Women’s Sports Column 2-8 March 2019

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

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

Let’s crack on….

Football

SheBelieves Cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Algarve Cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union

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

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

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

Rugby League

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletics

European Indoor Championships

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

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

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

Shelayne Oskan-Clarke won the 800m.

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

Asha Philip took bronze in the 60m.

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

Cycling

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golf

Women’s World Championship

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket – off the Pitch

England injuries

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

Lord’s Honours Board

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

Centuries and five-wicket halls will be listed.

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

Tennis

Mexico Open

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

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

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

Indian Wells

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

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

Netball

Last weekend’s Netball Super League results:

Friday 1 March
Team Bath 60-56 Manchester Thunder

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

Monday 4 March
Severn Stars 46-64 Saracens Mavericks

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

This weekend’s round nine fixtures:

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

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

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

Volleyball

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

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

Women’s Super League Bottom 4 results:

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

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

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Hockey – off the Pitch

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

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

And Finally,

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

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

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

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

And one day, maybe, we’ll get there.

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

 

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Women’s Sports Column 23 February – 1 March 2019

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

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

So let’s crack on…

Rugby Union

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

Wales 12-51 England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italy 29-27 Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

France 41-10 Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round Four is in two weeks:

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

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

Golf

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

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

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

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

Athletics

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

Cycling

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

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

Scratch Race 10km

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

Team Pursuit

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

Team Sprint

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

Netball

Last weekend’s Super League results:

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

Saturday 23 February
Surrey Storm 50-66 Loughborough Lightning

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

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

Next weekend’s fixtures are:

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

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

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

Tennis – on the Court

Last weekend’s tournament results:

Dubai Open

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

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

Hungarian Open

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

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

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

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

We are now at the semi-final stage:

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

The semi-finals of the doubles looks like this:

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

Tennis – off the Court

Fed Cup

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

The tie takes place on 20 and 21 April.

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

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

Maria Sharapova

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

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Volleyball

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

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

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

Football

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

Manchester City claimed their third Conti Cup title on Sunday.

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

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

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

Lionesses

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

27 February

England 2-1 Brazil

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

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

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

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

28 February

United States 2-2 Japan

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

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

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

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

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

Algarve Cup

The Algarve Cup is also in its early stages.

Scores so far:

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

Scotland are in Group A, alongside Canada and Iceland.

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Finally,

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

Women’s Sports Column 8-14 December 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the no-show last week.  I had it half-written, but felt so ill from Thursday onwards that I just couldn’t complete it.  Shame, because it was going to be a good one (but you’ll just have to take my word for that…)

Anyway, still plenty to get our teeth into this week with stories from football, cricket, volleyball, rugby, tennis, sports sponsorship, taekwondo, darts and sailing.  Plus, it was due to be my “And Finally” last week, but I just can’t let that twerking farrago go!

Let’s crack on.

Football

World Cup 2019 Draw

No doubt as to the top news story this week, as Saturday’s World Cup 2019 draw saw England and Scotland drawn in the same group.  It had a strange air of inevitability to it, I thought, as I watched the balls being pulled from the goldfish bowls.

The draw in full:

Group A
France, South Korea, Norway, Nigeria

Group B
Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Group C
Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Group D
England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan

Group E
Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands

Group F
United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

Group D fixtures:
(all local time)

9 June
England v Scotland, Allianz Riviera, Nice (6pm)

10 June
Argentina v Japan, Parc des Princes, Paris (6pm)

14 June
Japan v Scotland, Roazhon Park, Rennes (3pm)
England v Argentina, Stade Océane, Le Havre (9pm)

19 June
Japan v England, Allianz Riviera, Nice (9pm)
Scotland v Argentina, Parc des Princes, Paris (9pm)

My thoughts at this point could easily become a list of clichés, so I’ll keep it brief.  I’ll suggest that it is a truism rather than a cliché to say that there are no easy groups at the World Cup.  Scotland will be massively motivated to beat England and the Lionesses will not be able to afford to “warm up” as the group progresses.  They will need to be sharp from the start.  It’s not a gimme for England, that much is sure.  Japan will probably provide the toughest test, so ideally Neville will want his team to have made a positive start and have points in the bag by the time they play them.

France and Germany should have a fairly easy ride; Group C is anyone’s guess; it’s tough between Canada and Netherlands in Group E and also between United States and Sweden in Group F.

Looking forward to it immensely.  If any enterprising publication/website would like to send me over to cover it, just let me know.  Not looking forward to all the misogynist bile that goes with it (plenty going around already).

Jordan Nobbs

England have already received one blow to their chances as it has been confirmed that Jordan Nobbs will not make it to France 2019.  The Arsenal midfielder has had surgery for the anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in the match against Everton in November.

Nobbs had had a storming start to the season and will, without doubt, be missed.

Afghan National Team

Meanwhile, although we bemoan the status of women’s football in this country, we should, perhaps, consider ourselves lucky, when we see what others have had to go through in order to pursue their footballing passion.

I must admit I was doubtful that there would be any meaningful investigation into the allegations of sexual and physical abuse of members of the Afghan women’s team by Afghan Football Federation (AFF) staff.

But this week the Afghanistan Attorney General, Farid Hamidi, has suspended six members of the AFF, including the president, Keramuddin Karim while an investigation is carried out.

The Guardian reported in November that allegations of abuse taking place in Afghanistan as well as at a training camp in Jordan had been reported by senior officials.

In The Guardian’s report this week the team’s former coach, Kelly Lindsey, is quoted as saying,

“For years I have listened to stories of how women are treated in Afghanistan – seeing and hearing the disparity in our players’ voices. I have seen how these men have destroyed the bonds, trust, and unity these women built together through teamwork. For every step forward we went through a despairing step back at the hands of these men.

“I stopped in my tracks when I saw the news and felt for once in these women’s lives they can see that unity can lift them out of despair. That their voice has finally been heard and hopefully for their bigger mission to help all women and children of Afghanistan have a voice and live their dreams.”

And Mina Ahmadi, a player excluded from the team for refusing to sign a new contract, said

“I was in awe when I saw the news. When we started this whole movement I was hoping for a fundamental change but because so many people before us tried it as well, I wasn’t sure if we will be heard.

“The fact so many people joined us in our fight and we honestly brought some change just makes me feel so proud. I’m proud to know so many female fighters for justice and I just hope that it’s the beginning of a greater and brighter future for our country. It’s the biggest honour to be part of this mission and to show people that you should raise your voice when you are treated wrongly.”

I will follow up on this story as it progresses.

SheBelieves Cup 2019

The US will once again host the SheBelieves cup in February, which will serve as a useful World Cup warm-up tournament for those involved.  The teams will be US, Japan, Brazil and England.

The Lionesses will begin their campaign against Brazil in Philadelphia on 27 February.  They then move on to Nashville to play the US on 2 March and then to Tampa to play Japan on 5 March.

WSL

This weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

9 December
Yeovil Town 0-5 West Ham
Lehmann 19’ 27’, Simic 34’ 59’, Visalli 53’

Reading 2-2 Liverpool
Williams 62’ 84’
Sweetman-Kirk 10’ 68’

Manchester City 1-0 Birmingham
Stanway 12’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea
Ericsson 55’, England 69’ 91’, So-yun Ji 76’

Everton 0-2 Bristol City
Rutherford 65’, Rood 91’

Arsenal are now top on goal difference only (although it’s a healthy gap), but they have a game in hand over the chasing pack and have 27 points.  Man City are second, with Chelsea five points behind in third.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 matches, Brighton are just above them with four and Everton third from bottom with five from ten matches.

