Women’s Sports Column 16-22 March 2019

curlingWelcome to this week’s column.  Back with a vengeance this week with stories from rugby union, netball, football, hockey, cycling, cricket, winter sports and tennis.

Rugby Union

Six Nations
England retained their Six Nations championship title at the weekend, winning the Grand Slam as they crushed Scotland in their final match, 80-0.  An improving Italy finished second in the table as they beat France on Sunday and Wales beat Ireland.

16 March
England 80-0 Scotland

The Red Roses scored their first try of 12 after just two minutes when flanker Sarah Beckett went over.

Jess Breach scored a second four minutes later, and after 12 minutes they were three up through Natasha Hunt.  Breach scored her second on 17 minutes and so after 20 minutes England were already 26-0 up.

Kelly Smith scored England’s fifth after a fine scrum and the bonus point was already secured.

Poppy Cleall then went over and it was 40-0.  Things then went from bad to worse for Scotland as their captain Lisa Thomson was yellow-carded.

England took advantage of the extra player and Amy Cockayne made it seven tries before half-time.

After the break, with Scotland still down to 14, England piled on the pressure.  Prop Sarah Bern and captain Sarah Hunter both going over before Thomson’s return.

The other tries came from Emily Scarratt, Cleall with a second and second-half replacement Cath O’Donnell.

Katy Daley-McLean was in excellent form with the boot, slotting nine conversions and Scarratt added one right at the end.

17 March
Wales 24-5 Ireland

Ireland went into the lead after 13 minutes with a try from Beibhinn Parsons, but this was to be their only score.

Wales were level five minutes later through Jess Kavanagh.

Siwan Lillicrap was sin-binned for a high tackle for the home side, but Wales didn’t buckle, instead taking the initiative and did not concede in the ten minute period.

Once they were back to 15, Wales scored through Carys Phillips and they were in the lead.

In the second-half Wales scored two more tries through Beth Lewis and Jasmine Joyce, the latter securing the bonus point for the home side.

Italy 31-12 France

Italy capped a fine Six Nations with another excellent performance against France, which gave them second spot in the table.

The home side opened the scoring on 20 minutes through Sofia Stefan.

France levelled shortly before half-time as Caroline Boujard ran in from a Pauline Bourdon pass.

But Italy weren’t finished as Michela Sillari put over a penalty and the Azzure went in 8-5 ahead.

After the break, Sillari slotted another penalty as Coumba Diallo was sin-binned for France.  Then Italy went over again through hooker Melissa Bettoni.

Sillari’s third penalty made it 21-5 to Italy.

France rallied to score their second try through Ian Jason, which was converted by Jessy Trémoulière.

But Italy were not to be outdone and scored a fourth through Manuela Furlan, securing the bonus point and second place.

Cricket

England v Sri Lanka

England completed a 3-0 ODI series win over Sri Lanka this week.  Sorry, no time for reports, but here are the details:

First ODI
England 331/7 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 159/8 (40 overs, target 314)
England won by 154 runs by D/L method

Nat Sciver scored 93 and Amy Jones 79.

Second ODI
Sri Lanka 187/9 (50 overs)
England 188/4 (33.4/50 overs)
England won by 6 Wickets with 99 balls remaining

Alex Hartley took 3/36 from 10 overs.  Amy Jones top scored for England with 54.

Third ODI
Sri Lanka 174 all out (50 overs)
England 177/2 (26.1/50 overs)
England won by 8 wickets with 143 balls remaining

Amy Jones top scored with 76 – that’s three half centuries in three games.  Tammy Beaumont scored 63.

There are three T20s to come: 24, 26, 28 March.

Tennis

Indian Wells

There was a surprise winner at Indian Wells last weekend as wildcard Bianca Andreescu defeated Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4.

Andreescu had three match points on her serve, but was eventually broken as Kerber brought it back to be just 5-4 behind.

But then Andreescu produced some of her best tennis to break the German back and take the match.

Football – on the Pitch

Champions’ League Quarter-finals First Leg
Chelsea 2-0 Paris St Germain

Goals from Hannah Blundell and Erin Cuthbert see Chelsea take a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their quarter-final which takes place in Paris on 27 March.

FA Cup Quarter-finals

Durham 0-1 Chelsea
Ji So-yun’s goal was enough to see holders Chelsea through to the semi-finals of this year’s FA Cup.

Manchester City 3-0 Liverpool

Janine Beckie scored the first for City in the first-half and they went into the break 1-0 up.  In the second-half, Georgia Stanway, on as substitute for Beckie, scored their second and added a third late on to see them through convincingly.

Reading 2-1 Manchester United
Neither side could make the decisive breakthrough in 90 minutes and the tie went to extra time.

United took the lead through and Alex Greenwood penalty, but Remi Allen equalised to make it 1-1.  Fara Williams looked to have won it for Reading as she scored direct from a corner, but it was ruled out for an infringement in the box.

But Reading didn’t give up and got their reward in the 120th minute when substitute and Iceland international Rakel Honnudottir scored from close range.

Aston Villa 0-1 West Ham
Scotland forward Jane Ross scored the only goal of the game to take West Ham through to the semi-finals.

Semi-Final Draw

Manchester City v Chelsea
Reading v West Ham United

Ties will be played on Sunday 14 April.

Spanish League
I couldn’t let this go by without a mention.  On Sunday, the crowd for the Liga Feminina match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid drew a crowd of 60,739.  I feel like I should write that out in words, sixty thousand, seven hundred and thirty-nine people.

Barcelona won the game 2-0 with goals from Asisat Oshoala and England’s own Toni Duggan.

Atletico are top of the table with 66 points from 24 games.  Barcelona are three points behind in second on 63.  Levante are third, way back on 51.

Football – off the Pitch
Women’s Super League BIG News

I hope you’ve all heard and digested this news already, but I couldn’t leave it out, could I?

At last, I say at last, the Women’s Super League is to have its first ever title sponsor.

Barclays have committed to a deal to the tune of what is thought to be in excess of £10m over three years.

The FA is, unsurprisingly, pleased with itself, calling it “the biggest ever investment in UK women’s sport by a brand.”

The WSL will be known as the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and there will be £500,000 of prize money at the end of the season.

Barclays will also be the lead partner of the FA Girls Football School Partnerships which aims to improve the availability of football to girls in schools.

We’re always using the term “game changer”, but this probably is.  Now trying telling us women’s football isn’t worth anything.  No business invests in a “useless” product.

And backwards we go…

However, it’s not woo-hoo all the way this week:

Yeovil Town

It has been reported this week that Yeovil may go back to being part-time at the end of the season.

They have already made three off-field personnel redundant.

The FA is believed to be trying to support them through this crisis but even if they avoid relegation (they are currently bottom of the league and five points away from safety), they may be demoted if they cannot assure the FA that their financial future is secure.

I hope there’s an answer to all this – I don’t want to see Yeovil go the way of Notts County.

Sophie Jones

There was a second unwelcome story this week as Sheffield United forward Sophie Jones was found guilty of racially abusing Tottenham Hotspur’s Renee Hector.

Jones has consistently denied the allegations, but has had her contract terminated by Sheffield United.   She has been suspended for five matches, fined £200 and must go on an educational course.

2023 World Cup

I know we’ve still got a World Cup to come this year, but the quest to hold the 2023 version is now underway.  And does it seem that countries are seeing the potential of women’s football at last?  A record nine countries have expressed an interest in hosting the event.  They are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.  Apparently North and South Korea are also looking at making a joint bid.

The closing date for expressions of interest is 16 April.  More news as it happens.

Winter Sports

Skiing

On Sunday Mikaela Shiffrin of the USA became the first skier to win World Cup titles in overall, slalom, giant slalom and super-G in the same season.

She completed the set in Andorra when she won the giant slalom in 23.17 seconds, beating Alice Robinson of New Zealand into second.  She had already won the super-G earlier at the event.

Curling

Women’s Curling World Championships
The Championships which is currently taking place in Silkeborg in Denmark, runs from 16-24 March.  We are currently at the round robin stage.

The defending champions are Canada and those taking part in addition to Canada are USA, Korea, Switzerland, Japan, China, Finland, Latvia, Scotland, hosts Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Germany.

We are nearly at the end of the round robin stage with the qualification games (3 v 6 and 4-5), semi-finals, bronze medal game and gold medal game taking place this weekend.

So far Sweden, Russia and Korea have qualified for the play-offs.  There are three places still up for grabs with Switzerland, China and the United States in prime position.  Scotland, unfortunately, will not be amongst them having won four and lost seven of their matches.

Cycling
Para-cycling Track World championships

Great Britain’s para-cyclists had a good event.

Sophie Thornhill and pilot Helen Scott won two golds: in the B 500m Time Trial and the B sprint.

Kadeena Cox won gold in the C4 500m Time Trial and Sarah Storey took silver in the C5 version of this event.  Katie Toft took silver in the C1 version, but only gold was awarded.

Sarah Storey also won two golds; in the C5 Individual Pursuit and C5 Scratch Race.  Crystal lane-Wright took silver in the same Scratch Race.

Lora Fachie won bronze in the B Individual Pursuit.

Volleyball

Super League Top 5
16 March
London Orcas 3-0 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21, 25-16, 25-12)
TeamBU Wessex 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (18-25, 17-25, 21-25)

Tendring are top with 36 points from 14 matches.  Durham Palatinates are a point behind with 35 from 13.

Super League Bottom 4
16 March
Sheffield Hallam 2-3 Polonia SideOut London (25-21, 17-25, 25-20, 14-25, 7-15)

Sheffield top the bottom four table with 16 points from 12 matches.

