Women’s Sports Column 2-8 June 2018

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

So let’s crack on.

Athletics

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

Tennis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

England’s fixtures this summer:

England v South Africa

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

Twenty20 tri-series

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

July
1 Final, Chelmsford (15:00 BST)

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

English Women’s County Championship

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

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

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

Aboriginal Tour

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

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

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

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

Mountain Biking

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

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

Football

England Qualifier

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

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

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

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

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

Wales Qualifier

Wales 1-0

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

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

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

Scotland Qualifer

Scotland 2-1 Belarus

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

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

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

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

Other football news

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

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

Darts

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

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

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

Triathlon

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union

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

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

Netball

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

Friday 1 June
Team Bath 54-45 Benecos Mavericks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby League

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

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

Judo

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

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

Golf – US Open

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

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

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

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

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

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Women’s Sports Column 3-9 March 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column. After saying I was going to be out and about last week, I ended up actually being very much in and not about, laid up with flu.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – when you’ve got flu, you know about it.

Anyway, I’m back up and running now and there’s plenty to get to grips with this week. Stories come from the Paralympics, rugby, netball, football, cycling, athletics, tennis, cricket and golf.

Winter Paralympics

The Winter Paralympics open today in Pyeongchang with 670 athletes vying for medals in six sports.

Team GB has been set a target of seven medals.

Downhill skier, Millie Knight, along with guide Brett Wild, will be aiming for a medal, as will Kelly Gallagher and new guide Gary Smith in the Super G.  Great Britain also has high hopes in the wheelchair curling.

Full coverage across the BBC.

 Football

 SheBelieves Cup

Thursday 1 March
England 4-1 France

The Lionesses got off to a fine start in the four-team tournament in the US.  True, this French team is but a shadow of its former self as several of the previous stalwarts, and often thorns in England’s side, have retired or are unavailable for selection.  The Lionesses too, however, are missing key players, including captain Steph Houghton, who withdrew from the squad with an ankle injury.

Toni Duggan opened the scoring, slipping Fran Kirby’s pass into the net on seven minutes.

The French offered little and were soon two down as Jill Scott grabbed the second.  Jodie Taylor scored a third before half-time and the game was done as a spectacle.

The second-half saw the Lionesses take their foot off the gas and substitutions caused the game to become disjointed.  But Fran Kirby still found time to grab England’s fourth, before Gaetane Thiney scored a consolation goal for France.

The only downside for England was Anita Asante’s injury incurred in the first-half.  She has since returned to the UK and is set to be out for some time with a knee injury.

USA 1-0 Germany

A goal from Megan Rapinoe on 17 minutes was enough to clinch the opening match for USA.

Sunday 4 March
USA 1-1 France

France recovered from their heavy loss to England to gain an impressive point against the US.  Mallory Pugh scored for the home side, ten minutes from half-time.  France equalised just three minutes later through Eugenie Le Sommer.  Neither side could find the winner in the second-half.

England 2-2 Germany

Whilst there was much to admire in England’s 2-2 draw against Germany, the Lionesses will surely watch the video rerun through their fingers, unwilling to view some of the comedy defending.

But Phil Neville will be heartened by the team’s resilience.  At one time, they would have capitulated after going behind to Germany, but on this occasion they came back – twice.

The Germans took the lead through Hasret Kayikci but England came straight back when a long-range shot from Fara Williams was deflected by Ellen White into the net.

On the resumption, Germany had the better of the play and went ahead again when a poor clearance from Siobhan Chamberlain bounced off Millie Bright and into the net.

This discombobulated England for a while, but Ellen White struck again, getting on to a fine through ball and just beating the German offside trap, to slide the ball home.

The last fifteen minutes were end-to-end, with both teams squandering chances.  England’s best came through Rachel Daly who, having done the hard work to get into a one-to-one with the goalkeeper, then chipped the ball straight to her when it seemed easier to score.

Thursday 7 March
France 3-0 Germany

No-one saw this one coming; France were abject against England and improved against the USA, but 3-0 against Germany?

Armandine Henry opened the scoring for France in the tenth minute with a great shot from 23 yards out.

Germany thought they had equalised when Dzenifer Marozsan chipped the goalkeeper nearly from the half-way line, but Sarah Bouhaddi managed to scramble back to make the save.

In the second-half, France scored through Eugenie Le Sommer (her 66th international goal) and Valerie Gauvin.

The Germans played an inexperienced side against a full-strength French side and paid the price.

The result also ensured Germany finished bottom of the SheBelieves table.

USA 1-0 England

England needed just a point from their final match to take the trophy.  But it was not to be for Phil Neville’s men as an unfortunate own goal from ‘keeper Karen Bardsley saw the points and the title go to the USA.

For most of the first-half the teams were even, but towards the break the US started to take charge.  In the second-half they came out firing again and on 58 minutes a sliced clearance from Millie Bright hit Bardsley and deflected into the net.

The Lionesses had chances to equalise, including one for Ellen White just minutes from time, but she her header came off the post and was cleared by the USA defender.

Football – Off the Pitch

League Restructure in England

From season 2018-19 the women’s game will be renamed/restructured as follows:

Current name                                                     New Name
Tier One:   WSL1                                                 FA Women’s Super League
Tier Two:   WSL2                                                 FA Women’s Championship
Tier Three: Women’s Premier League             FA Women’s national League North/South
Northern/Southern Division
Tier Four:  Women’s Premier League              FA Women’s National League 1 (4 regions)
(4 Regions)

So far, the following clubs have been awarded licences for the top two divisions:

FA WSL: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women, Yeovil Town.

FA Women’s Championship: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur.

In addition to this, there are up to four places available in the FAWSL through the second lot of applications and five in the Championship.

The second application process for places begins this month for those currently outside the two top tiers.  We already know West Ham intend to apply for the WSL and Crystal Palace for the Championship.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s Round Four of the Six Nations this weekend.  The fixtures are:

10 March
France v England (8pm GMT)

11 March
Wales v Italy (11.45am GMT)
Ireland v Scotland (1pm GMT)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Unsurprisingly, last weekend’s fixtures were hit by the weather, with only one tie going ahead:

Gloucester-Hartpury 40-36 Harlequins

This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

10 March
DMP Sharks v Saracens (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby club)
Loughborough Lightning v Bristol (3pm, Loughborough University)
Harlequins v Richmond (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Worcester Valkyries (3pm, Tywford Avenue Sports Ground)

Cycling

Track Cycling World Championships

Katie Archibald and Emily Nelson won gold in the madison.  Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters of the Netherlands took silver and Letizia Paternoster and Maria Giulia Confalonieri of Italy the bronze.

Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Emily Nelson won silver in the women’s team pursuit.  The gold was taken by the USA team of Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert, Kimberly Geist and Kelly Catlin.  Bronze went to Letizia Paternoster, Elisa Balsamo, Tatiana Guderzo and Silvia Valsecchi of Italy.

Elinor Barker was due to take part in the madison, withdrew after a crash and then finished twelfth in the points race.  Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands won.  Jennifer Valente of the USA took silver and Jasmin Duehring of Canada the bronze.

Barker also finished sixth in the omnium.  Kirsten Wild won it with Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark in second and Rushlee Buchanan of New Zealand in third.

Lauren Bate and Katy Marchant finished sixth in the team sprint.  Gold went to Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel of Germany, silver to Kyra Lamberink and Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and bronze to Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova of the Russian Federation.

Golf

Michelle Wie of the US won her first tournament since 2014 last weekend when she took the Women’s World Championship title by one shot with a three-way tie for second.

Wie carded a 65 on the final round, holing a monster 40-foot putt on the last, to go to -17. Brooke Henderson of Canada and Danielle Kang and Nelly Korda of the US tied second on -16.  Best placed UK finisher was Charley Hull, back on -10.

Netball

Netball Super League round five took place last weekend, although a couple of fixtures fell foul of the weather.  The results were as follows:

Friday 2 March
Team Bath v UWS Sirens POSTPONED

Saturday 3 March
Manchester Thunder v Celtic Dragons POSTPONED
Loughborough Lightning 49-60 Wasps Netball
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm POSTPONED

Monday 5 March
Team Northumbria 53-71Benecos Mavericks

One fixture from Round Six also took place on Monday 5:

Loughborough Lightning 53-51 Surrey Storm

The table is a bit uneven now with the postponements, but Wasps are top with five wins from five and 15 points.  Team Bath are second with 12 points from four games and Loughborough Lightning third, also on 12 points, but from six games.  Severn Stars, Surrey Storm and Team Northumbria are yet to pick up a point.

This weekend’s fixtures look like this:

Friday 9 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm Live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 10 March
Celtic dragons v Severn Stars (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Wasps Netball v Team Northumbria (7pm)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Premier League

Several fixtures fell victim to the weather at the weekend, with just two taking place:

3 March
Surbiton 1-2 Holcombe

4 March
East Grinstead 3-0 University of Birmingham

Surbiton are top with 28 points from 15 games.  Holcombe are second, one point behind, from 15 games and University of Birmingham are third on 26 from 14 games.

Cricket – on the Pitch

The West Indies are currently playing a one-day series in New Zealand, the results of which count towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

First ODI – 4 March
West Indies 277/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 278/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand won by 1 run

West Indies won the toss and elected to field first.  Sophie Devine hit 108 and Suzie Bates 44 to steer New Zealand to a defendable total of 278.

The Windies chased with a vengeance.  Kyshona Knight looked to have put them on course as she hit 44 from 31 balls.  They needed 10 off the last over, to be bowled by Leigh Kasperek.

Two runs off the first two balls.  Then a wicket as Tremayne Smartt was caught by Maddy Green for five.  But the dangerous Knight was still there.  The fourth ball went for a boundary and the West Indies needed four off the last two.  The fifth ball went for only a single and the last for two and New Zealand had won by one run.

Second ODI – 8 March
West Indies 194 all out (48.1 overs)
New Zealand 195/2 (30.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 116 balls to spare

The second match of the series was an altogether more one-sided affair.  Stafanie Taylor top-scored for the West Indies with 86, but it was not enough to get them to a useful score.  Kasperek took 4/44 from her 10 overs and Leah Tahuhu 3/42 from 9.1.

New Zealand were ruthless in response, knocking off the total in just over 30 overs.  Devine and Bates were again outstanding, scoring 80 and 101 not out respectively, taking the White Ferns into a 2-0 lead in the series.

The third game is on Sunday 11 March.

Cricket – off the Pitch

England

The ECB has named its squad to tour India and also compete in the tri-series with India and Australia.  Katherine Brunt has been left out with a back injury and Sarah Taylor has been rested.  Lauren Winfield, Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh are also left out.

There are three new names in the squad; Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith and Katie George, while Kate Cross, Tash Farrant and  Amy Jones are recalled.

The squad in full:

Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Tash Farrant (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

Fixtures:

Twenty20 tri-series

(All matches played at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai)

March
22 India v Australia (04:30 GMT)
23 Australia v England (04:30 GMT)
25 India v England (05:30 BST)
26 India v Australia (05:30 BST)
28 Australia v England (05:30 BST)
29 India v England (05:30 BST)
31 Final (05:30 BST)

India v England ODI series

(Not counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship)

April
6 1st ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
9 2nd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
12 3rd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)

News on media coverage when I have it.

Kia Super League

The ECB announced the England players’ Kia Super League allocations this week.  Now forgive me if I’m being particularly grumpy here, but it does seem that it’s all becoming a bit random.  I can’t help thinking we’re just marking time now until the new franchise system is introduced and we start again.  Now it just appears people are moving for no reason – how can supporters get to know a team that’s always changing?  Anyway, the moves are:

Beth Langston – Loughborough Lightning to Yorkshire Diamonds
Jenny Gunn- Yorkshire Diamonds to Loughborough Lightning
Tammy Beaumont – Surrey Stars to Southern Vipers
Sarah Taylor – Lancashire Thunder to Surrey Stars
Alex Hartley – Surrey Stars to Lancashire Thunder

The ECB is looking for balance, but in the end, the divvying up of England players detracts from the tournament for me.

Athletics

World Indoor Championships

There were some excellent performances by Team GB at last weekend’s Championships in Birmingham.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson was the star of the show, taking her first senior title with gold in the pentathlon.  She won with 4750 points.  Silver went to Ivona Dadic of Austria and bronze to Yorgelis Rodriguez of Cuba.

Laura Muir took bronze in the 3000m in a season’s best 8:45.78.  The winner was Genzebe Dibabe of Ethiopia, in a time of 8:45.05.  Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands took silver in a time of 8:45.68.

Muir then went one better, taking silver in the 1500m.  Dibabe was again the winner, with Hassan in bronze.

It was a one/two for the US in the 400m with Courtney Okolo taking gold and Shakima Wimbley, silver.  Eilidh Doyle took bonze for Great Britain with a season’s best 51.60.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took bronze in the 800m with a personal best time of 1:59.81.  The gold went to Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and the silver Ajee Wilson of USA.