WC

This weekend’s WC results were as follows:

Aston Villa 5-1 Sheffield Utd
Hutton 40’ 63’ 73’, Haywood 42’, smith 82’
Jones 51’ (Pen)

Lewes 0-2 Charlton Athletic
Eupji 40’, Agg 69’

Durham 3-1 Manchester Utd
Salicki 22’, Hepple 60’, Ness 87’
Toone 42’

London Bees 2-1 Leicester City
Beckett 52’, Wilkinson 70’
Johnson 27’

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Crystal Palace
Dean 26’

Durham proved that Manchester United are beatable by doing just that at the weekend, but United stay top on 25 points from 10 games.  They are only ahead on goal difference from Charlton, who have played a game more with Durham in third a point behind, also having played 11.  At the bottom, Millwall still have two points from ten games and Crystal Palace are just above them with four.

Continental Cup

12 December
Reading 5-6 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur 0-5 Chelsea
Birmingham City 1-3 Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses 1-3 Arsenal
Yeovil Town 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield Utd 3-1 Leicester City
Charlton Athletic 0-2 West Ham Utd

13 December
Everton 0-3 Manchester Utd
Aston Villa 0-4 Manchester City
Crystal Palace 7-2 London Bees

The quarter-finalists are: Manchester City/Birmingham City (Group 1 North), Manchester Utd/Reading (Group 2 North), Chelsea/Brighton & Hove Albion (Group 1 South), Arsenal/West Ham Utd (Group 2 South).

Sports Sponsorship

There was good news and frustrating news in the world of women’s sports sponsorship this week.  Make no mistake, the good news is major.

Visa have signed a seven-year deal with UEFA to become women’s football’s first sole sponsor at all levels.

Visa will be the main partner for the Champions League and the Women’s Euros.  It will also sponsor the Women’s Under-19 and Under-17 Championships and the UEFA Women’s Futsal European Championships.

The deal runs until 2025.

By contrast, Guinness have just signed a six-year deal to sponsor the Six Nations Rugby – the men’s tournament that is, not the women’s.  For some reason the women’s Six Nations has not been included and this major tournament remains without a sponsor.

Sailing

British yachtswoman Susie Goodall was rescued by a 40,000-tonne cargo ship after capsizing in the Golden Globe Race.

Her boat went over 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn and she was picked up two days later by the Tian Fu which used one of its cranes to hoist her out of the water.

The Tian Fu was sailing from China to Argentina when it was diverted by the Chilean Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to make the rescue.

The accident was so violent that Goodall was knocked out and when she came to Goodall was able to raise a distress signal.  The conditions were so bad that the rescue ship could not put out a rib boat to pick her up, but had to try the difficult manoeuvre with the crane and hook.

Goodall was in fourth place in the race when the accident happened.

Tennis

Amelie Mauresmo has withdrawn as France’s Davis cup captain and instead will become coach to world number 32 Lucas Pouille.

She had been appointed in June to take over from Yannick Noah in 2019, and would have been France’s first female Davis Cup captain.

BT Action Woman of the Year

In case you missed it last week, the results of this year’s Awards bear repeating:

Dina Asher-Smith was named BT Action Woman of 2018.  There can be no doubting the appropriateness of the honour – this year she won gold in the 100m, 300m and 4x100m at the European Championships as well as gold in the 4 x100m and bronze in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games.

The England Netball team won the Team of the Year award after their gold medal-winning performance at the Commonwealth Games.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in encouraging both disabled and non-disabled youngsters into sport as well as recognising her role in leading a government review into the safety of sporting events.

Cricket

The WBBL is well underway and, thanks to my indisposition last week, I am way behind in reporting what has happened so far.  So here’s a quick re-cap:

All teams have now played three games.  The Sydney Sixers once again look like the team to beat.  After losing their first game to Melbourne Stars on the first day of the tournament, they have come back to win the next two and lie top of the table.  Ellyse Perry is on blistering form having hit a 59-ball hundred against the Perth Scorchers – the century coming from the last runs of the match.

But it was South African Lizelle Lee who hit the first century of this season’s WBBL.  She hit 102 from 56 balls against Sydney Sixers as they reached their target with 2.4 overs to spare.

Perth Scorchers also won well in the first part of the opening day double-header.  Elyse Villani hit 58 from 39 as they chased down the Hobart Hurricanes’ 144 with just three balls left of the match.  Hurricanes lost a key player just before the start as the West Indies’ Hayley Matthews broke a toe in training.

England captain Heather Knight made 82 from 55 balls for Hobart Hurricanes in their defeat to Melbourne Stars.

So, it’s all very tight at the moment.  The two Sydney teams plus Melbourne Stars have four points from three games, with the Sixers top on net run rate.  Then come Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades with one win and one no-result and three points each, while Hobart Hurricanes, Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers all have one win and two losses and two points.

More scorecards and detailed match information from this weekend’s games in next week’s column.

Volleyball

Last weekend’s Women’s Super League results were as follows:

Saturday 8 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21. 18-25, 20-25, 25-15, 15-5)
Sheffield Hallam 1-3 TeamBU Wessex (23-25, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25)
London Orcas 0-3 Durham Palatinates (20-25, 15-25, 20-25)

Sunday 9 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-20, 25-16, 25-21)
Bristol VC1 0-3 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (22-25, 11-25, 16-25)

Durham Palatinates are still top with a clean eight wins from eight games and 23 points.  Tendring are second with 17 points from seven games and Malory Eagles third with the same number of points from eight games.  At the bottom, Polonia have only one win from eight games and three points.  Above them lie Birmingham with three points from seven games.

Rugby Union

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

8 December
Harlequins 43-7 Loughborough Lightning
Gloucester-Hartpury 53-7 Bristol Bears
Wasps 34-0 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens 59-0 DMP Sharks

9 December
Richmond 21-18 Worcester Valkyries

After 11 rounds of matches, Saracens are top with 10 wins and just one loss.  They have 50 points.  Harlequins are second on 46, with Loughborough Lightning third on 44.  At the bottom, Worcester still have four points, DMP Sharks are second from bottom on nine and Firwood Waterloo are just above them with 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:

15 December
Loughborough Lightning v Gloucester-Hartpury (12pm, Loughborough Uni)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Firwood Waterloo v Harlequins (2.15pm,Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Saracens v Richmond (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Bristol Bears (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Darts

Lisa Ashton fell in the first round of the PDC World Championships at Alexandra Palace this week.  She was beaten three sets to one by world number 43 Jan Dekker of Netherlands.

Ashton took the first set, but Dekker came back to take the next three to progress into the next round.

The second female qualifier, Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia, starts her campaign on Monday against Ryan Joyce.

Taekwondo

Grand Slam Champions Series

This second edition takes place in Wuxi, China from 12-16 December.

This really is the elite – the world’s top 16 fighters in each of the Olympic weight categories – four male and four female.

Great Britain is looking good for medals and there are some big prizes up for grabs.  Jade Jones and Lauren Williams are already through to the semi-finals of the -57kg and -67kg categories respectively.  They hope to be joined by Bianca Walkden, who is yet to fight.

Jones beat Zongshi Luo of China and will now face Maria Stetic of Croatia in the semi-final.

Williams beat Paige McPherson of the USA and will fight Ruth Gragbi of Ivory Coast in her semi-final.

News of who won what next week.

And Finally,

No apology for going ahead with this one, even though it’s “old news” (how I wish it was).  This is how I reacted to Twerkgate last week, before I was struck down by my miserable virus:

No prizes for guessing who the “One step forward, two steps back Award” goes to this week.  We finally see a Women’s Ballon d’Or Award (and goodness knows there are plenty of men out there that think that shouldn’t even be happening), when the DJ Martin Solveig, who was there for what purpose goodness only knows, asked the winner Ada Hegerberg, if she knew how to “twerk”.