17 March
Bristol VC1 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (25-19, 25-23, 26-24)

Netball

What a fixture to be live on Sky this week!  Lightning beat leaders Wasps in a thrilling match, by one point.  The winner was scored by Mary Cholhok with just four seconds remaining on the clock.  Brilliant stuff from Loughborough as Wasps suffered only their second defeat of the season.

Last weekend’s Vitality Super League were as follows:

Saturday 16 March
Team Bath 56-50 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 53-44 Strathclyde Sirens
Saracens Mavericks 49-57 Manchester Thunder

Monday 18 March
Loughborough Lightning 60-59 Wasps Netball

Manchester Thunder have taken over at the top and are in ominous form.  They have the slightest goal average advantage over Wasps in second.  Both teams have 24 points from 10 games.  Saracens Mavericks are third with 21 and Loughborough Lightning are fourth, also on 21.  At the bottom, London Pulse still have only one win and three points.  Strathclyde Sirens are above them with six points and two wins.

Round 11 is this weekend:

Friday 22 March
Team Bath v Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm)

Saturday 23 March
Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball (5pm)
Severn Stars v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Surrey Storm (6pm)

Monday 25 March
Celtic Dragons v London Pulse (7pm, Live on Sky Sports)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

16 March results:
Canterbury 2-1 East Grinstead
University of Birmingham 0-1 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 1-4 Surbiton
Slough 0-0 Beeston
Buckingham 0-2 Holcombe

All teams have played 16 games.  Holcombe are top with 35 points, Surbiton second a point behind and East Grinstead are third with 28.  At the bottom, Canterbury have eight points.  Just above them are Slough on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures:

23 March
Buckingham v University of Birmingham (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Surbiton v Slough (1pm, Surbiton HC, water)
Beeston v Canterbury (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
East Grinstead v Bowdon (2pm, East Grinstead HC)
Holcombe v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Holcombe HC, P1)

FIH Pro League

There have been four games over the last week:

Saturday 16 March
Australia 0-1 Argentina

Sunday 17 March
Australia 1-3 New Zealand

Thursday 21 March
China 0-1 Argentina

Friday 22 March
China 5-3 New Zealand

Different teams have played different numbers of games, but currently Netherlands are top with a points percentage of 80.0 from five games.  Argentina are second with 76.2 from seven games and Belgium are third on 66.7, but have played only three games.  Great Britain are eighth with a points percentage of 22.2 from just three games.

And Finally,

Big, big news in sports media this week as the Daily Telegraph finally put its money where its mouth is and announced its first Women’s Sports Editor, the completely excellent Anna Kessel.  It’s not often I have cause to praise the Telegraph, but this move is a brilliant one and will hopefully cause many other news outlets to follow suit.  It has already signed up Dina Asher-Smith as a columnist.

You can read the full story, and its “manifesto” here

You will know that I have an issue with the “ghettoising” of women’s sport – do we give it its own space, far away from everything else, so those offended (and there are still plenty), do not have to view it (although they will still comment anyway)?  Or do we mix it in with everything else because essentially “sport is sport”.  It’s a difficult one, but at the moment the issue is that there’s little coverage at all.  Not in a ghetto, not on its own page, not anywhere (starting to sound a bit like Dr Seuss there).  So, let’s get it in there first.  Let’s get it its own pages, web page and identity and see where we go from there.

Come on, all you other media outlets, get with it.  You know it’s going to be big – AT LONG LAST.  Don’t get left behind.  If consumers don’t get what they want from their coverage of women’s sport, they will vote with their paper-buying, website-viewing feet.

And, and Finally,

Go for it, Tayla Harris.  Need I say more?

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. 

 

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 9-15 February 2019

running track

Welcome to this week’s column.  With news of Lindsey Vonn’s last race, the wonderful Six Nations, football, netball, hockey, athletics, volleyball, cricket, speed skating and tennis I’d better get on…

Football

FAWSL

Last weekend’s results:

Sunday 10 February

Bristol City 0-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Manchester City 2-2 Chelsea
Wullaert 12’, Stanway 24’
So-yun Ji 50’, 89’

FAWC

Sunday 10 February

London Bees 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Dean 14’ (Pen), Johnson 22’ (OG), Wiltshire 47’

Leicester City 2-3 Crystal Palace
James 68’, Dugmore 74’
Whinnett 57’, Bryan 64’, 84’

FA Cup – Remaining Fourth Round Ties

We now know the full fifth round line-up, after the fourth was completed at the weekend:

Durham 5-1 Cardiff City
Millwall Lionesses 1-0 Lewes
Reading 13-0 Keynsham Town
Liverpool 6-0 MK Dons
Loughborough Foxes 0-2 Sheffield United
Charlton 3-3 Huddersfield Town (Huddersfield won 5-4 on penalties)
Stoke City 1-2 Aston Villa
Yeovil Town 1-3 Birmingham City

The fifth round takes place this Sunday, 17 February.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

The league was back after its winter break last weekend:

9 February

Buckingham 2-1 Surbiton
Slough 1-1 Canterbury
University of Birmingham 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Beeston 2-1 Bowdon
East Grinstead 1-2 Holcombe

10 February

Bowdon 4-1 Slough

All teams have played 11 now except Bowdon and Slough who have played 12.  With Surbiton suffering their third defeat of the season, Holcombe are now top with 25 points.  Surbiton are second on 22 with East Grinstead third on 19.  At the bottom, Canterbury have four points from 11, and Slough are just above them on eight, having played the extra game.

This weekend’s fixtures will take them all to 12 games played:

16 February

Clifton Robinsons v Buckingham (1pm, Coombe Dingle P1)
Holcombe v Beeston (2pm, Holcombe HC P1)
Canterbury v University of Birmingham (4pm, Polo Farm SC, P1)
Surbiton v East Grinstead (4pm, Surbiton HC Water)

Hockey – off the Pitch

Maddie Hinch has been named FIH Female Goalkeeper of the Year for the third year running.

Ayeisha McFerran (Ireland), Rachael Lynch (Australia), Maria Ruiz (Spain) and Ye Jiao (China) were also shortlisted.

Winter Sports

Speed Skating

Elise Christie won silver in the 500m at the last World Cup event of the season in Turin.

Martina Valcepina of Italy took gold and Maame Biney of the USA the bronze.

Lindsey Vonn

After crashing out in her penultimate race, the super-G at the Alpine World Championships in Are, Sweden the previous Tuesday, Vonn made amends in her last race, the downhill, winning bronze.  Defending champion Ilka Stuhec took gold and Corinne Soutar, silver.

In winning the bronze, Vonn became the first female skier to win a medal at six World Championships.  What a way to go out!

Cricket

Alyssa Healy scooped three prizes at the Australian Cricket Awards this week.  She won female ODI player of the year (6 matches, 329 runs at an average of 54.83), female T20I player of the year (17 matches, 578 runs at an average of 41.29) and also the Belinda Clark Award.

The Betty Wilson young cricketer of the year award went to Georgia Wareham and female domestic player of the year was Heather Graham.

Rugby Union – Six Nations

England 41-26 France

Quite surprisingly, this game was only ever going one way.  England were 24-0 up and coasting at half-time, and although France came back to put a good number of points on the scoreboard, it was never going to be enough to overhaul the Red Roses.

A record crowd of 4,674 were at Doncaster to see it.

England scorers:
Tries: Breach (2), Cleall (2), Smith, Botterman, O’Donnell
Conversions: Mclean (3)

France scorers:
Tries: Bourdon (2), N’Diaye, R Menager
Conversions Bourdon (3)

Italy 3-3 Wales

Stalemate in Lecce as neither side could make the decisive score to win the match.  Robyn Wilkins scored a penalty to give Wales the lead after 30 minutes.  In the second half, Michaela Sillari drew the home side level with a penalty on the hour.

Wales thought they had snatched it late on when Jasmine Joyce went over from a breakaway, but the visitors were pulled back for a forward pass.

The home side then had a chance to win it, but a second Sillari penalty went wide.

Italy scorers:
Pen: Sillari

Wales
Pen: Wilkins

Scotland 5-22 Ireland

Ireland opened the scoring through Aoife McDermott, but Scotland drew level through Hannah Smith.

It looked as if they would go into the break level, but Ireland had other ideas as Leah Lyons went over again to make it 10-5 to the away side at half-time.

Straight into the second-half Ireland were on the attack again and five minutes in Alison Miller grabbed their third try of the match.

Anna Caplice bagged the bonus point try just before the hour, picking up the ball from the back of a ruck to crash over.

Scotland scorers:
Tries: Smith

Ireland scorers:
Tries: McDermott, Lyons, Miller, Caplice
Conversions: Fowley

Other Rugby News

It was announced this week that England will play the Barbarians at Twickenham in June.  The Barbarians’ women’s side was only formed in October 2017.  This will be the first time they have played England.

They will play before the men’s team in a double-header on Sunday 2 June.

The game kicks off at 12.45pm with the men’s following at 3pm.

Tennis – on the Court

Fed Cup

Group A

Great Britain 2-0 Hungary
Katie Boulter triumphed in the first rubber against Dalma Galfi 6-4 6-7 7-6.  This was followed by another three set victory for Jo Konta 6-2 6-7 7-6.

Greece 2-1 Slovenia
Valentini Grammatikopoul beat Kaja Juvan 7-6 5-7 6-3.  Maria Sakkari defeated Dalila Jakupovic 4-6 6-4 6-3.  The doubles rubber was a walkover for Slovenia.

