Welcome to this week’s column. So much to get through this week and no prizes for guessing, with publication day due to be 8 March, that my “And Finally” may well have a flavour of IWD19 about it. And why not – this column is all about celebrating the sporting achievement of women so let’s shout about it, enjoy it and be inspired!
Stories and news this week come from athletics, golf, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, tennis, football, volleyball, netball, hockey and cycling.
Let’s crack on….
Only one place to start, this week! England’s Lionesses have claimed their first SheBelieves Cup. They finished top of the table on seven points with two wins over Brazil and Japan and a draw under their belts they went one better than the runners-up spot achieved last year.
One note of caution, though, before we all go “It’s Coming home” and Phil Neville starts donning a waistcoat and growing designer stubble; the Japan side was very young and without its established stars and Brazil will also undoubtedly come out stronger in the World Cup.
But let’s not deny England their moment. It was an impressive tournament performance that bodes well for this summer in France.
USA 2-2 England
The home side took the lead in the first-half through a Megan Rapinoe volley. The Lionesses hit back almost immediately. They were awarded an indirect free-kick on the left-hand side of the penalty area. Up stepped Steph Houghton, bending it prodigiously round the wall and into the far corner.
In the second-half, England stepped it up again and took the lead on 52 minutes when Nikita Parris hit home from a pinpoint Fran Kirby through ball.
But they couldn’t withstand the pressure of the USA’s set pieces and Tobin Heath scored from a corner.
Japan 3-1 Brazil
It looked to be heading for stalemate in the first-half until Yuka Momiki scored in the 44th minute to take Japan 1-0 up at the break.
On the resumption, Debinha equalised for Brazil, but two goals in the last ten minutes, from Rikako Kobayahi and Yui Hasegawa saw Japan take the points.
Japan 0-3 England
A blistering first-half performance by the Lionesses saw them go in three-nil up and cruising. All that was left after the break was to defend the lead and take both the points and the trophy.
Lucy Staniforth scored the first after 12 minutes. On 23, Karen Carney doubled the lead with a close range header. On the half-hour, England scored their third, and pick of the goals, when Keira Walsh picked out the excellent Beth Mead with a fabulous long-range pinpoint cross-field pass (and it was, folks, not a “hit and hope” as some kind gentleman on the BBC comments called it). Mead cut in field and produced a fine finish to seal it before half-time.
Japan pressed in the second-half and deserved a goal, but were unable to break through the England defence.
The only downside for England was a serious-looking injury to Izzy Christiansen, who limped off in the first-half.
USA 1-0 Brazil
A goal from Tobin Heath after 20 minutes was enough for the hosts to seal victory against Brazil, who ended the tournament pointless.
Brazil had marginally more possession in the match, but only three shots on target throughout.
Scotland 0-1 Canada
Scotland were 10 minutes away from what would have been a fine draw against Canada when Chloe Arthur brought down Ashley Lawrence in the box and Christine Sinclair scored from the resultant penalty.
Iceland 1-4 Scotland
After their narrow loss to Canada, Scotland won their second group match comfortably. Lizzie Arnot started the scoring on 14 minutes. Erin Cuthbert got a second on 33 and Kim Little made it three on 56 minutes. Iceland pulled one back through Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir a minute later, but the comeback was never really on and Scotland made it certain with a fourth and Arnot’s second on 66 minutes.
The win ensured that Scotland finished second in their group and played for fifth place:
Scotland 1-0 Denmark
Scotland secured fifth place through a Jane Ross goal on 35 minutes.
Poland 0-3 Norway
Norway were convincing winners over Poland in the final. They took the lead on 24 minutes through Isabell Herlovsen and went into half-time with that lead. In the second-half Caroline Graham Hansen made it two on 65 minutes and the third came nine minutes later through Karina Saevik.
Norway dominated with 61 per cent possession and 26 shots to Poland’s eight.
Just a quick reminder, if one were needed, that it’s round 4 of the Six Nations this weekend. The fixtures and kick-off times are as follows:
Friday 8 March
Scotland v Wales (Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm)
Saturday 9 March
England v Italy (Sandy Park, 12.05pm)
Ireland v France (Donnybrook, 7pm)
The 2019 rugby league Super League, Championship and League 1 fixtures were all announced today, 8 March.
In the first round of the Super League, champions Wigan Warriors will be at home to St Helens.
Super League newcomers, Wakefield Trinity, will be away to Leeds Rhinos, while York City Knights will face Castleford Tigers and Bradford Bulls are at home to Featherstone Rovers.
All three leagues will start on 7 April and end on 29 September. The Super League and Championship will then to into top four play-offs.
