Women’s Sports Column 8-14 September 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column.  I’m back!  Didn’t miss much did I?  Just the end of the Kia Super League, the start of the WSL, the start of the rugby union Premier 15s season, the Lionesses qualifying for the World Cup?  No, not much.

I can’t pretend to give you updates on all that, so I hope you managed to get your women’s sport fix elsewhere over the last couple of weeks.  Mind you, I also hope you’re back to read my column again this week!

But my goodness, there’s plenty to get through this week including stories from cycling, tennis, golf, football, cricket, netball, athletics, rugby union and mountain biking.

Before we start though, congratulations to Surrey Stars for their Kia Super League triumph on 27 August.   Just when I thought Loughborough Lightning may bag the title at last, they completely crumbled in the final and Surrey Stars were the winners.  Without resorting to saying “cricket was the winner” this year, I’d just like to say that the tournament  this season was excellent – the new expanded fixture list to include both home and away ties makes so much more sense.  Shame it’s all going to go in 2020…..

Cycling – Kristina Vogel

I was going to start with the US Open women’s singles final, but hey, some things are more important and Kristina Vogel’s story is one of them.

Back at the end of June double Olympic champion Kristina Vogel crashed into another rider during training.

The spinal injury she sustained has left her unable to walk.

In an interview with Der Spiegel she said,

“I believe that the sooner you accept a new situation, the sooner you learn to deal with it.

“I was in pain, but there are no words….On the first X-ray images my spine looks like an Ikea folding table.

“In the meantime, I really thought that I was dying. But I said to myself: ‘I cannot let go here now.’

“No matter what fate holds for you, life goes on, in my case now on four wheels instead of two wheels. My arms are now my legs too.”

Without wanting to sound mawkish, one does imagine that, having come to terms with her situation, she will be incredibly determined and ultimately successful in whatever she tackles next.

You can here Vogel talking about the crash and its aftermath in the BBC’s BeSpoke podcast:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06l0l6g

Tennis – US Open

Where to start with this?

Williams v Osaka

Sticking to the facts: Naomi Osaka in the US Open champion and a worthy winner.  She won in straight sets 6-2 6-4.

In addition to this, Williams was given a code violation for coaching, penalised a point for smashing her racquet and finally docked a game for verbal abuse.

That much we know and is fact.   The rest is now so bound up in name-calling, claim and counter-claim that whatever I say would not change any minds or make things clearer.

Any regular reader will know that I admire Serena immensely and the greatest feeling I have about this whole episode is sadness.  I am said that Osaka did not receive the recognition she deserved at the time – in fact I’m just sad that any of it happened.

I’m not going to say Serena was right in her prolonged outburst, but I do understand her frustration.  There are faults on both sides.  There is sexism in the game of tennis (as there is in most sports).  I saw a tweet from someone who showed a picture of a baseball player with his finger in the umpire’s face and it was described as “arguing a strike”.  Serena’s similar picture with the pointing finger is described as “having a meltdown”.

How is it remedied?  By calling it into question, certainly, but not, as Serena did, during a championship final.  Serena has been fighting both racism and sexism throughout her career and I think, at this point, at the age of 36 she probably was just wondering why she was still having to battle with it.  She went too far.  I nearly put, “but that’s who she is”, but that is the Kevin Pietersen defence and I don’t hold with it.

Women’s tennis has a long way to go in its fight for equality.  The sight of a frustrated Williams endeavouring to fight her corner will have, unfortunately, done nothing to help.

Other finals

Thirteenth seeds Ash Barty and Coco Vandeweghe won the women’s doubles, coming from a set down to beat second seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos 3-6 7-6 7-6.

Both pairings were unseeded in the mixed doubles final.  Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray won it, beating Alicja Rosolska and Nikola Mektic 2-6 6-3 11-9.

After dropping the first set they fought back to level and the third went to a match tie-break.  They went 4-1 down in the tie-break, but came back again and won it on their fourth match point.

In the wheelchair singles, number two seed Diede de Groot defeated 2017 champion and top seed Yui Kamiji 6-2 6-3.