Group B

Serbia 2-1 Croatia
Olga Danilovic defeated Jana Fett in the first rubber 2-6 6-2 7-6.  The second went to Croatia as Donna Vekic beat Aleksandra Krunic 1-6 7-5 6-1.  The deciding doubles went to Danilovi and Krunic as they beat Jurak and Konjuh 1-6 6-1 6-4

Turkey 3-0 Georgia
Cagla Buyukakcay defeated Mariam Bolkvadze in the first rubber 6-4 6-1.  In the second, Pemra Ozgen beat Ekaterine Gorgodze 7-6 6-3.  The doubles were a walkover to Turkey.

Great Britain and Serbia finished top of their respective groups, each winning three from thee ties.  They faced each other in the promotion play-off

GB 2-0 Serbia
In the play-off, both Boulter and Konta kept up their tremendous run of form:

Boulter beat Ivana Jorovic in the first rubber 6-4 6-3 Konta struggled in her match and was visibly distressed at the end through physical exhaustion.  She came through her match against Aleksandra Krunic 7-6 3-6 6-2.  The doubles rubber was not played.

The World Cup Group II play-off draw was also made this week and GB have a home tie.

They will play Kazakhstan in April with the venue yet to be announced, although it may well be at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Meanwhile, the World Group semi-finals look like this:

20-21 April

France v Romania
Australia v Belarus

Qatar Open

Having seen off Sam Stosur in qualifying (7-6 3-6 6-4), unseeded Anna Blinkova then put out seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova 7-6 6-4.  She finally succumbed in the next round, to Barbora Strycova in a bizarrely scored match, 6-0 3-6 6-0 to the unseeded Strycova.

We are now at the semi-final stage, which will be completed today, Friday 15 February:

Simona Halep (1) v Elina Svitolina (4)
Angelique Kerber (3) v Elise Mertens

We are also at the semi-final stage in the doubles, with only one seeded pairing left in the competition.  Both games again today, 15 February:

Chan Hao-Ching/Latisha Chan v Jelena Ostapenko/Veronika Kudermetova
Alison Riske/Ons Jabeur v Demi Schuurs/Anna-Lena Grönefeld (4)

Tennis – off the Court

Maria Sharapova had withdrawn from next month’s Indian Wells tournament.

She is suffering ongoing problems from a shoulder injury that has forced her to withdraw or retire from two of her last three events since playing in the US Open in September.

Volleyball

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

9 February

Durham Palatinates 3-0 Malory Eagles UEL (25-16, 25-18, 25-22)
London Orcas 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (17-25, 14-25, 15-25)

Durham are top with 29 points from 10 games.  Tendring are second with22 from nine.

Women’s Super League Bottom 4:

9 February

Sheffield Hallam 3-1 Birmingham Volley Club1 (25-17, 25-22, 25-27, 25-16)

All teams have played nine games.  Sheffield are top with 12 points, then come Polonia SideOut London (6), Bristol VC1 (4) and Birmingham Volley Club1 (3).

Athletics

British Indoor Championships

More team GB places have been booked as we build up to the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March.

Results in full:
Pole vault: 1. Holly Bradshaw (4,80m), 2. Jade Ive (4.40m), 3. Sophie Cook 4.30m)
Triple Jump: 1. Naomi Ogbeta (14.05m), 2. Laura Samuel (13.61m), 3. Alexandra Russell (13.27m)
60m hurdles: 1. Cindy Ofili (8.16), 2. Katarina Johnson-Thompson (8.27), 3. Gabriella Ade-Onojobi *13.21)
60m: 1. Asha Philip (7.19), 2. Rachel Miller (7.20), 3. Kristal Awuah (7.35)
3000m: 1. Laura Muir (8:48.03), 2. Melissa Courtney (8:50.61), 3. Amy Eloise Neale (8:59.86)
Shot Put: 1. Sophie McKinna (17.97m), 2. Amelia Strickler (17.28m), 3. Adele Nicoll (15.58m)
5000m walk: 1. Heather Lewis (22:55.15), 2. Madeline Shott (25:15.58), 3. Pagen Spooner (26:43.74)
Long Jump: 1. Katarina Johnson-Thompson (6.46m), 2. Jahisha Thomas (6.36m), Abigail Irozuru (6.35m)
High jump: 1. Morgan Lake (1.94m), 2. Bethan Partridge (1.87m), 3. Nikki Manson (1.80m)
400m: 1. Zoey Clark (52.85), 2. Amber Anning (53.00), 3. Laviai Nielsen (53.03)
200m: 1. Hayley Mills (23.59), 2. Kiah Dubarry-Gay (24.01), 3. Melissa Roberts (24.28)
800m: 1. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (2:05.04), 2. Mari Smith (2:05.68), 3. Adelle Tracey (2:05.72)
1500m: 1. Jemma Reekie (4:17.08), 2. Sarah McDonald (4:18.10), 3. Katie Snowden ( 4:19.34)

Netball

Last weekend’s Vitality Superleague results were as follows:

Friday 8 February
Strathclyde Sirens 46-50 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 9 February
Severn Stars 49-62 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning 50-75 Team Bath

Monday 11 February
London Pulse 49-69 Surrey Storm
Wasps Netball 54-50 Saracens Mavericks

Wasps are still top with four wins from four.  Manchester Thunder are second on the same points but with an inferior goal average.  Team Bath are third on nine points from four games.  At the bottom, there are two teams with three points from five games; London Pulse and Strathclyde Sirens.

This weekend’s round six fixtures:

Saturday 16 February
Manchester Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (5pm)
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm (6pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Team Bath (6pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Monday 18 February
Celtic Dragons v Wasps Netball (7pm)
London Pulse v Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm)

And Finally,

Is she a woman?  Is she a man?  It still seems that no-one can agree.  While they debate her physical make-up, what happens to Caster Semenya’s mental health?  How does she feel having her gender debated in this way?  Will she have to undergo treatment to lower her testosterone levels?  If so, when tested she will have show the lower levels six months before competition.

Earlier this week it was reported that the IAAF’s lawyers will say Semenya is a “biological male”.  The organisation has denied this.

Now Semenya’s lawyer has said that she is “unquestionably a woman”.

Semenya herself says,

“It is not fair. I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.

“It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am.”

I’m not arguing with her.  I just want her to be able to run – where she wants to run.

Not here next week, so more news and views in a fortnight. 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 February 2019

new tennisWelcome to this week’s column. Top has to be news from the first Fed Cup ties to be held in Great Britain for 26 years.  But there’s plenty of other stuff for us to get our teeth into.  Stories this week come from netball, football, cricket, hockey, tennis, volleyball, rugby union plus a bumper selection of winter sports stories.

Let’s crack on.

Tennis

Fed Cup

A quick recap on what GB are aiming to do at this four-day tournament in Bath:

Eight teams split into two groups for the Europe/Africa round robin event.  Eventually just one team will go on to the play-off event in April which will decide who wins promotion to the second tier of the Fed Cup structure.

Wednesday 6 February

Group A: GB, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia

Great Britain 3-0 Slovenia. 

Katie Boulter started it all off with a straight sets win over Kaja Juvan 6-4 6-2.  Then Jo Konta beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 6-2.

The win was sealed by GB’s doubles team of Harriet Dart and Katie Swan who beat Jakupovic and Juvan 6-4 6-2.

Hungary 2-1 Greece
Dalma Galfi beat Valentini Grammatikopoulou 6-0 6-3
Maria Sakkari beat Anna Bondar 6-3 6-2
Dalma Galfi and Reka-Luca Jani beat Maria Sakkari and Despina Papamichail 6-3 6-4.

Group B: Croatia, Georgia, Serbia, Turkey

Croatia 2-1 Turkey
Cagla Buyukakcay beat Ana Konjuh 7-6 2-6 6-3
Donna Vekic beat Pemra Ozgen 7-6 6-3
Jana Fett and Darija Jurak beat Cagla Buyukakcay and Pemra Ozgen 6-4 6-4

Serbia 2-1 Georgia
Ivana Jorovic beat Mariam Bolkvadze 6-3 6-1
Olga Danilovic beat Ekaterine Gorgodze 7-5 6-3
Mariam Bolkvadze and Oksana Kalashnikova beat Olga Danilovic and Ivana Jorovic 6-3 7-5

On Saturday, the two group winners will play each other, with the winners progressing to the April play-offs.

Thursday 7 February

Group A

Great Britain 3-0 Greece

Boulter started it again, beating Valentini Grammatikopoulou in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-3.

Konta also took three sets to beat Maria Sakkari 4-6 6-2 6-3 and the doubles pairing of Dart and Swan made it 3-0 winning over Anna Arkadianou and Despina Papamichail 6-1 6-4.

Hungary 3-0 Slovenia
Dalma Galfi beat Kaja Juvan 6-1 6-4
Anna Bondar beat Dalila Jakupovic 4-6 6-1 6-4
Reka-Luca Jani and Adrienn Nagy beat Nina Potocnik and Nika Radisic 7-4 4-6 6-2

Group B

Croatia 2-1 Georgia
Ana Konjuh beat Mariam Bolkvadze 6-4 6-3
Ekaterine Gorgodze beat Jana Fett 4-6 6-3 7-5
Darija Jurak and Ana Konjuh beat Ekaterine Gorgodze and Oksana Kalashnikova 7-5 6-1

Serbia 3-0 Turkey
Ivana Jorovic beat Cagla Buyukakcay 6-2 6-3
Aleksandra Krunic beat Pemra Ogzen 3-6 6-4 6-2
Olga Danilovic and Aleksandra Krunic beat Berfu Cengiz and Ipek Soylu 6-2 6-3

Still to come:

Friday, 8 February

Group A
Great Britain v Hungary (16:30)
Greece v Slovenia (16:30)

Group B
Serbia v Croatia (10:00)
Turkey v Georgia (10:00)

On Saturday, the two group winners will play each other, with the winners progressing to the April play-offs.

