which resulted in Sene Naoupu going over from close range.  The conversion was missed.

Ireland then scored their second, this time through Alison Miller, who went over in the corner, but the conversion was missed again.

Scotland hit back as Player of the Match Konkel went over again.  Law missed the conversion but then put over a penalty to make it 15-10 to the Scots at half-time.

After the break the Scots went down to 14 when Lindsey Smith was sin-binned.  Ireland took advantage and scored a try through Lindsay Peat that went unconverted.  The score was tied at 15-15.

Scotland had their chances to take the game away from the visitors, but first Law then Helen Nelson missed kickable penalties.

But Ireland made them pay and in the 82nd minute, Jenny Murphy crashed over under the posts to take the game.  Stapleton kicked the conversion and it was 15-22.

Scotland will see this as a definite chance missed to win their first championship game in seven years.

Italy 8-20 Wales

Stadio Comunale Pacifico Carotti, 4 February

Wales scored first with a penalty from Elinor Snowsill after eight minutes.

Prop Caryl Thomas then crashed over for the first try of the afternoon with Snowsill adding the conversion and it was 10-0 after 20 minutes.

Italy came back into it with a penalty from the boot of Michela Sillari, which was followed up soon after by a try for the home side through Manuela Furlan after good work from Isabella Locatelli.

Italy were unable to convert the try, however, and went in at the break 8-10 down.

Early in the second-half Wales stretched their lead as Dyddgu Hywel went in and then a third try came soon after from a driving Welsh maul and scored by captain Carys Phillips.

Italy did their best to pull it back, but were unable to breach the Wales defence again.

England 26-13 France

Twickenham 4 February

England came from 13-0 down at half-time to take the win at Twickenham on Saturday.

Shannon Izar drew first blood for the French as she intercepted a Katy McLean pass and ran 70m to score.  The conversion was missed but it was 5-0.

Emily Scarratt missed a penalty, but then Christelle Le Duff put one over in front of the posts to take it to 8-0.

Gaelle Mignot powered over from a maul for France’s second try of the half to go in 13-0 up at the break.

England came out for the second-half with renewed vigour and took the initiative from the off.

First Scarratt scored a penalty, then Danielle Waterman went in for England’s first try, converted by Scarratt to take it to a 10-13 game.

France then conceded another penalty for a high tackle.  Scarratt slotted home again and the game was level.

Another penalty saw England go in front for the first time and a second for another infringement at the scrum took the lead to six.

Amy Wilson-Hardy scored England’s second try, again converted by Scarratt to make the final score 26-13.

This weekend Tamara Taylor will make her 100th appearance for England when they face Wales on Sunday.

This weekend’s Six Nations fixtures:

 Saturday 11 February

Wales v England

Cardiff Arms Park

11.30am

France v Scotland

Marcel Deflandre

8pm (GMT)

Sunday 12 February

Italy v Ireland

Stadio Tommaso Fattori

1pm (GMT)

And finally,

I have to confess I’m feeling a bit low about the women’s sports world at the moment.  I won’t turn it into a rant as I don’t think I’ve got the energy, but it just seems to me that for every step forward there are two back.  Those in the “bubble” (I have mentioned this before), still maintain that great progress is being made, but you only have to look at two things to see that it’s not quite as easy as that; one is media coverage, the other the response to media coverage.

I’ve seen both that has caused me pain this week.  Firstly, the success of the expansion of netball has led Sport England to reward it with £16.9m of funding.  How was this greeted in the press?  I saw two articles, by women, one which said that no amount of money would make her go back to netball and the other by a woman who plays netball, who wrote a supposedly tongue-in-cheek piece on why netball isn’t “cool” and not “as much fun” as basketball.

The responses to coverage are even more depressing.  Women’s cricket journalist, Raf Nicholson, wrote a great piece this week for Cricinfo on the pros and cons of cricket double-headers.  There were some good and interesting comments on the piece at the bottom.  But the one that stood out was a man who thought this would be the correct platform to tell us all that women (in general, not cricketers or any specific group) will never be any good at sport because they get pregnant.   This wasn’t a one sentence reply either – it was lengthy.  Why this chap thought this was the place to air this view isn’t clear, but it was the comment that drew the eye.

Consequently, this week my store of optimism is at a low ebb.  Hopefully next week I’ll be back to my normal self and celebrating the world of women’s sport to the full!