Mountain Biking

Rachel Atherton claimed her fifth Mountain Bike World Championship title at the weekend. She won the downhill final in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

She finished nearly ten seconds ahead of fellow Briton Tahnee Seagave.  Myriam Nicole of France was third.

Athletics

Another week, another championships, this time the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Last weekend saw Team Americas claim the title, beating defending champions, Europe, by 29 points.

For those who are unfamiliar with the event, the Continental Cup takes place every four years.  This year’s was the third event, with the Americas having won the first and Europe the second.  Teams from Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa take part.  It replaced the World Cup for individual nations in 2010.

There were seven British women taking part.

Highlights:

Dina Asher-Smith finished second in the 100m in 11.16 seconds.  The winner was Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast who ran in a time of 11.14 seconds.

Kristal Awuah, Bianca Williams, Imani Lansiquot and Asher-Smith finished second in the 4 x 100m in a time of 42.55 seconds. The Americas won by just under half a second.

Meghan Beesley finished fourth in the 400m hurdles behind Janieve Russell of Jamaica.

Shara Proctor finished fifth in the long jump as Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen claimed the triple jump/long jump double.

The Americas also won the 100m hurdles through Jamaica’s Danielle Williams as team-mate Kendra Harrison of USA finished second.

Americas sealed the win by claiming victory in the mixed 4x400m relay. Their team of Christian Taylor, Luguelin Santos, Stephenie Ann McPherson and Shaunae Miller-Uibo won in a time of 3:13.01 ahead of Africa in second and Asia in third.  The European team was disqualified.  Miller-Uibo won three titles including the 4 x 400m, 4 x 100m and the 200m.

Caster Semenya won the women’s 800m for Africa in one minute 54.77 seconds.

Great North Run

It was a Kenya 1-2-3 in the women’s race.  Vivian Cheruiyot won it with a personal best time of 67 minutes 43 seconds.  Brigid Kosgei (67:52) was second and Joyciline Jepkosgei (68.10) came third.

Martyna Snopek of Poland won the women’s wheelchair race in 63 minutes 02 seconds.

Rugby League

Two results from last weekend in the Women’s Super League:

Featherstone Rovers 12-20 York City Knights
Wigan Warriors 10-12 Castleford Tigers

With most teams having played 10 games, St Helens lie top on points difference with 15 points from Wigan Warriors.  Leeds are third with 14, but have only played nine games.  At the bottom, York City Knights claimed their first win of the season at the weekend and are now level  with next to bottom Featherstone Rovers on two points.

Golf

It’s the final women’s major of the season this weekend, the Evian Championship in France.

After the first round Carlota Ciganda of Spain and Maria Torres of Puerto Rico are on -6, one shot ahead of Austin Ernst of USA.  Ryu So-yeon (Korea), Brooke Henderson (Canada) and Nasa Hataoka (Japan) are one further back on -4.

Georgia Hall lies -3, Bryony Hall -2 and Charley Hull +1.

Netball

Domestic

A double blow for Loughborough Lightning this week as top players Peace Proscovia and Beth Cobden both confirmed they are to leave to play In Australia.  Proscovia is going to Sunshine Coast Lightning (yes, lightning), In Australia.  She gave an emotional interview, which you can see here:

http://loughboroughsport.com/blog/2018/09/06/proscovia-heading-for-pastures-new/

She finishes studying for her MSc at Loughborough this autumn and then will go on to do a PhD at the University of the Sunshine Coast.  Loughborough’s loss will very much be Sunshine Coast’s gain.  We will be able to see Peace back in this country when she plays for Uganda at next year’s World Cup in Liverpool in July.  If you can’t wait that long, England play Uganda in a three-match series in November/December this year.  Check out www.netballengland.co.uk for details.

Cobden is off to play for Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Netball World Cup

Qualifying is finished and we now know the 16 teams who will be vying for the World Cup crown in July.

Automatic qualifiers:

England (host nation), Australia, New Zealand Jamaica, South Africa and Malawi.

Qualifers from regional tournaments:

Scotland, Northern Ireland, Fiji, Samoa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

The group draw will be made on 15 September.  More news of that next week.