Saturday, 9 February

Play-off: TBC v TBC (16:30)

St Petersburg Open

In the semi-finals, eighth seed Donna Vekic saw off the challenge of Vera Zvonareva 6-2 6-2 and second seed Kiki Bertens beat fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 6-2.

Bertens then went on to win the final against Vekic 7-6 6-4.

Thailand Open

In the semi-finals, eighth seed Dayana Yastremska defeated Magda Linette 6-4 6-3 and sixth seed Ajla Tomljanovic beat Tamara Zidansek 6-4 6-1.

Yastremeska went on to win an exciting final 6-2 2-6 7-6.

She took a 5-0 lead in the first set, eventually taking it 6-2.  Tomljanovic roared back in the second to take it by the same score.  It looked as though the momentum was with Tomljanovic, as she went into 5-2 lead in the final set, but Yastremska came back to take it to a tiebreak, which she won to three.

Rugby Union

Six Nations Championships

There were wins for England, France and Italy in the first round at the weekend.

Ireland 7-51 England

There were eight different try scorers for England as they made a great start to the championship.  Katy Daley-McLean also scored 16 points including a try.  Ireland’s score came through a penalty try on the hour when England were penalised for deliberately collapsing the drive after a series of five metre scrums.

England tries: Breach, Bern, Davies, Daley-McLean, Harrison, Scott, B Cleall
Conversions: Daley-McLean (4)
Penalty: Daley-McLean

France 52-3 Wales

Nine tries for France saw them get off to an impressive start.

France tries: Thomas (3), Murie (2), Menager (2), N’Diaye, Constanty
Conversions: Imart (2)
Penalty: Imart

Wales penalty: Wilkins

Scotland 7-28 Italy

Italy also managed a bonus point win over Scotland at Scotstoun.

Scotland try: Bonar
Conversion: Skeldon

Italy tries: Arrighetti, Franco, Rigoni, Giordano
Conversions: Madia, Sillari (3)

This weekend’s fixtures:

Friday 8 February: Scotland v Ireland (19.35, live on BBC Alba and RTE)
Saturday 9 February: Italy v Wales (19.00, live on Eurosport IT and BBC Wales)
Sunday 10 February: England v France (12.45pm, Sky Sports and France 2)

Hockey – Off the Pitch

Sophie Bray has announced her retirement from international hockey.

The 28-year old won 134 caps for England and Great Britain.  She won Olympic gold with Britain in 2916, European gold in 2015 and bronze in 2017 and Commonwealth Games silver and bronze (dates).

She was awarded an MBE in 2017, with the rest of the 2016 Olympic hockey team.

She announced her decision on Instagram:

“After a very tough couple of months it is with great sadness that I have taken the difficult decision to step down from international hockey.

“It has been a huge honour to represent Great Britain and England, and I will be forever grateful for all the incredible memories in an international shirt.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has supported and believed in me and made the amazing journey so special.

“I still have a lot to give the sport I love and I am looking forward to what the future holds.”

Hockey – On the Pitch

FIH Pro League

New Zealand 5-1 Great Britain

Great Britain began their FIH Pro League campaign with a defeat to the Black Sticks.  Olivia Merry opened the scoring for New Zealand in the fifth minute.  It was 1-1 at the end of the first quarter as Giselle Ansley equalised from a penalty stroke on 11 minutes.

There was only one goal in the second quarter, scored by Ella Gunson from a penalty corner and New Zealand went into the break 2-1 up.

In the third, Merry scored her second on 35, and from then on New Zealand were in control.  Merry sealed her hat-trick from a penalty corner on 51 and Amy Robson made it 5-1 on 59.

The other scores so far:

6 January
Argentina 2-0 Belgium

27 January
New Zealand 0-1 Netherlands

1 February
New Zealand 0-1 Belgium

2 February
Australia 1-0 Netherlands

Argentina 2-2 United States
(Argentina won 3-1 on penalties)

3 February
Australia 1-2 Belgium

The next fixtures:

15 February
New Zealand v Germany (Christchurch)

16 February
Australia v GB (Perth)
US v Netherlands (Winston-Salem)

17 February
New Zealand v China (Christchurch)

Netball

Last weekend’s Vitality Netball Super League results were:

Saturday 2 February
Surrey Storm 47-70 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 60-49 Strathclyde Sirens

Monday 4 February
Celtic Dragons 44-66 Saracens Mavericks
Manchester Thunder 62-47 London Pulse

Wasps are top with three wins from three, nine points and a goal average of 1.46.  Manchester Thunder are second with an inferior goal average (1.33) and Mavericks are third, again with an inferior goal average (1.25), and have played a game more.

This weekend’s round five fixtures are:

Friday 8 February
Strathclyde Sirens v Celtic Dragons (7.30pm)

Saturday 9 February
Severn Stars v Manchester Thunder (6.00pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath (6.00pm)
London Pulse v Surrey Storm (7.00pm)

Monday 11 February
Wasps Netball v Saracens Mavericks (7.00pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Winter Sports – off the Snow

Lindsey Vonn

This week Lindsey Vonn announced her retirement, saying her “body is broken beyond repair”.

She had been trying to surpass Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins, but will retire on 82.

In a quite outstanding career, the 34-year old won downhill Winter Olympics gold at Vancouver in 2010, bronze in the super-G and a downhill bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018.

She has comeback from several career-threatening injuries, but the knee injury sustained at Lake Louise last year has proved the final straw.

Like many sportswomen she has had more than her fair share of haters, particularly when she raced against the men and even after all her achievements it is quite telling that her announcement, released on Instagram, ended,

“So please let my story be of comebacks, victories and even injuries, but do not tell my story as one of failures or unreached goals.”

Winter Sports – on the Snow/ice

Lindsey Vonn – Again

However, it did not all go to plan for Vonn in her penultimate race.

She crashed spectacularly in the super-G at the World Championships in Are, Sweden.  She hit a gate and ended up in the safety nets.  She was treated by medics before getting up and skiing down to the end of the course.

Her final race will be in the downhill on Sunday.

Speed Skating

Great Britain claimed mixed relay bronze last weekend at the Short Track World Cup in Dresden.

Although Korea initially won the race, they were afterwards disqualified and Russia awarded the gold.  Hungary won the silver and the GB team of Elise Christie, Farrell Treacy, Jack Burrows and Kathryn Thomson the bronze.

Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships

Charlotte Bankes won Britain’s first ever World Championship snowboard medal when she took silver in the snowboard cross in Utah.  Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic took gold.

Izzy Atkin won bronze in the freestyle skiing big air category at the same event.  Gold went to Tess Ledeux of France and silver to Julia Crass.  Atkin was just five points behind in third.

Telemark World Cup Ladies Classic

Meanwhile, in Pra Loup, France Jasmin Taylor won World Cup silver.  She finished 7.84 seconds behind the gold medal winner Amelie Reymond of Switzerland.  Argeline Tan Bouquet of France finished third.

I know my coverage of winter sports is quite patchy – my knowledge, I confess, is a bit thin on the subject, but it seems that Great Britain’s women are whipping up a storm across several different disciplines at the moment.  If any of you out there have specialist knowledge in this area and would like to contribute to the column, please let me know!

One pairing I do know a bit about is Menna Fitzpatrick and Jen Kehoe.  And last week they were in action at the Para Alpine Skiing World Championships in Italy.

And once again they were in great form.  They claimed gold in both the downhill and the visually-impaired super G.  They then took silver in the super-combined.

Football

FA Cup Fourth round results:

Saturday 2 February
Manchester City 3-0 Watford

Sunday 3 February
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester Utd
West Ham Utd 3-1 Blackburn Rovers
Leicester City 0-2 London Bees
AFC Wimbledon 0-3 Bristol City
Crystal Palace 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Crawley Wasps 0-4 Arsenal
Everton 0-2 Chelsea

The weather put paid to half of the 16 ties and these will now be played on 10 February:

Durham v Cardiff
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
Liverpool v MK Dons
Millwall v Lewes
Reading v Keynsham Town
Stoke City v Aston Villa

Fifth round draw

Ties to be played on 17 February:

Liverpool or MK Dons v Millwall Lionesses or Lewes
Bristol City v Durham Women or Cardiff City
Reading or Keynsham Town v Yeovil Town or Birmingham City
Chelsea v Arsenal
Manchester United v London Bees
West Ham United v Charlton Athletic or Huddersfield Town
Stoke City or Aston Villa v Loughborough Foxes or Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City

Continental Cup

The Continental Cup final will be between Manchester City and Arsenal after they saw off Chelsea and Manchester United respectively in the semi-finals this week.

Chelsea 0-2 Manchester City

Nikita Parris scored twice to see City through to their fourth League Cup final in five years.

After a goalless first-half, City were awarded a penalty on 49 minutes after Parris was brought down by Deanna Cooper.  Parris took the penalty herself and scored.

She scored her second on 81 and that was enough to seal the win.

Arsenal 2-1 Manchester United

Vivianne Miedema also scored twice to help Arsenal defeat Manchester United.

Molly Green pulled one back for the Championship side, but it was too little, too late.

The final is at Bramhall Lane, Sheffield on Saturday 23 February.

England Lionesses

World Cup Warm-ups

The Lionesses will prepare for the World Cup with four home games, as well as the SheBelieves Cup in the USA at the end of February.