Bronze also went to the 4x400m team.  United States took gold with Poland in silver.

London Marathon

Kathrine Swizter, the first woman to be given an official number in the Boston Marathon, fifty years ago, is to run in the London Marathon this year.

Switzer, 71, entered the Boston race using her initials only, hoping to pass through unnoticed.  She was roughly attacked by security men on the day, who tried to remove her from the course.  She eventually completed the race in four hours 20 minutes.

The race takes place on Sunday 22 April.

Tennis

She’s back folks!  I crave your indulgence for just a moment to mention the fact that Serena Williams is back.  Now I know that after childbirth women return to all kinds of work in ridiculously short amounts of time, and I also know that they generally neither ask for nor get recognition for that.  So I’m not necessarily shouting about the fact that she’s returning after childbirth, but just the fact that she’s back.

In her first match back at Indian Wells, she beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5 6-3.  She plays 29th seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in round two.

And finally,

It would be remiss of me not to mention #IWD2018.  I know that in the scheme of things, when women and girls all round the world suffer daily horrific treatment, sport is not one of life’s priorities.  FGM, trafficking, pornography, rape, “honour” killing, withdrawal of abortion and health rights, harassment and forced marriage are just a few things happening to thousands of women and girls every day.

I know I’ve said this before, but while I speak out, sign petitions and protest against all of these things, my actual area of expertise is sport.  Women everywhere have the right to play, officiate, manage, take charge of and watch any kind of sport they want to without fear of reprisal, violence, discrimination or even just scorn and general derision.  But it doesn’t happen.  And while there is a sporting fight to be had, I’ll be there.  Happy #IWD2018 everyone.

 

Women’s Sports Column 30 December 2017 – 5 January 2018

new tennisWelcome to the first Women’s Sports Column of the New Year and let me wish you all a happy, sport-filled 2018.

It’s the relative calm before the storm at the moment, but there is plenty to come this year.  Stories this week come from taekwondo, tennis, a shocking story from cycling, New Year’s Honours, cricket, football and winter sports.

I’m also happy to say this week’s TWO “And Finally(s)” are positive ones.

Let’s crack on and start with taekwondo (don’t get to say that very often, but it’s a big (and a great) story.

Taekwondo

Bianca Walkden may have missed out on any kind of recognition from the Great British Public at SPOTY, but she completed her stellar year by annihilating all-comers last week to win the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Series title for the +67kg category.

She beat An Saebom of South Korea 14-1 in the quarter-finals and then recorded an 11-0 golden point victory over Nafia Kus of Turkey in the semi-final.

In the final she faced Jackie Galloway of USA, defeating her 10-2 to take the title and £52,000 prize money.

In 2017 she defended her world title and won all four Grand Prix events.

Next to compete in the Grand Slam Series will be Wales’ Lauren Williams, who fights in the -67kg category.  Charlie Maddock is next on 13 January in the -49kg category and Jade Jones competes on 20 January in her -57kg division.

Tennis

The world’s best tennis players are currently gearing up for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which begins on Monday 15 January.

There are several warm-up events going on, the main ones being in Brisbane and Shenzhen, China.

Brisbane International

Heather Watson bowed out early on.  She won her first match, against Danielle Lao of the USA 7-5 6-3.  She won her second versus Misaki Doi of China 6-2 6-4, but succumbed in the third to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4 6-1.  She still advanced to the round of 32, though, to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-0 6-3.

British number one, Jo Konta, began well.  She was seeded five at Brisbane and in the round of 32 she defeated American Madison Keys 4-6 6-4 6-3.  In the round of 16 she beat wildcard Ajila Tomljanovic of Croatia 4-6 6-1 6-4.  These have been two gruelling three-set matches.  And this told on Konta as she withdrew with injury on Thursday as she played third seed Elina Svitolina.

Konta had been playing well up to that point, taking the first set 6-1 against the third seed.  The second went to Svitolina on the tie-break and she was 3-2 up in the third when Konta pulled out.

Konta had treatment on her right hip on the court and the injury is thought to be in the right hip/groin area.  There is no news yet as to whether she will compete in the Sydney International, the next warm-up tournament, which takes place next week and which she won in 2017.  .

The other quarter-finals were:

Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 3-6 7-5 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova  (Latvia)beat Aleksandra Krunic (Serbia) 6-2 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(Belarus) beat Alizé Cornet (France) 3-6 6-2 6-3

In the semi-finals:

Sasnovich beat Sevastova 7-6 6-4
Svitolina beat Pliskova 7-5 7-5

The final is on Saturday 6 January.

Petra Kvitova had to withdraw before the start of the tournament with a virus and Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew during her second-round match after suffering a bout of cramp.  It’s pretty worrying that some of the big players (both men and women) have already pulled out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Shenzhen Open

No British interest here, but the quarter-final line-up was as follows:

Irina-Camelia Begu (Romania) beat Timea Babos (Hungary) 7-5 7-5
Simona Halep (Romania) beat Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) 6-2 6-2
Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 6-3 6-3
Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) beat Kristyna Pliskova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-2

The semi-finals finished:

Siniakova beat Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-3
Halep beat Begu 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 6 January

Serena Williams

Meanwhile there was a disappointing announcement today as Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open, as she doesn’t feel quite ready yet:

“Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be,” she said.

It will be the first Australian Open she has missed since 2011.

Football – Off the pitch

No live football to report on at the moment, but plenty of transfer news.

Natasha Harding

The biggest news so far is that Natasha Harding has turned down a new contract with Liverpool, in favour of a move to Reading.

Harding is currently vice-captain of the Wales national side and has won 50 caps for her country.

Birmingham City

Chloe Peplow, currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers Belles was out of contract at the end of December and not going to renew, while German international striker Isabelle Linden, also out of contract at the end of 2017 is to leave as well.

On the other hand Marisa Ewers and Andrine Hegerberg have both extended their contracts with the club.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Belles have pulled off somewhat of a coup with the news that former Rotherham and Leeds United manager, Neil Redfearn is to be the club’s new manager.

On the Pitch

Meanwhile the on the pitch action starts again this weekend with the following fixtures:

Saturday 6 January

FAWSL 1
Bristol City v Everton (17.30, Stoke Gifford Stadium)
Liverpool v Yeovil Town (17.30, Select Security Stadium)
Sunderland v Birmingham City (18.00, Mariners Park)

Sunday 7 January

FAWSL1
Chelsea v Arsenal (13.30, Kingsmeadow Stadium)
Reading v Man City (16.00, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

FAWSL2
Oxford United v Durham (12.00, Oxford City FC)
Aston Villa v London Bees (14.00, Tamworth FC)
Millwall v Sheffield FC (14.00. St Paul’s Sports Ground)
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00, Cheshunt FC)
Watford v Doncaster Rovers Belles (15.00, Kings Langley FC)

Cycling

Caroline Buchanan, Australian cyclist and two-time Olympian, is in hospital after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in New South Wales.

She suffered a broken nose, broken sternum and collapsed lung in the accident.

The 27-year old has three BMX world titles to her name, as well as five mountain bike world titles.

Needless to say, she will be out of action for some time.

 Cricket – WBBL

We’re about half-way in this year’s tournament.  Top of the pile lie Sydney Thunder with five wins from six with the Sixers in second with five wins from eight.  Hobart Hurricanes are yet to get off the mark with no points from six games.  Second from bottom with one win from six.

Most recent matches:

30 December 2017

Sydney Sixers 138 all out (19.5 overs)
Perth Scorchers 139/4 (18.5 overs)

Alyssa Healey was out for a first ball duck, but Ellyse Perry scored 45 and Dane van Niekerk 29 as the Sixers posted 138.  But it was not enough.  Elyse Villani scored 63 off 43 and Nicole Bolton 42 off 49 as the Scorchers eased home.

Hobart Hurricanes 112/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 116/3 (17 overs)

Stafanie Taylor took 4/15 off her four overs as the Hurricanes slumped to 112 off their 20.  Rachael Haynes then took on the Hurricanes’ bowlers, scoring 64 off 49 balls as the thunder won with three overs to spare.

31 December

Hobart Hurricanes 97 all out (19.4 overs)
Sydney Thunder 99/2

The Hurricanes were comprehensively beaten by the Thunder on Sunday.  Samantha Bates took 3/12 four and Stafanie Taylor 2/13 off 2.4 as the Hurricanes could only manage 97 off 19.4 overs.  The Thunder took no time in knocking off the runs, scoring 99 in 15 overs.  Alex Blackwell top-scored on 43 not out.

Adelaide Strikers 119/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 122/2 (16.2 overs)

The Strikers could only post 119 and it never looked enough.  Most of their top names got a start but no-one could kick on as Bridget Patterson top-scored with 37.  It seemed as if Beth Mooney wanted to do it all on her own in reply as the scored 81 not out off 48 balls.  She was supported well by Kirby Short, who scored 27.

2 January

Sydney Sixers 128/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 92 all out (19 overs)

Ellyse Perry top scored with 64 of 56 balls as the Sixers posted an average total against the Renegades.  But their opponents never got started in response with van Niekerk taking 4/13 off her four overs with Kapp and Aley taking two each as the Renegades subsided to 92 all out.

3 January

Bizarre and miraculous goings-on at Geelong as the Renegades v Sixers game went to a super over, but it would not have even got there if it hadn’t been for some smart work on the part of the Sixers.

Melbourne Renegades 120/7 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 120/7 (20 overs)

It had looked as if the Sixers had it in the bag until Perry was out and Chamari Attapatu had taken 2/6 in two overs.  It went down to the last ball – the Sixers needing three to win.

Sarah Aley went for the single and the game looked to be over, but Renegades keeper Emma inglis was too intent on celebrating and didn’t break the wickets to end the game.  Aley spotted the error and ran the second to tie the scores and send the game into a super over.

Sydney Sixers 8/2 (1 over)
Melbourne Renegades 9/0 (1 over)

Alyssa Healey perished for a first ball duck and Perry four, but the Sixers still posted a decent eight runs off their super over.

But the Renegades kept their cool with Jess Duffin hitting a single off Marizanne Kapp’s last ball to take the match.

5 January

Adelaide Strikers 144/5 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 122//9 (20 overs)

Tammy Beaumont top-scored for the Strikers with 46 from 48 balls as they posted a competitive total.  The Stars fell well short despite Lizelle Lee’s 44 of 42 balls.  Three ducks in a row down the order (King, Kearney, Faltum) put paid to any chance the Stars had of reaching the Strikers’ score.

Winter Sports

The Winter Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, so between then and now I’m going to try to get as many winter sports snippets into the column as I can.

 Alpine Skiing

Russian bans

Eleven Russian winter sports athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics after they were found to have committed doping offences at Sochi in 2014.  Out of the eleven, four are women:

Tatyana Ivanova (luge) – won silver in Sochi
Natalia Matveeva (cross-country skiing)
Liudmila Udobkina (bobsleigh)
Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina (ice hockey)

Mikaela Shiffrin

She’s odd-on to retain her Olympic slalom title, and Mikaela Shiffrin is already in fine form as she warms up for the big one.  Although she was upset in the giant slalom in Lienz, Austria , last week, she already has a 371 point lead in the World Cup standings with 881.  Viktoria Rebensberg lies second.

Skeleton

Meanwhile, in skeleton, the latest World Cup event, in Altenberg, Germany, the home nation made it a clean sweep with Jacquelline Loelling taking the title in 1:57.54 for the two runs.  Tina Hermann came second 0.13 seconds behind with Anna Fernstaedt in third 0.43 behind the winner.

For Great Britain, Laura Deas finished eighth, 1.35 seconds behind Loelling and Lizzie Yarnold nineteenth, a massive 3.22 seconds back.

Paralympics

There is no place in the GB Paralympic squad for Sochi skiing gold medallist Kelly Gallagher.

GB has two places available for visually impaired skiiers – these have gone to world champion Millie Knight and newcomer Menna Fitzpatrick.

There may still be a place for Gallagher, though, as other teams may not take up their full allocation and will be re-allocated elsewhere.

The Winter Paralympics begin on 9 March. Top of Form

Queen’s New Year Honours

Several sportswomen were honoured by the Queen:

Cricket
Heather Knight (OBE)
Tammy Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole (MBE)
Mark Robinson (women’s coach) (OBE)
Clare Connor (CBE) – tweet about Geoff Boycott notwithstanding, for services to cricket.

Paralympic Athletics
Stef Reid (MBE)

Other
Sarah Lewis (OBE) International Ski Federation secretary, for services to sport.
Joyce Cook (OBE) for services to sport and accessibility.
Sue Anstiss (MBE) for services to grassroots and women’s sport.
Christine Bower (MBE) British Olympic Association athletes services co-ordinator, for services to British Olympic sport.
Helen Phillips (MBE) for services to Welsh gymnastics and the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales.
Patricia Reid (MBE) Dunfermline Tennis Club secretary, for services to tennis and lacrosse in Scotland.

