Women’s Sports Column 11-17 May 2019

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Going to be a bit brief this week due to competing priorities.  But hopefully all that should be covered will be covered!

News and stories this week come from netball, golf, football, tennis, cricket and taekwondo.

Netball

The top two finishers in the league will contest the Super League Grand Final on…

Wasps Netball 74-54 Loughborough Lightning

Wasps showed why they finished the regular season so far ahead with a demolition of Loughborough at the University of Warwick Sports and Wellness Hub.

Wasps coach Mel Mansfield made no changes throughout the match and the team seemed to get stronger, possibly because of it.

Lightning actually made the better start and were one goal ahead after the first quarter.  In the second, Wasps came back and by half-time they were three ahead.

In the second-half Wasps found an extra gear and were dominant throughout.  They were soon ahead by six and then by nine at the end of quarter three.

They reinforced their dominance in the last fifteen minutes, taking the margin of victory out to an impressive 20 goals.

It was altogether tighter in the second semi-final.

Manchester Thunder 57-54 Team Bath

Bath started well, taking a four-goal lead after ten minutes, but Thunder got into their game and before the end of the first they were ahead and although Bath levelled it at various points, Thunder were never behind again in the match.

It was nip and tuck in the second and going into half-time Thunder were only one goal ahead.

Thunder started well in the third and although Bath came back, going into the last quarter Thunder were five in front.

Bath pulled it back while Thunder spent minutes just holding possession, but in the end Thunder were just too strong, maintaining their three goal lead until the final whistle.

The Grand Final is this weekend at the Copper Box in London.  The third-place play-off, between Loughborough Lightning and Team Bath starts at 3pm, with the final at 5.30pm, where Wasps will be going for their third title in a row.  I thought both games were going to be live on Sky, but it appears that they are now only showing the final, which is a shame.

England Roses

There was a blow this week for England as Beth Cobden ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament playing for Adelaide Thunderbirds on Sunday and is out of the World Cup.

She suffered the same injury during the Super League Grand Final in 2018 and had only just returned to competition.

Football

It was the final round of matches in both the Super League and Championship last weekend.  The results were as follows:

FAWSL

Yeovil Town 0-2 Birmingham City
Wellings 59’, Mason 64’ (OG)

Reading 2-3 Chelsea
Harding 50’, Williams 52’
So-yun Ji 8’, Carney 51’, England 64’

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City
Mitchell 88’

West Ham United 0-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Green 21’, Connolly 39’, Nilden 79’, Brazil 93’

Liverpool 3-1 Everton
Sweetman-Kirk 26’, Charles 31’, Rodgers 88’
Stringer 39’

Arsenal left it late to seal their win, but finished the season with 54 points from their 20 games, losing just two along the way.  Manchester City were second on 47 with Chelsea third on 42.

FAWC

Sheffield United 6-0 Millwall Lionesses
Gilliatt 11’, Rayner 17’, Salmon 36’ (Pen) 63’, Pennock 59’ 83’

Durham 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Filbey 60’ 90’

Manchester United 5-0 Lewes
James 11’, Sigsworth 33’, Galton 66’, Palmer 74’, Turner 78’

Charlton Athletic 4-0 Leicester City
Graham 1’ 63’ 92’, Ejupi 49’

Aston Villa 0-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United were confirmed as Champions, ending with 55 points from 20 matches, suffering just one draw and one defeat all season.  Tottenham were promoted in second on 46 with Charlton Athletic third on 41.

That’s the domestic season wrapped up.  Now just the small matter of a World Cup to come.  Speaking of which…..

Scotland World Cup Squad

Shelley Kerr named her squad on Wednesday.  Rachel Corsie will captain the team and the squad comprises:

Goalkeepers: Lee Alexander, Jenna Fife, Shannon Lynn

Defenders: Chloe Arthur, Jennifer Beattie, Rachel Corsie, Nicola Docherty, Sophie Howard, Hayley Lauder, Joelle Murray, Kirsty Smith.

Midfielders: Elizabeth Arnot, Leanne Crichton, Kim Little, Joanne Love, Christie Murray, Caroline Weir.

Forwards: Fiona Brown, Lana Clelland, Erin Cuthbert, Claire Emslie, Lisa Evans, Jane Ross.

Transfers

Ellen White has left Birmingham City to join Manchester City on a two-year contract.  This is very disappointing for the Blues who had a good season and will be looking to build on their progress in 2019-20.  In a statement she said,

“I want to be in an environment and with a group of players that have that same winning mentality, that same professionalism, that same commitment and passion, and I think that’s a great fit at City.”

I’m not quite sure why she thinks Birmingham don’t have a “winning mentality” or “that same professionalism” – I’m hoping this is not a euphemism for having a lot of money to throw at it.  Either way, Birmingham fans probably won’t be pleased at the comment.

Millwall Lionesses

What is going on at Millwall?  After nearly going into administration in April, it was saved by nearly £17,500 raised through crowdfunding.

Now the Lionesses’ board of directors and senior management have broken away from the parent club and plan to go it alone.

The FA, in its infinite wisdom, has apparently approved “in principle” the formation of a “new” club, the London City Lionesses, which could take Millwall’s place in the Championship if it fulfils all of the qualifying criteria.

There is obviously a lot going on behind the scenes here, but one of the FA’s aims in the latest restructuring of the women’s game was to make it stable and sustainable.  With Yeovil’s administration, Sunderland’s woes and Millwall’s complicated story, I think we can safely say it has a long way to go before we reach this point.

