Women’s Sports Column 3-9 June 2017

fieldhockeysticksBack to usual this week with a new column.  It’s a relief really after seeing (or not seeing) the rained off Aus V NZ Champions Trophy match at Edgbaston on Friday.  And thanks also must go to the foul-mouthed Kiwi who was sitting behind me f-ing and blinding throughout.   He was so miserable that when the kids came on to play kwik cricket all he could say was “those kids suck at cricket”.  At least he didn’t say “those f-ing kids suck at cricket”.   Hey ho.  Let’s crack on.

Stories this week come from netball, canoeing, judo, cricket, football, tennis, hockey, triathlon, mountain biking and cycling.

Netball

The Final Four line-up is decided.  I went to see Lightning v Team Northumbria on 27 May.  Loughborough won comfortably, having already qualified for the Final Four, but I was a bit concerned about some of the complacent play that took place later on in the game.  It wasn’t very professional, and better opponents would have taken advantage.  Altogether, though, a job well done and on to the Finals.

Results from round 18

Sirens 57-43 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Celtic Dragons 52-47 Team Northumbria

Wasps Netball 49-35 Team Bath

Manchester Thunder 60-45 Severn Stars

Loughborough Lightning 71-63 Surrey Storm

So, in the regular season, Lightning finish top of the table by a whopping nine points on 51.  Wasps Netball, the only team to defeat Lightning, finished second with 42, Manchester Thunder third on 39 and fourth were Team Bath on 33.  Last season’s champions, Surrey Storm, finished fifth on 30 and do not qualify.

The Final Four extravaganza will take place this weekend at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, the event having been moved from the Manchester Arena.  The two semi-finals and the final will be live on Sky and the fixtures are:

Saturday 10 June

Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath (15.30)

Wasps Netball v Manchester Thunder (17.45)

Sunday 11 June

Final (16.30)

There will also be a 3rd-4th place play-off.

 All will be covered on Sky Sports

Judo

Britain’s Sally Conway won a silver medal at the European Judo Open in Romania this week.  She was lost in the final of the -70kg category by Marie Eve Gahie of France.

Conway had beaten fellow Briton Gemma Howell in the semi-final.  Howell went on to take bronze by defeating Carola Paissoni of Italy.

It is all good build-up for them as they work towards the World Judo Championships, which take place in Budapest from 18 August to 3 September.

Cricket

On the Pitch

England played a World Cup warm-up match against West Indies at Loughborough on 7 June.

Nat Sciver was outstanding with both bat and ball.  West Indies won the toss and chose to bat first.  They were bowled out for 150 in the 50th over.  Captain Stafanie Taylor top scored with 59, while for England Sciver took 4/39 from her 10 overs.  Offspinner Dani Hazell took 3/21.

England reached their target with 14 overs to spare, but the teams decided that England would bat out their 50 overs for practice.   Sciver made 85 and Tammy Beaumont a half-century.  Katherine Brunt hit quick 49 and England made 281/7 off their 50 overs.

Off the Pitch

Cricket Australia announced this week that from now on their international sides will be known as “Australian men’s cricket team” and “Australian women’s cricket team”.   This may sound like nothing new, but actually it’s a big deal.  When do you ever hear the Men’s Cricket World Cup described as the Men’s Cricket World Cup and not the Cricket World Cup?  They have also dropped the “Southern Stars” name unless using it colloquially.  It puts the two teams on an equal footing when being spoken or written about.  And that’s got to be good news for women’s sport in Australia. 

Cycling

Women’s Tour

The Women’s Tour started on Wednesday 7 June.  The first stage, from Daventry to Kettering in Northamptonshire was won by Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland.  Marianne Vos of the Netherlands came in second with compatriot Christine Majerus in third.  Highest placed Briton was Alice Barnes who came in seventh.

The second stage was through Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and was won by Dutch rider Amy Pieters.  Second was Hannah Barnes, who took over the best-placed Briton position from sister Alice.

In general classification, Niewiadoma is still first with Vos in Second and H Barnes in third.

The third stage on Friday 9 June will be Atherstone to Leamington Spa, while the fourth is on Saturday and is Chesterfield and Derbyshire.

The whole race finishes on Sunday 11 June in London with a route that begins and ends in Regent Street St James.

Full details of the winners and timings next week.

Cicle Classic

There was a tight sprint finish to the Cicle Classic in Melton Mowbray on Sunday.  Katie Archibald took the win with Laura Massey in second and Nikki Juniper, third.

After four of nine rounds, Chanel Mason leads overall.

Football

Chelsea Ladies were crowned Spring Series champions on Saturday.  It went down to the wire on the last day as any one of the top four could have clinched the title.  But Chelsea were in pole position and there was no way they were going slip up.

Saturday 3 June

Sunderland 1-1 Reading Women

Reading had most of the pressure in the first half-hour before they finally took the lead on 30 minutes through Mel Fletcher.

But Reading were rueing their missed chances on 53 when substitute Beverly Leon unleashed a fierce shot which nestled in the bottom corner of the Reading goal, earning the home side a point.

Liverpool Ladies 1-3 Manchester City Women

The visitors took the lead on 29 minutes when Jill Scott headed home a Jennifer Beattie flick from a Toni Duggan corner.  The lead was doubled on the stroke of half-time when Mel Lawley hit a shot from 20 yards into the top corner.

After the break City soon got their third when a Megan Campbell free kick from 25 yards slipped in and the game was over as a contest.

Liverpool grabbed a consolation goal in the 90th minute from another long-range shot.

Liverpool will be disappointed with their season’s end as they were going well as early leaders in the Spring Series.

Bristol City Women 0-5 Arsenal Ladies

Arsenal ended their campaign with a storming win at Bristol on Saturday, and in doing so ended the Spring Series unbeaten.

It was all square until just before the half-hour when defender Louise Quinn headed home for Arsenal’s first.

Despite pressure, there was no further scoring in the first-half, but after the break it took Jordan Nobbs only four minutes to get their second from a Jodie Taylor pass.

Chloe Kelly scored Arsenal’s third in the 73rd minute with substitute Danielle Van De Donk getting the fourth five minutes later.

Beth Mead was last on the scoresheet when she put away Arsenal’s fifth on 83.

Birmingham City Ladies 0-2 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea sealed the title with a 2-0 win at Solihull Moors on Saturday.

After a tight opening spell Chelsea were awarded a penalty when Birmingham goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger fouled Fran Kirby in the area and Karen Carney scored the resultant penalty.

Gemma Davison and Kirby missed relatively easy chances to increase the lead before half-time, but could not take them and the league leaders went in just 1-0 up.

Kirby turned poacher on 58 when she turned in from close range after Berger lost a Davison cross.

After that the champions-elect never looked in trouble and duly celebrated their deserved win at full time.

The table finished with Chelsea on 19 points from eight games.  Manchester City finished second with an inferior goal difference to Chelsea’s.  Arsenal Ladies finished third a point behind, with early leaders Liverpool fourth on 14.

Triathlon

Lucy Charles won the inaugural triathlon Championship in Samorin, Slovakia at the weekend.   She finished the event in four hours, 13 minutes and 59 seconds.

Annabel Luxford of Australia was second.

Tennis

French Open

The women’s final will be between the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko and number three seed Simona Halep.   Ostapenko becomes the first unseeded woman to reach the final at Roland Garros since 1983.

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (11) 4-6 6-2 6-2

Ostapenko lost the first five games of the match

Tamea Bacsinszky (SWI) (30) beat Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) (13) 6-4 6-4

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) (2) beat Caroline Garcia (FRA) (28) 7-6 6-4

Simona Halep (ROM) (3) beat Elina Svitolina (UKR) (5) 3-6 7-6 6-0

Semi-Finals 8 June

Ostapenko beat Bacsinszky 7-6 3-6 6-3

Halep beat Pliskova 6-4 3-6 6-3

The final is on Saturday.  Radio coverage is on 5Live from midday.

Mountain Biking

There was elation and disappointment for Rachel Atherton this week at the Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill at Fort William.

She qualified well ahead of the field in five minutes 29.222 seconds, a full 13 seconds of Tracey Hannah of Australia, who finished second.

Fellow Britons Tahnee Seagrave and Manon Carpenter both crashed, although Carpenter recovered to qualify in fourth.

Myriam Nicole of France finished qualified third.

But it was not to be for Atherton in the final.  She had to pull out before the race even began after dislocating her shoulder in a practice run.

Tracey Hannah won the race and Manon Carpenter finished fourth.

The next round is this weekend in Leogang, Austria.

Canoeing

The Canoe Slalom European Championships were held in Slovenia from 1-4 June.

Great Britain’s women claimed two golds the individual gold in C1 went to Kimberley Woods and she was also part of the three that claimed top spot in the C1 team event.

Woods won individual gold with 110.31 points, ahead of Tereza Fišerová of the Czech Republic on 112.90 with Nadine Weratschnig of Austria on 116.19 in bronze.

The C1 team of Woods, Mallory Franklin and Eilidh Gibson won the event for the second year in a row.  Their points tally was 153.24.  Silver went to Germany on 157.32 with the Czech Republic winning bronze on 158.48.