And Finally,

And finally, the Women’s Sport Trust has just issued its calendar of women’s sport for 2018.  So, if you missed it here’s the link: www.themixedzone.co.uk.  And if you don’t already subscribe to The Mixed Zone, a fantastic resource of articles by both professional athletes and writers, I suggest you do!

And and finally,

I don’t usually do endorsements, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  My friend Joanne is not just an ace yoga teacher, but also nutritionist par excellence.  She’s just started a new venture called “The Ravenous Athlete” with advice and help on what to eat and when if you’re serious about your sport.  If you need any help with your nutrition – given in a non-patronising, non-jargon way, please check her out: www.healthandhart.com.

 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 December 2017

DSCN2151Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week in a short, but perfectly formed story of the week.  It’s the time of year when we see one awards ceremony after another, but the two biggies have to be BT Action Woman of the Year (women are winning that one!) and, of course, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (somewhat less of a chance of a woman winning that one).  The BT awards have been and gone – news below, but the opportunity to vote for your BBC SPOTY is still to come. I cover the runners and riders, so to speak, in this week’s “and finally”.  Other news comes from cycling, tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, horse racing, taekwondo, curling and football.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s results in the Premier 15s were:

2 December

Loughborough Lightning 43-33 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

DMP Sharks 3-26 Bristol Ladies

Firwood Waterloo Ladies 12-12 Worcester Valkyries

3 December

Richmond Women 0-44 Wasps Ladies

Harlequins Ladies 19-28 Saracens Women

After nine games, Saracens are top with 44 points, winning all of their games and missing out on just one bonus point.  Harlequins are second with 40, with Wasps seven points further back on 33.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries are marooned on two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on seven, with DMP Sharks one place above them on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures sees second placed Quins take on Wasps at Surrey Sports Park, while Saracens are at home to struggling Firwood Waterloo.  Here are the fixtures in full:

9 December

Harlequins Ladies v Wasps: Surrey Sports Park 1pm

Saracens Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies: Allianz Park 2pm

Worcester Valkyries v Loughborough Lightning: Sixways Stadium 2pm

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v DMP Sharks: TBC 4pm

10 December

Richmond Women v Bristol Ladies: Richmond Athletic Ground 2.30pm

Rugby union coverage

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of good news stories regarding the TV coverage of women’s rugby this week.  Firstly, Sky showed their first Tyrell’s 15 Premiership match last weekend.  Secondly came the news that England Roses’ Six Nations games will also be shown on Sky.  At last, some recognition for the progress the women’s game has made, particularly with the excellent staging and standard of the World Cup this summer.

Women’s Six Nations

Saturday 4 February

19:35: England v France – Twickenham (Sky Sports Mix)

Saturday 11 February

11:30: Wales v England– Cardiff Arms Park (Sky Sports 3)

Saturday 25 February

13:00: England v Italy – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday 11 March

20:00: England v Scotland – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2, delayed coverage, KO 13:00)

Friday 17 March

20:00: Ireland v England – Donnybrook, Dublin (Sky Sports Mix)

Taekwondo

There was double success for Britain’s women at the Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Ivory Coast this week.

Bianca Walkden won her fifth major title of the year when she took the +67kg category, beating Da- Bin Lee of South Korea in the final 16-9.  She won all four Grand Prix events in this calendar year as well as taking gold in the World Championships in June – the first fighter to do so.

Then Britain’s Jade Jones also took gold in the -57kg category.   She beat Marta Calvo-Gomez of Spain 26-7 in the final and ends the year as world number one in the -57kg category.

They now go on to compete for Britain the inaugural Taekwondo Grand Slam in China.

BT Action Woman

England footballer Jodie Taylor was named BT Action Woman of 2017 this week.  She beat off competition from Tammy Beaumont, Elise Christie, Hannah Cockcroft, Mallory Franklin, Johanna Konta, Katy McLean and Anya Shrubsole to take the award in a public vote.

Franklin was second, with Konta third.

Unsurprisingly the England Cricket Team took the team of the year award, while Judy Murray was given a Lifetime Achievement award for her contribution to tennis.

Rugby League World Cup

Semi-finals

England 4-52 New Zealand

England were well beaten by New Zealand at the Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney.

In truth, they were never really in it as the Kiwi Ferns took the lead in the second minute with a try from Maitua Feterika.  Shontelle Woodman and Krystal Murray added further scores before England could reply with a try of their own from Tara-Jane Stanley in the 21st minute.

England were only 14-4 down at half-time and would have been hoping for better in the second period, but it was not to be as New Zealand put on the afterburners and England had no response.

They scored seven tries in the second-half, Honey Hireme ending with a hat-trick and Krystal Murray with two.

Australia 58-6 Canada

Australia were dominant over Canada from the off.  They scored 42 unanswered points in the first-half.

The second period was more even as Australia eased through.  Natasha Smith scored Canada’s only try, while Ali Brigginshaw, Steph Hancock, Isabelle Kelly and Karina Brown all scored two tries, while Talesha Quinn, Ruan Sims and Nakia Davis-Welsh bagged one each.

Final – 2 December

Australia 23-17 New Zealand

It was an altogether tighter, and exciting, affair.  Australia took the lead on eight minutes with a try from Isabelle Kelly, with the extra points kicked by Caitlin Moran.  Four minutes later, New Zealand were level through Honey Hireme, extra points kicked by Kimiora Nati.

Hireme got her second on 20 minutes to send the Ferns into the lead.  But the Jillaroos were not to be outdone and on 36 minutes Moran scored a brilliant solo effort under the posts, converting it to give them a half-time lead of 12-10.

The second-half belonged to Australia.  Kelly scored her second try on 53, while just four minutes later Elianna Walton went over to take the game away from the Kiwi Ferns; 22-10 with just 20 minutes left.

New Zealand made a fight of it with Raecene McGregor going over in the 69th minute to take them back within a converted score of the lead.

But the Jillaroos were to have the last word.  Moran kicked a field goal in the final minute and Australia had won their second successive World Cup.

Cricket

The WBBL starts this weekend with many of the cricketing world’s biggest stars on show. Representing England are Tammy Beaumont (Adelaide Strikers) with Charlotte Edwards coaching, Georgia Elwiss (Melbourne Stars), Lauren Winfield (Hobart Hurricanes).

Coverage is on BT Sport at unholy times.  Check your TV listings for details.

Cycling

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the Track Cycling Cup in Milton, Canada, last week.

Katie Archibald won gold in the points race, winning the first four sprints and gaining a lap to take the title.  Jasmin Duehring of Canada finished second, nine points behind, with Jarmila Machacova of the Czech Republic, third.

Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson also then took gold in the madison with 29 points.  France came second on 24 and New Zealand third on 15.

Katy Marchant took silver in the keirin.  Kristina Vogel of Germany took gold, with Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands finishing in bronze position.

Curling

Scotland’s women’s Team, led by Eve Muirhead won the European Curling Championship in St Gallen, Switzerland, this week.  They beat Sweden, unbeaten up to this point, 6-3, on Saturday.

The team, Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray went behind early on, and were 2-1 down after the third end.  They took a double in the sixth end and one in each of the last three to take the match and the title.

Tennis

Serena Williams has entered the Australian Open in January.  She has returned to training after giving birth to a daughter in September and, if she takes part, this will be her first tournament back. There is no doubt that she’s still looking to equal (and break) Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles titles record of 24.  At the moment she has 23.  Who can bet against it?  Whatever happens, it will be great to see her in action again.

Horse Racing

Jockey Hayley Turner is to face a British Horseracing Authority inquiry after she was charged with a breach of betting rules.

The hearing will be on 14 December.

Football

Continental Cup

The final round of group matches took place this week:

Saturday 2 December

Bristol City Women 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Chelsea Ladies 8-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Sunday 3 December

Manchester City Women 2-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies 3-2 Durham Women

London Bees 1-1 Watford Ladies

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Reading FC Women

Oxford United Women 1-5 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Tuesday 5 December

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Liverpool Ladies

Wednesday 6 December

Chelsea Ladies 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-3 Manchester City Women

The quarter-final draw was made on 7 December:

Bristol City v Manchester City

Chelsea v Liverpool

Arsenal v Sunderland

Everton v Reading

Ties will be played over the weekend of 16/17 December.

And finally,

It’s that time again – the time when we look at the SPOTY shortlist and go, “seriously?  How many women?”  And this year is no exception.  In this year’s field of 12 twelve shortlisted, we have four women.  In the year of the Cricket World Cup, the Women’s Euros, the Rugby World Cup etc, etc, the BBC, in its wisdom, has managed to come up with four names.  Hey ho.  ‘Twas ever thus.  So the women to vote for (I’m not going to curse you if you vote for one of the men) are Elise Christie, Jo Konta, Anya Shrubsole and Bianca Walkden.

Voting has already closed in the Overseas SPOTY category.  The women shortlisted are Katie Ledecky (swimming), Tatyana McFadden (Para-athletics) and Sally Pearson (athletics).

No prizes for guessing who I’ll be voting for in the main event.  I’ve already said as much on social media – Anya Shrubsole gets my vote.  She made my summer and my year with her performance in the World Cup final.  I’m hoping the England team is nailed on for the Team of the Year award, but it would really be something special if Anya was at least close to winning it.

The programme is on Sunday 17 December and you will be able to vote by telephone on the night.

Women’s Sports Column 15-21 April 2017

Welcome to this week’s column.  This week we have stories from swimming, golf, football, cricket, boxing, lacrosse, gymnastics, athletics, netball and tennis plus two “And Finally” pieces that have been featured far and wide in the mainstream media, but nonetheless bear repeating in this column.

So let’s crack on.

Football

Top Story

This one just broke this morning (Friday 21 April).  Notts County Ladies have folded just two days before they were due to play their first match in the Spring Series.

Anyone who knows this column or my Twitter feed will know that County is my biggest local team and I have been happy to promote them wherever possible.  I am both saddened and angry that this has been allowed to happen and I believe the FA should take a long hard look at themselves – I know the sport has to be sustainable in the long-term, but the FA are all talk.  I’ve said it before that they come up with all these “initiatives” but forget that clubs need everyday support.  Shame on you, Football Association.

Last year I visited Meadow Lane to interview the then Chief Executive, Matthew Alexander.  It was such an enjoyable morning – the staff was all very upbeat and friendly.  Matt gave me full access and a tour.  I was unable to sell the resultant article, but published it on my website some time afterwards when Matt left.  Here’s the link: Interview

I realised when he left so suddenly that all was not well, but was sure the club would come out of it.

But this is not the case.

There are four Lionesses currently playing for the team – Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jade Moore and Jo Potter – and it is unclear what will happen to them as the transfer window is now closed.

It did seem that new Notts County FC owner, Alan Hardy, was going to pay the debts of both the men’s and women’s clubs owed to HMRC, but now it appears that it he is unable to do so.

I know no-one has bottomless pockets, but this is disaster for the FAWSL.  County were a club on the up – I saw it firsthand and it is short-sighted in the extreme that the money could not be found to save them.

On the Pitch

FA Cup Semi-finals

Manchester City 1-0 Liverpool

Melissa Lawley scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute.  The win should have been more convincing with both Jill Scott and Carli Lloyd missing good chances.

Birmingham City 1-1 Chelsea
Birmingham win 4-2 on penalties

After a goalless first half Birmingham took the lead in the 68th minute through a Meaghan Sargeant header.  It looked as if this was going to be the winner until Drew Spence popped up two minutes from time to score the equaliser and take it into extra time.

With no further scoring in extra time, the tie went to penalties.  Both Eni Aluko and Millie Bright missed their spot kicks and England striker Ellen White stepped up to score to send Birmingham through.

The final will be at Wembley Stadium on 13 May.

Off the Pitch

European Women’s U17 Championships

England has announced an 18-strong squad for next month’s tournament in the Czech Republic.

Goalkeepers: Hannah Hampton (Birmingham City), Emily Ramsey (Manchester United).

Defenders: Meg Boydell (Liverpool), Shannon Cooke (Arsenal), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Grace Neville (Millwall), Poppy Pattinson (Sunderland), Olivia Smith (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Beth O’Donnell (Manchester City), Aimee Palmer (Bristol City), Amy Rodgers (Liverpool) Emily Syme (Bristol City), Miri Taylor (Chelsea).

Forwards: Nicole Douglas (Chelsea), Jess Ngunga (Arsenal), Lauren Hemp (Bristol City), Ella Rutherford (Millwall), Gabby Ravenscroft (Oxford United).

England’s campaign begins on Tuesday 2 May.

Group Fixtures

v Republic of Ireland (2 May)
v Netherlands (5 May)
v Norway (8 May)

The top two in the group go into the semi-finals.

Sponsorship

Liverpool Ladies have signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with Avon Products Inc.