She had collected the award and made a speech about inspiring the next generation of footballers, encouraging them to believe in themselves when she is asked if she can dance in a sexually provocative way!

Why would you do this, for crying out loud?  Every week I (and my fellow women’s sport enthusiasts) spend our time talking about and writing about the great things women are doing in sport.  Every week women everywhere are derided and dismissed for any role they play in sport.  It is also a particular problem in football.

So when you finally see a female Ballon d’Or winner, what do you do?  Do you a) congratulate her and say what a great year she has had and how women’s football is on the up all over Europe or do you b) ask her if she would like to dance in sexual manner in celebration of winning?

Well, apparently it’s b).  Suffice it to say, now that Solveig has had his error of judgement (if you can call it that) pointed out to him, he has apologised “to anyone who may have been offended.”

Great response by Andy Murray on Instagram, by the way,

“Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport.

“What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modric?  I’d imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks I’m overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t. I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

No more to add.

That’s all for this week.  Back next week with one last brief update before my Christmas break. 

 

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 4-10 March 2017

cricket-ballI can’t believe it’s that time again, but apparently it is, so welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column.

As usual, there has been plenty going on this week, including what I thought was a quite spectacular International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th.  So here we go with stories from athletics, tennis, football, sports governance, netball and rugby and cricket.  Let’s crack on.

Football

SheBelieves Cup

The Lionesses finished a creditable third in their second appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in the USA.  France were the eventual winners after they convincingly beat the hosts 3-0.

England 0-1 Germany

England finished their campaign with one win from three as they lost narrowly to Germany on Wednesday.  Again England got off to a storming start and they had several chances in the first 20 minutes.  But Germany came back into it, having the better of the play and scoring what turned out to be the only goal of the game, through Anja MIttag, just before half-time.

Jordan Nobbs and Demi Stokes had chances in the second-half and Jill Scott had a clear opportunity in stoppage time, but shot over.

England coach Mark Sampson should be pleased with the three performances and it was certainly all good build-up to the Euros in the summer.

Team P GD Pts
1 France Women 2 1 4
2 Germany Women 3 0 4
3 USA Women 2 0 3
4 England Women 3 -1 3

 Cyprus Cup

 Scotland 0-0 Wales
Scotland won 6-5 on penalties

Scotland beat Wales in a penalty shoot-out to take fifth place in the Cyprus Cup.

After 90 minutes there was no score and the game went to penalties with Frankie Brown scoring the winner for the Scots.

The eventual winners of the tournament were South Korea who beat Switzerland 1-0.  Third place went to North Korea who beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0.

Signings

Notts County have signed full-back Shelly Provan on a contract which takes her up to the end of the Spring Series.

Broadcasting news

The BBC has won the rights to broadcast the 2019 Women’s World Cup due to be held in France in 2019.

Every game will be covered across television, radio or online.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

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

Saturday 11 March, 11.30am
Wales v Ireland (Cardiff Arms Park)
SC4/BBC Wales/RTE

Saturday 11 March, 1pm
England v Scotland (The Stoop)
Sky Sports

Sunday 12 March, 2pm GMT
Italy v France (Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi)
France 4/Eurosport IT

Athletics

Apologies that the European Indoor Athletics passed under my radar last week.

Scotland’s Laura Muir won gold in both the 1500m and 3,000m.  In the latter she broke the championship record in a time of eight minutes 35.68 seconds with Eilish McColgan taking bronze.

Asha Philip won gold in the 60m in a time of 7.06 seconds, a new British record.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took silver in the 800m in a photo-finish with Swiss athlete Selina Buchel.

Lorraine Ugen won silver in the women’s long jump and the 4x400m relay team of Eilidh Doyle, Philippa Lowe, Mary Iheke and Laviai Nielsen also took silver behind Poland.

Great Britain finished second in the medal table behind Poland.

Sports Politics

Russia

Yelena Isinbayeva has been reappointed as Chair of RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.  She was originally appointed in December but WADA took issue with the appointment and so the election was re-run.  Isinbayeva was re-elected.

She was critical of Russia’s competition-wide ban declaring it “a blatant political order”, but today, Friday 10 March she said,

“We will watch and control everybody and everything.

“We have just one attempt to clear our sport of this dirt.”

WADA has already been critical of the speed of reform in Russian athletics and will now be sure to be watching carefully to see what happens next.

Diversity Developments

In a landmark ruling, Muslim women have won the right to wear full body suits in amateur swimming competitionsThis will include all Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) meets and national competition.

Full body suits are already allowed in Olympic Games.

In a separate development, Nike has become the first major sports brand to produce a range of hijabs for sporting Muslim women.  They are not the first in the field, but they are by far the biggest.  It can only be a matter of time before others follow suit.

Women in Sport report

A new survey from Women in Sport has found that the number of women in the top posts of sports governing bodies is down 6% since 2014.  Read the full report here: https://www.womeninsport.org/news/women-sport-launches-beyond-30-campaign/

Needless to say, and more than a little irritating were the comments at the bottom of the BBC report were all about netball’s governing body, which has 90% women on its board and isn’t this really sexist?

Cricket

World Cup Schedule

Here’s the link to the full schedule, but this is when and where England will be playing:

Saturday 24 June v India (Derby CCC)
Tuesday 27 June v Pakistan (Leicester CCC)
Sunday 2 July v Sri Lanka (Taunton)
Wednesday 5 July v South Africa (Bristol)
Sunday 9 July v Australia (Bristol)
Wednesday 12 July v New Zealand (Derby CCC)
Saturday 15 July v West Indies (Bristol)

The semi-finals will be at Bristol (18 July) and Derby (20 July), with the final at Lord’s on Sunday 23 July.

Ashes Schedule

The 2017 Ashes schedule has also been released and includes the first ever day-night Ashes Test.  The series well again be multi-format.

22 October – 1st ODI, AB Field, Brisbane
26 October – 2nd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium
29 October – 3rd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium

9-12 November – Test match, North Sydney Oval

17 November – 1st T20, North Sydney Oval
19 November – 2nd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November – 3rd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Women’s Ashes points system

Test: Win – 4 points
ODI: Win – 2 points
T20: Win – 2 points

On the field

3rd ODI, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

New Zealand 270/9 (50 overs)
Australia 273/5 (49.2 overs)

Australia sealed a 2-1 series win over their greatest rivals in a thrilling contest at the Bay Oval.  Meg Lanning won the toss and put New Zealand in to bat.  She must have been ruing that decision when the White Ferns got off to a flyer.  Susie Bates was out in the 11th over for 27, but Rachel Priest made 77 and Katie Perkins 34 as they posted an excellent total of 270.  Pick of the bowlers for the Southern Stars were Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner who took three wickets each.

The Australian reply began inauspiciously when opener Nicole Bolton was bowled for a duck by Holly Huddleston in the second over.  But in came captain Lanning and the tide turned.  She and Beth Mooney put on a 93-run partnership before Mooney was run out for 69 in the 20th over.  Ellyse Perry only managed a single, but good contributions from Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell and Alyssa Healy plus 104 not out for Lanning sealed the game and the series.

Tennis

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells

Heather Watson plays Johanna Konta in the second round after beating American Nicole Gibbs 4-6 6-2 6-2 in round one.

Meanwhile, world number one Serena Williams has had to withdraw from the tournament with a knee injury.

Netball

Round three of the Vitality Superleague took place at the weekend.  Round four is this weekend.  You can see Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks live on Sky Sports on Saturday 11 March at 6pm.

There are still three unbeaten teams at the top of the table; Surrey, Wasps and Loughborough.  Northumbria and Dragons are at the bottom, yet to take a point.