Hockey

Surbiton’s and Canterbury’s women were in action representing English hockey in the EuroHockey Club Cup in Den Bosch last weekend.

Eight teams took part with Surbiton finishing fourth and Canterbury sixth.

Surbiton beat CSV Complutense of Spain to reach the semi-finals, but couldn’t overcome hosts HC‘s-Hertogenbosch, losing 7-1.  They lost the 3rd/4th place play-off to the other Dutch team, AH&BC Amsterdam 3-1.

Canterbury lost their 5th/6th place play-off to CSV Complutense.

Final standings:

  1.  HC’s-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands)
  2. UHC Hamburg (Germany)
  3. AH&BC Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  4. Surbiton (England)
  5. SPV Complutense (Spain)
  6. Canterbury Ladies HC (England)
  7. Hermes – Monkstown HC (Ireland)
  8. CSP Krylatskoye (Russia)

And finally

Long jumper Jazmin Sawyers admitted this week that she pulled out of a competition in Boston because of the “very bad periods” from which she suffers.

And boy did she pay for that admission on social media.

Even though she said,

“Can’t walk, intense pain radiating down my legs, head spinning, full body sweating, shouting, crying kind of bad,”

It brought out all the “boys” with their “ugh – too much information” kind of comments.  Fabulously Sawyers bit back,

“Ah so lovely to see so many men with insightful things to say in response to this article.”

And interestingly she also said that those making comments on the BBC site are usually the worst.  Funnily enough this is what I have also found.  It seems to be a platform for jokers and fools (and worse).

At last women in sport and in all walks of life are beginning to speak out about their period problems. And it’s only by discussing, analysing and gaining more information that we are going to be able to develop possible solutions.  Sorry chaps if it offends your delicate sensibilities, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to deal with it.

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 May 2017

county2Welcome to this week’s column.  We’re heading towards some exciting stuff this summer – but then there’s always exciting stuff in the world of women’s sport, isn’t there?  Well I think so, and I’m glad to see my followers do too.  This week I have stories from football, netball, tennis, athletics, hockey, cricket and lacrosse.  Plus a disheartening “And finally” from cricket – remember I said I was going to stop reading the comments sections after articles?  Well I haven’t yet, but this week has made me even more resolved to do so.

Onward!

Netball

Round 16 of the Super League was completed over the weekend.  Loughborough are still top of the pile after a convincing win over Celtic Dragons on Saturday.  Lightning lead the table by nine points.  The others in the top four are Wasps, Thunder and Storm.  Bath are still in the hunt for a Final Four place as they are level with Bath on 30 and lie in fifth.  This week’s scores were:

Friday 19 May

Severn Stars 64-47 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 63-47 Sirens

Saturday 20 May

Loughborough Lightning 74-44 Celtic Dragons
Hertfordshire Mavericks 46-60 Manchester Thunder

Monday 22 May

Wasps Netball 64-70 Surrey Storm

This Bank Holiday weekend it is round 17.  I will be at Loughborough v Team Northumbria on Saturday, so if you see me come and say hello!

This round’s televised match is on Monday 29 May and is Manchester Thunder v Team Bath.  It will be live on Sky Sports at 7.30pm.

Lacrosse

As usual thanks to Martin for keeping me on my lacrosse toes.  Last week Centaurs were crowned National Club Champions.

The three winners of the North, South East and South West leagues played in a round-robin format tournament to decide the champions.

The scores were as follows:

Oxton 15-4 Bristol Bombers
Centaurs 25-3 Bristol Bombers (15-3) Mercy ruling
Centaurs 10-10 Oxton

Thinking of the Lacrosse World Cup, which is only 50-odd days away, there were several England and Wales players on show.  Oxton had England players Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Charlotte Lytollis and Olivia Wimpenny.  The Centaurs had five Wales players in their team as well as England player Sophie Morrill.

Although the two teams could not be separated at the final whistle, the title went to Centaurs on goal difference.  As the mercy ruling had been applied at 15-3, the difference was just one goal.

Tennis

Off the Court

Injuries

Caroline Wozniacki withdrew from the Strasbourg Grand Prix with a back injury.  She retired during the second set of her first-round match against American Shelby Rogers.

With the French Open only a week away there must be a doubt as to whether Wozniacki will take her place in the draw.

World number four Simona Halep may also be a doubt as she tore an ankle ligament during the Italian Open final.  She has described her chances as “50-50”.

Players returning

Petra Kvitova is hoping to play at Wimbledon, she has revealed this week.  We still do not know if she will play in Paris, but if not she definitely has her sights on a return at Wimbledon.  She has already won the title twice and it will be good to see her back on the court as soon as possible.

Another player who may make her return at Wimbledon is Victoria Azarenka.  She gave birth to a son in December and now she says she is “ready to start competing” again.  She will play in one of the warm-up tournaments and then hopefully take her place in the main draw.

If she plays her first tournament within 12 months of giving birth she will retain her ranking of six in the world.

Qualifying for Roland Garros

Heather Watson is through to the second round of qualifying after beating Russian Anastasiya Komardina 3-6 7-5 6-1.   She has to win two more matches to make it to the main draw.  However, British numbers three and four, Naomi Broady and Tara Moore lost in the first round of qualifying and will not compete.

Laura Robson

Laura Robson is still on the comeback trail. Her persistence and tenacity cannot be denied, and it seems to be paying off.  She won the ITF 60k Kurume tournament in Japan last week and now moves back into the world top 200.  She moves from 218th to 169th.  She defeated fellow Briton Katie Boulter in the final 6-3 6-4.  It is hard to believe she is still only 23.

On the Court

Italian Open

Eighth seed Elina Svitolina won the Italian Open last weekend.  She defeated sixth seed Simona Halep 4-6 7-5 6-1.  As mentioned earlier, Halep tore an ankle ligament during the match and is now a doubt for the French Open.

Strasbourg Grand Prix

The quarter-finals took place on 25 May and the results were:

Samantha Stosur(6)  beat Carla Suarez Navarrro(4) 7-5 6-4
Daria Gavrilova (7) beat Ash Barty 6-4 6-7 7-6
Caroline Garcia (5) beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 6-2
Peng Shuai (8) beat Shelby Rogers 6-0 6-4

The semi-finals will be on 26 May and the draw is:

Peng v Stosur
Garcia v Gavrilova

Hockey

Hannah Macleod has announced her retirement from international hockey.

She was part of the GB team that won gold so thrillingly at Rio in 2016.

Macleod will now concentrate on her coaching role with the England Under-21 squad.

Cricket

Quadrangular Series

19 May

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 203/6 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 120 runs

Third place play-off

Ireland finished their tournament on a winning note as they beat Zimbabwe in the third place play-off.

Ireland 254/5 (50 overs)
Zimbabwe 235 all out (49.4 overs)
Ireland won by 19 runs

Captain Laura Delaney led from the front as she scored 81 for Ireland with Shauna Kavanagh backing her up with 67.  But Ireland will be really happy that they were able to take 10 Zimbabwe wickets.  Pick of the bowlers was seamer Aoife Beggs who took 5/52.

Final

India continued their excellent form in the final as they reduced South Africa to 156 all out in just over 40 overs.  They then reached their target losing only two wickets and with 102 balls to spare.

South Africa 156 all out (40.2 overs)
India 160/2 (33 overs)
India won by 8 wickets

Top scorer for South Africa was Sune Luus with 55.  The phenomenal Jhulan Goswami was in the wickets again taking 3/22 off 8 overs, while Poonam Yadav took 3/32 off 9.

India lost Deepti Sharma early on for 8 and Mona Meshram for 2, but the in-form Punam Raut with 70 and captain Mithali Raj with 62 saw them home. South Africa also bowled 15 wides.

Athletics

The news came this week that Welsh discus thrower Philippa Roles has died at the age of 39.  Roles competed at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 for Team GB.  She finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Delhi and sixth in Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne.

No cause of death has yet been revealed.

Her personal record was 62.89 metres, which is fourth in all-time British rankings.

Football – On the Pitch

Spring Series

Saturday 20 May

Arsenal Ladies 4-2 Birmingham City Ladies

Arsenal are now second in the table with this win over the Blues at the Hive.  The away side took the lead in the first minute when Rachel Williams headed home a Sarah Mayling cross.  Heather O’Reilly equalised for the Gunners two minutes before half-time from a through-ball by Danielle Van De Donk.

After the break Van De Donk got a goal of her own to put the home side ahead, but just three minutes later Williams was on the scoresheet again to equalise for Birmingham.

But in an inspired substitution saw Arsenal take the points as Louise Quinn headed in from a free kick in the 78th minute to make it 3-2 and again from a corner in the 90th to make the final score 4-2.

Bristol City Women 1-1 Liverpool Ladies

It was honours even at the Stoke Gifford stadium as Bristol took a valuable point from the Spring Series’ early pace-setters, Liverpool Ladies.

The away side were on top throughout but were held until the 80th minute when Katie Zelem fired in after a poorly-cleared cross.