The company’s logo will make its first appearance on the Liverpool shirts during the Spring Series, which begins for the Reds on 23 April against Yeovil Town Ladies at Huish Park.

Transfers

Liverpool have also been busy in the transfer market this week.  They have signed Jess Clarke from Notts County Ladies and Laura Coombs, who had been on a season-long loan at the Merseyside club from Chelsea.

Netball

Well, it’s still all going swimmingly for Loughborough Lightning in the Vitality Super League.  Hoping I don’t put the curse on them, they are still unbeaten after 10 rounds.  There were two rounds over the Easter weekend and this week and the results were as follows:

Round Nine

Monday 10 April

Celtic Dragons 55-53 Sirens

Friday 14 April

Team Bath 45-46 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Wasps Netball 68-46 Team Northumbria

Saturday 15 April

Manchester Thunder 66-58 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 47-56 Loughborough Lightning

Round Ten

Monday 17 April

Surrey Storm 65-56 Team Northumbria
Loughborough Lightning 49-40 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 50-59 Severn Stars
Sirens 66-76 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 51-58 Wasps Netball

Loughborough are top of the table on 30 points with Wasps second, having lost two games and are on 28.  Third on goal difference are Manchester Thunder.

The next live Sky game will be Severn Stars v Surrey Storm on 24 April at 7.30pm.

Swimming

The British Swimming Championships have been taking place this week at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.

Standout performances so far have been from Imogen Clark from Loughborough University, who set a new British record to win the 50m Breaststroke in a time of 30.21 and Jocelyn Ulyett who broke the British record to take the 200m Breaststroke title.

Results:

50m Breaststroke: Imogen Clark (Loughborough University), Sarah Vasey (National Centre Loughborough), Corrie Scott (Edinburgh University)

400m Individual Medley: Hannah Miley, Aimee Willmott (London Aquatics Performance Programme), Abbie Wood (National Centre Loughborough)

200m Freestyle: Eleanor Faulkner (City of Sheffield), Kathryn Greenslade (Edinburgh University), Jazz Carlin (National Centre Bath)

50m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Sophie Yendell, (City of Derby), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics)

100m Backstroke: Georgia Davies (Loughborough University), Kathleen Dawson (University of Stirling), Jessica Fullalove (Bath University)

200m Breaststroke: Jocelyn Ulyett (Loughborough University), Molly Renshaw (Loughborough University), Chloe Tutton (City of Cardiff)

200m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics), Emily Larger (Newcastle)

50m Freestyle: Anna Hopkin (Ealing), Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (Bath University), Lucy Hope (Edinburgh University)

Two days to go.

Lacrosse

An 18-strong England squad has been announced for the Women’s World Cup in July.  National Team Director, Phil Collier, has gone for a blend of youth and experience with eight players who played in the 2013 World Cup in Canada included, but there also three players who will be taking part in their first major tournament.

There are also eight reserves, should they be needed.

Goalkeepers
Sally Keogh, Isabel McNab

Defenders
Emma Adams, Chloe Chan, Ashleigh Gloster, Annie Hillier, Emma Oakley

Midfielders
Camila Hayes, Kirsten Lafferty, Lucy Lynch, Charlotte Lytollis, Laura Merrifield, Ruby Smith

Attackers
Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Olivia Hompe, Jenny Simpson, Megan Whittle

If you haven’t experienced lacrosse in the flesh, this is the ideal opportunity to do so.  The tournament takes place at Surrey Sports Park.  Tickets can be purchased here: www.2017worldlacrosse.com

Tennis

Good news from the WTA tour this week as Petra Kvitova has announced that she may make a comeback as early as the French Open in May.

 

She has been out since December since being stabbed in the left hand by an intruder in her home.

She suffered damage to both nerves and tendons and was expected to be out for at least six months.  But she has put her name forward for Roland Garros in the hope that she will be there.  There is no guarantee that she will be able to play, but this is definitely a move in the right direction.

The French Open begins on 28 May.

Boxing

Nicola Adams

After winning her first professional bout 40-36 against Virginia Carcamo, it has been announced that Nicola Adams’ next fight will be over three-minute rounds as opposed to the two-minute rounds that are standard in the women’s sport.

Under WBC rules women are not allowed to fight three-minute rounds in title fights but as this is a non-title fight it will go ahead.

The fight is in Leeds on 13 May on the undercard of Josh Warrington’s featherweight title bout against Kiko Martinez.

Adams is also leading the quest for women to wear lighter gloves.  At the moment all women fighters wear 10z gloves, whereas male fighters from flyweight to welterweight are allowed to wear 8oz gloves.

The British Boxing Board of Control is still to comment on this proposed change.

Katie Taylor

Ireland’s Katie Taylor’s next bout will be the undercard of the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko fight at Wembley Stadium on 29 April.  She faces Nina Meinke in a WBA lightweight world title eliminator.

Natasha Jonas

Natasha Jonas has announced she is to come out of retirement to turn professional.  She got to the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Olympics and won World Championships bronze also in 2012.

Cricket

Isa Guha

Former England bowler and TV and radio broadcaster, Isa Guha, has become the first woman to be appointed to the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) board.

PCA chief executive David Leatherdale said,

“Isa has a vast knowledge of the game from a men’s and women’s perspective.

“With our international women players now full members of the PCA, Isa will bring real insight to the PCA board.”

Sarah Taylor

There was good news from the England set-up this week as it was announced that Sarah Taylor would join the training camp in the UAE.

Her goal is still, according to coach Mark Robinson, to be fit to play in the World Cup in June and July.

Gymnastics

Ellie Downie has become the first British gymnast to qualify for every final at a major championships.

She led the all-round standings at the European Gymnastics Championships in Romania on 56.198.

Alice Kinsella has also qualified for the all-round competition, with Becky Downie in the finals of the beam and uneven bars and Claudia Fragapane in the final of the floor.

Golf

Cristie Kerr won the Lotte Championship at the weekend.  She finished -20, three shots ahead of New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun of Korea and third-round leader Su-Yeon Jang.

Kerr hit an amazing third round 62 to take her into contention and didn’t drop a shot in the fourth to maintain her good form.

Becky Morgan of Wales finished tied 16th on -10 and England’s Bronte law tied 39th on -6.

Athletics

American sprinter Brianna Rollins has been banned for one year after missing three drug tests in 2016.

Rollins won the 100m hurdles gold in Rio.

She can, perhaps, be considered unlucky as for one test she was at the White House meeting President Obama and for another she was in her home town in Florida attending “Brianna Rollins Day”……

She will miss the World Championships in London in August and will be eligible to compete again on 18 December.

And finally (1)

It has been everywhere this week (and good to see), that Kathrine Switzer, first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967, has run it again this year, 50 years on at the age of 70.

She registered for the race under KV Switzer, therefore avoiding exposing her gender.  She was not noticed at the start-line, although some miles in an official tried to drag her off the course.  But she was not to be removed and finished the race in four hours 20 minutes.

Women were not allowed to race officially until 1972.

Last week she ran it again finishing in a time of 4 hours 44.31 – just under 25 minutes slower than in 1967.

Switzer wore the same number, 261, in both races and the organisers have now decided to retire the number in her honour.

And finally (2)

Serena Williams announced this week that she is pregnant.  Anyone who reads this column on a regular basis will know that I am a complete Serena devotee and so I would like to congratulate her on this happy news.  I’m not going to say “Wow, wow, wow, she won the Australian Open while she was pregnant”, not because it’s not an achievement, but because pregnant women do amazing things every day.  Nor am I going to question how she might feel if and when she returns to tennis – who knows how she will feel?  I do take issue with certain “news” papers that have pronounced that Serena’s competitive edge or what some people see as unseemly strength power will be taken away by motherhood.  Why?  There can be absolutely no scientific basis for such a statement and why should anyone want it to be?  Let us just allow Serena to enjoy the moment and hope that she has the best experience possible in her pregnancy.

Women’s Sports Column 28 January – 3 February 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Over the next few weeks my posting may be sporadic due to a family bereavement – totally unprofessional to mention, but I’ll make every effort I can to keep the column going.  There’s so much going on that it will give me purpose and encouragement to carry on writing.

So, on that note, let’s crack on.  News this week comes from tennis, netball, winter sports, football, cricket, This Girl Can, rugby, Be a Game Changer and the biggest news from Australia for a while – the introduction of the Women’s Aussie Rules Football league.

Be a Game Changer Awards 2017

The public nomination period for the Women’s Sports Trust “Be a Game Changer” Awards 2017 is open from 1-15 February.  Check out the Women’s Sports Trust website for details.

The categories for nomination are:

Sporting Role Model (individual), Sporting Role Model (team), Ambassador of Women’s Sport, Sponsor Partnership of the Year, National Governing Body of the Year, Inspiring Initiative (National), Inspiring Initiative (Local/Grassroots), Photographer/Filmmaker of the Year, Imagery of the Year, Media Initiative of the Year, Media Individual of the Year, Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport.

If there’s someone you think should be recognised in any of these categories, don’t wait as the nomination period is a short one.

Netball

Quad Series

The Quad Series is currently underway.  This is the story so far:

Saturday, 28 January, Durban

Australian Diamonds 57-50 New Zealand Silver Ferns,

South Africa Proteas 55-60 England Roses (After extra time)

Tuesday, 31 January, Durban

South Africa Proteas 46-62 Australian Diamonds

Thursday, 2 February, Echo Arena, Liverpool

England Roses 37-61New Zealand Silver Ferns

Sunday, 5 February, SSE Arena Wembley, London

England Roses v Australian Diamonds (live on BBC Two from 1pm)

New Zealand Silver Ferns v South Africa Proteas

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Don’t forget it’s the start of the Six Nations this weekend.

It all kicks off tonight (Friday) with Scotland v Ireland at the Broadway Stadium.  Kick-off is 6.35.pm.  It will be covered in Ireland by RTE.

Ireland will be favourites to win even though they will be without regular captain Niamh Briggs.

Teams:

Scotland: Chloe Rollie (Murrayfield Wanderers), Megan Gaffney (Edinburgh University), Lisa Thomson (Edinburgh University), Lisa Martin (Murrayfield Wanderers, capt), Rhona Lloyd (Edinburgh University), Helen Nelson (Murrayfield Wanderers), Sarah Law (Murrayfield Wanderers/Edinburgh University); Tracey Balmer (Worcester), Rachel Malcolm (Lichfield), Lindsey Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill), Emma Wassell (Murrayfield Wanderers), Deborah McCormack (Aylesford Bulls), Karen Dunbar (RHC Cougars), Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Jade Konkel (Hillhead Jordanhill).

Replacements: Lucy Park (Murrayfield Wanderers), Heather Lockhart (Hillhead Jordanhill), Katie Dougan (Edinburgh University), Sarah Bonar (Lichfield), Jemma Forsyth (Hillhead Jordanhill), Jenny Maxwell (Lichfield), Lauren Harris (Melrose), Eilidh Sinclair (Murrayfield Wanderers).

 Ireland: M Coyne (Connacht); N Kavanagh (Munster), J Murphy (Leinster), S Naoupa (Aylesford Bulls), A Miller (Connacht); N Stapleton (Leinster), A Hughes (Leinster); L Peat (Leinster), L Lyons (Munster), A Egan (Belvedere); O Fitzsimons (Leinster), ML Reilly (Leinster); C Griffin (Munster), C Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), P Fitzpatrick (Leinster) capt.

Replacements: J Finlay (Leinster), I Van Staden (Ulster), C O’Connor (Connacht), E Anthony (Munster), N Fryday (Connacht), M Healy (Connacht), C McLaughlin (Ulster), E Considine (Munster)

Second to kick off will be Italy v Wales in Acona at 2pm on Saturday 4 February.

Wales: Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets), Elen Evans (Scarlets), Kerin Lake (Ospreys), Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys), Adi Taviner (Ospreys), Elinor Snowshill (Newport Gwent Dragons), Keira Bevan (Ospreys), Caryl Thomas (Scarlets), Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Rebecca Rowe (Newport Gwent Dragons), Mel lay (Ospreys), Sioned Harries (Scarlets), Rachel Taylor (Scarlets), Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys)

Replacements: Lowri Harries (Scarlets), Cerys Hale (Newport Gwent Dragons), Gwenllian Pyrs (Scarlets), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Sian Moore (Newport Gwent Dragons), Gemma Rowland (Newport Gwent Dragons), Jessica Kavanagh-Williams (Scarlets)

England v France takes place on Saturday at Twickenham at 7.35pm (after the men’s game).   This is already being billed as the Six Nations decider.

The game will be live on Sky Sports and on the radio on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.  There will also be highlights on BBC TV.

DMP Sharks second row, Tamara Taylor will receive her 99th England cap.

England:  Danielle Waterman (Bristol), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Amber Reed (Bristol), Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol), Marlie Packer (Bristol), Sarah Hunter (Bristol)

If you can’t find TV or radio coverage, try the Six Nations You Tube channel.