Rugby league is a great and much underrated product. Check out https://www.rugby-league.com/leagues__competitions/womens_rugby_league
for more details of venues, kick-off times and live streaming.
European Indoor Championships
There were some good performances by Great Britain’s female athletes over the weekend.
Laura Muir was star of the show completing her second successive European Indoors double claiming 3000m and 1500m gold. Melissa Courtney took bronze in the 3000m.
Katerina Johnson-Thompson and Niamh Emerson made it a British one-two in the pentathlon.
Shelayne Oskan-Clarke won the 800m.
Holly Bradshaw took silver in the pole vault and the women’s 4 x400m team also took silver.
Asha Philip took bronze in the 60m.
Great Britain’s four golds were all won by women.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Race
I think the best we can call it is a massive failure in organisation. You’ll all have seen the story, but it doesn’t get any better on re-reading. The women’s part of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race in Belgium was halted last week after the breakaway leader Nicole Hanselmann almost caught up with the back of the men’s race.
The men started 10 minutes before the women. Hanselmann caught up with the men’s support vehicles after 35km.
She was stopped and the race was, horrible term, “neutralised” so that the gap could be created again. At that point she had a lead over the peloton of two minutes.
When she was finally allowed to carry on, she was allowed to build a lead before the peloton was released. But she was soon caught and in the end could finish only 74th.
I’m not saying Hanselmann would have won the women’s race but stopping her certainly ended her momentum and gave the chasers hope.
There was also a real risk of injury to riders who were potentially coming into contact with support vehicles.
The cynic in me says it was highly embarrassing for the organisers to see the women so close.
Women’s World Championship
Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed the World Championship title in Singapore on Sunday. She finished on -15, two ahead of Minjee Lee of Australia, with J-Y Ko of South Korea in third, two shots further back.
World number one Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand was one shot ahead going into the final round, but finished with a 75 to end on -8 and in joint eighth place.
Top British finisher was Jodi Ewart Shadoff who carded a fourth round 73 to finish on -8, also in a share of eighth place.
Park was not on the leaderboard going into the final found, but came up with nine birdies and one bogey to storm to the title.
Of the other British players, Bronte Law finished on -1, Georgia Hall on +2, Charley Hull +10 and Catriona Matthew on +15.
England 160/4 (20 overs)
India 119/6 (20 overs)
England won by 41 runs
England posted a good total thanks to 62 from Tammy Beaumont and an opening partnership of 89 with Danni Wyatt and a storming 40 from 20 balls from captain Heather Knight.
Shikha Pandey (1/18 from four) and Poonam Yadav (2/33 from four) were the pick of the Indian bowlers, but the rest of the bowling attack was poor.
In response, the England bowlers were lively with none of the first four batters getting into double figures with the home side at one stage 46/5. Dipti Sharma and Shikha Pandey offered the only resistance, finishing on 22 not out and 23 not out respectively, but India were always going to fall well short.
Katherine Brunt took 2/21 in her four overs and Linsey Smith 2/22 from her allocation.
India 111/8 (20 overs)
England 114/5 (19.1 overs)
England won by 5 wickets with 5 balls remaining
India have not been at the races in this T20 series. They are, undoubtedly, missing injured captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana is yet to grow into captaincy. And yet, to some extent England made hard work of the chase – sometimes an issue when the target is a low one.
A few players got a start for India, but no-one went on to make a telling score, neither was there a decent partnership. Top scorer was Mithali Raj, who has come in for some criticism this series for appearing uninterested, with 20.
Katherine Brunt took 3/17 off her four overs and Linsey Smith an impressive 2/11 off three.
Danni Wyatt made a fine 64 from 55 balls, leading from the front for England. Tammy Beaumont went cheaply for just eight, with Jones, Sciver and Knight all failing to get into double figures. When Knight fell they were 56/4.
But Lauren Winfield’s 29 steadied the ship and eventually England got over the line with five balls to spare.
They now have an unassailable 2-0 series lead, but will be looking to complete the whitewash in the last match, which is on Saturday 9 March.
Cricket – off the Pitch
England, meanwhile are racking up a number of injuries, most of which seem to be stress fractures of the back. Georgia Elwiss is the latest to be so diagnosed and is flying home from the tour. This makes three players suffering with stress fractures, the other two being Kirstie Gordon and Katie George. Sophie Ecclestone broke a hand whilst out in India and Laura Marsh is still doubtful with a side strain.
Lord’s Honours Board
Some good news. There are now new honours boards at Lord’s for women’s performances in ODIs.
Centuries and five-wicket halls will be listed.