General tickets go on sale on 19 September – get in as soon as you can.  Click here for details.

Cricket

India and Sri Lanka are warming up for the T20 World Cup in November with a three-match ODI and five-match T20 series in Sri Lanka.

India have already clinched the ODI series, having won the first two matches with points counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

First ODI
11 September, Galle
Sri Lanka 98 all out (35.1 overs)
India 100/1 (19.5 overs)
India won by 9 wickets

It was a one-sided start in Galle.  Sri Lanka could only muster 98, skittled out with nearly 15 overs to go.  Captain Jayangani top-scored with 33, but only two other players made it into double figures.

Joshi took 3/16 and Goswami 2/13.

India knocked off the total with 181 balls to spare.  Raut was the only wicket to fall, caught by Surangika off the bowling of Ranaweera for 24.  But Mandhana scored 73, Raj came in to face two balls, not scoring and India had won the match.

Second ODI
13 September, Galle
India 219 all out (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 212 all out (48.1 overs)
India won by 7 runs

The second ODI, by contrast, was a tightly fought affair with Sri Lanka only falling just short in their chase.

India started relatively poorly and at one stage were 36/3.  Bhatia top-scored with 68 and Raj scored 52 as they posted what they probably thought would easily be a winning score.

But Sri Lanka showed they can be doughty competitors.  Jayangani top-scored again with 57 and there were much better contributions throughout the batting order.  Siriwardene scored 49 before she was run out and de Silver 31, but they couldn’t quite get over the line.  Three run-outs did not help their cause.

Further news and scores next week.

Meanwhile South Africa begin a five-match ODI series against the West Indies in Bridgetown at the weekend.  Again there will be news of this next week.

England do not play again until 4 November, when they begin their World T20 warm-ups against Australia.

Rugby union

The new Premier 15s season got underway last weekend:

8 September
Firwood Waterloo 5-38 Saracens
DMP Sharks 27-24 Worcester Valkyries
Bristol Bears 17-32 Wasps
Gloucester-Hartpury 24-38 Harlequins
Loughborough Lightning 22-19 Richmond

After the turmoil of the restructure, this season should be all about consolidation and improvement.  There should be some good contests out there and the more support we show women’s rugby, the more it will thrive (as with all women’s sport).  There is tremendous goodwill towards the sport at the moment, especially at domestic level, so if you can, get out there and give them your support.

This weekend’s round two fixtures:

15 September
Wasps v Loughborough (1.35pm, Ealing Trailfinders RFC)
Saracens v Worcester (2.30pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury (3pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Richmond v Firwood Waterloo (5pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Harlequins v Bristol Bears (5.30pm, The Stoop)

Football

After all the Wales v England and Scotland’s qualification for the World Cup excitement a couple of weeks ago (all of which I missed), it was back to domestic duty this week as the WSL kicked off and midweek also saw the first leg of the Round of 32 of the Champions League.

WSL

9 September
Reading 4-0 Yeovil
Davison 5’, Williams 11’, Bruton 59’ pen, Allen 61’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-1 Bristol City
Graham 70’

Arsenal 5-0 Liverpool
Miedema 6’ 39’ 90’, Evans 14’, Little 35’

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City

Birmingham City 1-0 Everton
Wellings 1’

Championship
9 September

Aston Villa 0-12 Manchester United
James 10’ 23’, Sigsworth 25’ 33’ 35’ 49’ 61’, Zelem 29’ pen, Hanson 55’ 59’, Green 66’, Toone 69’
Good for football?  I don’t think so.

Millwall Lionesses 0-3 Lewes
Quayle 2’, Carter 24’, Bergin 44’

Sheffield United 0-2 Durham
Salicki 57’, Reid 79’

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 London Bees
Haines 73’ pen, Green 80’
Howells 22’

Crystal Palace 0-2 Leicester City
Johnson 18’, Morgan 75’

This weekend it’s back to Continental Cup action – I hope you’re all keeping up with this.  For fixture details see: https://womenscompetitions.thefa.com/Support/Fixtures

Champions League – Round of 32, 1st leg

Wednesday 12 September

BIIK-Kazykurt 3-1 Barcelona
Although Toni Duggan scored for Barcelona, they will have to win well at home to progress.