It looked as though Liverpool had secured the win, but City weren’t beaten and five minutes later Lily Agg headed in from Claire Emslie to see the points were shared.

Sunday 21 May

Manchester City Women 5-1 Yeovil Town Ladies

It is safe to say that City have hit their straps.  Things started badly for Yeovil when on 10 minutes Ann-Marie Heatherson turned a Lucy Bronze cross into her own net.  Two minutes later City were two up when Jill Scott lobbed keeper Megan Walsh.

On 20 minutes Lucy Quinn got one back for the Lady Glovers, but there was to be no comeback.

Jane Ross scored the Champions’ third before half-time and the game was effectively over as a contest.

In the second-half Ross grabbed a second and Kosovare Asllani City’s fifth.  Ellie Roebuck saved a penalty from Sarah Wiltshire for Man City.

The only fly in the ointment for City was Carli Lloyd’s 89th minute straight red card for an elbow.

Sunderland AFC 0-7 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea were five-up by half-time in this match and even had time to miss a penaly – a complete mauling for the Lady Black Cats.

Gemma Davison missed the spot kick that would have put Chelsea one-up, but it obviously did not knock their confidence.

Erin Cuthbert scored the first on 17.  Karen Carney doubled the lead on 31 after a precise pass from So Yun Ji.  Three minutes later Maren Mjelde got their third and substitute Ramona Bachmann the fourth on 41.  Cuthbert scored her second just before half-time and a dejected Sunderland team left the field.

Sunderland’s defence performed much better in the second-half, but they couldn’t stop the returning Fran Kirby from scoring a double on 80 and 85 minutes to complete the rout.

Chelsea would have been very heartened to welcome back Kirby after injury but disappointed to see Eni Aluko limp off in the first-half.

Thursday 25 May

Manchester City Women 1-0 Chelsea Ladies

After their stunning win on Sunday, Chelsea would have been fancying their chances against the champions.  There was, unsurprisingly, an emotional atmosphere at the Academy Stadium as a minute’s silence was held for the victims of the attack on the Manchester Arena on Monday.

But it was Chelsea who had trouble in settling.  They were defence-minded in the first-half and by the time they decided to take the attack to City it was too late and Manchester had got into their stride.

The only goal of the game came from Toni Duggan just before the half-hour.  How Chelsea must be sick of the sights of Duggan who has now scored 10 goals in 10 games against them.  Nikita Parris also looked lively for City although her finishing left something to be desired.

Off the Pitch

Notts County

Well, I didn’t see this coming.  New Notts County owner Alan Hardy has confirmed that he plans to bring women’s football back to the club.

As you will know, I have had plenty to say on this subject and could say plenty more, but this new announcement has thrown me somewhat.  I don’t want to be sceptical or cynical and would be more than happy to see a new team, so I’ll hold my thoughts until we see just what comes next.

This is what Hardy has said so far:

  • He wants to put together a sustainable model, which first sees a girls’ academy being set up.
  • He wants a clear pathway for academy players to progress through to a women’s first team.
  • He sees it as a long-term project
  • He knows they will have to work through the leagues and divisions but is willing to commit to that

On the problems he had with the previous set-up:

“Unfortunately, the ladies’ team I inherited was an entity on its own. There was just the first-team; there was nothing that was attaching it to the club in any way – probably because it was brought over from Lincoln and it had no structure or foundations.

“As of next season, we will have an under-nines, under-10s and under-11s girls’ academy, which will be playing in the boys’ Young Elizabethan League (YEL).”

All good words so far.  I just hope that the FA offers as much support as it can – very often (and I know I’ve said this before) I feel the FA has all the ideas (the “initiatives” – ugh beginning to dislike that word) regarding women’s football, then sets everyone adrift to fend for themselves with little or no back-up.  And before you all yell that clubs have to sustain themselves and why should they be propped up by the governing body – I don’t mean that they should be propped up – just that the FA should be aware of potential problems or issues and should be available to provide assistance.

It’s not just football that does this, but I would suggest the ECB and RFU are equally culpable.  And to support this, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes had her say about the FA this week.

Emma Hayes

The Chelsea manager pulled no punches on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.  She said that the FA is guilty of treading women’s football as an “afterthought” – something with which I would heartily agree.

She made the claim with reference to the training and pay of match officials.  She said that the pool of referees is too big and when it comes to payment, officials at WSL matches are paid around half the amount of those in the men’s National League (the top division of which is the fifth tier of English football).

The FA was quick to issue a response to the criticisms.  With respect to the officiating “problem” it has a “Gameplan for Growth” strategy:

“We acknowledge there is more to do but our commitment is clear”, it said.

“The FA is also: developing a pathway to recruit, train, deploy and mentor more women and men, from all walks of life, to referee at every level of the women’s game, and we’re reaching out to everyone involved, including clubs, to get a clearer understanding of peoples’ perceptions of officiating and seeking ways in which standards could be improved.”

It’s very interesting that the FA felt the need to issue a statement only hours after the interview.

Bibiana Steinhaus

The Bundesliga will see its first female referee next season.  38-year old policewoman Bibiana Steinhaus had previously been a fourth official at a Bundesliga match and has been a German FA referee since 1999.

She has already refereed the 2011 Women’s World Cup final and the women’s 2012 Olympic final.

Did I read some of the comments after this article on the BBC?  Yes I did.  Were they as bad as you think?  Yes, they were.

Signing

Arsenal have signed Netherlands international Vivianne Miedema from Bayern Munich for the new 2017/18 winter WSL season.

Miedema, a forward, already has 48 caps for the Netherlands and had been at Munich for three seasons.

And finally,

The BBC released a “Breaking news” item online this week that said that both Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor are included in Mark Robinson’s World Cup squad.  Any genuine cricket fan will see this as great news.  It is a real result that Taylor is available for selection and that Knight looks to be overcoming injury.

So, and yes, I know I should know better by now, I thought I’d look at the congratulatory comments after the article.  Except at that point, there weren’t any.  There were just four or five from men saying this was not news and why were the BBC covering it?

For a brief, fleeting but naive moment I thought the comments meant that both players were so good they couldn’t be left out.  Alas no.  What they were actually saying was that the article was not news because there was no competition for places in the squad and they just put anyone available in it, and of course, by implication, that women’s cricket was beneath notice.  They were, of course, displaying their total ignorance of the subject: Sarah Taylor has been out of the England set-up for a year, dealing with her anxiety issues, whilst Captain Heather Knight sustained a stress fracture in her foot at the training camp in the UAE and was (and still may be) a doubt for the World Cup.

So what makes these men think they are qualified to comment?  Do they care that they are so spectacularly wrong?  Probably not, but I just wish the wilfully uninformed would stay out of it.

If you can’t be bothered to get your facts right, don’t be bothered to comment.  Thanks.

And finally (2)

I’m currently writing a short four-part history of cricket for WiSP Sports.  If you would like to read part one here’s the link:  WiSP Sports.

There will be no column next week as I’m away watching the Champions’ Trophy – yes I do watch men’s sport too…..

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 May 2017

wembleyWelcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get through to again this week so let’s go straight into stories from football, tennis, rugby, cricket, netball and boxing.

Netball

The Final Four extravaganza is nigh.  And Loughborough Lightning are still top of the pile.  After round 15, they have 42 points, six points ahead of Wasps in second with Thunder back on third with 33 and Storm six points further back on 27.  But just behind are Bath on 27 and it seems to be between these two for the last place.

Monday 15 May

Team Northumbria 44-56 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 57-69 Surrey Storm
Sirens 59-45 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 44-58 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 72-51 Hertfordshire Mavericks

There are three rounds to go.  It’s round 16 this weekend and the Sky televised match is on Monday 22 May when Wasps Netball take on Surrey Storm at 8pm.

Football – On the Pitch

FA Cup Final

Birmingham City Ladies 1-4 Manchester City Women

After securing an encouraging draw the previous week, Birmingham City should have been in with a chance on Saturday, but truth be told they never looked as if they believed they could win the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

A crowd of 35,271 was there to see the WSL1 champions take Birmingham apart.

It was all too easy for Lucy Bronze to head home from Megan Campbell’s cross to take the lead on 18 minutes.  Seven minutes later they were two up, this time Bronze the provider and Izzy Christiansen firing home.

Carli Lloyd grabbed the third on 32 and it was really all over as a contest by this point.

In the second half Birmingham battled hard, pulling a goal back in the 73rd minute through Charlie Wellings, but Manchester City were to have the last word, scoring a fourth through substitute Jill Scott.

And now Manchester City women have not done the treble as some uninformed journalists would have it, but they do hold all three domestic titles.

Spring Series

Liverpool continued their storming start with a convincing win over Sunderland.  They are six points ahead of Chelsea in second, but have played two games more.  One of the strange things about WSL football is the distribution of games.  Thus some teams have now played five, while others only three.  Manchester City have only played three and lie third.

Wednesday 17 May

Liverpool Ladies 4-0 Sunderland AFC Ladies

The Black Cats had no reply to this in-form Liverpool side.  The home side took the lead on 10 minutes with Caroline Weir hitting the corner from 30 yards out.  Thwere two up on 21 with Natasha Harding getting her name on the score sheet.  It was 2-0 at half-time.