The third round results were as follows:

Friday 3 March

Severn Stars 53-46 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 4 March

Manchester Thunder 53-49 Sirens
Team Northumbria 46-63 Surrey Storm

Sunday 5 March

Wasps 51-47 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Monday 6 March

Team Bath 41-47 Loughborough Lightning

And finally, in a moment of shameless self-promotion, I offer you the piece I wrote for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017: https://pennyjhopkins.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/international-womens-day-and-the-world-of-womens-sport/

Women’s Sports Column 25 February – 3 March 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Stories this week come from the good, bad and downright bizarre sides of women’s sport – I’ll leave you to pick out which is which.  The sports featured this week are rugby union, cricket, football, skeleton, curling, tennis and netball.  Plus an “And finally” that takes “Girl Power” (yuk, but let’s go with it) to a whole new level.

Rugby Union

No doubting the big story this week as the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced its plans for a new women’s Super League to replace the current Premiership.  What is it with women’s sport and super leagues?  First the football, then the netball, then cricket and now rugby; what are the governing bodies trying to say?

Anyway, there was both shock and dismay at the new announcement that named the ten teams involved.  They are:

Bristol
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
Firwood Waterloo
Harlequin FC
Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough Students (Lightning)
Richmond FC
Saracens
Wasps
Worcester

So no place for Lichfield who currently lie second in the Premiership table and who boast several internationals in their squad including Emily Scarratt and Harriet Millar-Mills.  Lichfield released a strongly-worded statement expressing their disappointment at missing out.

“Lichfield RUFC is surprised and extremely disappointed by the decision by the RFU to exclude Lichfield Ladies from the new women’s elite competition.

  • We havemade every effort to follow the application process and in doing so have confirmed that we can meet all the required standards as specified.
  • We do not accept the scant reasons given as to why we have not been selected and on the contrary believe that we are one of a very few clubs that can, as of today, already satisfy the necessary conditions regarding players, coaching and facilities.
  • We presented what we believe was a sensible and achievable budget for delivering all of the specified support and facilities to provide the necessary players and performance improvements. We did not propose to spend money that we could not deliver.
  • We have proven our ability to deliver on our promises over many years.
  • We have one of the oldest Ladies sections in the country and have continually evolved over the past 25 years to be one of the best clubs in the country for both women’s and girls’ rugby. We are exceptionally proud of the achievements of our players, coaches and backroom staff and the standards they have reached, in creating new home-grown talent year after year.
  • Our two senior ladies’ teams currently both lie 2nd in the RFU Premiership and the Championship respectively, hence providing two teams in the top 12 nationwide. We are immensely proud of our ability to continually produce not only strong club players, but also international players and some of the best leaders in the ladies’ game.
  • We have helped to produce more than 30 England Internationals and currently have 8 Lichfield players performing in the 2017 Six Nations Championship, as well as supplying a number of World Cup winning players, Olympians and members of the England 7s squad.
  • Very few clubs can boast a tradition and pedigree as strong as this, yet it appears to have been completely disregarded in the selection process.

However, for the good of the game we will continue to support the RFU and direct all our efforts and emotion into completing the 2016/17 season. We will continue to grow the game and develop players to reach their full potential and we shall continue to work closely with the RFU to prepare for the next opportunity to once again participate at the Elite level.”

There is a lot of sympathy for the club and a petition has been started to encourage the RFU to think again.  If you would like to sign it, the link is:

Another team to miss out is high-flying Championship South 1 side Thurrock, who also put in a bid for inclusion.

Gloucester-Hartpury and Waterloo come from the lower leagues, while Loughborough, as I have said before in this column so forgive me if I claim some credit here, are continuing their efforts at world domination with yet another Lightning side joining the fray (adding to the netball and cricket).

The RFU will invest heavily in the new league to help clubs deliver the minimum standards required in coaching, facilities and community engagement.  None of which helps Lichfield or……

Women’s Super Rugby will begin in September 2017 and there will be no promotion or relegation in the first two seasons of the competition.

I’ve got a feeling we’ve not heard the end of this yet, so expect further updates in future columns.

Six Nations

Scotland 15-14 Wales
24 February Broadwood Stadium

Scotland secured their first Six Nations win for seven years last Friday in their last gasp victory over Wales.

Wales took the lead with a try from hooker Carys Phillips.  Elinor Snowsill kicked the conversion.

The score remained at 0-7 until five minutes before half-time when Scotland conceded a five metre scrum.  Scotland infringed at the resultant scrum and Wales were awarded a penalty try, taking the score to 0-14.

But Scotland were not to go scoreless in the first half.  They kept pressing until Lisa Thomson went over and Sarah Law kicked the conversion to halve the deficit and make it 7-14 at the break.

In the second half there was a period of stalemate before Scotland won a five metre scrum.  Jade Konkel broke out and passed to winger Rhona Lloyd who went over to score.  The conversion was missed and the score was 12-14.

But there was still more to come.  Scotland pressed and pressed until they were awarded a penalty.  Laws kicked the three points to take the game.

England 29-15 Italy
The Stoop, 25 February

The visitors started strongly and took the lead with a try from Sofia Stefan.  The conversion was missed.

England struck back a few minutes later as Kay Wilson went in at the corner.  Amy Wilson Hardy scored a second in short order to put the home side in front.

Hooker Vicky Fleetwood then went over for two more to put England in control and secure the bonus point before half-time.

After the break, Fleetwood went in for her third of the match – the first England forward to score a hat-trick in a Six Nations match.

But Italy were not done.  Scrum-half Sarah Barattin went in for Italy’s second try.

Shortly afterwards Katy McLean was sent off for a dangerous tackle and Poppy Cleall sin-binned and England were down to 13.  Manuela Furlan took full advantage, going over in the corner.

But the visitors could do no more and were unable to pick up a losing bonus point.

Ireland 13-10 France
Donnybrook, 26 February

Ireland are still unbeaten in this year’s Six Nations as they fought off a strong French side to claim in win in Dublin.

The first-half was a tight low-scoring affair with Nora Stapleton’s penalty separating the sides at the break.

In the second-half France took the initiative with a try from Caroline Ladagnous, which was converted by Jessy Tremouliere.

Ireland hit back with a try of their own from Leah Lyons, which was converted by Stapleton.  The score was 10-7 with half an hour to go.

Stapleton hit her second penalty to take it to 13-7, and although Tremouliere put over a penalty for France, they could not overcome the deficit to go down 13-10.

England Test Matches Announced

In preparation for the World Cup in Ireland in August, England Rugby has announced that the Red Roses will play the following test matches:

9 June v Australia (Porirua Park, Wellington)

13 June v Canada (Rugby Park, Christchurch)

17 June v New Zealand (Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua)

Elli Norkett

On an altogether sadder note, Ospreys and Wales winger Elli Norkett died in a car crash on 25 February at the age of 20.

Norkett was the youngest player at the 2014 Rugby World Cup, playing for Wales when she was just 17.

She was in her final year at Cardiff Metropolitan University, studying sport development.

In a Statement the Welsh Rugby Union said,

“A talented, dedicated player and popular teammate, Elli was a treasured member of the Welsh rugby family.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.”

Netball

There was a veritable feast of netball at the Genting arena last weekend as the Superleague’s  Super Ten event took place.  These were the results:
Loughborough Lightning 56-44 Severn Stars

Sirens 73-36 Celtic Dragons
Team Northumbria 46-70 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 58-48 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 42-49 Team Bath

After two games, Wasps, Storm, Lightning and Bath are all unbeaten.

Football

SheBelieves Cup

England 1-2 France

There was heartbreak for England on Wednesday as they conceded a 95th minute goal to lose the first match in the SheBelieves Cup 2-1.