Rayazan 0-1 Rosengard

Barcelona FA (Cyprus) 0-2 Glasgow City
Two red cards in the game as Rita Akaffou and Leanne Ross were sent off for Barcelona and Glasgow respectively.  Goals for Glasgow came from Hayley Lauder 3’ and Leanne Crichton 83’.  Glasgow must have a good chance of going through with their home leg to come.

Sarajevo 0-5 Chelsea
All over in Chelsea’s favour, you’d have to think.  Goals from Millie Bright 6’, Drew Spence 22’, Maria Thorisdottir 36’, Ji So-yun 87’ and Adelina Engman 89’ see them well ahead going into the second leg.

ZFK Spartak Subotica 0-7 Bayern Munich
Zhytiobud-1 1-6 Linkoping
Avaldsnes 0-2 Lyon
Honka 0-1 Zurich
Thor/KA Women 0-1 Wolfsburg
Ajax 2-0 Sparta Praha
Fiorentina 2-0 Fortuna Hjorring
St Polton 1-4 PSG
Juventus 2-2 Brondby

13 September
Gintra 0-3 Slavia Praha
Lillestrom 3-0 Zvezda 2005

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Manchester City
Gemma Bonner scored in the 16th minute and City looked to have won it until Madrid equalised on 89 minutes through Kenti Robles.

Second leg fixtures are 26-27 September

Lionesses

Don’t forget, England have a series of friendlies coming up in October and November.  It all begins on 6 October at Meadow Lane, Nottingham against Brazil.  Kick-off time for that one is 12.30pm.  Then the Lionesses face Australia at Craven Cottage, Fulham on Tuesday 9 October at 7pm and finally they play Sweden on Sunday 11 November at the AESSEAL New York Stadium, Rotherham at 1.30pm.  Let’s get these games sold out.  Tickets available from the FA website: https://ticketing.thefa.com/

That’s more than enough for this week.  More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 26 August – 1 September 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  We’re coming to the end of a stunning summer for women’s sport and while there are those knuckle-draggers who will never give recognition to any woman playing sport, I’m glad to say there are many more of us (women and men) who take a very different view and the numbers are rising all the time.  I can’t help feeling a tad melancholy this week as it draws to a close, but hopefully the news and stories below will help restore my mood (and cheer you too!).

Stories this week come from rugby union (obviously) tennis, netball, cricket, badminton, modern pentathlon, hockey, golf and cycling.  But there’s only one place to start isn’t there – and what a game it was.

Women’s Rugby World Cup Final

Well I hope you were all watching, because although words are my business, I don’t think I can do justice to this match.  Prime time TV, ITV1 in the UK – social media and conventional media alike crying out that it needed to be a great match to engage the masses and move women’s rugby up a level.  And it didn’t disappoint.

England pressed from the off but were unable to convert pressure into points and were shocked after eight minutes when Selica Winiata pounced on a kick to score the first try.  Cocksedge, who had a relatively poor game with the boot, missed the conversion.

On 15 minutes New Zealand were penalised for a dangerous tackle and Emily Scarratt duly slotted over the resultant penalty.

On 20 minutes Sara Goss was yellow-carded for another dangerous tackle and England knew they had to take advantage.

England pressed on towards the line i a series of scrums, but as they got closer to the line the Black Ferns realised they had to scrum with just seven or risk losing cover on the wing.  This they did but broke up the scrummage illegally and the Red Roses were awarded a penalty try, taking it to 10-5 to England.

Eight minutes before half-time England were over again and looking confident.  Lydia Thompson went over on the wing and Scarratt converted well to take it 17-5.

England probably thought this would be the half-time score and perhaps relaxed early, but this proved to be a fatal error.  Toka Natua got in after they secured good line-out ball.   The conversion was missed and the half-time score was 17-10.

And breathe.

The second-half was completely different.  New Zealand came out a different team.  They hustled and harried from the first minute and England had no answer.