England v Canada – Friday, 5 April (Academy Stadium, Manchester City)
England v Spain – Tuesday, 9 April (Swindon Town)
England v Denmark – Saturday, 25 May (Walsall FC)
England v New Zealand – Saturday, 1 June (Brighton & Hove Albion)

 If you can’t get to France this summer, these matches are a brilliant chance to get out and show your support for the Lionesses before they set off for the tournament.

Sheffield United Racism Allegations

The FA has charged Sheffield Utd striker Sophie Jones with the racial abuse of Tottenham’s Renee Hector.

I reported at the beginning of January that Hector had reported the incident to the referee during the game and to the FA afterwards.

Jones has until 15 February to respond to the allegations.

Cricket

The ECB has announced the women’s central contracts for 2019.

There are 21 in total, 17 full-time and four “rookie” contracts.

Freya Davies has been moved up from rookie to full-time.  Bryony Smith has received her first (rookie) contract, but Beth Langston and Tash Farrant miss out completely.

I interviewed Farrant at Loughborough for WSUK some time ago and I have to say I’m gutted that she hasn’t been offered a contract.  She has boundless enthusiasm and is still a developing talent.  I hope that she will be able to work at her cricket during the county season and bounce back into contention next year.

The overall salary pot has increased by 10%.

Full Time:  Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Freya Davies (Sussex), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire), Heather Knight (Berkshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Sarah Taylor (Sussex), Fran Wilson (Kent), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex),

Rookie: Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Linsey Smith (Sussex).

Volleyball

As we know, the Women’s Premier League has now split into “Top 5” and “Bottom 4”.  Last weekend there was just one bottom four fixture:

Bristol VC1 0-3 Polonia SideOut London (15-25, 22-25, 19-25)

And Finally

Another week, another staggering feat of endurance running.  Susannah Gill won the women’s World Marathon Challenge after completing the seven marathons across seven continents in seven days in a world record time of 24 hours 19 minutes and nine seconds.

She came second in the first marathon in Nova, Antarctica, but then won the subsequent races in Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Santiago and Miami.

But it’s a competition not without its detractors.  55,000 miles of flying time in seven days – not the most environmentally friendly undertaking .  You also have to pay a 39,000 euro entrance fee, thus excluding a goodly proportion of the population from entering.

Unsurprisingly, fewer than 200 people have ever completed it.  Not wanting to sound like an old curmudgeon, I can understand, on several levels, why.

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 26 January – 1 February 2019

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  So much to get through – where to start, that’s the question!  Stories this week come from cricket, basketball, tennis, football, rugby union, motorsport, cycling and netball.

Better crack on…

Motorsport – W Series

As previously reported, opinion is divided on the new W Series, but whatever you think of it, more than 100 women applied to be a part of it.  The list has been whittled down to 28:

Sarah Bovy (Bel), Jamie Chadwick (UK), Sabré Cook (US), Natalie Decker (US), Marta García (Esp), Megan Gilkes (Can), Grace Gui (Chi), Esmee Hawkey (UK), Jessica Hawkins (UK), Shea Holbrook (US),  Vivien Keszthelyi (Hun), Emma Kimiläinen (Fin), Natalia Kowalska (Pol), Stéphane Kox (Ned), Miki Koyama (Jap), Francesca Linossi (Ita), Milou Mets (Ned), Sarah Moore (UK), Tasmin Pepper (SA), Vittoria Piria (Ita), Alice Powell (UK), Gosia Rdest (Pol), Naomi Schiff (Bel), Shirley van der Lof (Ned), Beitske Visser (Ned), Alexandra Whitley (Aus), Fabienne Wohlwend (Lie), Caitlin Wood Aus).

The 28 will be reduced to a final 18 and two reserves after a four-day test in Formula Three cars in Almeria, Spain in March.

When the W Series finally starts, there will be six rounds:

  1. Hockenheimring, Germany (4-5 May)
  2. Circuit Zolder, Belgium (18-19 May)
  3. Misano World Circuit, Italy (8-9 June)
  4. Norisring, Germany (6-7 July)
  5. TT Circuit Assen, Netherlands (20-21 July)
  6. Brands Hatch, GB (10-11 August)

The eventual winner will pick up $500,000 although there will be prize money right down to eighteenth place.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were:

26 January
Worcester Valkyries 0-24 Loughborough Lightning
Wasps 13-17 Harlequins
Saracens 17-14 Bristol Bears
DMP Sharks 14-8 Firwood Waterloo

27 January
Richmond 26-26 Gloucester-Hartpury

So Saracens go ploughing on and are top with 74 points from 16 games.  Harlequins are second on 67 and Lightning third on 65.  At the bottom, Worcester still have no wins and are on four points.  Firwood Waterloo are above them with 15.

We now break until towards the end of March for the Six Nations.

Six Nations

Happily, the Six Nations is upon us!  Round one is this weekend and the fixtures are as follows:

Friday 1 February
Ireland v England (5pm, Energia Park), Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Scotland v Italy (7.35pm, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow)

Saturday 2 February
France v Wales (8pm, GGL (Altrad) Stadium, Televised on S4C and France Televisions)

England’s new era of professionalism will bring with it the burden of being favourites to win the championship – they will be expected to perform.   It also means that the other five teams will be all the more determined to beat them.

France will be the biggest threat, without a doubt.  They had a great autumn, beating world champions New Zealand in the process.   But Jessy Tremouliere and Caroline Drouin will be unavailable for selection against Wales, having played in Sevens in New Zealand last weekend.

Scotland will be without Jade Konkel and Wales without Sioned Harries – two big losses.

Italy also had a good autumn with wins over Scotland and South Africa.

New Ireland coach, Adam Griggs, has rung the changes with former captain Niamh Briggs left out of the squad.

Whatever happens, it will be fiercely contested.  This is a tournament that deserves more; more media coverage, bigger audiences, more recognition.  If you can find a commentary or broadcast please tune in.  Reports next week.

Volleyball

Women’s Super League Top 5

The first fixtures of the Top 5 took place last weekend:

Malory Eagles UEL 1-3 Durham Palatinates (19-25, 25-16, 22-25, 20-25)
Team BU Wessex 0-3 London Orcas (12-25, 16-25, 24-26)

Palatinates are top with nine wins from nine games and have 26 points.  London Orcas are second with 20 points from nine games.

Basketball

WBBL Cup

Sheffield Hatters won the WBBL Cup for the first time at the weekend, beating Sevenoaks Suns in the final 62-60.

Although the Hatters had led for most of the game, including being 12-points ahead in the third quarter, it took a three-pointer in the last throes to win the game.

With just 0.9 seconds to go, Helen Naylor hit the three-pointer to take it from 59-60 to 62-60 to the Hatters.

Netball

It was the third round of the Netball Super League last weekend:

Friday 25 January
Saracens Mavericks 64-51 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 57-40 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 26 January
Manchester Thunder 70-45 Strathclyde Sirens
London Pulse 50-61 Wasps Netball

Monday 28 January
Team Bath 50-56 Surrey Storm

At this early stage, there are four teams with six points at the top; Wasps and Thunder from two games and Mavericks and Bath from three games.  Wasps have the best goal average.  All of the other teams have three points, having won one game each.

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

Friday 1 February
Team Bath v Severn Stars (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 February
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Strathclyde Sirens (6pm)

Monday 4 February
Celtic Dragons v Saracens Mavericks (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v London Pulse (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Cycling

At the National Track Championships in Manchester last weekend:

Katie Archibald won the women’s pursuit title, her third in a row, beating Neah Evans in the final.  Ellie Dickinson took bronze, beating Manon Lloyd.

Sophie Capewell took the sprint with Jess Crampton taking silver and Katie Archibald the bronze, ahead of Blaine Ridge-Davies.

On the second day of competition, Laura Kenny took the scratch race.  Elinor Barker took silver and Katie Archibald, bronze.

Jess Crampton retained her keirin title, taking gold ahead of Ellie Coster (silver) and Joanna Smith (bronze).

Team Breeze also defended their team pursuit title.  The team, comprising Jess Roberts, Jenny Holl, Becky Raybould and Anna Docherty, beat Team Velotec (Molly Patch, Anna Morris, Sophie Lankford and Jennifer Holden) in the final.  The bronze went to Liv CC – Halo Cycles (Ella Barnwell, Eluned King, Elena Smith and Amelia Sharpe).  They defeated RST/Cycle Division RT by just over a second.

On the final day of the championships, Neah Evans took gold in the points race.  Emily Nelson came second and Katie Archibald claimed another bronze.

Possibly the biggest news of the day came in the team pursuit.  Shanaze Reade, former BMX stalwart who initially retired from the sport in 2017 and has only been back in training for four months, took her first National Track Championships title with partner Blaine Ridge-Davies.  They beat Sophie Capewell and Milly Tanner to take the gold.  Vicky Williamson and Lusia Steele took bronze.

Finally, Ellie Coster (35.311) won the 500m time trial, ahead of Jess Crampton (35.509) and Lucy Grant (35.749).

Tennis

Australian Open

Singles Final

It was a spectacular, emotional final between Naomi Osaka of Japan and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.  It was always going to be so; Osaka going for back-to-back Grand Slams after the mixed emotions of her US Open triumph, and Kvitova in a Grand Slam final for the first time since the knife attack in 2016 which saw her tennis career hanging the balance.  There was also the little matter of the world number one ranking to play for.

And what a match it was.  The first set was a tight affair, going to a tie-break.  Osaka took the initiative in the tie-break and took it 7-2.

Kvitova hit back in the second, going into a 2-0 lead, but Osaka broke back and missed three championship points before Kvitova broke to take it 5-5.  The Czech then won 12 points in a row to take the set.

Osaka cried tears of frustration as she missed her chance for a straight sets win and went off for a bathroom break.