The Lionesses bossed the first half, taking the lead through a fine strike from Jordan Nobbs, who was the stand-out player of the half.  England pressed in a way I haven’t seen for a while which definitely put France off their stride and were clearly on top at the break.

It would have been England’s first win against France since 1974.  Still can’t believe this is a true stat, but it is.

France equalised in the 80th minute through Marie-Laure Delie and broke English hearts in the 95th when Wendie Renard headed past the England defence to take the win.

This will be a great disappointment to Mark Sampson and may mean that England will yet again be winless in the SheBelieves Cup.

They next play the United States in New Jersey on Saturday 4 March.

In the second game of the tournament, USA beat Germany 1-0 with a goal from Lynn Williams.

You can follow the Lionesses on the FA website.  The France game was on the BBC red button, but, as with all women’s sport, there is no guarantee that this will be the case for the other games and if they are on, no-one is likely to publicise it….

Friendlies

As part of their warm up before the Euros in the summer, the FA has announced that England will play two friendlies:

England v Italy, Friday 7 April, Vale Park (home of Port Vale FC)

England v Austria, Monday 10 April, Stadium MK (home of MK Dons)

Cyprus Cup

Meanwhile, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland are all in action in the Cyprus Cup.

Group A:  
Belgium, Italy, Korea DPR, Switzerland

Group B:  
Austria, Korea Rep, New Zealand, Scotland

Group C:    
Czech Rep, Rep.of Ireland, Hungary, Wales

The first round of matches took place on 1 March and there were wins for all three sides.

Korea DPR 3-0 Italy

New Zealand 2-3 Scotland

Jane Ross opened the scoring for Scotland but New Zealand equalised through Rosie White.  In the second-half Scotland took the lead again through substitute Erin Cuthbert and then went 3-1 ahead through captain Kim Little.  The Kiwis pulled one back late on through Amber Hearn.

Czech Republic 0-2 Republic of Ireland

Stephanie Roche and Aine O’Gorman scored the goals for the Republic to give them a good win in their first match of the tournament.

Belgium 2-2 Switzerland

Korea Republic 0-0 Austria

Hungary 0-2 Wales

Helen Ward scored the first for Wales and Charlie Estcourt doubled the lead in the second half to secure the win.

The second round of matches takes place today, 3 March.

Tennis

It seems to me that the WTA tour is a never-ending list of tournaments and I just don’t have the time or resources to cover it all.  So here is my feeble attempt this week – just one match in one tournament, but what a match!

Heather Watson lost a marathon three-and-a-half hour match against Kristina Mladenovic of France 7-6 6-7 7-5 in the Abierto Mexicano Telcel.

The match saw 15 breaks of serve and the match was ultimately lost by Watson with her 18th double fault.

Mladenovic, who is seeded second in the tournament, plays Kirsten Flipkens in the third round.

Skeleton

Lizzie Yarnold won bronze at the Skeleton World Championships in Germany this week.

Gold went to World Cup leader, Germany’s Jacqueline Lolling with her compatriot, Tina Hermann finishing second.

Yarnold’s time of 2 minutes 36.08 seconds was just 0.73 seconds behind Lolling.

Yarnold’s team-mates Laura Deas finished 10th and Donna Creighton 22nd.

Curling

Eve Muirhead’s team defended their Scottish National Championship title in Perth this week as they beat Hannah Fleming’s team 6-4.

They have now secured a place at the World Championship in Beijing, which takes place in April.

Cricket

Australia v New Zealand ODI Series

After New Zealand won the T20 series, you can guarantee that the ODI series will be equally keenly fought.  And indeed, after two games they are tied one each.

First ODI
New Zealand 276/5
Australia 275 all out
New Zealand won by 5 wickets

The on-form Amy Satterthwaite scored 102 not out to see the home side to victory with five balls to spare.

Australia were all out in 48.4 overs with Lea Tahuhu taking 4/49 and Holly Huddleston 3/46.  Beth Mooney scored 100 for the visitors.  In the early stages the Southern Stars were 237/3, but subsided after Mooney, Elyse Villani and Rachael Haynes were dismissed, with the last six batters making only 28 runs between them.

Satterthwaite’s ton was her fourth in a row in ODIs.  New Zealand’s reply began well with a 58 run partnership between Rachel Priest and Suzie Bates.  When Priest was out Satterthwaite came in to make the match-winning knock.  She was ably supported by Bates (55), Katey Martin (43) and Katie Perkins (29).

Second ODI
Australia 256/6
New Zealand 253/8
Australia won by 4 wickets to level the series

Meg Lanning put New Zealand in and they started well with captain Bates making 35 before being dismissed.   All the batters made contributions with Satterthwaite again the pick, making 85 from 117 balls.

Amanda-Jade Wellington took three wickets and Elyse Perry was tight with 1/9 in the four overs she bowled.

In response Australia started well with Mooney again playing well to score 57.  They were going along quite nicely when 16-year old legspinner Amelia Kerr took two wickets in her first over, bowling Lanning for 44 and Villani for a first ball duck.  At this point Australia were 138/4.

But Alyssa Healey and Alex Blackwell pulled it back for the Aussies, producing a partnership of 81 off 85 balls.  Blackwell scored a timely 65 and Australia won with 16 balls to spare.

The impressive Kerr took 4/54.

The third and deciding game takes place on Sunday 5 March.

Off the Pitch

Australian international Sarah Coyte announced her retirement from all cricket this week at the age of 25.

Last year she retired from international cricket as she battled mental health issues.

“I am going home to Sydney to be close to my family and restore some balance to my life. I have been realising lately how much I have missed my family and it is finally time for me to go home,” she said in a statement.

Coyte admitted suffering from Anorexia while playing international cricket – a problem which led to her international retirement, but now she has gone one step further to quit all cricket.

She played for New South Wales and Adelaide Strikers.  As regards the Southern Stars she averaged 22 with the bat and 22.27 with the ball over 20 matches.

Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland, said,

“On behalf of the board and everyone at Cricket Australia, we congratulate Sarah on a wonderful career, both internationally and domestically, and thank her for the wonderful contribution she has made to Australian cricket,”

And Finally

And finally, the Swedish women’s football team have removed their names from t he back of their shirts and replaced them with messages that “inspire and motivate women to show that everything is possible”.  The quotes are taken from famous Swedish women.

Captain, Lotta Schelin picked words from Swedish politician Gudrun Schyman:

“Never look down on someone unless it is to help her up”,

Other phrases include:

“Believe in your damn self”

“To try is to be successful.  The result is secondary as long as you dare”

“Women want different things”

It may be a gimmick or they may all believe in it with every fibre of their being, but whatever the story, it made me smile.

Women’s Sports Column 6-13 January 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Nearly half way through January already!  Plenty to get our teeth into this week with stories from hockey, tennis, football, cricket, rugby, winter sports and yet more awards.  This week’s “and finally” is a tricky one and I’ll leave you to form your own opinions.

Tennis

Johanna Konta has continued her good start to the season by winning the Apia International in Sydney.

She beat world number three, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4 6-2 to take the final in straight sets.

She broke Radwanska in the third game of the match and hit 18 winners in the first set alone.  She went 4-0 up in the second and never looked like letting it slip, winning the match with an ace.

Without wishing to curse her, she looks in great form going into the Australian Open.  She has, however, got a tough opening match in the first grand slam of the year; she faces the Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.

Laura Robson and Tara Moore have failed in their attempts to qualify for the Australian Open.  Both players lost in the first qualifying round.

Robson said she felt “flat” in losing in straight sets 6-2 6-4 to Amandine Hesse of France.

Moore was beaten 6-7 (7-2) 6-3 6-1 to Dalma Galfi of Hungary.