Just five minutes in Natua went over for her second.  England still seemed to be in the dressing room.  And to make matters worse for the Red Roses Cocksedge began to find her kicking form as she popped over her first conversion to make it 17-17.

Five minutes later England were ahead again through another Scarratt penalty, but the lead was short-lived.  Two minutes later Charmaine Smith pushed over, hitting the sponge around the post and again it was converted – 20-24.

On 55 England scored again Thompson flying 40 metres down to wing to cross the line for her second try of the match.  Scarratt missed the conversion and England’s lead was just one point.

At this point England Head Coach Simon Middleton introduced a whole raft of changes, something that drew some criticism after the game.  But there can be no doubt England were tiring and the changes made were quality ones.

On 58 Natua got her hat-trick under the posts and Cocksedge converted. The tide was turning in the Black Ferns’ favour.

Five minutes later Cocksedge got a try of her own, but she missed the conversion. New Zealand were 36-25 ahead.  With 20 minutes to go, although the scoreline was still tight, it seemed to be one-way traffic.

On 69 Winiata went over for her second after another good kick from Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali.  Cocksedge missed yet another conversion, but it mattered not as England appeared to be a beaten side.

But England had not finished scoring.  Izzy Noel-Smith went over with three minutes to go and Scarratt converted.

Kefu was yellow-carded for New Zealand, but England didn’t have the time to make it count and before they knew it the game was over.

New Zealand had won 41-32.

The better team had won – no doubt about it.  England fought to the end, but the Black Ferns’ third quarter had battered England into submission.

Without wanting to sound mawkish or trite and realising that I sound both, it was women’s rugby that was the winner on Saturday.  So many people will now realise what a great product it is (and what a good scrum can look like guys).  Let’s hope it leads not only to young girls taking up the sport, but also that the new revamped championship gets the coverage it deserves (i.e., any at all –and yes, BBC Sport, I do mean you).

Football

Women’s Champions League

The round of 32 draw will be made on 1 September.  The 11 teams that made it through qualifying are:

Gintra Universitetas (LTU), Olimpia Cluj (ROU), Ajax (NED), Medyk Konin (POL), Apollon (CYP), Minsk (BLR), *Zürich (SWI), Stjarnan (ICE), BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ), Avaldsnes (NOR). PAOK (GRE)

*qualified as best runners-up.

The teams receiving a bye into the round of 32 are:

Lyon (FRA, holders), Wolfsburg (GER), FC Rosengård (SWE), Barcelona (ESP), Fortuna, Hjørring (DEN), Bayern München (GER), Brøndby (DEN), Rossiyanka (RUS), Manchester City (ENG), Glasgow City (SCO), Zvezda-2005 (RUS), Brescia (ITA), Slavia Praha (CZE), Sparta Praha (CZE), Linköping (SWE), Chelsea (ENG), Montpellier (FRA), LSK Kvinner (NOR), St. Pölten (AUT), Atlético Madrid (ESP), Fiorentina (ITA)

As you probably know, coverage in the UK will be absolutely minimal so I’d again recommend you check out the UEFA website for updates:

http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/index.html

These are the dates you need to know:

Round of 32: 4/5 & 11/12 October
Round of 16: 8/9 & 15/16 November

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Final: 24 May 2018, Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo StadiumKyiv

Other football news and signings

Lieke Martens was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 2016-17 this week.

The 24-year old plays for Barcelona and had a stand-out tournament for the Netherlands at the Euros earlier in the summer.

She finished ahead of Pernille Harder of Denmark in second and Dzsenifer Marozsán of Germany in third.