Sevens

This Friday and Saturday sees the next round of the World Seven Series, this time in Sydney.

England finished third in Pool C on Friday as they beat Spain but lost to both Russia and the USA.  They failed to make the Cup quarter finals and now face Papua New Guinea in the Challenge Trophy semi-final.

England Women squad, Sydney

  1. Natasha Brennan, 2. Abbie Brown (C), 3. Alice Richardson-Watmore, 4. Millie Wood, 5. Lauren Cattell, 6. Rachael Woosey, 7. Heather Fisher, 8. Kelly Smith, 9. Fran Matthews, 10. Jo Richardson-Watmore, 11. Katie Mason, 12. Chantelle Miell

Pool C results

Friday 3 February

England 19-10 Spain

England 14- 22 USA

Russia 31-5 England

New Zealand, Australia and Russia finished unbeaten in their respective pools on day one.

Ireland beat Fiji and Brazil and lost to Australia in Pool B and to finish second.  They will face USA in their Cup quarter-final.

The full Cup quarter-final line-up is as follows:

New Zealand v France

Ireland v USA

Australia v Fiji

Russia v Canada

Australian Rules Football

Possibly the biggest thing to hit women’s sport in Australia in years.  The AFL has, at last, launched a women’s league and it is set to be huge.

The first game took place today and a crowd of 24,500 (with reportedly 1,000 locked outside) saw Carlton beat Collingwood 46-11.

No-one can say it hasn’t been a long time coming.  I’d love to go through the history here (perhaps a new column for WiSP Sports?), but I haven’t got time or space.  For a quick introduction try this piece by Russell Jackson in The Guardian.

For weeks on end now my social media timeline has been buzzing with the league’s imminent arrival.  Cricket Australia and other sports governing bodies must be quaking in their boots.

It’s not my game, I admit it now, but the enthusiasm is infectious and if I can find a reliable source for news, coverage and information I’ll certainly feature it in the future.

One thing’s for certain – the AFLW means business.

Football

Indian League

As I mentioned last week, the new Indian Women’s league is now go.  I’m happy to give the results so far:

28 January

Jeppiaar Institute FC 1-7 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Rising Student FC 6-1 Aizawl FC

29 January

FC Pune City 0-0 Alakhpura FC

30 January

Eastern Sporting Union FC 1-2 Rising Student FC

31 January

FC Pune City 1-0 Jeppiaar Institute FC

Alakhpura FC 6-2 Aizawl FC

2 February

Eastern Sporting Union FC 3-1 FC Pune City

Rising Student FC 0-1 Alakhpura FC

3 February

Aizawl FC 2-3 Jeppiaar Institute FC

Transfers

The threat of the demise of Notts County Ladies seems to have receded and they have started making signings again.  This week they signed striker Kirsty Linnett from Birmingham City.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have strengthened their forward line by signing England Under-23 striker, Beth Mead, from Sunderland.  This may have something to do with the news a few week ago that Sunderland are reverting to part-time status, while Arsenal could offer Mead a full-time contract.

I’m hoping this doesn’t signal an exodus from Sunderland, especially as they club went to such pains to reassure us all that their part-time decision was agreed by all – players and staff alike.

However, this week also saw midfielder Brooke Chaplen out of the door as she signed for Reading on an 18-months contract.

This Girl Can

Sport England launched the second phase of its This Girl Can campaign this week.

Since its inception in 2015, 1.6 million women and girls aged 14-40 have taken up or restarted sport.

The next four-week campaign will tackle fear of judgement, preventing women giving up sport and widening the approach to women in their 50s and 60s.

Look out for the adverts on social media, TV and the new fantastic billboards and posters at bus-stops.

Cricket

India

It is well known that the governing body of Indian Cricket, the BCCI, is undergoing a period of change and reform.   A new panel of administrators has been appointed to run the body.  And surprisingly, there is just one ex-player in the panel of four – and that ex-player is a woman.  Diana Edulji played for the Indian women’s team from 1976 to 1993.  She took 63 test wickets in 20 matches and 46 ODI wickets in 34 matches during this time.

Since her retirement she has been involved in sports administration, and is, thus, well qualified to help restructure the BCCI.

Needless to say she went through the ignominy suffered by so many cricketing women when she was refused entry to the inner sanctums of Lord’s even though she was in charge of the Indian tour of England in 1986.  Apparently she suggested that the MCC be renamed MCP (Male Chauvinist Pig).

She also clashed repeatedly with former BCCI president N Srinivasan who told her that regarding women’s cricket,

“I’m not interested, we have no choice but to run it, so we are running it for the sake of running it.”

She has also been a devoted advocate of better conditions and pay for the women’s game and is not afraid of wading into an argument.

Watch this space to see how it goes.

Kia Super League

Big news from the Kia Super League this week, with not only the fixtures being announced, but also a new broadcast package from Sky and TMS.

Thursday 10 August – Southern Vipers v Western Storm (Ageas Bowl, live on Sky Sports)
Friday 11 August – Yorkshire Diamonds v Lancashire Thunder (Headingley, live on Sky Sports)
Saturday 12 August – Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning (Taunton, live on Sky Sports)
Sunday 13 August – Surrey Stars v Yorkshire Diamonds (Kia Oval, live on Sky Sports)
Tuesday 15 August – Loughborough Lightning v Southern Vipers (Derby, live on Sky Sports)
Wednesday 16 August – Lancashire Thunder v Surrey Stars (Emirates Old Trafford, live on Sky Sports)
Friday 18 August – Loughborough Lightning v Yorkshire Diamonds (Loughborough)
Sunday 20 August – Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Blackpool CC)
Sunday 20 August – Southern Vipers v Surrey Stars (Ageas Bowl)
Sunday 20 August – Yorkshire Diamonds v Western Storm (York CC)
Wednesday 23 August – Lancashire Thunder v Southern Vipers (Liverpool CC)
Wednesday 23 August – Surrey Stars v Western Storm (Guildford CC)
Saturday 26 August – Surrey Stars v Loughborough Lightning (Guildford CC)
Saturday 26 August – Western Storm v Lancashire Thunder (The Brightside Ground, Bristol)
Saturday 26 August – Southern Vipers v Yorkshire Diamonds (Arundel)
Friday 1 September – Finals day (1st Central County Ground, Hove, live on Sky Sports)

There will be six double-headers with the T20 Blast.  There will be coverage from every round on Test Match Special.  Personally I’m still not convinced about the efficacy of double-headers in either the cricket fashion (women playing before) or rugby fashion (women playing afterwards.).  I’d be happy to hear what you think.

WBBL

Perth Scorchers were unable to do the double last Saturday as the women’s team lost to the Sydney Sixers at the WACA in the final of the second WBBL.

The Sixers batted first and scored a respectable 124/5.  Alyssa Healy, in storming form throughout the tournament, was top scorer with 40 and Marizanne Kapp scored 34 not out.  English fast bowler Anya Shrubsole took 2/17.

The Scorchers were unable to reach the target though, falling short by seven runs.  They finished on 117/7 off their 20 overs.  Katherine Brunt top scored with 35 not out.  Nicole Bolton scored 34.  Sarah Aley took 4/23.

So that’s two from two for Sydney as the Thunder took the inaugural competition in 2016.

World Cup Qualifying Tournament

The World Cup Qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka gets underway on 7 February.

Group A comprises:  India, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Thailand

Group B comprises: South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Scotland and PNG

Four places are still up for grabs.

Tennis

Serena Williams claimed her 23rd Grand Slam title on Saturday as she beat her sister Venus to win the Australian Open in Melbourne.

She won the match in straight sets, 6-4 6-4.

Winter Sports

More success for Britain in winter sports this week.

Snowboarder Katie Ormerod won a bronze medal in slopestyle at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

She scored 80.33.  The gold was taken by Julia Marino on 94.66.

Meanwhile, in bobsleigh, Mica Moore and Mica McNeill won junior Bobsleigh World Championship gold in Winterberg, Germany.

Moore of Wales and McNeill of England only teamed up this winter but have already won four medals in competition.  They won in Winterberg in a time of 53.96 seconds.  Anna Koehler and Franziska Fritz of Germany won silver with compatriots Kim Kalicki and Lisa-Sophie Gericke taking bronze.

And finally

French League Un club, Lille, have offered free match tickets to women after sexist banners appeared in the crowd with their match at Lyon.

I’m sure most of you have seen the banners; one was a picture of a man with the word “stadium” underneath, while the second was a woman with the word “kitchen” underneath.

Ironic really, as the Lille women’s team have won the French title 14 times…..

 

Women’s Sports Column 21-27 January 2017

stumps2Welcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for there being no column last week, but I’m back with a vengeance this week with stories from cricket, football, swimming, winter sports, rugby, tennis, boxing, golf, hockey and cycling.  Plus back to one of my hobby horses for “And finally”, but unfortunately it has to be said (again).

So let’s crack on.

Rachael Heyhoe-Flint 

Although I missed the chance to feature Rachael last week, I couldn’t let the chance go by to pay tribute to a true pioneer of women’s cricket.  Every cliché has been said, broadcast and printed over the last couple of weeks, but in this case you cannot help but say “trailblazer”, “pioneer”, “innovator” etc.

There isn’t space to do her justice here, but to capture the highlights of a fabulous career:

England Cricket Captain 1966- 1978

Played in the first ever women’s test match at Lords v Australia in 1976

22 Test matches

23 One-day internationals

Inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2010

First woman to go onto MCC committee in 2004 and the ECB Board

This was just the cricket.  She also was devoted to Wolverhampton Wanderers, including time as vice-president and the city of Wolverhampton, including being president of.

She was awarded an MBE in 1972, OBE in 2008 and made a life peer in 2011.

I think we can safely say women’s cricket wouldn’t be where it is today without her.

 Golf

Muirfield will take another vote on allowing women members after the first one fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the move.

The result is expected some time in March.  The R&A has indicated that the course will be unable to stage another Open Championship until its policy is reversed.

Hockey

 World Hockey League

 Ireland have won the first section of Round Two of the World Hockey League in Kuala Lumpur.

They beat Malaysia 3-0 in the final on Sunday.

Anna O’Flanagan, Katie Mullan and Zoe Wilson were the goalscorers.

They had beaten Wales in the semi-finals.

The next section of round 2 takes place in Valencia from 4-12 February.

 Football

 England Lionesses

England played two friendlies in Spain this week.

England 0-1 Norway

England lost their first match of 2017 and in doing so their 10-match unbeaten run came to an end.

Ada Hegerberg scored the only goal of the game half way through the first half, heading home from a cross from her sister, Andrine.

England did have chances to equalise with both Fara Williams and Lucy Bronze shooting over and a shot from Steph Houghton cleared off the line.

England also had a claim for a penalty, after Ellen White appeared to be pushed in the box, but the appeal was dismissed.

England 0-0 Sweden

Siobhan Chamberlain saved a second-half penalty to earn England a draw in Murcia on Tuesday.

Sweden also had the ball in the back of the net in the first-half, but it was ruled out for offside.

It was a game of few chances, and although manager Mark Sampson will be pleased at the clean sheet, he may be concerned at his side’s inability to score in either game.

England’s next fixtures are against France, USA and Germany in the She Believes Cup in March.

Indian Football

There was a big announcement in Indian football this week.  The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has launched a six-team women’s league.  It is small steps indeed, as the league will take place over two weeks and all games will be played at the Ambedkar Stadium in Dehli.

The project has taken two years to come to fruition and the teams taking part are FC Alakhpura, Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC, Aizawl FC, FC Pune City, Rising Student Club and Eastern Sporting Union.

There will be a round robin stage with the top four going into semi-finals.

The first game takes place on 28 January.

As I say, it may seem small steps to us, but in terms of the development of women’s football in India, this is a giant stride.  Watch this space for results and more news as the tournament progresses.

National Football Museum

The National Football Museum in Manchester has been given a grant to maintain and enlarge its collection of women’s football memorabilia.

Interim director of the museum, Kevin Haygarth, said,

“We’re delighted this grant will help us significantly document the history of one of the world’s most participated sports – women’s football.

“The museum has always told the story of the women’s game throughout its main galleries and Hall Of Fame, but we’re grateful and excited by the opportunity to create a dedicated gallery where we can finally piece together the lost history of women’s football.”

Tennis

The Australian Open final is going to be a stunner.  It will be between Serena and Venus Williams.  It is Venus’s first major final since 2009 and Serena is going for her 23rd grand slam so it is bound to be well fought.

Venus, seeded 13. Beat fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-7 6-2 6-2 in her semi-final while Serena had far too much for the unseeded Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2 6-1.

Johanna Konta came up against Serena in the quarter-final.  This was the first time the two had met.  Konta was in a prodigious run of form and had not lost a set during the championships.  But she could not live with Williams and was beaten 6-2 6-3.