The Australian Open begins on Monday.  The top ten women’s seeds are as follows:

  1. Angelique Kerber (GER)
  2. Serena Williams (USA)
  3.  Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
  4.  Simona Halep (ROU)
  5.  Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
  6.  Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
  7.  Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)
  8.  Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
  9.  Johanna Konta (GBR)
  10.  Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)

The date for Maria Sharapova’s comeback has been announced.  She will return at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart on 26 April.

The tournament begins two days before her suspension ends and she will not be able to attend until the day of her first match.

Football

Kelly Smith

Biggest news of the week has to be the retirement from football of Arsenal and England striker Kelly Smith at the age of 38.

And what a playing career it was.  In 1999 she became Britain’s first female professional when she signed for American side New Jersey.

She won 117 England caps, scoring 46 goals.  She played in two World Cups and four European Championships.

She also had a prodigious career with Arsenal, winning five FA Cups in the process and in 2006-07 the UEFA Cup (now Champions League).

She was awarded an MBE in 2008 and was named FA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007.

For the past two seasons she has been assisting manager Pedro Martinez Losa at Arsenal.  She is studying for her coaching badges and is looking to go into coaching as soon as she can.

One thing‘s for sure, you’ll never be able to keep her out of the game and the game would indeed be poorer without her.

She Believes Cup

The schedule for this year’s cup was announced this week.  England will play on the following dates:

France – 1 March (Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania)

USA – 4 March (Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey)

Germany – 7 March (RFK Stadium, Washington)

FA Cup

The FA Cup third round draw was made this week:

Blackburn Rovers v Tottenham Hotspur
Charlton Athletic v Sheffield FC
Aston Villa v Cambridge United
Millwall Lionesses v London Bees
Leicester City v Liverpool Marshall Feds
Keynsham Town v Durham
Coventry United v Oxford United
West Bromwich Albion v Lewes
Doncaster Rovers Belles v Watford
Derby County v Nottingham Forest
Brighouse Town v Everton
AFC Wimbledon v Brighton & Hove Albion

Ties will be played on 5 February.

Rugby Union

World Cup

The schedule for the World Cup, taking place in July in Ireland, has been announced.

Wednesday 9 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

England v Spain 2pm

USA v Italy 4.30pm

Ireland v Australia (7pm)

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

New Zealand v Wales 2.55pm

USA v Italy 4.30pm

Canada v Hong Kong 5.15pm

Sunday 13 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

USA v Spain 2.45pm

Ireland v Japan 5.15pm

France v Australia 7.45pm

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

New Zealand v Honk Kong 12 noon

England v Italy 2.30pm

Canada v Wales 5pm

Thursday 17 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

Italy v Spain 2.45pm

Wales v Hong Kong 17.15pm

France v Ireland 19.45pm

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

Canada v New Zealand 12 noon

England v USA 2.30pm

Australia v Japan 5pm

Tuesday 22 August

Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

Semi-finals 5pm and 7.45pm

Saturday 26 August

Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

Final 7.45pm

Women’s Premiership

Bristol lost their second game of the season at the weekend.  Their lead is now cut to one point – gained from the bonus point loss at Lichfield.  For a full report see WSUK.

8 January 2017

Saracens Women v Wasps Ladies
Postponed

Richmond 17-50 Aylesford

DMP Sharks 24-10 Worcester

Lichfield 15-12 Bristol

Winter Sports

Skiing

Lindsay Vonn is nearing her return to competition after breaking her arm nine weeks ago.

She will compete at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee in Austria on 14 January.

Over recent years Vonn has had to cope with several injuries.  She missed most of 2013 and 2014 with a knee injury.  She then fractured a knee again in February 2016.

Speed skating

Elise Christie has announced that she will not compete in the European Championships in Turin later this month.

She is going to use the extra time to prepare for the World Championships in March.

Christie won overall gold at the last European Championships and so will not be defending her title.

The European Championships begin on 13 January and the World Championships take place in Rotterdam from 10-12 March.

Cricket

The WBBL continues.  The current table is as follows:

played won lost points Net run- rate
Sydney Sixers 10 7 3 14 0.413
Hobart Hurricanes 10 5 4 11 -0.038
Melbourne Stars 10 5 5 10 0.342
Perth Scorchers 10 5 5 10 0.196
Brisbane Heat 10 5 5 10 -0.167
Sydney Thunder 10 4 5 8 -0.022
Adelaide Strikers 10 3 5 8 -0.249
Melbourne Renegades 10 4 6 7 -0.536

Indoor Hockey

The four semi-finalists of the Women’s Super 6s hockey have been decided.

Slough finished top with five wins from eight games and one loss.

Also through are Bowdon Hightown, Canterbury and Sutton Coldfield.

The finals take place on Sunday 29 January at the SSE Arena, Wembley.  Gates open at 10am and the action starts at 11am.

Outdoor Hockey

The third part of my history of women’s hockey was published by WiSP Sports this week.  You can read this and all my other pieces for WiSP here: www.wispsports.com

Laureas World Sports Awards

The Laureas shortlists were released this week.  Two female Britons made the lists:

Sportswoman of the Year award

Simone Biles (US) gymnastics, Allyson Felix (US) athletics, Angelique Kerber (Germany) tennis, Katie Ledecky (US) swimming, Elaine Thompson (Jamaica) athletics, Laura Kenny (GB) cycling.

Action Sportsperson of the Year award

Rachel Atherton (GB) mountain biking, Pedro Barros (Brazil) skateboarding, John John Florence (US) surfing, Chloe Kim (US) snowboarding, Kelly Sildaru (Estonia) freestyle skiing, Tyler Wright (Australia) surfing.

The winners, as voted for by members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, will be announced in Monaco on 14 February.

And finally,

In a survey by England Athletics, more than a third of 2,000 women surveyed said they had suffered some form of harassment when out jogging alone and more than 60% said they feel anxious while running on their own.

It has been suggested that an answer to this is to go out running in groups.  Now I see the value of this, I really do, but it’s not the answer.  There are plenty of benefits to be gained by running with others; the feeling of comradeship, someone to encourage you, making new friends, giving confidence, etc.  Women new to running would especially benefit.

England Athletics has put together a new programme called “Run Together”.  You can access the details here: www.englandatheltics.org

However, I would also point out that running in groups is not for everyone.  Some people run specifically to have time on their own.

And, of course, the real issue is that the women running should not have to change their habits due to the harassment.  Gone are the days (almost) when we say a woman was “asking for it” when they wear short skirts or drink too much.  So why is it the fault of the runner that they receive such abuse?  The harassers should surely change their attitudes and behaviour, not the runners?

I’ll leave it with you.

Apologies but there will be no column next week as I’m away.

Women’s Sports Column

cricket25-11 March

Welcome to this week’s column. This week’s stories come from tennis, football, netball, cycling and cricket.

A good week again for British women’s tennis. After reporting on Heather Watson’s progress in the Monterrey Open last week, she only went on to win it! She beat Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the final 3-6 6-2 6-3. It is Watson’s third WTA title win.

And the tournaments keep on coming. Watson is in action again this week, this time in Indian Wells. She is through to the second round after beating Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 7-6 4-6 6-1. She takes on 32nd seed Monica Niculescu in round two.

One of the most heartening sights of the week was the return of Laura Robson to the WTA tour. She was beaten in the first round at Indian Wells 7-6 6-2 by Magdalena Rybarikova, but the result didn’t really matter. It was the first time Robson had been in a tournament since the US Open in August 2015.

“I’m 100% better. The last time I felt pain was in January,” said Robson in an interview with the BBC.

Of course, we can’t ignore the other big tennis story of the week. Maria Sharapova announced this week that she had failed a drugs test during the Australian Open in January. She tested positive for the banned substance, meldonium. She had been taking the substance since 2006, apparently for health reasons. Meldonium has only been on the banned substances register since the beginning of this year.