Final standings
1: Lieke Martens (Netherlands, Rosengård and Barcelona)
2: Pernille Harder (Denmark, Linköping and Wolfsburg)
3: Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany, Lyon)
4: Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands, Bayern München and Arsenal)
5: Eugénie Le Sommer (France, Lyon)
6: Wendie Renard (France, Lyon)
7: Jackie Groenen (Netherlands, FFC Frankfurt)
8: Lucy Bronze (England, Manchester City and Lyon)
9: Jodie Taylor (England, Arsenal)
10: Shanice van de Sanden (Netherlands, Liverpool)

Previous winners of the award:
2012/13 ─ Nadine Angerer (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2013/14 ─ Nadine Kessler (Germany, Wolfsburg)
2014/15 ─ Célia Šašić (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2015/16 ─ Ada Hegerberg (Norway, Lyon)

Arsenal

Striker Danielle Carter has signed a new contract with Arsenal.  The length of the contract has not been revealed although it is described as “long-term”.

Liverpool

Liverpool, however, have not had such a good week.  Their Dutch star Shanice van de Sanden has left to join Champions League holders Olympique Lyonnais Feminin.

Golf

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed another title at the weekend when she won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open by two shots from compatriot Lee Mi-rim.

She finished on -13, with M Lee on -11, with a tie for third between Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, Chun In-gee of Korea, Shanshan Feng of China and Cristie Kerr of USA on -10.

Park hit a seven-under 64 in the final round to overcome a four shot deficit from the third round.

Holly Clyburn was top British finisher on -3 while Charley Hull was way back in the pack on +6.

American star Michelle Wie had to withdraw before the start of the final round when she had to undergo surgery to remove her appendix.  This seems to be catching – see cycling below!

Hockey

England’s women secured a bronze medal at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam with a 2-0 win over Germany.

Hannah Martin and Alex Danson scored the goals.

The gold medal went to the Netherlands who beat Belgium 3-0 in the final.

Their goals came from Margot van Geffen, Kelly Jonker and Ireen van den Assem (Penalty stroke).

Modern Pentathlon

A sport featuring rarely in this column, but as the World Modern Pentathlon Championships were held in Cairo this week it should be in.

The events were pistol shooting, fencing, 200m swimming, show jumping and a 3km run (apologies if you already knew this).

In the women’s events the results were as follows:

Individual

Gold went to Gulnaz Gubaydullina of Russia with 1,292 points.  Silver was taken by Zsófia Földházi of Hungary, who was a mere seven points behind on 1,285 and in bronze position was Anastasiya Prokopenko of Belarus, again just behind with 1,281 points.

Team

The team title went to Germany with 2,815 points.  Second were Russia on 2,797 and third Italy on 2,791.

Relay

The relay winners were Germany on 1,276 points with Egypt in second on 1,243 and Japan third on 1,238.

Badminton

Women’s singles

Kirsty Gilmour was defeated in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Glasgow.  She lost 21-19 18-21 21-15 to Saina Nehwal of India.

The gold medal went to Nozomi Okuhara of Japan who beat PV Sindhu of India 21-19 20-22 22-20.

Bronze medals went to Chen Yufei of China and Saina Nehwal.

Mixed doubles

Chris and Gabby Adcock lost in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles to Chinese pair and top seeds  Zheg Siwei and Chen Qingchen 21-15 23-21.  This meant they secured a bronze medal but they were still disappointed with the outcome.  Gabby Adcock spoke to BBC Sport:

“We’re disappointed because we felt we had a chance today.

“It was one of our worst performances of the week and I’m struggling to find a reason as to why but we just couldn’t get going.”

The gold medal winners were Tontowi Ahmed and Liliyanna Natsir of Indonesia who beat the Adcocks’ vanquishers 15-21 21-16 21-15 in the final.

Women’s Doubles

The Women’s Doubles title was taken by Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China who beat Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan in the final 21-18 17-21 21-15.  Bronze medals went to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, also of Japan, and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark.

Netball

The Quad Series in Brisbane is in full swing.  England are finally showing how much they have improved recently and have so far recorded one loss and one win.

Australia 54-50 England

So tight and so close for the Roses!  But it wasn’t always that way.  At half-time England were trailing by 10 points 32-22 and it looked as if the Diamonds were in for yet another easy win.

By the end of the third quarter England had cut the deficit to six and were getting closer by the end but Australia managed to hold on.

Helen Housby top scored for England with 30 goals, an 88% conversion rate, but this was knocked into a cocked hat by Australia’s Caitlin Bassett who scored 43 goals at a conversion rate of 93%.