She returned with determination and focus and eventually took the match on her fifth championship point, with the final score 7-6 5-7 6-4.

It was an exhibition of power hitting and a fitting final to an entertaining and impressive women’s Australian Open.

Doubles

Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai beat defending champions and second seeds, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, to win the women’s doubles title.  The unseeded pair won in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.

The mixed doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Rajeev Ram, who defeated the unseeded Australians, Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith 7-6 6-1.

Thailand Open

We now know three of the four semi-finalists in the Thailand Open.

Tamara Zidanšek defeated Viktorija Golubic 4-6 6-1 6-2

Magda Linette beat Yang Wafan 6-2 6-3
Ajla Tomljanović (6) defeated Zheng Saisai (4) 6-1 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (1) plays Dayana Yastremska (8) later today.

St Petersburg Open

We are also at the quarter-final stage in St Petersburg.

Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4
Donna Vekic (8) beat Petra Kvitova (1) 6-4 6-1

Still to come:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Kiki Bertens (2)
Daria Kasatkina (3) v Vera Zvonareva

Cricket

Women’s Big Bash League Final

Brisbane Heat took the fourth WBBL title on Saturday 26 January, beating defending champions, Sydney Sixers by three wickets.

Sydney Sixers 131/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 132/7 (19.2 overs)
Heat won by three wickets with four balls to spare

A sell-out crowd of 5,386 at the Drummoyne Oval saw the Heat overcome the favourites with just four balls to spare.

But the damage was done in the first innings, when the Heat managed to restrict the dangerous Sixers top order of Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Ash Gardner and Erin Burns, with only Healy scoring at better than a run a ball.

Perry top-scored with 33 but it took her 37 balls to score it and Dane van Niekerk 32.  Grace Harris took 3/23 from her four overs and Delissa Kimmince 2/25.

In response, Harris was run out in the second over for just one from four balls, but Beth Mooney took it on in what was to be a match-winning knock of 65 from 46 balls.  The only other Heat player to get into double figures was captain Kirby Short who hit 29.  Mooney was out in the fifteenth over, but somehow the lower order kept it together with Laura Harris hitting the winning runs with a boundary.

The Sixers used eight bowlers with van Niekerk and Burns picking up two wickets each.

The tournament has really benefitted from being longer this year, with the teams playing each other home and away.   There has also been quite a lot of comment that this year’s WBBL has been more exciting than the BBL.  I couldn’t possibly comment, oh go on then – I’d have to agree.  There have been very few tight games in the BBL this year with the bowlers largely coming out on top.  I have no time for never-ending slog-fests, but for some reason, the balance has definitely tipped toward the bowlers this year and the batting has been poor.

T20 World Cup 2020 Draw

The group draw for the T20 World Cup was made this week.

England will face holders West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa and a qualifier.

England’s group fixtures:
v South Africa (23 February, Perth)
v Qualifier (26 February, Canberra)
v Pakistan (28 February, Canberra)
v West Indies (1 March, Sydney)

The other group comprises hosts Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and a qualifier.

The competition begins on 21 February and the final is at the MCG on 8 March.

Football – on the Pitch

WSL

Last weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

Sunday 27 January

Reading 0-3 Arsenal
Miedema 2’, Little 80’ (Pen), McCabe 94’

Chelsea 2-3 Birmingham City
Cuthbert 13’ 83’
Follis 36’, Quinn 61’, White 93’.

Manchester City 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 3’ (Pen) 40’, Bonner 31’

Bristol City 2-1 Yeovil Town
Graham 56’ (pen), Ayane 72’
Heatherson 46’

Monday 28 February

Liverpool 1-0 West Ham United
Sweetman-Kirk 49’

Manchester City are top with 34 points from 14 games.  Arsenal are second, a point behind having played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 14.  At the bottom, luckless Yeovil have three points and Everton are above them on six.

WC

Last weekend’s WC results were:

Sunday 27 February

Sheffield United 2-3 Charlton Athletic
Rayner 64’, Salmon 90’ (Pen)
Graham 26’, Agg 57’, Clifford 78’

Lewes 0-2 London Bees
Nunn 64’, Littlejohn 67’

Aston Villa 0-0 Leicester City

Millwall Lionesses 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Clarke 44’, Lumsden 91’
Wiltshire 36’, Beckett 84’, Dean 95’

Crystal Palace 0-2 Durham
Roberts 4’, Gears 49’

Tottenham top the Championship with 33 points from 13 games.  Charlton are second on 29 from 13 and Durham are third on the same points, having played one game more and with the same goal difference.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from 13 games.  Crystal Palace lie above them with seven.

Football – Off the Pitch

Charlton v Manchester United

Charlton have been fined £500 for failing to provide oxygen during their Championship match against Manchester United on 13 January.

As I understood it, the club ran out of oxygen while they were waiting for the ambulance arrived to take Charlotte Kerr to hospital.  But now it is being reported that Charlton did not have any oxygen and they had to use Manchester United’s supply.

The FA has charged Charlton with breaching competition rule 14.5: “Clubs shall ensure emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each competition match.

“Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

There still seems to be some confusion as to whether this was actually the case and Charlton are considering an appeal.

More FA obfuscation?  Possibly.  This story obviously has some way to run yet.

More news and views next week. 

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 10-16 March 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get through, yet again, especially in the football department, so I’d better crack on.  Stories this week come from the Winter Paralympics, football, cricket, rugby union, hockey, Commonwealth Games, netball, tennis and badminton.  Plus an “And Finally” that’s just a bit of banter, really… honest guv.

Winter Paralympics

Team GB has won three medals so far at the event in Pyeongchang.

The first medal went to Millie Knight and Brett Wild, who took silver in the visually impaired downhill.  Henrieta Farkasova and guide Natalia Subrtova of Slovakia took gold and Eleanor and Chloe Sana of Belgium bronze.  Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jen Kehoe didn’t finish.

Fitzpatrick and Kehoe won silver in the visually impaired super combined.  Henrieta Farkasova and Natalia Subrtova won gold again, while Melissa Perrine and Christian Geiger of Australia won bronze.  The other British participants, Millie Knight and Brett Wild and Kelly Gallagher and Gary Smith finished fourth and seventh respectively.

Fitzpatrick and Kehoe struck silver again in the giant slalom.  Needless to say, Farkasova and Subrtova won gold with Perrine and Geiger won bronze.  Gallagher and Smith finished fifth and Knight and Brett, seventh.

Disappointingly, the Team GB curlers failed to make the semi-finals.  The gold medal match will be between China and Norway, while the bronze medal match will be between South Korea and Canada.  Both matches take place on 17 March.

Football – off the pitch

The FA has received 15 applications to join the new WSL and Championship.  There are nine places up for grabs in total, up to four in the WSL and five in the Championship.

We won’t know the outcome until the end of May, but it is thought that Charlton Athletic, Coventry United, Crystal Palace, Derby County and Sheffield United are amongst those vying for places in the second tier.

Anita Assante

Anita Assante has had surgery on the knee injury sustained at the SheBelieves Cup.  She will be out for some time in recovery.

Steffi Jones

Germany has sacked the national side’s national head coach, Steffi Jones after poor results at the SheBelieves Cup and at last year’s European Championships.

Former German international striker Horst Hrubesch has been appointed as interim coach.

The team has upcoming World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Slovenia in April.

Football – on the pitch

Continental Cup final
Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City

City’s dream of the quadruple crumbled on Wednesday as Arsenal won their fifth Continental Cup final at Wycombe.

The only goal in a tightly-contested game came on the half-hour through Vivianne Miedema, after she was put through by Jordan Nobbs.

City seemed out of sorts in the first-half, barely registering a shot.  In the second, they had better chances, through Nikita Parris, Jane Ross and Claire Emslie, but the Gunners’ defence held strong.

Sunday 11 March
FAWSL 2

Aston Villa 1-3 Durham

Wednesday 14 March
FAWSL1

Yeovil Town p-p Reading

Netball

Round six of the Vitality Netball Super league was completed during the week:

Friday 9 March
Team Bath 51-60 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 10 March
Celtic Dragons 49-40 Severn Stars
Benecos Mavericks 46-44 UWS Sirens
Wasps Netball 74-38 Team Northumbria

Wasps are top of the table with seven wins from seven and 21 points.  There is clear water between them and Manchester Thunder who are second on1 5 points from five matches and Benecos Mavericks lie third, also on 15, but from six matches.

This weekend’s round seven fixtures are as follows:

Friday 16 March
Manchester Thunder v Benecos Mavericks (7.30pm)
UWS Sirens v Severn Stars (7.30pm, Live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 17 March
Loughborough Lightning v Tam Bath (6pm)
Team Northumbria v Surrey Storm (6pm)

Sunday 18 March
Wasps Netball v Celtic Dragons (6pm)

Tennis

We are at the semi-final stage of the Indian Wells tournament.  The quarter-final results were:

Simona Halep (1) beat Petra Martic 6-4 6-7 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (20) beat Angelique Kerber (10) 6-0 6-2
Naomi Osaka beat Karolina Pliskova (5)
Venus Williams (8) beat Carla Suarez-Navarro (27) 6-3 6-2

In the semi-finals on Saturday, Williams faces Kasatkina, while Halep takes on Osaka.

Serena Williams lost to her sister Venus in the third round in straight sets 6-3 6-4.

Commonwealth Games News

Athletics

Kadeena Cox has withdrawn from England’s Commonwealth Games team through injury.  She was due to run in the T38 100m at the Gold Coast Games.

Hockey

England has announced its squad for the Commonwealth Games.  They will face South Africa, Wales, India and Malaysia in their Pool B games with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals.