After the break Sunderland fought hard.  Maddie Hills hit the post just after the resumption and perhaps if her strike had gone it things might have been different.

But it was not to be.  Weir got her second and her side’s third on 57 minutes, with former England captain Casey Stoney rounding off the scoring ten minutes from time.

Yeovil Town Ladies 0-1 Reading FC Women

Yeovil are still yet to register a point as Reading took all three points at the Viridor Stadium.  The only goal of the game came on seven minutes when defender Mandy Van Den Berg  poked the ball over the line from a corner.

Chelsea Ladies 2-2 Arsenal Ladies

It was an excellent topsy-turvy match at Staines, which luckily was shown live on the BBC red button.

The away side took the lead on 34 minutes when keeper Carly Telford brought down Danielle Carter in the box.  It was a soft one, but Jodie Taylor stepped up to take the resultant penalty.  Telford looked to have redeemed herself as she saved the spot-kick but couldn’t keep out the rebound that Taylor put away to make it 1-0 to Arsenal.

There was no further scoring in the first-half although it was tightly fought and there were chances for both sides.

After the break Chelsea upped their game.  They drew level when the imposing Millie Bright met a Hannah Blundell free-kick in the box, heading it firmly past van Veenendaal.

The last ten minutes were frantic.

Chelsea looked to have taken the points when Drew Spence, scoring off the bench for her sixth in six games fired into the corner from a pinpoint pass from Crystal Dunn one minute into injury time.

But Arsenal were to have the last word as Jordan Nobbs deflected a Carter shot into the goal in the 95th minute to level the game.

It was clear by the body language of the team and of coach Emma Hayes, that Chelsea viewed the result as two points lost.

Birmingham City 2-0 Bristol City

Birmingham put the disappointment of the FA Cup final behind them on Wednesday as they took their first Spring Series win against Bristol City at Solihull Moors.

England striker Ellen White scored twice before half-time to put the home side two up and although Bristol tried hard in the second period, they could not break down the Birmingham defence.

Off the Pitch

Signings

The fallout from the Notts County debacle continues.

Defender Amy Turner has signed for Liverpool Ladies, while Wales international Angharad James has joined Yeovil Town Ladies.  Striker Rachel Williams has signed for Birmingham City Ladies again.  She previously played for them between 2011 and 2013.

England defender Laura Bassett meanwhile has decided not to sign for a new club before the Euros in the summer.

She is currently training with her previous club, Birmingham City, and is in Mark Sampson’s squad to go to the Netherlands.

She has decided to delay making any further decisions about her future until after the tournament.

Replacing Notts County

The Football Association has invited WSL2 clubs to apply to join WSL1 for the 2017-18 season to replace Notts County Ladies.

Whoever does fill the gap will have to meet WSL1 criteria around licences and finance (they should have perhaps checked Notts County for this).

Doncaster Belles, who were relegated last season, have released a statement expressing their disappointment that the FA is going through this process.  They consider that as a relegated side they should have had priority.

A decision will be made in June.

Scotland

Scotland’s women will play three warm-up matches in their preparation for this summer’s Euros:

9 June: Scotland v Romania (Falkirk)
13 June: Sweden v Scotland (Vaxjo)
7 July: Scotland v Republic of Ireland (venue to be confirmed)

Barcelona

Top Catalan women’s team, Barcelona, are in negotiations with the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with a view to entering a team into the2018 competition.

The club already has an office in New York and six academies across America.

There are currently 10 franchises in the NWSL, but none from Europe.  However, the noises coming from the League seem positive and it looks as if this proposal could have legs.

Motor Cycling

No, no new staggering news about a new women’s motor cycling initiative, but it’s that old, old story of the “grid girls”.

It seems that, at least in Spain, their days could be numbered – or curtailed.

Catalan political party Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds have called for new rules on the use of grid girls at the Moto GP Catalan Grand Prix in Barcelona in June.

The party would not ban the girls outright, but would impose a dress code and ensure that there were an equal number of “grid boys” employed.

This is the last in a number of attempts by various groups to alter or ban the practice.  Progress is slow, but progress there is.  Let’s hope that persistence pays and this outdated and ridiculous practice bites the dust soon.

Cricket

India seem to be playing themselves into fine form just in time for the World Cup.  The final of the Quadrangular series will be between India and South Africa.  The round robin section is now complete and the rest of the scores were as follows:

15 May

Zimbabwe 113 all out (40.2 overs)
South Africa 114/3 (21.2 overs)
South Africa won by seven wickets

A record-breaking game then took place between India and Ireland!

India 358/2 (50 overs)
Ireland 109 all out (40 overs)
India won by 249 runs

Some of the staggering statistics from that game:
Openers Deepti Sharma (188) and Punam Raut (109) shared a first-wicket stand of 320 runs.  This was the first 300+ stand by any pair in women’s cricket.  It was also higher than the current men’s record of 286 between Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya for Sri Lanka in 2006.  Sharma’s 188 came off 160 balls, the second –highest individual score in women’s ODIs, bettered only by Belinda Clark’s 229 not out for Australia.

In the next game the top two played a thriller.

17 May

South Africa 269/5 (50 overs)
India 261/9 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 8 runs

Ireland 150 all out (45 overs)
Zimbabwe 154/5 (41 overs)
Zimbabwe won by 5 wickets

19 May 2017

Zimbabwe 98 all out (42.3 overs)
India 99/0 (16 overs)
India won by 10 wickets

Also in action as we speak, Ireland unlikely to chase down this total but,

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 67/1 off 17
Ireland need 257 off 33 overs

Both the third place play-off and the final take place on 21 May.  Results and report next week.

Tennis

Off the Court

Maria Sharapova has not been given a wildcard for the French Open, which begins later this month.  There has been some hoo-hah in response to this, but the French Tennis Federation has defended its position,

“There can be a wildcard for the return from injuries – there cannot be a wildcard for the return from doping,” (FFT) chief Bernard Giudicelli Ferrandini .

Quite right – the FFT was under no obligation to grand this wildcard to Sharapova, but the WTA has chosen to say they had “no grounds to penalise” her.

On the Court

Madrid Open

The Madrid Open duly ended with an exciting climax, with third seed Simona Halep victorious over fourteenth seed Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7 6-2.  Halep seemed to be heading for a straight sets win, but Mladenovic fought hard to level the match at one-all.  But the Frenchwoman had perhaps pushed herself to exhaustion in the process and could not maintain her form to take the third.

Italian Open

Another week, another tournament.  The Italian Open is now well underway

British number one Johanna Konta started well with a straight-sets win over Yulina Putinseva of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-0.

She had a bye in the second, but went out in the third round (last 16) to the rejuvenated Venus Williams, 6-1 3-6 6-1.

World number one Angelique Kerber made a surprise exit in the second round as she was comprehensively defeated by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-4 6-0.

The quarter-final match-ups look like this:

Kontaveit v Halep (6)
V Williams (9) v Muguruza (3)
Bertens (15) v Gavrilova
Svitolina (8) v Pliskova (2)

Rugby Union

Harriet Millar-Mills was crowned Aviva Premiership Women’s Premiership Player of the Year 2017 this week.  It is the second year in a row that she has won the award.

Boxing

Nicola Adams won her second professional fight at the weekend.  She stopped Mexican Maryan Salazar in the third round in Leeds on Saturday.

It was Adams’ first fight over three-minute rounds, rather than the usual two.

Her partner, American boxer Marlen Esparza also won her second fight the previous week and now (according to a nicely cosy BBC article) the two are in a “battle” to see who will win a world title first.

And finally

And finally, there was a blue plaque unveiled this week to the most successful women’s team ever – the Dick, Kerr Ladies.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies were founded in Preston at the Dick, Kerr & Co munitions factory in 1917.  Its original aim was to raise money for wounded troops.

In 1920 a crowd of 53,000 saw them play at Goodison Park.  In the same year they played in the first women’s international against a French XI, winning it 2-0.

Who knows what they could have gone on to do?

But in 1921, in their wisdom, the FA banned women’s football as apparently “unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

The team actually carried on regardless, playing all over the world and chalking up a 200-match unbeaten run in the process.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies disbanded in 1965 due to lack of players, just four years before the Women’s Football Association was founded.  If you are interested in their story, check out Gail Newsham’s book, In a League of their Own.

There are only two statues to sportswomen in the UK.  There is a new campaign surrounding blue plaques and general recognition.  On Twitter you can follow @blueplaquerebel or check out www.blueplaquerebellion.com and the hashtag #recogniseher.  Send them your nominations for women in sport who should be celebrated.

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 May 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week including tennis, the unfathomable workings of FIFA, cricket, football, Ice hockey, the Women’s Sports Trust “Be a Game Changer” Awards and netball.  Plus a link to an excellent piece about women (or the lack of) in F1 and an “And Finally” which can be put in the category of “Am I surprised”….

So let’s crack on.