With the men’s final possibly heading for a Federer v Nadal showdown, we seem to have gone back in time!

The women’s doubles title was won by second seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Šafářová.  They beat Andrea Hlaváčková and Peng Shuai in three sets 6-7 6-3 6-3.  This is their second grand slam win in a row.

Winter Sports

Skiing

You can’t keep a phenomenal skier down.

Lindsey Vonn claimed her first win in almost a year this week when she won the downhill at Garmisch, Germany on Saturday.

She beat Swiss skier, Lara Gut, by 0.15 seconds.  The win was Vonn’s 77th World Cup race win.

Para-skiing

It was a great start to competition for Britain at the World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Italy as Britain’s Millie Knight and guide Brett Wild won downhill gold in a time of 13.42 seconds.

The 18-year old beat five time champion Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia into second.

Knight’s run was not without its moments though, as she hit the barrier at the end and became stuck under it.  She was treated by doctors after she complained of feeling dizzy and sick afterwards.

In the same event Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jennifer Kehoe finished fifth.

It was bad news for Paralympic champion Kelly Gallagher, though, as she misses the event after crashing in training.  She suffered a dislocated elbow and three fractured ribs in the accident.  She was testing the championship course, and although she landed her jump correctly, she then slid into the barrier net which caused the injury.

The Championships take place from 25-31 January and 130 skiers from 30 countries are taking part.

Speed skating

Britain’s Charlotte Gilmartin took 500m bronze at the European Short Track Championships in Turin this week.  She did not qualify for the 1500m final but recovered well to finish third in the shorter distance with a time of 44.074 seconds.  Gold went to Rianne de Vries of Holland and Italy’s Martina Valcepina took silver.

Cricket

WBBL

The Women’s Big Bash League final will be between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers (as will the men’s final!).

Semi-final details:

Sydney Sixers 169-6 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 66 all out (14.1 overs)
Sixers won by 103 runs

Alyssa Healy starred with the bat for the Sixers, scoring 77 from 45 balls.

The Hurricanes were never at the races.  England captain, Heather Knight, was run out for three and the Hurricanes were bowled out for just 66.  Dane van Niekerk was pick of the bowlers with 3 for 15.

Brisbane Heat 124-5 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 125-1 (15.4 overs)
Scorchers won by nine wickets

The Brisbane score was competitive but the Heat didn’t reckon with Elyse Villani.  The opener made 52 not out and Nicole Bolton 36 to take the home side to the final.

England fast bowling duo of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole were unable to make a mark in the semi-final, but will hoping to contribute for the Scorchers at the Waca (The Furnace) on Saturday.

The final will be played on Saturday 28 in a double-header with the men’s.  Full coverage will be on BT Sport.

Boxing

Nicola Adams has left the GB Boxing programme to turn professional.

She has signed with promoter Frank Warren and will make her professional debut in Manchester on 8 April.  Her second fight will be in Leeds, her home town, on 13 May.

Warren was initially sceptical about the concept of women boxing, but appears to have changed his mind (could it be he knows when he’s on to a good thing?)

In an interview with the BBC he said,

“Of all of all the signings I have made in my 35 years in the sport of boxing, this is among the most I have been excited about.

“I think Nicola will be challenging for world titles within a year. We intend to lead her to become a multiple world champion.”

Ireland’s Katie Taylor has already shown it can be done.  Let’s hope Adams can have similar successes.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

The Six Nations begins next week. The first round of matches is:

Friday 3 February

Scotland Women v Ireland Women (6.35pm Broadwood Stadium)

Saturday 4 February

Italy Women v Wales Women (3pm Stadio Comunale Pacifico Carotti)

En gland Women v France Women (7.30pm Twickenham)

Check out the squads and match details here: http://www.rbs6nations.com/en/women/#Jas1vHmPQWwEKguy.97

Sevens

England has named its squad for the Sydney Sevens, the second leg of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, which takes place on 3-4 February.  England finished a creditable fourth in the first round in Dubai.

Rachael Woosey and Chantelle Miell make their debut.

The squad is:

  1. Natasha Brennan, 2. Abbie Brown (C), 3. Alice Richardson-Watmore, 4. Millie Wood, 5. Lauren Cattell, 6. Rachael Woosey, 7. Heather Fisher, 8. Kelly Smith, 9. Fran Matthews, 10. Jo Richardson-Watmore, 11. Katie Mason, 12. Chantelle Miell

They play in pool C and this is the pool schedule (all times GMT):

Friday 3 February

England v Spain, KO 1.30am

England v USA, KO 4.12am

England v Russia, 7.16am

All games are available to see on the World Rugby website

http://www.worldrugby.org/womens-sevens-series/videoTop of Form

Swimming

Open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne has announced her retirement this week.

Payne, 29, was a two-time open water world champion and Olympic silver medallist.  She represented Great Britain for over 12 years.

Cycling

The rumblings of discontent with British Cycling and cycling in general, continue.  Nicole Cooke, who always speaks her mind, was again in the press this week.

She was giving evidence to a Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday.

She said that she is “sceptical” of Team Sky’s attitude to drug use and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ TUE use.

But this was just one of her points.  She also said that British Cycling is run “by men for men”.

The committee was meeting to discuss doping in sport, but that didn’t stop Cooke expressing opinions on other aspects of the governing body’s capabilities.

She gave examples of the sexism she had seen during her career and said that BC shows “discrimination and favouritism” because it is only “answerable to itself”.

She was asked outright whether she though sexism was culturally embedded in British Cycling.

“Yes I do,” she replied.

British Cycling has since released a statement in which it says,

“While there is still a way to go, British Cycling is absolutely committed to resolving the historic gender imbalance in our sport.”

UK Sport has also launched an independent review to look into some of Cooke’s claims.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – sadly, this one will run and run.

And finally,

I make no apologies for this although I know it’s something I keep banging on about.  Serena Williams is about to go for her 23rd grand slam title on Saturday.  Her talent, skill and fitness should all be beyond doubt.  I have already made a vow to stop reading the comments sections on news site articles, but, unfortunately I slipped and read the ones after the BBC’s report on the Williams v Konta match.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Konta fan, and I would have been happy for her to have won the tie.  She has a great future and is improving all the time.  But the level of abuse, invective, racism and misogyny levelled at Serena in these comments was appalling.

So many (men) called Serena a man – well I don’t know any men who look like that.  But the one that stuck in my mind was (again a man) the description of her as a “monster in a skirt”.  Really?  Monster?

The comment reminded me of that Facebook comment about Michelle Obama, “chimp in heels”.  Both comments totally unwarranted and totally offensive.

I know I’m fighting for a Serena who doesn’t need my help – she’s probably as immune to negative comment as she’s ever going to be right now, but I’m not necessarily speaking on her behalf.  I was offended.  I was angry that some person had thought it was appropriate to air this view on a public platform.

I think I’m trying to say, if you can’t stop having these thoughts, just spare the rest of us and keep them to yourself.

Women’s Sports Column 26 November – 2 December

sarah-storeyWelcome to this week’s column.  Yet again there’s a lot to get through, so here we go.  This week’s stories come from hockey, tennis, football, rugby, sevens, boxing, netball, cricket, cycling and to match last week’s Action Woman shortlist, this week we look at the women shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.  This week’s “And finally” comes from tennis, and the ever-inspirational Serena Williams.

Hockey

I am the first to admit that I do not follow hockey with any diligence.  Consequently it appears only rarely in the column.  This didn’t stop me getting practically hysterical during the Olympic final, but I do realise that I should do more for this under-reported sport.

This is a shout-out to Martin, who regularly reminds me of my lack of hockey knowledge and coverage.

Premier League

On 26 November Surbiton Ladies beat second-placed Holcome 4-1 which meant they are unbeaten in 50 Premier League matches.

Surbiton’s last defeat was at home to Leicester in February 2014.

Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup

The World Cup takes place between 24 November and 4 December in Santiago, Chile.  Sixteen countries are involved, including England.

We are now at the semi-final stage.  England lost in the quarter-finals to Spain.  The quarter-final results were as follows:

Netherlands 5-0 Germany

Spain 5-3 England

Spain’s goals came from Garcia, Iglesias (2), Amundson, Serrahima

England’s goals came through Sanders, Crowson (2)

Argentina 2-0 USA

Australia 7-2 Belgium

The semi-finals are to be played on 2 December with the final on Sunday 4 December.

 And don’t forget, the full Women’s World Cup will be held in London from 7-21 July, 2018.  Tickets go on sale in 2017, so keep an eye out for that. 

 Football

 Netherlands 0-1 England

Tilburg 29 November 2016

 England’s unbeaten run now stands at 10 matches with this friendly win in Tilburg.

The first-half was tight but produced few chances.

The second-half saw an England improvement and the match was decided by a Jodie Taylor lob with 15 minutes to go.

 Under 20s Women’s World Cup

Semi-finals

North Korea 2-1 USA

(after extra time)

 

Japan 1-2 France

(after extra time)

The final will take place on 3 December.

Netball

The three-match test series between the England Roses and Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls is underway.

 29 November

Copper Box Arena London

 England 49-66

According to reports, Tracy Neville was furious with this England performance and they will need to improve in the next two to get anything at all from the series.

England were 16-12 up after the first quarter, but by half-time they were down 31-27.  After the half-time break Jamaica seemed t o go up a gear and stretched away to take the game.

The second game is at Belle Vue in Manchester on Friday 2 December, with the third on Sunday 4 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.  I’ll be there for the third game, so look out for a more detailed report next week.

Rugby Union

The big news from last weekend’s matches is the first defeat of the season for Bristol as they were thumped by Aylesford Bulls, but second placed Lichfield also slip up and miss out on the chance to close the gap.

26 November 2016

Saracens Women 27-0 Lichfield Ladies

Worcester Valkyries 50-29 Richmond Women

27 November 2016

Aylesford bulls Ladies 51-5 Bristol Ladies

Wasps Ladies 34-22 DMP Sharks Ladies

For a more in-depth report, please see my latest for Women’s Sports UK.

Rugby Sevens

The Dubai Sevens took place on 1-2 December

England

England reached the semi-finals.  They won their first match 31-7 against Spain and the second against Brazil, 28-7.  In the third, Canada took the honours 24-12.

In the quarter-finals they faced Fiji, producing and excellent display to win 19-17.  England scored first through a Fisher try which was not converted by Watmore.  Tinai made it 5-5 but was unable to add the extras.  In the second half Fiji took the lead with a try from A M Roqica, but the conversion was missed.  Nagasau made it 15-5 in the 12th minute and this was converted by Tinai.  But England were not to be outdone.  Tries from Richardson and Watmore and two conversions took the score to 19-17 and a semi-final against favourites, Australia.

Australia took the semi-final 31-10.  Two minutes in England were behind through a try from Caslick, which was converted by Dalton.  Brown struck back for England, but Richardson was unable to convert.  Then Tonegato scored for Australia, but Cherry missed the conversion and at half-time it was 5-12 to Australia.  Straight after the break the Aussies scored again, this time through Penitani.   The conversion was missed, but not long after Penitani scored her second try, this time complete with the extra two points from Cherry and the score was 5-24.  England’s fate was sealed when Brennan went in again, although the conversion was missed.  England had the last word with a try from Murphy, converted by Dalton to take the final score to 10-31.

In the Bronze Final England faced Russia.  Russia won 17-14 to take third place.  Zdrokova began the scoring in the second minute with a try, but Kudinova couldn’t convert.   Zdrokova went over for her second just before half-time, again unconverted to take the score to 10-0 to Russia at the break.  In the second-half Brennan scored a try for England which was converted by Richardson.  Then Russia scored again, this time through Mikhaltsova, converted by Kudiniova.  England managed one more try from Fleming, converted by Cattell, but the game was gone.

 

Ireland

Ireland lost their first game 27-5 to New Zealand and their second, 24-14 to France.   They came back with an excellent 17-17 draw against Fiji.

They played USA in the Challenge Trophy semi-finals, winning it 28-5.

And they won the final 14-12 against Spain.  Spain took the lead in the final with a try from Garcia which she also converted.  They went 12-0 up in the seventh minute through Casado, but Garcia missed the extras.  The second-half was a different matter as Ireland fought hard to get back into it.  Williams scored a try two minutes in, which was converted by Mulhall.  Then Mulhall went over for Ireland’s second to level it at 12-12 and then she put over the conversion to put them in the lead, and to secure the Challenge Trophy.

Dubai Women’s Sevens Final

New Zealand 17-5 Australia

New Zealand came out on top in the gold medal match in Dubai.

New Zealand took the lead with a try from Woodman after two minutes.  Nathan-Wong missed the conversion.  Just one minute later Cordero-Tufuga went over again, but again it went unconverted.  Australia came back into with a try through Cherry but Sykes missed the conversion.  But New Zealand were not finished and a second from Cordero-Tufuga, this time converted by Nathan-Wong saw New Zealand take the title 17-5.