The squad in full:
Giselle Ansley (Surbiton), Grace Balsdon (Canterbury), Sophie Bray (Kampong), Alex Danson (Clifton Robinson), Sarah Haycroft (Surbiton), Maddie Hinch (Stichtse), Kathryn Lane (Leicester), Hannah Martin (Surbiton), Lily Owsley (Uni of Birmingham), Hollie Pearne-Webb (Surbiton), Ellie Rayer (East Grinstead), Amy Tennant (East Grinstead), Anna Toman (Wimbledon), Susannah Townsend (Canterbury), Laura Unsworth (East Grinstead), Ellie Watton (Holcombe).

Hockey

Investec Hockey Women’s League Premier Division

10 March
Holcombe 1-1 Leicester
Slough 1-8 Surbiton
East Grinstead 3-1 Buckingham
Bowdon 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Canterbury 4-2 University of Birmingham

11 March
Leicester 1-2 Slough

With their excellent win at Slough, Surbiton are top with 31 points from 16 games.  East Grinstead lie second on 28 from 15 and Holcombe are third, also on 28, but from 16 games.

Leicester are bottom on 11 from 15, with Clifton Robinsons just above them on 14, also from 15.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

New Zealand

Great news from New Zealand as it was announced this week that the Black Ferns are to be awarded paid contracts for the first time.

A minimum of 30 players will be employed on contract and will also have access to medical and life insurance as well as maternity leave entitlements.

The contracts will commit players to 10-14 hours per week training as well as 50 days a year of training camps and fixtures.

This takes the team to a semi-professional status and players are still encouraged to work or study.

Rugby union – on the pitch

Six Nations

Well, what a weekend of Six Nations action last weekend!  Round four saw wins for France, Italy and Scotland in three thrilling encounters:

Saturday 10 March
France 18-17 England

A record crowd of 17,440 (that’s seventeen thousand) saw France snatch victory in the final minutes of the game to send the home crowd into delirium.

Abigail Dow opened the scoring for England with a try converted by Katy McLean.  Rachel Burford was yellow-carded for England, but France couldn’t capitalise.  However, shortly after they were back to a full compliment, Jessy Trémoulière crossed to get the home side on the board.  Her conversion attempt went wide off the post, but France were back to within two.

Right on half-time France took the lead with a try from scrum half Caroline Drouin.  The conversion was again missed, but France went in 10-7 up.

England started the second-half strongly.   Ten minutes in they scored a second try, this time through Amy Cockayne.  McLean was successful with the conversion and it was 14-10 to the visitors.

On 55 the deficit was cut to just one as Trémoulière slotted home a penalty, but with eight minutes to go England responded with a penalty of their own to make it 17-14 to England.

But the sucker punch came with just a minute to go.  The tremendous Trémoulière cut through one more time and went over to score the winning try.  The conversion was missed, but Les Bleues had won by one point.

Now they have the chance to win the Grand Slam this weekend when they take on Wales at Colwyn Bay on Friday.

11 March
Wales 15-22 Italy

Isabella Locatelli opened the scoring for the visitors on nine minutes.  It was converted by Michela Sillari.  On the half-hour Wales were on the board with a penalty from Robyn Wilkins.  Four minutes later Wales were ahead with a try from Alisha Butchers, but this went unconverted.

But the Azzurre were not to be outdone.  A minute before the break, Maria Magatti went over and Italy were 12-8 up.

Ten minutes into the second-half the away side were over again.  Locatelli looked to be going in for her second, but she was tackled.  She managed to get the ball away to Beatrice Rigoni for the try.

Melissa Clay was sin-binned for Wales and although they held out, there was a brief period when they were down to 13 as Butchers was also yellow-carded.  Somehow they managed not only to not concede, but when Clay had returned they scored the next try,  Sioned Harries going over and Wilkins converting, thereby cutting the deficit to two points.

But in the last minute Italy had the last word.  Sillari scored Italy’s fourth try and they had won by seven points.

Ireland 12-15 Scotland

Saturday also saw a fine win for Scotland at Donnybrook.

In a tight first-half only three points were scored, a penalty to Scotland kicked by Helen Nelson.

The away side redoubled their efforts in the second-half.  Nelson went over two minutes, but the conversion was missed.

Ireland got back into it on 50 minutes when they were awarded a penalty try.  Ireland pressed again and Megan Kennedy was yellow-carded for Scotland after the scrum collapsed.

On 62 minutes Ireland were on the attack, but Scotland full-back Chloe Rollie intercepted a loose pass going over the whitewash after running the length of the pitch.  It was converted by Lana Skeldon and the score was 15-7 to the visitors.

Ten minutes from time Ireland scored their second through Paula Fitzpatrick taking it to 15-12.  It went unconverted and although they repeatedly attacked in the last ten minutes, they were unable to break down Scotland’s defence.

The final round is this weekend with France going for the Grand Slam.  For some ridiculous reason, England v Ireland and Wales v France kick off within 30 minutes of each other in the early evening of Friday 16 March – big huh? to the schedulers there.

16 March

England v Ireland (Ricoh Arena, 5.30pm.  Live on Sky and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
Wales v France (Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, 6pm. S4C and FTV.)

18 March
Italy v Scotland (Stadio Plebiscito , 2pm GMT, Eurosport Italia)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

10 March
DMP Sharks 5-13 Saracens
Firwood Waterloo 10-44 Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough 24-7 Bristol
Harlequins 14-12 Richmond
Wasps 55-5 Worcester Valkyries

Saracens are top on 72 points from 16 games, one point ahead of Harlequins who have played a game more.  Wasps lie third on 59 from 16.  The luckless Valkyries are still bottom on two points, with Firwood Waterloo second from bottom on 11.

Cricket

Australian tour of India

First ODI – 12 March
India 200 all out (50 overs)
Australia 202/2 (32.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

India won the toss and chose to bat first.  Pooja Vastrakar top-scored with 51 off 56 balls and there were other good contributions from Verma and Raut, but 200 was never likely to be enough.  Jess Jonassen took 4/30 off her 10 overs and Amanda-Jade Welllington 3/24 off six.

Australia knocked off the target with nearly 18 overs to spare.  Nicole Bolton scored 100 not out from 101 balls, Alyssa Healy 38, Meg Lanning 33 and Ellyse Perry 25 not out as they went one-up in the three match series.

Second ODI – 15 March
Australia 287/9 (50 overs)
India 227 all out (49.2 overs)
Australia won by 60 runs

Nicole Bolton was at it again, this time opening with 84 from 88 balls as Australia posted a formidable total.  Perry finished 70 not out and Beth Mooney scored 56.  Shikha Pandey took 3/61 from her 10 overs and Poonam Yadav 2/52 from her 10.

India made a decent start in response with an 88 opening stand before Smriti Mandhana was out for 67.  But although most of the batters got starts, they couldn’t go on and dropped behind the required rate.  In the end they were all out in the last over.  Jonassen was again the bowling star for Australia, taking 3/51 from 10.  Perry took 2/41 from 8.2 overs and Wellington 2/20 from four.

The third ODI is on 18 March.

Badminton

Chris and Gabby Adcock are through to the mixed doubles quarter-finals at the All England Badminton Championships, being held in Birmingham.

They face Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino of Japan in the evening session on 16 March.

And finally,

In the Barcelona v Chelsea (men’s) game midweek, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois let in two goals through his legs.   Surely this only goes to prove that all male ‘keepers are c**p?

Sorry no column for two weeks now as I am away.

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 17-23 February 2018

winter-snow-nature-60561Welcome to this week’s column.  Last week I asked “what more does Elise Christie have to do to win a medal?”  Well, unfortunately that was answered this week by “wait until Beijing 2022” as she had a terrible experience x 2, crashing out in one and being disqualified from the other of her two remaining events.  But there has been plenty more to celebrate this week.  Stories come from the Winter Olympics, football, rugby union, cricket, netball and hockey.

So let’s crack on!

Winter Olympics

Marit Bjorgen

This week Marit Bjorgen of Norway became the most decorated Winter Olympian.  She has won four medals at Pyeongchang, taking her total to 14.

At this Olympics the cross-country skier won Bronze in the 10km, bronze in the team sprint with Maiken Caspersen Falla, silver in the pursuit and gold in the ridiculously exciting 4 x 5km relay.

Elise Christie

Love her or loathe her (and many do), she’s always good entertainment value.  Personally, I feel gutted on her behalf – is she under an Olympic curse?  There’s no denying her talent, she is a multiple world champion, after all.  So what happens when she sets foot on an Olympic course?

For the record, in the 1500m she crashed out on the final lap, colliding with Li Jinyu of China in the process.  She was taken to hospital and her place in the 1000m was severely in doubt.  She sustained ankle ligament damage and was not really fit to take part.  But she lined up in the 100m heat, even though she was obviously in pain.  She fell on the first lap, but the heat was restarted.  She finished second and would have qualified, but the judges said she had committed an offence during the race and was disqualified.

Skeleton

For all the trials and tribulations, British performance of the Games must go to Lizzy Yarnold.  She retained her skeleton title, taking the gold 0.45 seconds ahead of Jacqueline Loelling of Germany and with a fabulous performance by Laura Deas to secure bronze 0.62 seconds behind the winner.

Yarnold has shown such enthusiasm – she had such a poor season that no-one really expected her to win.  But when she did, it was with an abundance of joy that was clear to see.  It was also good to see her celebrate with her good friend Laura Deas.   A great competition all round.

Ice Hockey

There was a shock in the ice hockey final as the USA defeated Canada in a shoot out.   The scores were level after 2-2 after five penalties each.  Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the sixth for the USA but Meghan Agosta’s for Canada was saved by goalminder Maddie Rooney.