Tennis

Madrid Open

British number one, Johanna Konta lost in the first round of the Madrid Open this week.  She was beaten by in-form German Laura Siegemund, 3-6 7-6 6-4.

She was 3-0 up in the third set but Siegemund then took five games in a row to take control, and, eventually, the match.

Bouchard v Sharapova

For many the match they were waiting for came in the second round.  Eugenie Bouchard’s much publicised comment about Maria Sharapova being a “cheater” may as well have been posted in large letters above the court when this match took place.

Afterwards Bouchard said she was “motivated” to play well.

The match took three hours and Bouchard was finally triumphant 7-5 2-6 6-4.

Bouchard v Kerber

The third round match-up between Bouchard and Kerber looked to be even more mouth-watering, but the anticipated battle was not to be.  Kerber was suffering with an injury, later to be revealed as a thigh strain and the match ended with Kerber withdrawing at 6-3 5-0 down.

The quarter-final line-up is as follows:

CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) v Simona Halep (Rou) [3]

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN ) v Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) [8]

Kiki Bertens (NED) v Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) [14] v Sorana Cirstea (ROU)

Netball

Loughborough Lightning have managed to dispel my commentator’s curse to become the first side to qualify for the “Final Four” event on 10-11 June in Manchester.  Lightning won again at the weekend and as Wasps lost surprisingly to Team Bath, the gap is now six points at the top of the table.  Lightning are top with 39, Wasps in second 33, Thunder in third also with 33 and Surrey Storm currently lie fourth with 24.  There are still places up for grabs with four rounds to go.

Round 14 results

Friday 5 May

Team Northumbria 60-48 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 6 May

Hertfordshire Mavericks 47-60 Sirens

Surrey Storm 52-59 Loughborough Lightning

Severn Stars 42-63 Manchester Thunder

Monday 8 May

Team Bath 55-53 Wasps Netball

Round 15 sees all the teams playing on Monday 15 May with the live game on Sky being the league leaders, Loughborough Lightning against Hertfordshire Mavericks with coverage starting at 7.30pm.

Round 15 fixtures:

Team Northumbria v Team Bath

Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm

Sirens v Severn Stars

Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball

Loughborough Lightning v Hertfordshire Mavericks

Cricket

Quadrangular Series

There is a quadrangular series going on in South Africa as a warm-up for the World Cup, which takes place in June-July.  The teams involved are the hosts, South Africa, India, Zimbabwe and Ireland.

India have been the standout team so far having won all of their three games.  In doing so Indian fast bowler Jhulan Goswami became the highest wicket taker in women’s ODIs with 181.

Here are the results so far:

7 May

Zimbabwe 78 all out (26.5 overs)
South Africa 79/2 (11.4 overs0
South Africa won by 8 wickets

Ireland 96 all out (44.4 overs)
India 99/0 (18.4 overs)
India won by 10 wickets

9 May

South Africa 119 all out (39.3 overs)
India 121/3 (41.2 overs)
India won by 7 wickets

Ireland 209 all out (46.1 overs)
Zimbabwe 211/4 (47 overs)
Zimbabwe won by 6 wickets

11 May

South Africa 337/5 (50 overs)
Ireland 159/8 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 178 runs

Zimbabwe 93 all out (38.4 overs)
India 94/1 (18.3 overs)
India won by 9 wickets

Women’s Sports Trust #Be a Game Changer Awards

The awards were held on 11 May and the winners were:

Dame Sarah Storey  (Sporting Role Model – individual)
GB Hockey – (Sporting Role Model -team)
Kelly Simmons (Ambassador of Women’s Sport)
Vitality (Sponsor Partnership of the Year)
British Triathlon (NGB of the Year)
1000 Londoners (Imagery of the Year)
Hannah Bailey (Photographer/filmmaker of the Year)
This Mum Runs (Inspiring Initiative – local)
Youth Sport Trust – Girls Active (Inspiring Initiative – national)
Red Roses (Media Initiative)
Eleanor Oldroyd (Media Individual)
Jointly Kate Richardson-Walsh and Charlotte Edwards (Outstanding Contribution to women’s sport)

North American Sport

This story has been doing the rounds widely this week, but is another example of how women are short-changed in sport, not only as athletes or journalists, administrators or officials, but also as fans.

The Edmonton Oilers ice hockey team are through to the Stanley Cup playoffs.  In their wisdom they have, in deference to their male supporters, changed two women’s bathrooms into men’s to ensure that men don’t have to wait in a queue any longer than is absolutely necessary.

The women, of course, who apparently now have to wait up to half an hour to “go” don’t count.

Probably every woman I know will have a “standing in a toilet queue” tale of woe.  They will by no means be all related to sport, but certainly any woman who has read the story this week will be neither surprised nor impressed.

The club has said that significantly more men than women are attending the playoffs, but have yet to provide any factual evidence of this.

Meanwhile, the Oilers’ female fans will either have to cross their legs or miss the action.

Football

Off the Pitch

Scotland head coach Anna Signeul has been appointed to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) advisory panel.

The IFAB comprises representatives of the four British football associations, which have one vote each and FIFA, which has four votes.

The Advisory panel consists of coaches, managers, referees and former players from all over the world and acts as the decision-making body for the Laws of the Game.

FIFA

It never ceases to amaze me just how totally ridiculous a governing body FIFA is.  I know I’m not alone in this view, but it bears repeating.  And this tends to extend to the member confederations too.

This week the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had to elect a member to the FIFA Council seat reserved for a woman.  They had an outstanding, and I mean outstanding, candidate in Australian Moya Dodd.  So Dodd was elected?  Not a hope.

Let’s just take a moment to consider Moya Dodd.  She chaired the FIFA Women’s Football Taskforce, she has constantly and consistently championed women’s football -its development and its potential for investment and sponsorship.  She has over thirty years of experience as a former player, in law and in business.  She was co-opted on to the Executive Committee of FIFA in 2013.

The AFC Congress voted 27-17 to elect the head of the Bangladesh Football Federation Women’s Committee, Mahfuza Akhter Kiron.

There are six posts for women in the 37-strong council.  These women need to be knowledgeable, confident and able to contribute.  Let’s face it; they probably need to be much more of all of these things than the men – just to get heard.

Kiron is little-known outside Bangladesh and was unable to name the women’s World Cup champions when asked at an interview.  In February she apparently barred the Bangladesh women’s team from speaking to the media because they were publishing negative stories.  In response Bangladeshi journalists boycotted a press conference held to publicise the team’s participation in a tournament in Singapore, refusing to cover the story if Kiron was there.

There has been much comment about the appointment in the press with current and former players, administrators and football journalists all decrying the decision.

Obviously we will have to see what happens during Kiron’s tenure, and she shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but if I were Moya Dodd I would be wondering how on earth I had missed out.

Lionesses

The England women’s team will play Denmark in their final warm up match before the Euros.  They will play at the Gladsaxe Stadium in Copenhagen on Saturday 1 July, kicking off at 6pm BST.

On the Pitch

Women’s Under 17s Euros

The Women’s Under 17s Euros have been taking place in the Czech Republic over the last fortnight.

The semi-finals were played on 11 May:

Netherlands 0-2 Spain
Germany 1-1 Norway
Germany win 3-2 on penalties)

The final between Spain and Germany, the fourth such match-up in ten tournaments, will be on 14 May.

England had a mixed time of it, winning their first group game 5-0 against the Republic of Ireland, but losing the other two to the Netherlands (1-2) and Norway (0-2).

Spring Series

Liverpool Ladies are the early leaders in the Spring Series with three wins from four.  They are top by three points on 10 with current Super League champions Manchester City lying second on seven points from three matches.  Chelsea are third after playing only two games with six points.  Yeovil are bottom having yet to score a point from four matches.

At the risk of losing readers, I’d also like to point you in the direction of the WSL website, which is excellent.  They sometimes miss out a few details, but there’s always a report of each match published in good time.  Check it out: fawsl.com

Saturday 6 May

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Bristol City Women

Sunderland claimed their first win of the Series on Saturday.  After a tight first-half there was little to choose between the teams.

In the second-half there were long-distance shots from both sides, but the game was settled 14 minutes from time when Hayley Ladd committed a foul tackle in the box and Lucy Staniforth stepped up to score the resultant penalty.

Sunday 7 May

Birmingham City Ladies 0-2 Liverpool Ladies

Not the ideal confidence booster ahead of Birmingham’s FA Cup Final appearance this Saturday as they sank to a home defeat against early league pace-setters, Liverpool Ladies.

Ex Lady-Pie Jess Clarke was on target for the visitors in the 48th minute as Alex Greenwood crossed for her to head past Ann-Katrin Berger to give Liverpool the lead.

The win was sealed nine minutes from time when Gemma Bonner fired home from close range.

Reading FC Women 2-3 Manchester City Women

Reading thought they had the WSL1 champions beaten at Adams Park on Sunday, but they reckoned without the tenacity that won City the title last year

The visitors took the lead through Nikita Parris after just six minutes and this lead lasted until the 59th minute when Jade Moore equalised with a 20-yard shot that flew into the top corner.