But England would have been buoyed by this performance going into their second game against New Zealand.

New Zealand 45-49 England

On Wednesday 30 England registered their first win against New Zealand in a Quad Series.

The Roses were down by just one point 37-36 going into the fourth quarter in Auckland and they had a storming last period to take it by four.  Kadeen Corbin scored seven goals in the final quarter as the Roses pulled away.

Helen Housby was top scorer again for England with 26 goals at a conversion rate of 81%.  Bailey Mes scored 28 for the Silver Ferns.

England play South Africa on Sunday to see if they can finish second in a Quad Series for the first time.

South Africa have lost both of their first two games, against New Zealand 63-56 and Australia 58-52.

Cycling

Lizzie Deignan’s participation in the World Championships is in doubt after she had her appendix removed this week.

The Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway, from September 17-24.  The women’s road race is on 23 September.

Deignan would be one of the favourites if she recovers in time to take part.

Tennis

It’s been a bizarre old start to the US Open with seeds falling like dominoes.  Everyone has an opinion on the participation of Maria Sharapova, including former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki who branded the scheduling of Sharapova’s matches all on the show courts to be “questionable”.  I’ll leave you to make up your own minds on that one.

Some of the high (and low) lights so far:

Both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson lost in the first round.  Konta lost to unseeded world number 78 Aleksandra Krunic 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Watson lost to Alizé Cornet of France in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber also departed in round one, losing in straight sets to world number 45, Japanese 19-year old Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-1.

Maria Sharapova, who is, as I’ve already said never far from the headlines, is through to the third round.  Her first round defeat of world number two, Simona Halep 6-4 4-6 6-3 sent shockwaves around Flushing Meadows.

She defeated Timea Babos of Hungary in the second 6-7 6-4 6-1 and faces the unseeded Sofia Kenin of the United States in the third.

Other players of note to go through to the third round are world number one, Karolina Pliskova, who had to fight off a strong challenge from Nicole Gibbs to win 2-6 6-3 6-4.  French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is still in the mix after she defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4 6-4.

One seed to bite the dust in the second round was number 23, Barbora Strycova, who was soundly beaten by American Jennifer Brady 6-1 6-1.  Three more Americans through to the third round are Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

I think it’s safe to say it’s wide open!

Cricket

The past week has seen and will see the culmination of the women’s cricket season in England.  Last weekend the County Championship was decided and on Friday 1 September it’s Kia Super League Finals day.

County Championship

Lancashire have been crowned Division 1 champions, having won five of their seven games this season.  The full standings were as follows:

Team Played Won Lost Points
Lancashire 7 5 2 99
Yorkshire 7 5 2 98
Warwickshire 7 5 2 96
Nottinghamshire 7 4 3 88
Middlesex 7 3 4 76
Kent 7 3 4 71
Sussex 7 3 4 66
Berkshire 7 0 7 24

Sussex and Berkshire are relegated to Division 2.  Their places are taken by the top two finishers in the second division this year, which were Hampshire and Somerset.

Kia Super League

The last three matches took place on Saturday 26 August.  Loughborough won again, but with Western Storm also taking the points it was not enough for the Lightning to go through.  To be honest, they didn’t deserve to anyway on the performances I saw.

Match 13
Bristol County Ground
Lancashire Thunder 122/5 (20 overs)
Western Storm 123/5 (17.1/20 overs)
Western Storm won by 5 wickets

Match 14
The Oval
Loughborough Lightning 171/3 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 90 all out (18 overs)
Loughborough Lightning won by 81 runs

Match 15
Arundel Castle
Southern Vipers 138/6 (20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 108 all out (18.3 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 30 runs

Finals Day – Hove

Southern Vipers automatically qualify for the final with the other place being fought out between Surrey Stars and Western Storm.

And Finally,

This has just popped up into my inbox and so I had to share it, especially as it is about my Leicestershire neck of the woods.  Good grief Cycling Weekly.  Sort yourselves out:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-41122033

Apologies, but there will be no column next week as I am out and about elsewhere.