It’s the first time USA have beaten Canada in 20 years.

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill and Mica Moore finished eighth in the bobsleigh.  Not bad for a crowdfunded team, who were not deemed to be deserving of mainstream funding.  Let’s hope this brings them further funding that sees them compete again in Beijing.

Curling

Team Muirhead fell to Sweden in the semi-finals 10-5.  The Swedes went ahead early, and although GB pulled it back to 3-3 after five ends, that’s as close as they got to being in front.

Team GB will now compete for Bronze against Japan on Saturday.

Lindsey Vonn

Another woman to have had a mixed games is US skiing star, Lindsey Vonn.  Before the Games started she endured some serious social media trolling criticising her for her political stance against President Trump.  More than once she was accused of being “un-American”.   She was also still grieving the loss of her Grandfather, who died in November and, it has been revealed that she scattered his ashes on the course in Pyeongchang where she won her bronze medal earlier in the week.

In competition, as already stated, she won a bronze in the Alpine downhill.  Gold went to Sofia Goggia of Italy with Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway in silver.

But it all went horribly wrong in the Alpine combined.  She was top after the first run, but in the slalom she went off course and failed to finish.   Michelle Gisin of Switzerland took gold with Mikaela Shiffrin silver and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, bronze.

Hopefully she will continue to compete, although we will not see her in another Olympics.

Football – on the pitch

FA Cup Fifth Round
Birmingham City 1-3 Manchester City (after extra time)
Arsenal 1-0 Millwall Lionesses
Cardiff City 1-3 Charlton Athletic
Chelsea 6-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Chichester City 0-3 Liverpool
Durham 5-2 Leicester City
Lewes 0-6 Everton
Sunderland AFC 3-2 Aston Villa

The draw has been made for the quarter-finals:

Sunderland v Manchester City
Liverpool v Chelsea
Arsenal v Charlton
Durham v Everton

Fixtures to be played the weekend 18-19 March.

Netball

It was Round 2 of the Vitality Superleague this weekend.  The scores were:

Saturday 17 February
Severn Stars 52-64 Wasps Netball
Team Northumbria 43-65 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 19 February
Celtic Dragons 35-54 Team Bath
Manchester Thunder 60-43 UWS Sirens
Benecos Mavericks 64-62 Surrey Storm

After two rounds, the table is split – five teams have two wins each and five have none from two.  Top are Team Bath on goal average, with Wasps second and Loughborough, third.

It’s a double-header this long weekend, beginning on Thursday and continuing until Monday.  The Sky televised match is on Monday 26 February:

Round 3
Thursday 22 February
Wasps Netball 69-37 UWS Sirens

Friday 23 February
Team Bath v Surrey Storm (7.30pm)
Manchester Thunder v Team Northumbria (7.30pm)

Saturday 24 February
Benecos Mavericks v Severn Stars (4pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons (6pm)

Round 4
Monday 26 February
Loughborough Lightning v Manchester Thunder (7pm live on Sky Sports)
UWS Sirens v Team Northumbria (7pm)
Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm (7pm)
Severn Stars v Team Baath (7.30pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Wasps Netball (7.30pm)

Football – off the pitch

Lionesses

The England squad for the SheBelieves Cup, which starts on 1 March has been announced.  Anita Asante is picked for the first time since 2015:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Carly Telford (Chelsea).

Defenders: Anita Asante, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright (all Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes (both Manchester City).

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh (all Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Fara Williams (Reading).

Forwards: Karen Carney, Fran Kirby (both Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Melissa Lawley, Nikita Parris (both Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Melbourne City), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

All England’s games are being covered by the BBC:

England v France (1 March, 9pm)
Germany v England (4 March, 8pm)
USA v England (8 March, midnight)

Casey Stoney

Not one of sport’s best kept secrets, this week it was announced that Casey Stoney will join Phil Neville’s coaching staff when she hangs up her boots on Wednesday 21 February.

She will play her last game against Sunderland and then will travel with the squad and staff to the USA for the SheBelieves Cup.

Neville could not ask for a more knowledgeable, more respected addition to the team.  Her view of the game and her knowledge of the both the current squad and potential newcomers will be vital to the new manager.

Needless to say, the article on the BBC website prompted some unbelievable bile masquerading in some cases, but not in all of them, as “banter”, directed at Stoney, her sexuality, England women’s football, women’s football in general, Neville, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.  Really chaps (and yes, it is chaps), I know I’ve said this before, but for people who profess to have no interest in or knowledge of the women’s game, you all have an opinion.  And judging by what was left in by the moderators, I’d hate to see what was taken out as unacceptable……

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Tyrell 15s Premier League results were:
17 February
Harlequins 80-7 Worcester Valkyries
Wasps 26-12 Bristol
Saracens 29-29 Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough Lightning 21-15 DMP Sharks

18 February
Richmond 20-12 Firwood Waterloo

All the teams have now played 15 matches.  Saracens’ draw sees their lead at the top of the table cut to just three points.  They lie on 68, with Harlequins on second with 65 and Wasps third on 54.  Worcester are still tethered at the bottom with two points, with Firwood Waterloo second from bottom on 11.

This weekend sees the third round of the Six Nations:

23 February
Scotland v England (Scotstoun, 7.05pm, live on Sky Sports)

24 February
France v Italy (Stade Furiani, 8pm GMT, French TV)

25 February
Ireland v Wales (Donnybrook, Dublin, 3pm, RTE & S4C)

Hockey
Argentina v Great Britain

Well, this series completely passed me by, for which hearty apologies.  GB avoided a series whitewash by winning the fourth game of five.

10 February: Argentina 2-1 Great Britain
GB took the lead through Susannah Townsend, but the hosts hit back through Maria Campoy and Eugenia Trinchinetti.  The GB team included players winning their first caps.

11 February: Argentina 3-1 Great Britain
Alex Danson’s 100th cap saw another loss for GB. The visitors took the lead on seven minutes through Elena Rayer, but again Argentina hit back.   Delfina Merino scored the equaliser.  By half-time Argentina were ahead, their second goal scored by Maria Granatto.  In the third period they grabbed another, through Julieta Jankunas.

14 February: Argentina 5-2 Great Britain
After two tight games, the third was a convincing win for the home side.  Maria Granatto scored after just five minutes, but shortly afterwards Alex Danson equalised. Granatto grabbed another  and Bianca Donati two to take it to 4-1.  Milagros Fernandez added a fifth, before Danson grabbed her second and fiftieth for Great Britain to make the final score 5-2..

17 February: Argentina 2-4 Great Britain
There was at last something to cheer about for GB fans in the fourth match.  Danson scored twice in the first quarter and sealed her hat-trick with nine minutes to go.  The fourth GB goal came from Laura Unsworth.  The Argentine goals came from Campoy and, with just five minutes remaining, Noel Barrionuevo got a second for the hosts.

17 February: Argentina 1-0 Great Britain
It was back to winning ways for the home side in the fifth and final match of the series.  Eugenia Trinchinetti scored the only goal of the game in the tenth minute.

Investec Hockey League Premier Division

17 February
University of Birmingham 5-0 Clifton Robinsons
Canterbury 3-2 Buckingham
Surbiton 1-1 Bowdon
East Grinstead 2-1 Leicester
Slough 0-1 Holcombe

After 13 games, University of Birmingham are top with 26 points, one point ahead of Surbiton.  Holcombe are third on 23.  At the bottom, Leicester prop up the table with 10 points. Just ahead of them are Slough on 12.

Cricket

Second T20
16 February
South Africa 142/7 (20 0vers)
India 144/1(19.1 overs)
India won by 9 wickets with 5 balls remaining

India went 2-0 up in the five-match series on Friday.  Again the batters mostly got starts, but no-on e could make the big score that would seriously cause problems.  Sue Luus top-scored with 33.  Poonam Yadav and Anuja Patil took 2/18 from four overs and 2/37 from four overs respectively.

In response Mithali Raj was in majestic form yet again.  She scored 76 not out from 61 balls with fine back-up from Smriti Mandhana with 57.  Harmanpreet Kaur came in when Mandhana was out in the fifteenth over, scoring seven to get India home comfortably.

Third T20
18 February
India 133 all out (17.5 overs)
South Africa 134/5 (19 overs)
South Africa won by five wickets with 6 balls remaining

Shabnim Ismail produced an excellent spell of 5/30 from 3.5 overs to help skittle India out for just 133.  But it was Marizanne Kapp who began the rout, taking the wicket of Raj for a duck in the first over.

Although Lizelle Lee was also out for five, in the first over of the response, Sune Luus scored 41off 34 balls and the middle order all contributed as South Africa won with an over to spare.

 Fourth T20
21 February
South Africa 130/3 (15.3 overs)
Match abandoned due to rain

India went into an unassailable 2-1 lead as the fourth match at Centurion was abandoned.

The last match in the series, and South Africa’s opportunity to draw it, is on Saturday 24 February at Newlands.

Alex Blackwell

Australia’s vice-captain, Alex Blackwell has announced her international retirement.

The 34-year old is Australia’s most-capped female player making 251 appearances over all formats.  She scored 5,250 international runs.

She will continue to play for Sydney Thunder in the WBBL.

And Finally,

Just a quick note to say it’s been a mixed week for reaction to women and women’s sport.  The Winter Olympics has been exciting and enthralling and, as several commentators on women’s sport have pointed out, no-one seems to say “it’s only women’s skiing” or “It’s only women’s short track.”  Why is this?  Why is it deemed “ok” for women to compete in these events, but not to play football?  Ah, but if I had the answer to this question, I would be a rich woman indeed….

Sorry, no column next week as I’m out and about.