The home side went ahead in the 74th minute with a penalty from Lauren Bruton, but the lead lasted just two minutes before Parris grabbed her second from a Megan Campbell long throw.  Campbell is fast becoming famous (or infamous) for this throw and she was in the action again two minutes later as she fired over another for Jill Scott to latch on to and put away to claim the points.

Yeovil Town Ladies 1-5 Arsenal Ladies FC

Yeovil took a hammering against Arsenal as the Gunners claimed their first win of the Spring Series.

The away side took the lead in the seventh minute with a penalty from Jodie Taylor after the ball was handled in the box.

Two minutes later the lead was doubled as Yeovil defender Molly Clark put the ball into her own net.

On 24 minutes Taylor grabbed her second and on 31 the on-form Danielle Carter got Arsenal’s fourth on and the game was effectively over.

Lucy Quinn pulled one back for the Lady Glovers just before half-time, but they went in 1-4 down.

In the second-half Heather O’Reilly scored a penalty for Arsenal to take the score to 1-5.

Tuesday 9 May

Bristol City Women 0-3 Manchester City Women

Toni Duggan completed an impressive 18-minute hat-trick to see Manchester City take their second away win in a week.

She got her first two minutes before half-time, from a Nikita Parris cross.

In the second-half she scored on 51 and 57 minutes, the first from the penalty spot and the second after being put through by Parris again.

FA Cup Final

It’s the FA Cup Final this weekend between Birmingham City Ladies and Manchester City Women.  The BBC is showing it live on BBC2 and the BBC website with updates on Radio 5 Live.  Kick-off is 5.15pm.  Should be a good one, if the Spring Series game last week is anything to go by.

Formula 1

I picked up on a rather good piece about the barriers to women in formula One.  Here’s the link if you’d like to read it for yourself: sidepodcast.com

And finally

Here’s a funny little anecdote that may, or may not, have you raising an eyebrow.  Apparently, former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has said he is “not comfortable” being interviewed by a female reporter – not a particular one, you understand, just women in general.

This all came out before the launch of his boxing academy in Dubai and was revealed by a spokesperson for the Dubai agency that represents him.  It was told to Arabian Business which was planning to interview him about the launch.  They were told that if they sent a female reporter the interview would be cancelled.

Since the revelation, both the agency and Tyson himself have tried to deflect interest in the “story” and have refused all further requests for comment.

I wasn’t there to hear either side, but sadly it’s all too easy to believe.  Just because we don’t hear this every day, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still happen.  And while it does, women sports reporters will always be in the shadow of their male colleagues – commissioning editors will always have to consider who they are going to send to a story not just because of their capabilities, but also possibly because of their gender.

Women’s Sports Column 29 April – 5 May 2017

Squash-racquet-and-ballIt’s that time again!  Not quite sure where the week has gone, but gone it has and so here comes the column.  Plenty of news again this week with stories from cycling, football, badminton, boxing, squash, hockey, tennis, cricket, rugby and netball.  This week’s “and finally” comes from basketball.

Cycling

Tour de Yorkshire

Lizzie Deignan won the Tour de Yorkshire at the weekend.  She finished the 122.5km course in three hours, nine minutes, 36 seconds.

Deignan was part of an eight-strong group that broke away with 60km to go.  Then three riders, including Deignan pulled ahead.  Deignan then made her move with 14km left and was never headed.

Top five finishers

  • Lizzie Deignan (GB/Boels Dolman) 3hrs 09mins 36secs
  • Coryn Rivera (US/Team Sunweb) +55secs
  • Giorgia Bronzini (ITA/Wiggle High 5) Same time
  • Amy Pieters (NED/Boels Dolman)
  • Hannah Barnes (GB/Canyon SRAM Racing)

Squash

England’s women won the European Team Championships last weekend.  They beat France in the final 2-0.  Wales beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the third place play-off.

Final:
England beat France 2-0
Sarah-Jane Perry beat Camille Serme 11/8, 8/11, 9/11, 14/12, 11/7
Fiona Moverley beat Laura Pomportes 14/12, 11/5, 4/11, 7/11, 11/8
Victoria Lust v Coline Aumard (match withdrawn)

Third place play-off:
Wales beat Netherlands 2-1
Tesni Evans beat Milou van der Heijden 11/6, 11/4, 11/7
Lowri Roberts lost to Tessa ter Sluis 5/11, 13/11, 6/11, 8/11
Deon Saffery beat Natalie Grinham 9/11, 11/7, 13/15, 11/6, 11/8

Boxing

Katie Taylor’s winning run now stretches to five.  She stopped Nina Meinke of Germany in the seventh round of her latest bout at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

She is now able to challenge for the WBA world lightweight belt currently held by Cecilia Comunales of Uruguay.

Rugby Union

The news Lichfield fans dreaded came this week when the RFU announced that they have been unsuccessful in their appeal against being excluded from the new Women’s Super League.

An independent panel heard the appeals from both Lichfield, who finished second in this year’s Premiership and Thurrock, who finished top of the second flight and should have been promoted.  The panel found that the RFU had followed correct procedure in selecting the teams for the new Super League, but it should also be noted that the panel was not constituted to decide whether the decisions made were the correct ones, just that correct procedure had been followed.

Lichfield will now play in the second tier of English rugby and may, in all probability, lose the services of their current internationals, such as Emily Scarratt and Amy Cokayne.

Badminton

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour won silver at the European Championships this week.  She was defeated in the singles final by Spain’s Carolina Marin, 21-14 21-12.

It was Gilmour’s second final defeat in a row and three successive wins for Marin.

Cricket

Good and bad news on the cricket front this week.

Bad news first.  England captain Heather Knight has fractured a metatarsal whilst training for the World Cup in the UAE.

She will be out for five to six weeks, hoping to be back in time for the beginning of the tournament, which starts on 24 June.  Fingers crossed her rehabilitation goes to plan.

The good news also concerns the World Cup with the news announced this week by the ICC that every match will be broadcast live for the first time.  The prize money will also be doubled.

It’s all a bit last minute, as with so much surrounding women’s sport, but not perhaps one shouldn’t be churlish.

The prize fund goes up from $1m to $2m.

The ICC is also to publish plans later in the year for growing the women’s game with the aim

“To move towards equality across the game within 15 years”

Bold words – can they live up to it?  Call me cynical, but let’s see the full document before we leap in the air with joy.

Ten games will be broadcast live on TV, with the other 21 streamed live on the ICC website.  There will also be radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Xtra and highlights on the BBC Sport website.

Tennis

There was heartening news this week as Petra Kvitova took her first steps on the practice court after the attack which left her with a career-threatening hand injury last December.  She posted a photo of herself on the court in Monaco.

It is still unclear whether she will be fit to play in the French Open at the end of May.

Football

Off the Pitch

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year

The shortlist for the 2017 has been announced:

Melanie Behringer (Bayern Munich and former Germany midfielder)

Ada Hegerberg (Olympique Lyonnais and Norway striker)

Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea and Sweden goalkeeper)

Marta (Orlando Pride and Brazil forward)

Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns and Canada forward)

You can vote via the BBC website.  The closing date is Monday 15 May.

Notts County Ladies

It’s good to see that clubs are busy snapping up former Notts County Ladies players.

Reading Women have been the biggest beneficiaries signing England internationals Jade Moore and Jo Potter and Kirsty Linnett.  Both Moore and Potter are in the England squad for this year’s Euros.

Carly Telford and Laura Bassett are the two remaining England internationals from Notts County’s squad yet to find a new club.

Carly Telford has rejoined Chelsea Ladies until the end of the Spring Series.

Yeovil Town Ladies have signed County’s second ‘keeper, Megan Walsh for the rest of the Spring Series.

Yeovil Town

It is likely that Walsh will go straight into the side as first choice goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes will be out for up to eight weeks after breaking her hand against Chelsea on Sunday.

On the Pitch

Women’s Champions League

Manchester City were beaten 3-2 on aggregate by cup-holders Lyon this week.  They trailed 3-1 after the first leg – the damage was done.  They put up a creditable performance in Lyon to win the leg 1-0 with a goal from Carli Lloyd, but it was not enough to take them through.  A crowd of 19,214 saw the home favourites progress to the final.

In the other tie, Paris Saint-German beat Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate.  They won the second leg in Paris 2-0 with an own goal and a penalty.

The final is on Thursday 1 June at the Cardiff City Stadium at 7.45pm.

FA Women’s Spring Series

Friday 28 April

Liverpool Ladies 4-2 Reading Women

Liverpool took the lead through Tash Harding after just two minutes.  But Reading hit straight back just a minute later when Liverpool ‘keeper Siobhan Chamberlain spilled a Brooke Chaplen shot, which went into the net.

The away side took the lead four minutes later when Melissa Fletcher fired in from ten yards.  Liverpool pulled level on 24 with Harding’s second and went ahead again ten minutes later when Caroline Weir tapped in from an Alex Greenwood cross.  The teams went in with the home side leading 3-2.

Laura Coombs dealt the telling blow scoring five minutes after the restart and giving Liverpool all three points.