The ITF (International Tennis Federation) has provisionally suspended Sharapova. She could face a 2-year ban.

Not wanting to be controversial, but I just wonder what the reaction would have been had it been Serena Williams who had failed the test….

 

After reporting Laura Trott’s first gold medal at the World Track Cycling Championships, needless to say she won again before the event was out, this time in the omnium. She was 12 points ahead when it came to the final 100-lap points race. And she never looked in trouble. She dominated from the start and the gold medal was confirmed with 20 laps to go.

France’s Laurie Berthon finished second with American Sarah Hammer in third.

 

England finished third in the SheBelieves Cup on goals scored after losing against Germany and drawing with France this week.

England were incredibly unlucky against Germany. They led through Toni Duggan header up until the 76th minute when they conceded an own-goal and a penalty to lose the game. Gilly Flaherty put the ball into her own net, which was unlucky enough, but the penalty award was a real shocker. Fara Williams, winning her 150th cap was adjudged to have foul tackled Alexandra Popp, when it was obvious to all except the officials that she took the ball cleanly.

England Head Coach, Mark Sampson, was unhappy about the standard of officiating. This has been a recurrent theme in women’s football recently and will have to be tackled by football’s governing bodies.

Good football was at a premium during the France match, not because the teams weren’t capable, but because the pitch was so dire. France really should have taken the lead in the first half as they had several chances, and England were relieved to go in level at half-time.

To counteract the pitch, both sides resorted to the long ball in the second half, but the deadlock was not to be broken and the game finished 0-0.

The winners of the tournament were USA after they beat Germany 2-1. Germany took the lead through Anja Mittag, but the hosts came back with two goals in six minutes from Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis.

Wales finished the Cyprus Cup without a win. Their last hope was against Hungary on Wednesday, but they lost 2-1 to a goal in the last minute. This was the 5th/6th place play-off. Four games, two draws, two defeats. The tournament winners were Austria. They beat Poland in the final 2-1.

Really sad news from Doncaster Belles this week. Their midfielder Ashleigh Mills has had to retire at the age of 20 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

She posted on Twitter:

“I have tried so hard to get back but my legs just won’t go. Unfortunately this disease cannot be beaten and has taken my dream.”

 

The latest round of Netball Superleague results were as follows:

Friday 4th March
Celtic Dragons 53 45 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 60 44 Loughborough Lightning
 

Saturday 5th March

Yorkshire Jets 44 49 Manchester Thunder
Surrey Storm 50 55 Hertfordshire Mavericks
 

Monday 7th March

Hertfordshire Mavericks 67 45 Celtic Dragons

 

The World T20 Cup starts on Tuesday in India. I’ll be covering it for WSUK, so expect plenty of match reports, news and comment. I’ll keep posting the links on my blog so you can follow it all. England begin on Thursday against Bangladesh. The media coverage is, surprisingly, a bit hit and miss. Some of it is on Sky, some on TMS. So if you can’t follow it live, I suggest you check in on my blog or on WSUK to keep up with what’s going on.

I have previewed the tournament and the chances of the two groups for WSUK: group A and group B.

And finally, Women in Sport has announced its first patron – England women’s football Head Coach, Mark Sampson. Yes, it’s a man. But he is, in my opinion, a really good choice. He is unstinting in his promotion of women’s sport and has the ear of people who may actually be able to make a difference.

In accepting the position he said,

“Greater equality in sport is a cause men need to get behind as much as women do and I look forward to working more closely with the charity to further its mission.”

Women’s Sports Column

laura trott27 Feb – 4 Mar 2016

It’s been another busy week for women’s sport, but is there any other kind? Well yes if the mainstream media are anything to go by….

Off the soapbox and here we go. This week’s stories come from cycling, cricket, tennis, skiing, netball, rugby union and football.

The stunning Laura Trott claimed gold again this week at the Track Cycling World Championships in London. She won the scratch race beating Kirsten Wild from the Netherlands into second. In an interview with the BBC Trott said,

“When I was in the race I wasn’t feeling that good,” said Trott. “But it worked out perfectly for me. I’m so happy. I let everybody get on with it and raced my own race.”

It seemed she was out of it with five laps to go, but she came to take the sixth World Championship gold of her career.

Becky James claimed keirin bronze in an impressive display – just reward for a rider who has suffered so much injury over the last three years. The winner of the race was Germany’s Kristina Vogel with the Australian Anna Meares in second.

The T20 Cricket World Cup draws ever nearer and the warm-up matches and series are still in full flow. The tournament is wide-open and there have been more shocks this week as the New Zealand Silver Ferns beat the Aussies 2-1 in their T20 series. At the moment it appears anyone can beat anyone! I will be covering the World Cup for http://www.womenssportsuk.com/. This will include previews of the two groups next week and daily reports and match reports from matches involving England and Ireland. It’s going to be good – take it from me!

Better news for British tennis this week as both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson progressed to the quarter finals of the Monterrey Open in Mexico. Konta, who is seed fourth will face one of two Belgians, Kirsten Flipkens or Alison van Uytvanck and Watson will be up again second seed Caroline Wozniacki or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

In skiing, after crashing in Andorra last week, Lindsey Vonn is out for the rest of the season. She was carried off on a stretcher on the day, and it appeared that she had sustained a knee injury, but a scan later revealed she has three fractures to her tibial plateau (around the shinbone).

Lots of netball news again this week. On the international front, it has been announced that England will take part in a new tournament in August. It will be held in New Zealand and Australia and is to be called the International Netball Super Series (everything’s “Super” these days isn’t it?).

The first event of the series will be in Auckland. The teams will be the Aussie Diamonds, NZ Ferns, SA Proteas and England Roses.

The Fixtures:

27 August, Auckland: New Zealand v England and Australia v South Africa
31 August, Hamilton: New Zealand v South Africa
31 August, Adelaide: Australia v England
4 September, Melbourne: Australia v New Zealand and England v South Africa

In the Superleague this week the results were as follows:

Saturday 27/2
Celtic Dragons 45 65 Team Bath
Loughborough Lightning 55 54 Surrey Storm
Hertfordshire Mavericks 48 57 Manchester Thunder
 

Monday 29th February

Team Bath 42 56 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Manchester Thunder 49 55 Surrey Storm
Yorkshire Jets 33 55 Celtic Dragons
Team Northumbria 47 46 Loughborough Lightning

This leaves Thunder and Mavericks on top with 15 points. Yorkshire Jets bring up the rear having not won a game yet this season.

The SheBelieves Cup began on March 3 with wins for Germany and USA. England were narrowly beaten 1-0 by the World Champions from a stunning 20-yard strike in the 72nd minute from Crystal Dunn. It was a tight game, though, and England possibly deserved a draw. England’s best chance fell to Toni Duggan, who, instead of crossing to a free player in the box, decided to shoot and her shot was easily saved by Hope Solo in the USA goal.

Germany beat France also 1-0 with an 83rd minute goal from Leonie Maier.

England play Germany next on 6 March. It will be live on the BBC from 10.45pm.

On a domestic note, the Media playback is not supported on this device

Women’s FA Cup fifth-round draw has been announced:

All ties are due to be played on 20 March

Birmingham City v Arsenal

Doncaster Belles v Chelsea

Brighton & Hove Albion v Sporting Club Albion

Reading v Millwall Lionesses

Yeovil Town v Sunderland

Liverpool v Manchester City

Notts County v Durham

Aston Villa v Everton

It was a close round of Six Nations Six Nations games last weekend. England beat Ireland in a tight match at Twickenham on Saturday 13-9. Read my match report at www.womenssportsuk.com. On Sunday, Italy beat Scotland 22-7. This represents a big improvement for Scotland, who have shown great heart during this year’s tournament. And in the third match, Wales claimed a notable scalp beating France 10-8.