Anya Shrubsole’s 6/46 in the World Cup final in 2017 will be on. Centuries by Claire Taylor, Sarah Taylor, Caroline Atkins and Lisa Keightley of Australia will be listed as will Katherine Brunt for her bowling.
In the semi-finals of the singles, the unseeded Wang Yafan defeated third seed Donna Vekic 2-6 6-3 6-1. The other semi went to fifth seed Sofia Kenin, who overcame the unseeded Bianca Andreescu also in three sets 6-4 3-6 7-5.
Wang Yafan went on to beat Sofia Kenin in the final 2-6 6-3 7-5.
In the doubles, after a monster semi-final which went to 13-11 in the third against Maria Sanchez and Sharon Fichman, Zheng Saisai and Victoria Azarenka went on to a much easier win in the final, defeating Desirae Krawczyk and Giuliana Olmos 6-1 6-2.
We’re still in the early stages at Indian Wells with some first round ties still to be completed.
There was a straight sets win for Jo Konta in the first round, beating Pauline Parmentier 6-2 6-3. She plays 27th seed Hsieh Su-wei later on 8 March in the second round.
Last weekend’s Netball Super League results:
Friday 1 March
Team Bath 60-56 Manchester Thunder
Saturday 2 March
Surrey Storm 46-48 Celtic Dragons
Loughborough Lightning 56-51 London Pulse
Wasps Netball 61-34 Strathclyde Sirens
Monday 4 March
Severn Stars 46-64 Saracens Mavericks
Wasps remain top with seven wins from seven and 21 points. Mavericks are second with 18 and Thunder and Lightning (!) on 15. At the bottom, Pulse have three points. Above them are the Sirens on 6.
This weekend’s round nine fixtures:
Saturday 9 March
Strathclyde Sirens v Saracens Mavericks (3pm)
Celtic Dragons v Loughborough Lightning (4pm)
Manchester Thunder v Surrey Storm (5pm)
Sunday 10 March
Wasps Netball v Severn Stars (4pm)
Monday 11 March
London Pulse v Team Bath (7.30pm, Live on Sky Sports)
Women’s Super League Top 5 result:
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 London Orcas (25-10, 25-22, 25-23)
Durham Palatinates are still top with 12 wins from 12 matches and 35 points. Tendring VC Ladies are second on 30 from the same number of games.
Women’s Super League Bottom 4 results:
Sunday 3 March
Sheffield Hallam 3-0 Bristol VC1 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17)
Polonia SideOut London 3-1 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 25-20)
Sheffield Hallam are top with five wins and five losses from 10 games. They have 15 points. Behind them are Polonia SideOut London with nine points from 10 games.
Hockey – on the Pitch
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division
Buckingham 6-2 Canterbury
Nottingham 0-5 East Grinstead
University of Birmingham 1-0 Surbiton
Bowdon 1-2 Clifton Robinsons
Holcombe 4-1 Slough
Surbiton’s patchy form continues and Holcombe are top with 31 points, three points ahead of Surbiton. East Grinstead are third on 25. At the bottom, Canterbury have five points and Slough are just above them on nine. All teams have played 14 games.
This weekend’s fixtures:
Slough v Clifton Robinsons (12.30pm Slough HC)
Bowdon v Holcombe (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Beeston v Buckingham (2pm, Nottingham Hockey P1)
East Grinstead v University of Birmingham (4pm, East Grinstead HC)
Surbiton v Canterbury (4pm, Surbiton HC Water)
Hockey – off the Pitch
There was disappointment for Irish hockey this week as women’s coach Graham Shaw resigned in order to take up a similar post with New Zealand.
Shaw was appointed in 2015 after serving as assistant to Darren Smith and took Ireland’s women to a stunning silver medal at the World Cup in 2018.
In case you missed it, today (Friday 8 March) is International Women’s Day. Now there seems to be a day for just about everything, and I don’t tend to pay much attention, but this one I think is important and I’m so glad it falls on a Friday this year so that my blog can be my offering towards it.
I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t think things needed to change and I thought you could access your women’s sports fix in one place. I wouldn’t be writing it if I thought all was fine and dandy in the world of women’s sport and we didn’t have to suffer vile levels of abuse just for daring to play/administrate/referee/write about/have views on the thing we love.
Similarly, I don’t suppose you’d be reading it if you felt you had adequate access to women’s sports stories elsewhere.
So to all of you who love sport of any kind, women’s or men’s (or both, for crying out loud), this is for you. Stand up for women’s sport, shout down the abuse, be an advocate for those currently in sport and for those little girls looking for role models and careers in the future.
And one day, maybe, we’ll get there.
No column next week as I’m out and about.