Sunday 30 April

Chelsea Ladies 6-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Chelsea demolished newly promoted Yeovil in their first game of the Spring Series, but it took them until nearly half-time to take the lead.

In the 45th minute and in first-half injury time Ji So-Yun scored twice to demoralise Yeovil who had held out in the face of repeated Chelsea chances up to this point.

In the second-half the home side cashed in on their superiority with goals from Drew Spence, Erin Cuthbert, Crystal Dunn and Ramona Bachmann.

Sunderland AFC 0-0 Arsenal Ladies

There were chances for both sides but neither could break the deadlock at the Hetton Centre on Sunday.

Wednesday 3 May

Manchester City Women 1-1 Birmingham City Ladies

City underperformed in this match and deserved nothing more than a draw.  In contrast, Birmingham played to the best of their potential to take the point.

Carli Lloyd missed several chances for the champions, but Birmingham’s resolute defence held out.

The away side took the lead in the 14th minute with a header from Emily Westwood.

It took until the second half for Man City to get going and when they did they had periods of sustained pressure.  The pressure told in the 58th minute when Lucy Bronze ran at the defence, beating two defenders to score the equaliser.

Yeovil Town Ladies 2-3 Bristol City Women

It looked set be Yeovil’s first point of the Spring Series until an unfortunate own goal from Nicola Cousins deprived the home side of the draw.

Bristol took the lead after just five minutes from the penalty spot.  Lucy Quinn brought down Claire Emslie, who got up to convert the resulting spot kick herself.

The home side drew level in the 27th minute with a header from Annie Heatherson and it was all square at the break.

In the second –half the home side took the lead as Sarah Wiltshire scored from 25 yards.

But Bristol weren’t finished.  Three minutes later they equalised through Chloe Arthur.

It was level until two minutes from time when Cousins’ deflection of an Arthur shot took the ball past goalkeeper Walsh.

Reading Women 0-4 Chelsea Ladies

Another day, another impressive win for Chelsea as they scored four without reply at Reading.

Karen Carney got the first on the half-hour, the only score in the first-half.

After the break Drew Spence scored from a few yards out, Ji So-Yun struck the away side’s third and a fourth came from Hannah Blundell with nine minutes to go.

Thursday 4 May

Arsenal Ladies 4-4 Liverpool Ladies

In a pulsating match at The Hive, Arsenal came back from 3-1 down and looked to have snatched all three points when a late equaliser for Liverpool gave the away side a deserved draw.

Liverpool took the lead on the 13th minute when Alex Greenwood scored straight from a corner.  It was, perhaps, an indication of how the match was going to go.

The Gunners equalised on the half-hour through Chloe Kelly.

Then Liverpool moved up a gear with goals from Tash Harding and Caroline Weir before the break to take the away side 3-1 up at half-time.

After the break Danielle Carter got one back and the game was on again.

On the hour Carter was in for a second and the score was 3-3.

Arsenal looked to have completed a famous victory when a Jordan Nobbs stunner took them 4-3 ahead.  But Liverpool were determined to have the last word as on the 84th minute Gemma Bonner made it 4-4 with a header from a Greenwood corner.

Netball

Rounds 12 and 13 of the Vitality Netball Super League were played over the bank holiday weekend.  True to the commentator’s curse that I knew must come, I put the complete mockers on the league leaders, Loughborough Lightning as they lost their showcase game, held in front of a packed house in Leicester, to title rivals Wasps.  They were back on form on Monday, beating Sirens comfortably and now lead the table by three points from Wasps with five rounds to go before the semi-finals.

Round 12 results:

Friday 28 April

Team Bath 59-33 Severn Stars

Saturday 29 April

Sirens 69-47 Team Northumbria
Celtic Dragons 53-55 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 56-63 Surrey Storm
Loughborough Lightning 54-57 Wasps Netball

Round 13 results:

Monday 1 May

Surrey Storm 49-56 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 41-45 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Wasps Netball 62-46 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 56-47 Team Northumbria
Sirens 46-57 Loughborough Lightning

Round 14 is this weekend and the televised match is on Monday 8 May, Team Bath v Wasps Netball, 7.45pm live on Sky Sports.

Hockey

Surbiton completed the league championship and cup double at the weekend with a 5-0 win over Clifton Robinsons in the Investec Women’s Cup final at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre last weekend.

Surbiton have lost only one game this season, 3-2 to Leicester in February, and have now won four successive league titles and three of the last four cup finals.

Surbiton took the lead through Giselle Ansley and they were two up when Emily Atkinson bagged their second with Hollie Webb a third before half-time.

They didn’t let up in the second-half with Ansley scoring a second, and Hannah Martin the team’s fifth two minutes from time.

Surbiton now go into the Euro Hockey Club Cup in Den Bosch, Netherlands, facing Spanish side Complutense on 2 June.  If they win this they will play the winners of the Den Bosch v Hermes-Monktown tie.

Canterbury are also involved and will play Hamburg on the same date.

And finally 

And finally, some good news!  I was despairing that I would ever be able to report this, but happily I was wrong.

After four long years of campaigning, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has approved the wearing of headcoverings under certain conditions.

The decision was supposed to have been made in August 2016, but was postponed until January 2017.  It was postponed again in January.  But, finally the ruling has been released.  The conditions are:

  • it is black or white, or of the same dominant colour as that of the uniform
  • it is one same colour for all players on the team
  • it does not cover any part of the face entirely or partially
  • it is not dangerous to the player wearing it and/or to other players
  • it has no opening/closing elements around the face and/or neck
  • it has no parts extruding from its surface.

We must also remember this has a bearing not only for the wearing of the hijab for women, but also turbans for men.  More than 130,000 people signed a petition to end the headgear ban.

Women’s Sports Column 22-28 April 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  There is so much to get through this week I’m going to crack straight on!  Stories come from football, tennis, athletics, netball, squash, gymnastics, taekwondo, cricket, hockey and rugby.  You can probably guess my “And finally” again this week….

Football – Off the Pitch

World Cup 2019

The draw has been made for the European section of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.  England have been drawn in the same group as Wales along with Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.

The seven group winners will qualify automatically with the four best runners-up going into a two-round play-off to fill the last qualifying spot.

Qualifiers take place between 11 September 2017 and 4 September 2018

The draw in full:

Group 1: England, Russia, Wales, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan.

Group 2: Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, Belarus, Albania.

Group 3: Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland.

Group 4: Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia.

Group 5: Germany, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Faroe Islands.

Group 6: Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Moldova.

Group 7: Spain, Austria, Finland, Serbia, Israel.

PFA Awards

Lucy Bronze was awarded PFA Women’s Player of the Year this week.  The other shortlisted candidates were Jane Ross, Jill Scott, Ellen White, Karen Carney and Caroline Weir.

Jess Carter won the Women’s Young Player of the Year award.   Nikita Parris, Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir and Millie Bright were also shortlisted.

Kelly Smith was given a PFA Special Achievement Award.

On the Pitch

European Champions League

Saturday 22 April
Manchester City 1- 3 Lyon

Manchester City face an uphill battle if they are to overcome cup holders Lyon and qualify for the Champions League final.

Lyon went ahead after only two minutes after Carli Lloyd handled in the penalty area.  Saki Kumagai stepped up to score the penalty.

Kosovare Asllani equalised for City but the away side were quick to take the lead again, this time through Dzsenifer Marozsan.

French striker Eugenie Le Sommer scored a third in the second half.

The second leg takes place on Saturday 29 April.

Spring Series

The Spring Series is underway – without Notts County Ladies.

Saturday 22 April

Bristol City 1-3 Reading

After a goalless first half the visitors took the lead on 49 minutes when Rachel Furness headed home from a Rachel Rowe corner.

They were two up ten minutes later when Rowe carved out a chance to score herself and the tie was effectively over on 61 minutes when Melissa Fletcher poked home from a mistake in the Bristol defence.

Lauren Hemp pulled one back for the home side, but the points were gone.

Sunday 23 April

Birmingham City 0-0 Sunderland

With most of the possession and scoring opportunities, Birmingham City will be rueing missing their chances in this game, while Sunderland will be more than happy with a point.

Yeovil Town Ladies 1-4 Liverpool Ladies

The day started in a comedic fashion when it was revealed that Liverpool had forgotten to bring their away kit and so had to play in the home side’s away kit.  However, this was the end of the comedy for Yeovil Town’s as their first experience of the WSL1 was a tough one.

Liverpool took the lead on 23 minutes as Yeovil were penalised for handling in the box.  Alex Greenwood converted the penalty.

The away side doubled their lead in first-half injury time as Gemma Bonner poked home from a corner.

Yeovil were three down after 65 minutes when Katie Zelem scored from a Shanice Van De Sanden corner.  Zelem got her second on 75 to take it to 4-0.

Yeovil pulled one back in the 78th minute through a Sarah Wiltshire penalty.

Athletics

World Relays

Great Britain’s 4x400m team missed out on a bronze medal by 0.23 seconds in the Bahamas this week.  The team of Emily Diamond, Laviai Nielsen, Eilidh Doyle and Christine Ohuruogu finished fourth behind USA in first, Poland and Jamaica.