And finally, while watching the live stream of the England v Ireland Six Nations game on Saturday, I began to have an interesting Twitter discussion with a couple of fellow women’s sports-lovers. We had all come to the same conclusion; if ITV had the cameras and personnel at Twickenham on Saturday to cover the men’s game, why couldn’t they have broadcast the women’s game as well? It needn’t have been on ITV1, but could have been on ITV4, where they show a lot of their sport. It would have sent a clear message to the rugby-watching public that the women’s game was worth investing in. But no, although it was on 5Live Sports Xtra it was only streamed on the RFU website. Come on, ITV get it sorted, or else we’re going to be stuck in the cycle of no promotion, no investment, no sponsorship, no interest for ever.

 

Women’s Sports Column

8-15 January

So much going on!  Plenty of news this week from cricket, football, rugby union, darts, skiing, motor racing and tennis.  Phew!

But first, it’s a year since the launch of the This Girl Can campaign.  Figures released this week show that 1.6m girls and women between 14 and 40 have started exercise as a result of the initiative.  More than half a million follow the campaign on social media.  And though it’s not for me to advertise retailers, I must add that there is a great new range of sports clothing featuring the This Girl Can slogan now available at Marks and Spencer.  This is the second selection – the first having sold out in no time flat!

If you haven’t bought into it yet, I would encourage you to do so – whatever age, size or shape you are there is something out there that you can enjoy and even excel at.  Check it out.

In cricket, the ECB yesterday announced the six “hosts” (we’re still not using the word “franchises”) who have won four-year contracts for the new Women’s Cricket Super League, which begins this summer.

They are:

Hampshire Cricket with partners: Berkshire Cricket Ltd, Dorset Cricket Board, Isle of Wight Cricket Board, Oxfordshire Cricket, Southampton Solent University, Sussex Cricket, Wiltshire Cricket

Lancashire County Cricket Board with partners: Lancashire County Cricket Club, Lancashire County Cricket Club Foundation

Loughborough University

South West: Somerset County Cricket Club, Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, University of Exeter

Surrey County Cricket Club

Yorkshire County Cricket Club

The most surprising omission from the list is the combined MCC/Middlesex bid which did not get through.  At the moment there are no more details, but follow this column and details will be added as soon as they have been released.

WBBL is reaching its climax in Australia.  Numbers of games played has evened out somewhat and top of the pile at the moment is Sydney Thunder with eight wins from 12 games – 16 points.  Second comes Hobart Hurricanes on 14 points from the same number of games and third, behind on net run rate only, the Melbourne Stars.  The other Melbourne side, the Renegades is rock bottom on six points from 11 matches.

In international football, a new tournament was announced this week – the SheBelieves Cup It will take place in March in America and will be between the hosts, England, Germany and France.  England will play USA on 4 March, Germany on 6 March and France on 10 March.  No news yet as to radio or TV coverage.

Coach, Mark Sampson is keen to take part:

“The opportunity to compete against the three best teams in the world is a crucial step in providing more opportunities for the team to develop.

“Women’s soccer in the USA is on a real high since their World Cup success and we are excited to feel that sense of enthusiasm for the game in some wonderful football stadiums.

“We are thankful to the USA for their work in setting up the event which I am sure in years to come will grow into a stand-out tournament in the women’s football calendar.”

More good news for England this week as Mark Sampson signed an extended contract which will keep him as coach until 2019.

In more international news, the Ballon d’Or awards were held this week.   Unsurprisingly, USA national team coach, Jill Ellis was named 2015 FIFA Coach of the Year for Women’s Football.  Norio Sasaki (Japan) was second Mark Sampson (England), third.

The FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year was USA’s Carli Lloyd.  She scored a 13-minute hat-trick in the World Cup Final of 2015 against Japan.  Runners-up were Celia Sasic (Germany) and Aya Miyama (Japan).

 In domestic news, Millie Farrow and Jodie Brett have joined Bristol City from Chelsea on a season-long loan.

 And finally, as regards football, the FA have named Baroness Sue Campbell as the new Head of

Women’s Football.  Baroness Campbell was head of UK Sport from 2003-2013.

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of participation and development, called Baroness Campbell “one of the most influential people in British sport”.

Campbell’s priorities will be the encouragement of grassroots women’s football and the continued improvement of the England women’s teams.

The rugby Premiership final will be between reigning champions, Saracens, and Richmond.

There were contrasting semi-finals last weekend as Saracens had to fight hard to beat a tough Lichfield side 19-12 at Allianz Park.  The second semi-final saw Richmond take Worcester apart with a 35-0 win.

 The final, at the Twickenham Stoop, will be live on Sky Sports 5 on Sunday 17 January.  The programme begins at 17.25 and the game begins at 17.30.

 At the other end of the table, the relegation decider will be between Wasps and Aylesford.  This also takes place this weekend.

 Results and news in next week’s column.

Trina Gulliver duly triumphed in the BDO darts final last Saturday, to take her 10th title.  In an all-English final, she beat Deta Hedman 3-2.  It was yet another disappointment for Hedman, who lost her third Lakeside final.

It’s good to report on a bit of skiing and Lindsey Vonn is always worth a few words.  Vonn claimed her second win in two days this week at the Alpine Skiing World Cup event in Austria, when she won in the super-G.

 She had already won the downhill on Saturday, which equalled Annemarie Moser-Proll’s record of 36 World Cup downhill wins.

 Vonn is still some way short of the overall World Cup wins record, which belongs to Ingemar Stenmark with 86.  Vonn stands on 73.

Only two months after retiring from driving in Formula 1, Susie Wolff this week unveiled her new initiative to get more women into motorsport.

The new scheme, called Dare to be Different, aims to encourage women in motorsport but also to increase their confidence and knowledge in other areas, including the media, nutrition, fitness and diet.

According to Wolff it is not necessarily about finding the next female F1 driver, but to

“build an online community of women from all over the world.

“It will connect them through a shared passion and empower them to become the next wave of role models, while also providing access to some of the most successful female names in the sport.”

The women involved will also mentor each other and one outstanding candidate will earn a scholarship in karting.

 After Wolff’s somewhat discouraging experiences in this most male-dominated sport, it is good to see that she thinks progress can be made and even better that she thinks she is the one to take the lead.

The draw for the Australian Tennis Open has been made.  There are two British women in the draw with Johanna Konta up against it having drawn eighth seed Venus Williams in the first round.  Heather Watson will be more evenly matched as she comes up against Timea Babos of Hungary.  Watson is currently 53 in the world with Babos at 59.

Naomi Broady will not be in the draw, after having such a good run in Auckland a fortnight ago.  She was knocked out in the first round of qualifying, losing 6-3 2-6 6-3 to world number 166 Alize Lim.  According to ranking it was a match Broady, at 112 in the world, should have won.

And finally, at the risk of this beginning to turn into some sort of That’s Life misshaped carrot slot, I couldn’t resist this.  Is it an elaborate spoof?  I would like to think so, but I fear not.  Hilarity and outrage in equal measure (although I think outrage just about wins out….)

ladyball

The Ladyball. Yes, the Ladyball – see illustration above.  With tag lines like “Don’t break a nail, break boundaries” and “Play like the lady you are”, this Irish product is the most extraordinarily offensive thing I have seen in a while.  It is pink (of course), soft and smaller than the usual football and therefore “specially designed for the lady’s game”. It’s also advertised by scantily-clad “ladies” in 5-inch heels.  Not sure any sort of ball would be suitable for playing in them.  I’m still hoping someone will inform me that it’s a wind-up……