Round Two of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series will be in Sydney on 3-4 February 2017.

Boxing

Katie Taylor’s professional career got off to a perfect start on Saturday when she stopped her Polish opponent, Karina Kopinska in the third round.

Her second bout will be against Brazil’s Viviane Obenauf on 10 December in Manchester.  Obenauf has only suffered one defeat in ten contests and should provide a much stiffer test for Taylor.

Tennis

Anne Keothavong has been appointed GB Fed Cup captain and senior national women’s coach.

She takes over from Judy Murray as Fed Cup captain.

GB begins its Fed Cup campaign in Estonia in February 2017.

 

In a surprise move, Johanna Konta has split with her coach of two years, Esteban Carill.

2016 has been Konta’s breakthrough year, a year in which she won her first WTA Tour title at Stanford and reached a career-high world ranking of ten.

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards

The big cricket news this week is undoubtedly the announcement that former England captain, Charlotte Edwards, is to leave Kent.

In a press release issued by Kent CCC Edwards is quoted,

“I would like to thank everyone at Kent County Cricket Club for all their support over the past 18 years. I’m immensely proud to have played for the county and what the team has achieved within that time.

“Kent is very much seen as one of the leading counties within the women’s game due to it consistently producing players to the England Pathway.

“It’s been a really tough decision to leave Kent but ultimately I feel it’s the right decision for me and more importantly the current team. Having won the double in 2016 I feel this is a fitting end to my time as a Kent cricketer.”

Edwards joined Kent in 2000 and with them has won seven County Championships.

Her personal record speaks for itself.  In her Kent career she played 136 matches and scored 6,164 runs at an average of 61.64.  She made 40 half-centuries and 14 centuries.

She also took 124 wickets at an average of 17.51 and claimed 81 catches.

Edwards will, undoubtedly, stay in cricket and it remains to be seen just what her next move will be.

Cycling

Bad news this week from Dame Sarah Storey.  You may remember that it was only in June that I attended the launch of Storey’s all-women Podium Ambition team at Café Ventoux in Leicestershire.

It was expected that the café would be the base for the 2017 season, but after just one season the team has had to disband due to lack of sponsorship funding.  In an interview with The Mixed Zone Storey says,

“We have been unable to secure sufficient cash input to remain a UCI-registered team. We spent the last 12 months searching for a title sponsor to start with us from 2017, but despite many brands being interested, there was nothing concrete in place in time for the deadline to register the team again.

“Barney and I spent 2016 covering the lion’s share of the budget ourselves and without that money in our savings now, we don’t have a back-up. The cost of running even a small UCI team is significant and we weren’t going to continue struggling.”

It is well worth reading the whole article, so here’s the link.

The news is unbelievably disappointing.  At the launch there was a good deal of optimism and good will. Chris Boardman was there with his bikes and the team looked good.  But unfortunately, it’s just another example of the woeful levels of corporate investment in women’s sport.  And the scary thing is that if some of the biggest names in the sport, Dame Sarah Storey, Barney Storey, Chris Boardman, can’t attract sponsorship, what chance does any lesser, but aspiring name have? 

BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2016

In what has been a stellar year for sport, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist is 16-strong.   There are six women on the list:

Nicola Adams (Boxing)

Sophie Christiansen (Equestrian)

Kadeena Cox (Athletics and cycling)

Laura Kenny (Cycling)

Kate Richardson-Walsh (Hockey)

Dame Sarah Storey (Cycling)

The public vote for this award via telephone during the live show on 18 December.

 

In the Young Personality of the Year award the shortlist is 10.  Out of these, eight are women/girls:

Ellie Downie (Gymnastics and winner of the 2015 award)

Sophie Ecclestone (Cricket)

Ellie Robinson (Swimming)

Lauren Rowles (Rowing)

Georgia Stanway (Football)

Jess Stretton (Archery)

Rebekah Tiler (Weight lifting)

Amy Tinkler (Gymnastics)

This award is decided by expert panel.

 

And Finally, Serena Williams has written an open letter in Porter Magazine’s Incredible Women of 2016 issue.  In it she re-iterates her themes of equality and fairness.

The Guardian has reprinted the letter:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/nov/29/dream-big-open-letter-serena-williams-porter-magazine-incredible-women-of-2016-issue-women-athletes

The first two responses in the comments section are:

“Jason Stoltenberg was a much better tennis player than Serena Williams. Williams would struggle to get a couple of games off him. But Williams has made much more money than Stoltenberg.  What’s her beef?”

‘My dream was to be the best tennis player in the world.’  Well she quite clearly failed in that regard. She wouldn’t even beat the 200th-ranked male tennis player. Why does she continue trotting out this garbage? She should be happy with what she’s achieved.”

Obviously everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this is the standard in a “quality” newspaper.  Needless to say quite a few responses have been removed by the moderator, and many others are worse than those listed.  Missing the point?  Er, yes, just slightly.  The world should be grateful for women like Serena speaking up, telling her story and making her case.  In the twenty-first century any woman speaking out is still met with hostility, cynicism and scorn.  I’m happy to post the link to this letter and encourage all of you to read it.

 

Women’s Sports Column 15-21 October

wembley

Welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column.  Plenty of news again this week with stories from football, rugby, cricket, tennis, golf and cycling. As usual I say, who knew all this was going on?  No-one if you stuck to the mainstream media outlets……

Football

FAWSL1

Doncaster Rovers Belles 1-2 Notts County Ladies

Doncaster Rovers Belles’ relegation was confirmed on Sunday as they lost at home 2-1 to Notts County Ladies.

A crowd of 820 passionate, mainly Donny fans were there to see their side slump to their fourteenth straight loss.

Doncaster took the lead in the seventh minute through Carla Humphrey, currently on loan from Arsenal, but they could neither add to nor defend the lead.

The Lady Pies equalised through Aileen Whelan on 22 and just three minutes later, County’s star striker, Jess Clarke curled a spectacular effort into the top corner to go ahead.

Neither side could add to the scoring in the second half and the Belles’ fate was confirmed.

Belles manager, Emma Coates, was still upbeat after the game.  In an interview with the FAWSL website she said,

“We’ve learned lessons this year so that if we come back up we’ll do it the right way, the Belles way and learn from what we’ve done wrong.

“Maybe we’ve been naïve in the past but we didn’t come up as champions, it’s even tougher coming up in second and we had a big turnover of players over a short space of time. I want to keep this team together and build something long term.”

Champions League

Manchester City have been drawn against Danish side Brondby in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The first leg, which will be in Manchester, will be on 9 or 10 November, with the return fixture on 16 or 17 November.

The full draw for the last 16:

Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) v BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ)

Barcelona (ESP) v FC Twente (NED)

Slavia Prague (CZE) v Rosengard (SWE)

Manchester City (ENG) v Brondby (DEN)

Brescia (ITA) v Fortuna Hjorring (DEN)

Lyon (FRA) v FC Zurich (SUI)

Eskilstuna United (SWE) v Wolfsburg (GER)

Bayern Munich (GER) v Rossiyanka (RUS)

Under 17s Women’s World Cup

The final of the Under 17s Women’s World Cup will be between North Korea and Japan and will take place at the Amman International Stadium on Friday 21 October at 6pm GMT.

In the semi-finals, which were played on Monday 17 October, North Korea beat Venezuela by three goals to nil, whilst in the other Japan beat Spain by the same scoreline.

The third place play-off, between the two beaten semi-finalists, will be on Friday 21 October at 3pm GMT.

Details of the results of the two matches will be in next week’s column.

FA Cup

It was announced this week that Wembley will continue to host the Women’s FA Cup beyond 2017.

How far we’ve come!  Previous venues have included Dunstable Town FC and Glanford Park, home of Scunthorpe United.

The prize money for the 2016-17season has been tripled to £27,000 (still considerably less than some male footballers are on per week).

Tickets for the 2017 final will, as they were this year, be free for children.

Signing

Arsenal have re-signed Scotland midfielder Kim Little from Seattle Reign.

She will re-join ahead of the 2017 season (due to shift to winter), but the Gunners have not specified the length of her contract.

England Women’s Player of the year 2016

The shortlist for the award has been revealed:

Steph Houghton

Jordan Nobbs

Karen Carney

Jill Scott

Young Player of the Year shortlist:

Millie Bright

Danielle Carter

Alex Greenwood

Nikita Parris

Winners will be announced at the FA Women’s Football Awards on Friday 18 November.

Rugby

Women’s Premiership

It was round five of the Women’s Premiership last weekend and the top two met at Bristol.

The results were as follows:

Wasps Ladies 15-55 Saracens Women

Worcester Valkyries 36-13 DMP Sharks

Bristol Ladies 19-15 Lichfield Ladies

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 17-5 Richmond Women

For a more in-depth review of these games please see my round-up on www.womensportsuk.com.

RFU News

It seems that this season will be the last of the Women’s Premiership as this week England Rugby announced that from next year there will be a new competition – the Super League (yes we have already got super leagues in football, netball and cricket)

The competition will comprise 10 teams – entry is open to any who can fulfil “minimum operating standards”.  These standards are yet to be published, but in all likelihood it will be the eight current Premiership teams plus two others, probably from the Championship.

Expressions of interest are invited by 11 November.  Application packs will go out on 14 November and the deadline for applications will be 6 January 2017.

Tennis

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the end of season WTA Finals in Singapore with a shoulder injury.

She has not played competitively since reaching the semi-finals of the US Open in September.

This means that there is still a place up for grabs and it could go to British number one, Johanna Konta.  The only person who can beat her to the place is the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova as Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro (currently 10th in the rankings) has already pulled out of the final qualifying tournament, the Kremlin Cup, through injury.

Johanna Konta can only be overtaken by Svetlana Kuznetsova in the race to qualify for the WTA Finals, after Carla Suarez Navarro’s hopes ended in Moscow.  Suarez Navarro could have passed Konta by winning the Kremlin Cup but retired with a wrist injury in round two.

Konta is not competing this week as she is still recovering from injury so it will be an anxious wait on the sidelines for her as she follows Kuznetsova’s progress.

With 470 points to be awarded for the Kremlin Cup the standings are as follows:

  1. Angelique Kerber (Germany) – Qualified
  2. Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) – Qualified
  3. Simona Halep (Romania) – Qualified
  4. Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) – Qualified
  5. Garbine Muguruza (Spain) – Qualified
  6. Madison Keys (USA) – Qualified
  7. Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) – Qualified
  8. Johanna Konta (Great Britain) – 3455 points
  9. Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain) – 3170 points
  10. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) – 3080 points

 

Also in tennis, British duo Naomi Broady and Heather Watson got the final of the Hong Kong Open but lost to Chan Yung-jan and Chan Hao-ching of Chinese Taipei 6-3 6-1.

The Chan sisters were top seeds and the Hong Kong win was their third tournament win of the year.

Golf

 Blue Bay LPGA tournament (China)

After two rounds of the Blue Bay event the leaderboard stands as follows:

-12 Minjee Lee (Aus)

-6 Caroline Masson (Ger)

-5 Carlota Ciganda (ESP)

-5 Jessica Korda (USA)

-4 Xi Yu Lin (Chn)

-4 Chella Choi  (SKor)

-4 Sandra Gal (Ger)

———–

-2 Charley Hull (Eng)

Cricket

Plenty of cricket news this week from both on and off the field.

West Indies v England

England took the West Indies series 3-2 with dominant display in fifth ODI this week.  An excellent display with bat and ball plus tighter fielding ensured success.

In short, the three games at Sabina Park were topsy turvy affairs, much in keeping with the first two games.  These three also offered points towards the ICC Women’s Championship and therefore towards World Cup qualification.

The third game saw England win the toss and bat.  They posted 220 with opener Lauren Winfield scoring 79 and Nat Sciver 58.  West Indies suffered a pretty terrible collapse and were all out for 108 with top scorer Shaquana Quintyne with 21.

West Indies won the fourth game, having this time won the toss and chosen to bat.  They scored 223/6 with the excellent Stafanie Taylor hitting 85.  Although a big total, England were initially cruising in reply, but no less than five run outs saw them fall short as they were all out for 181.

The series was level again at 2-2.

When Stafanie Taylor won the toss in the last match some thought it was already job done.  But this match bucked the trend.  England’s bowlers were tight and lethal, especially the star of the tour, Alex Hartley, who took 4/24 as the Windies were reduced to 155 all out.

In the end England made it look easy and reached their target in just 38.5 overs.  Nat Sciver scored 58.

I have written a more detailed review of the series for Women’s Sports UK.  Read it here: England women take series 3-2

England still need two points for automatic qualification to the World Cup next year.  They should secure this easily in Sri Lanka next month.

Meanwhile the result also means that Australia have won the inaugural ICC World Championship trophy as neither West Indies nor England can now catch them.