Germany took the 4 x 100m title ahead of Jamaica and China.

Kelly Sotherton

Heptathlete Kelly Sotherton has received her second upgraded bronze in five months after Russian athlete Tatyana Chernova was stripped of the bronze she won at Beijing in 2008 after she tested positive for a steroid.

She had already moved up to fourth from fifth after Ukrainian Lyudmila Blonska was disqualified.

London Marathon

Kenyan Mary Keitany won the women’s elite race, breaking Paula Radcliffe’s women-only record in the process.  She ran the marathon in a time of 2 hours 17 minutes 1 second, breaking the record by a massive 41 seconds.

Alyson Dixon was top British finisher in 12th, thus securing her World Championships place.   Jo Pavey was forced to pull out at around the 17 mile mark.

Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the wheelchair race, with Amanda McGrory of the USA in second and fellow American Susannah Scaroni in third.  Britain’s Jade Jones finished fifth.

 Cricket

It’s all change on the Subcontinent as both India and Pakistan have named new coaches just two months before the World Cup.

Pakistan

Sabih Azhar is the new Pakistan coach, taking over from Kabir Khan.  Pakistan also announced their squad for the upcoming tournament:

Sana Mir (Capt), Sidra Nawaz (wk), Ayesha Zafar, Nahida Khan, Marina Iqbal, Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan, Nain Abidi, Kainat Imtiaz, Asmavia Iqbal, Diana Baig, Waheeda Akhtar, Nashra Sandhu, Ghulam Fatima, Sadia Yousuf.

India

In a surprise move, Purnima Rau has been sacked by the BCCI and replaced by Tushar Arothe.  Arothe was women’s fielding coach and then head coach between 2008 and 2012.

Rau has voiced concern that she only found out about the sacking via the media.

“I was preparing the team for the World Cup when I heard of this from elsewhere.  I wasn’t given any explanation or reason by the board. In fact they didn’t even have the courtesy to inform me. In terms of results, we were successful. To be axed this way is disappointing and insulting.”

Arothe’s first test will be in May in a series in South Africa in a limited overs tournament that also features Ireland and Zimbabwe.

England v Ireland Series

England are currently playing Ireland in a three-match series in Abu Dhabi as their World Cup warm-up continues.

24 April

England XI 397/4 (50 overs)
Ireland 103 all out (44 overs)
England won by 276 runs

Jenny Gunn hit 94 not out and Georgia Elwiss 81 as England comfortably won the first match of the series.

The England bowling was equally impressive with Anya Shrubsole taking 3-11 and Alex Hartley 3-24.

Hockey

Surbiton did the double last weekend as both their men’s and women’s teams won their respective Hockey League Finals.

For the women it was their fourth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1.  Giselle Ansley scored Surbiton’s first and Rebecca Middleton the second before Eleanor Watton pulled one back for Holcombe.

Naomi Evans scored the third to ensure the title went to Surbiton.

Netball

Last weekend saw round 11 of the Netball Superleague.  Loughborough Lightning are still unbeaten and top the table by five points from Wasps as they won a thrilling game against the Thunder by just one point on Saturday.

Saturday 22 April

Team Bath 58-48 Celtic Dragons
Manchester Thunder 57-58 Loughborough Lightning
Team Northumbria 58-55 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Sunday 23 April

Wasps Netball 65-41 Sirens

Monday 24 April

Severn Stars 66-62 Surrey Storm

The next Sky televised game is on Saturday 29 when Mavericks take on the Storm (6pm), but all eyes will probably be on what happens an hour later when the top two, Lightning and Wasps, take on each other in Loughborough’s showcase game at the Leicester Community Arena.

Tennis

Lots of tennis news this week – mostly off the court, unfortunately.   Mr Nastase makes his appearance in my “And finally” comment, but there are other stories to cover.

Fed Cup

In amongst all the controversy and ill-feeling, there was actually some Fed Cup tennis going on last weekend.

Great Britain lost their World Cup Group II play-off against Romania, which means they are back in the Europe/Africa Zone.

Heather Watson lost the first rubber to Simona Halep 6-4 6-1.  Jo Konta levelled the tie when she beat Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-3.

On day two, though, Halep beat Konta 6-1 6-3 and Britain’s fate was sealed when Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Watson 6-4 7-5

In other Fed Cup news, it will be a USA v Belarus final.

USA beat the Czech Republic 3-2 and Belarus defeated Switzerland by the same margin.

Maria Sharapova

She’s back.  More pictures, film, social media comment and interviews have been devoted to Sharapova’s return this week than any other subject.

And she’s playing well.  After being given a wild card for the Stuttgart tournament she is now into the quarter finals.  She beat Roberta Vinci in the first round and powered past Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-1.

She faces Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit in the last eight.  Kontaveit put out fifth seed Garbine Muguruza in the previous round.

But not everyone is happy about her return.  Eugenie Bouchard has labelled Sharapova a “cheater” and said she should not be allowed back on the WTA tour.  The crowds have been respectful but cool.  It’s up to Sharapova to prove herself on the court if she is to win back the more general tennis watcher.

Stuttgart

In other Stuttgart news, Johanna Konta was knocked out in the second round by Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 7-5.

The last eight looks like this:

K Mladenovic v C Suárez Navarro
A Kontaveit v M Sharapova
A Sevastova v S Halep (4)
L Siegemund v K Pliskova (2)

Squash

England’s women’s squash team are through to the semi-finals of the European Team Championships after finishing top of their qualifying group.

They beat Denmark 3-0, the Netherlands 3-0 and Wales 3-0 and will now face the Netherlands again in the semi on Friday 28 April.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones has won gold at the World Taekwondo Federation President’s Cup in Athens.  It was her first competition since December 2016.

She won five contests to take the -57kg title.

Gymnastics

After reaching every final in the European Championships last week, Ellie Downie made good and took the all-round gold at the weekend.

She was in silver position going into the final rotation, but ended up beating Hungary’s Zsofia Kovacs by 0.333 points.   Downie scored 55.765 and Kovacs 55.432.  Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France finished in bronze on 55.065.

To cap a stunning weekend Downie also won a silver in the vault and floor and bronze in the uneven bars in the individual competition.

Ellie’s older sister Becky fell and injured her hands and was unable to participate in the beam final.  Her place was taken by Claudia Fragapane, but she fell in the final and finished eighth.  Fragapane also finished seventh on the floor.

Rugby

Premiership Finals

Aylesford Bulls Ladies were the perhaps surprise winners of the last Premiership final before the new Super League starts next season.

Aylesford Bulls 17-8 Bristol

Although they finished third in the table in the regular season, Bulls brought their best rugby to finals day to beat top of the league Bristol.

Aylesford took the lead in the third minute with a try from Hanna Field under the posts.  Jess Wooden converted to make it 7-0.

Bristol were then awarded a penalty, which Amber Reed kicked, but Aylesford hit straight back with their second try, this time from Michela Sillari in the corner.  The conversion was missed and the half-time sc ore was 12-3.

In the second half Bristol got their game together.  On 54 minutes Chantelle Miell went over in the corner.  The conversion was missed, but the deficit was cut to just four points.

But it was not to be for Bristol as Sillari scored her second to take the match away from them and take the game 17-8.

In the 3rd/4th play-off Lichfield took the honours as they beat Saracens 41-14.

Lichfield went ahead in the 16th minute when Emily Braund went over.  Emily Scarratt then added a penalty.

Saracens came back with a try from Lotte Clapp.

But Lichfield hit back themselves with a second try from Braund just on half-time to take the score the 15-7 at the break.

In the second-half Lichfield consolidated their lead with tries from Sarah Bonar and Carys Williams.  Tash Jones and Amy Cockayne scored two more for Lichfield taking the game, with Saracens having the last word with a try from Bryony Cleall.

And Finally

And finally, let’s talk Ilie Nastase.  Great player and entertainer in his time, yes.  But last week he showed that his off-court behaviour is not all it should be.  Firstly he made a racist comment about Serena Williams’ baby (not going to repeat it here), and then he seemingly had a complete meltdown at the Fed Cup tie between Great Britain and Romania.  In my relatively sheltered, liberal world I watched and listened to the unfolding events with shock and, I’m afraid, disbelief.  Do people really speculate about the colour of someone’s baby?  Naive I am, possibly, and if so I apologise, but I’m still struggling to understand why anyone would even say what he did.

As regards his Fed Cup behaviour, I feel pretty much as I did about the David Moyes situation.  Not acceptable in any sense, ever.  I listened to BBC Tennis correspondent Russell Fuller as her tried to make sense of what was going on and you could hear the shock in his voice.  He couldn’t believe what he’d heard and when he interviewed the head of the Romanian Tennis Federation who said basically it was “Ilie being Ilie” you could tell Fuller was biting his tongue to prevent himself giving an inappropriate response.

It is not acceptable that anyone reduces an opposing player to tears.  It is not appropriate that anyone is called “F****** bitches” on a tennis court.  It is up to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to see that it doesn’t happen again.  Will they?  I hope so.