South Africa v New Zealand

We are now five games into a best of seven series and New Zealand are currently 4-1 up. The latest two games at Paarl on 17 and 19 October both went the way of the White Ferns.

In game four the home side batted first, making 194 all out in 49 overs.  Top scorer was captain Dane van Niekerk with 48.  But it was not enough as the visitors knocked off the chase in a ridiculous 28.2 overs with Rachel Priest clubbing 86 from 67 balls and Amy Satterthwaite 81 from 71.

New Zealand batted first in game five.  They scored 208/8 off their 50 overs with opener Natalie Dodd top scoring with 52.  South Africa couldn’t compete and were all out for 113, meaning New Zealand won by 95 runs.  The only significant batting contributions came from Mignon du Preez with 62 and Sune Luus with 27.  Also a worry for the home side was Marizanne Kapp retiring hurt without scoring.

There are two more games at Paarl for the Proteas to restore some pride.

ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2020

Cricket Australia has announced that the women’s event will be a standalone tournament, held separately from the men’s event.

The ICC has backed the plan to hold the two events six months apart.

All of the previous five World T20s have been held in parallel with the men’s with the semi-finals and final played as double-headers.

This is undoubtedly a step forward for women’s cricket and heartening that Cricket Australia and the ICC see women’s T20 as strong enough to hold its own as an event.

The women’s tournament will be in February/March 2020 and the men’s in October/November.

Cricket Australia Chairman, David Peever, said;

“WBBL has taught us that there is an audience for women’s cricket both live and on prime-time television and this decision means we have the opportunity to hold the biggest women’s sporting event ever held in Australia.”

There have been so many initiatives and announcements recently regarding Australian women’s sport that it seems that the various sports are now in competition to see who can make the most positive strides!

Australian women’s cricket

As mentioned above, it seems that everyone in Australia is keen to invest in women’s sport at the moment.

This week Cricket Australia also announced it is to invest $15 million in cricket to “keep pace with AFL [Aussie Rules], netball”.

The investment comes from the Commonwealth Bank and is aimed at the women’s game and diversity over the next three years.

This follows hot on the heels of the governing body’s announcement of an extra $4 over four years for the development of girls’ and women’s cricket.

Time for everyone else to catch up, I feel…..

Cycling

The Road World Championships in Doha

Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen won the women’s race with Britain’s Lizzie Deignan fourth.

Dideriksen beat Kirsten Wild from Netherlands in a sprint finish with Finland’s Lotta Lepisto in third.

European Track Championships in Paris 19-23 October

Britain’s medal tally (women) after two days currently stands at three.

On the first day British Olympic champion cyclist Katie Archibald won silver in the elimination race.  She was beaten by Kirsten Wild, who seems to have gone seamlessly from Doha to Paris.  Laurie Berthon of France was third.

On the second day Elinor Barker claimed silver in the scratch race.  Ausrine Trebaite of Lithuania won the race with, you guessed it, Kirsten Wild in bronze.

There was a bronze in the women’s team pursuit for Emily Kay, Dannielle Khan, Manon Lloyd and Emily Nelson.  Italy took the gold with Poland silver.

 

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 July

standard-pitch-dimensionsIt’s column time again – gosh this week has gone quickly. I’d like to say it will be an island of sense in this sea of world chaos, but I think I might just be guilty of over-selling it….

Anyway, this week we have stories from athletics, tennis, football, golf, cricket, gymnastics, rugby union (missed from last week) and a happy story for “And finally”.

Obviously the selections are being made for Rio at the moment. Apologies if I don’t get everyone in here, but it’s pretty well publicised news that can be picked up in the mainstream press (is it possible?).

A couple of athletics stories should be mentioned, though. After I reported Jo Pavey had achieved the qualifying time for the 10,0000m last week, she has indeed been picked for Rio.

On the other side of the coin is high jumper Isobel Pooley. She will miss the Olympics due to an ankle injury. She could compete, but has been told that it would be unwise to do so as it would make the injury worse, so she has pulled out. Pooley may well have been a medal contender.

Britain also had a good final day of the European Championships with the women’s 4 x 400m winning gold with the fastest time in the world this year. France were second and Italy, third.

The four; Emily Diamond, Anyika Onuora, Eilidh Doyle and Seren Bundy-Davies took the title in a time of 3:25.05 seconds.

The full women’s athletics squad for Rio is as follows:

100m: Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Daryll Neita. 200m: Dina Asher-Smith, Jodie Williams. 400m: Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Seren Bundy-Davies. 800m:Lynsey Sharp, Shelayna Oskan-Clarke. 1,500m: Laura Muir, Laura Weightman.5,000m: Eilish McColgan, Stephanie Twell, Laura Whittle. 10,000m: Jo Pavey, Beth Potter, Jessica Andrews. 3,000m steeplechase: Lennie Waite. 100m hurdles: Tiffany Porter, Cindy Ofili. 400m hurdles: Eilidh Doyle. High jump: Morgan Lake. Pole vault:Holly Bradshaw. Long jump: Lorraine Ugen, Shara Proctor, Jazmin Sawyers.Hammer throw: Sophie Hitchon. Discus throw: Jade Lally. Heptathlon: Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Jessica Ennis-Hill. Marathon: Sonia Samuels, Alyson Dixon.

Relays: 4x100m: Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Daryll Neita, Dina Asher-Smith, Bianca Williams, Ashleigh Nelson, Louise Bloor. 4x400m: Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Seren Bundy-

It was a stunning end to Wimbledon last weekend. Serena Williams was an absolute vision of sporting prowess as she blasted Angelique Kerber off the court to win 7-5 6-3 in the singles final. It was her 22nd grand slam victory, bringing her level with Steffi Graf.

Later on in the day on Saturday she still had enough passion and puff to win the doubles with sister Venus. They beat fifth seeds Babos and Shvedova 6-3 6-4.

Heather Watson made up for her disappointment in the singles by taking the mixed doubles title with partner Henri Kontinen from Finland. They beat fifteenth seeds Farah and Groenefeld 7-6 6-4. They had never even played together before the championships began.

As I reported last week, it was the first time there had been wheelchair singles at Wimbledon. Top seed Jiske Griffioen of Netherlands took the title against compatriot Aniek Van Koot, who had beaten British favourite Jordanne Whiley in the semi-final, 4-6 6-0 6-4.

Whiley did take the wheelchair doubles title with her partner and best mate Yui Kamiji from Japan. The top seeds beat second seeds Griffioen and Van Koot 6-2 6-2.

The girls’ singles was won by Anastasia Potapova of Russia beating of Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-4 6-3 and the girls’ doubles champions were Usue Arconada and Claire Liu of USA, who beat Caty McNally (USA) and Mariam Bolkvadze (Georgia) 6-2 6-3.

In other tennis news, it has been confirmed that Maria Sharapova will miss the Olympics as the verdict of her appeal will not be known until September.

 

Big news from English football this week.  It has been announced that from the season 2017-18, the FAWSL will become a winter league instead of a summer league. It will be played from September to May. This brings it in line with other European divisions.

It’s a big, bold decision – part of the thinking behind a summer league is that it will attract fans who are missing the men’s game during the summer. But it is good to know that the FA thinks the women’s game can stand on its own and that attendances will stay as they are or even improve.

A one-off competition, the FAWSL Spring Series will take place from February to June 2017, alongside the FA Cup, to transition from one schedule to the other. This will also benefit the England team as they prepare for the European Championships which take plce in Netherlands in July/August 2017.

There will also be a winter break in the 2017-18 season from mid-December to mid- January.

Whatever happens, the current situation could not have continued. The summer schedule was bitty at best, with four weeks sometimes between games. This is just not acceptable to England’s top clubs who want to be competitive in Europe.

 

Results from FAWSL1:

Saturday 9 July

Liverpool Ladies FC 2-0 Reading FC Women
Harding 17’
Coombs 24’

Sunderland AFC Ladies 4-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Mead 34’, 45+3’
Sharp 39’
Chaplen 78’

Sunday 10 July

Arsenal Ladies FC 2-0 Notts County Ladies FC
Van de Donk 10’
Dobbs 56’

Chelsea Ladies FC 1- 1 Birmingham City Ladies
Aluko 52’
Ayisi 48’

Also some news which is, on the face of it, comical, but actually is another one of those occasions when you think about it and say, “it would never have happened if it were a men’s game.”

Last week a game between Western New York Flash and Seattle Reign in the NWSL had to be moved due a scheduling clash. It was moved to the outfield f a nearby baseball stadium. Consequently a pitch was marked out that was barely big enough for children to play on.

Two problems with this: a) why was a music festival scheduled in the Sahlen’s Stadium – surely they knew there was a game on? And b) what on earth went on to mark out such a ridiculous pitch?

Needless to say the players and coaches were not happy. The Reign coach, Laura Harvey said,

“for any players/staff to be put in a position like we were tonight is not acceptable”.

Jeff Blush of the NWSL made this statement:

“the field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision.”

Do you think?

 

Talking of farce, another situation occurred at the US Women’s Open last week. Brittany Lang won the title, but only after Anna Nordqvist was given a two-stroke penalty during the play-off for grounding her club.

Sounds logical? Yes, but the penalty occurred in the second hole of a three hole play-off but the players were not informed until they were on the final hole. Lang made a par on the final hole, while Nordqvist only made bogey and lost by three strokes.

Nordqvist was quite laid-back about it considering she was only told about the penalty after she had played her third shot on the last. She said she didn’t know if it would have made any difference to the eventual outcome, but she certainly would have been more aggressive on the last if she had known she had two shots to make up.

Again, you have to say, would this have happened if it had been between Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy?

 

Two pieces of cricket news this week. Firstly, Cricket Australia has announced that it is to invest $4 million in grassroots women’s cricket.

The money, “Growning Cricket for Girls”, will go to better coaching facilities and improving the cricketing pathway for 11-18 year olds. $1 million per year for four years will go into local associations, clubs and secondary schools. Of this, $50,000 will go towards employing full-time female participation specialists.

Secondly, Scottish Wildcats have qualified for the ICC Global Qualifier to get into the World Cup. They have take an unassailable 2-0 lead against Netherlands Women.

Both games were decided by the Duckworth/Lewis method due to rain.

In the first, Scotland posted 218/5 off their 50 overs. Netherlands were set a revised target of 161 in 26 overs, but fell short on 133/7, losing the game by 27 runs.

In the second, Scotland batted first again, posting 222/9 off their 50. Rain intervened again and Netherlands were set 178 in 37 overs. They fell short again, ending on 169/6 and losing by 8 runs.

Scotland now goes forward to the ICC Global WCWC Qualifier in 2017.

 

So it’s good news for Australian cricketers, but not so for its gymnasts. The Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) has announced that it is shutting its Women’s Artistic Gymnastics National Centre of Excellence in Perth at the end of 2016.

Needless to say the closure is largely due to funding issues, but Gymnastics Australia has denounced the decision in a public statement:

“On the eve of the Olympics, women’s sport in Australia has been dealt a huge blow by today’s shock revelation that one of the nation’s premier training centres for elite gymnasts is to close,”

GA’s President, Jacqui Briggs-Weatherill went on to say,

“This is a very cruel and short-sighted decision by WAIS that if not reversed will end the Olympic ambitions of many young women in one of Australia’s fastest growing sports.”

 

For the last couple of weeks the Women’s Rugby Super Series has been taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Didn’t see it in the mainstream media even though England’s women are currently World Champions? No, neither did I and, to my eternal shame, I missed reporting on it last week. Anyway, to make amends, here are the details:

The tournament took place between USA, Canada, France and England.

England were dealt a shocking and bitter blow in the first game on 1 July as they were beaten 52-17 by Canada. They recovered to beat France 17-13 on 5 July and then beat USA comfortably 39-13. This match included an impressive hat-trick of tries from winger Lydia Thompson.

Canada were the eventual winners of the tournament, unbeaten in their three matches. England finished second with two wins, France third with one and USA fourth having lost all of their matches. England will take heart from their comeback, having fallen to such a disastrous defeat in the first game.

 

And finally, this great story pinged into my inbox this week – I don’t know how many of you will have seen it already, but it bears re-telling. Manar Sarhan, a dentist from Cairo, has become Egypt’s first female football pundit. She appears on the private CBC television channel and has recently been commenting on Euro 2016 matches.

She started volunteering in journalism in 2002, filming her favourite Egyptian club Zamalek. She then wrote for several newspapers before being discovered by the CBC channel.

Unsurprisingly the reaction was mixed. She says:

“I was mocked in the beginning. They would tell me ‘Girls belong in kitchens’,” (I think we’ve all heard that one)

But Sarhan is not one to give up. She is now acknowledged as an expert on the subject;- her analysis of tactics and team plans is regarded as impressive.

She has learnt Spanish so that she can follow La Liga and also intends to learn Italian and Portuguese to be able to follow more European football.

Her ultimate aim is to work in European football. Go get it, I say!