Champions League Final

This Saturday sees the final of the Champions League in Budapest.  In our most parochial manner it is Lucy Bronze and Jess Fishlock against Toni Duggan!  Kick-off is 5pm BST and there is live text commentary on the BBC website.

Taekwondo

The World Championships are taking place from 15-19 May in Manchester.

Bianca Walkden is through to the final in the +73kg category, having won two fights before beating Briseida Acosta of Mexico in the semi-final 19-9.

She faces Shuyin Zheng of China in the final on Friday 17 May – the same fighter who beat Walkden in the Rio Olympics semi-final.

Still to come over the weekend we have Jade Jones in the -57kg, Aaliyah Powell in the -53kg and Lauren Williams in the -67kg,

Tennis – on the Court

Madrid Open

Seventh seed Kiki Bertens pulled off a fine win to take the Madrid title, beating third seed Simona Halep in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Bertens had beaten eighth seed Sloane Stephens in her semi-final 6-2 7-5, while Halep overcame the unseeded Belinda Bencic in hers, 6-2 6-7 6-0.

In the doubles, fifth seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova beat sixth seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski in straight sets, 6-3 6-1.

Rome Open

It’s been an incident-packed tournament in Rome this week.  Serena Williams pulled out with a knee injury before her third round tie against sister Venus.  Jo Konta is still in the running, having had to complete two matches on Thursday.  First she beat seventh seed Sloane Stephens in three sets 6-7 6-4 6-1 and then an injury-hampered Venus Williams in straight sets 6-2 6-4.

After withdrawing from the Stuttgart Open through injury, top seed Naomi Osaka has again pulled out in Rome, before the start of her quarter-final with Kiki Bertens.  Bertens now receives a bye into the semis.

There are now only two seeds left standing; Bertens (6) and Pliskova (4).

The other quarter-finals looks like this:

Marketa Vonrousova v Jo Konta
Victoria Azarenka v Karolina Pliskova (4)
Kristina Mladenovic v Maria Sakkari

Tennis – off the Court

American player and world number 117, Nicole Gibbs, has been forced to withdraw from the French

Open after being diagnosed with salivary gland cancer.

The growth on the roof of her mouth was spotted by her dentist.  A biopsy showed it to be cancerous.

Gibbs will have surgery this Friday.  In a statement Gibbs said,

“Fortunately this form of cancer has a great prognosis and my surgeon is confident that surgery alone will be sufficient treatment.

“He even okayed me to play an extra couple of tournaments these past few weeks, which served as a nice distraction.”

She hopes to make a return at Wimbledon qualifying in June.

Golf

There was good news for women’s golf this week as the organisers of the Northern Ireland Open announced that men and women will compete for equal prize money.

It will be called the World Invitational and the $500,000 prize fund will be split equally between the men’s challenger event and the women’s event.

Cricket

T20 Challenge Final
Velocity 121/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas 125/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas won by 4 wickets with 0 balls remaining

It was a bad start for Velocity, whose top five mustered 30 between them, including a five-ball duck for Dani Wyatt.  They were rescued, somewhat, by Sushma Verma who scored 40 not out from 32 balls and 36 from New Zealander Amelia Kerr.

Lea Tahuhu took 2/21 from her four overs while the other wickets were shared around.

In response, Chamari Atapattu went early for just two, but fellow opener Priya Punia scored 29, Jemima Rodrigues 22 and Harmanpreet Kaur 55 from 37.  Both Punia and Rodrigues fell when the score was 53 and although Kaur steadied the ship, Supernovas wobbled again when the overseas stars Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine fell for two and three respectively.

Kaur was out in the last over with just four balls to go of the Amelia Kerr over and seven runs still to get.  They had Radha Yadav on strike and Lea Tahuhu at the other end.  Yadav scored two from the third ball, two from the fourth ball, two from the fifth ball and then Yadav drove the last ball for four and Supernovas took the match by four wickets.

County Cricket

Results from the fixtures on 12 May in the first and second divisions of the County Championship were as follows (home side first):

Division One
Hampshire 128 all out (45.4 overs) 6 points lost to Sussex 129/9 (46.4 overs) 16 points
Lancashire 241/6 (50 overs) 18 points beat Nottinghamshire 195/9 (50 overs) 5 points
Surrey 148 all out (44.1 overs) 3 points lost to Kent 152/3 (30.1 overs) 18 points
Warwickshire 108 all out (47.1 overs) 6 points lost to Yorkshire 112 all out (42.1 overs) 16 points

After three matches, Kent are top with 53 points.  Lancashire are one point behind and Sussex are way behind in third on 39.

Division Two
Berkshire 160 all out (43.3 overs) 17 points beat Somerset 86 all out (25.4 overs) 5 points
Cricket Wales 211 all out (50 overs) 17 points beat Essex 139/8 (50 overs) 6 points
Durham 171/6 (50 overs) 4 points lost to Middlesex 173/4 (44.3 overs) 15 points
Worcestershire 69 all out (32.1 overs) 0 points lost to Devon 70/1(16.4 overs) 18 points

We’re three games down in division two also, with Devon at the top on 52 points.  Behind them are Berkshire on 51 and Wales on 39.

More news and views next week as we hurtle headlong into this mad summer of top-class women’s sport!

 

Women’s Sports Column 27 April – 3 May 2019

camerawoman

Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get though again with Chelsea’s valiant attempt in the Champions League semi-final plus news of the Premier 15s final and yes, the hockey play-offs (thanks Martin).  This week’s “And finally” is one I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write.  You’ll know why when you get there.

So here we go, stories this week come from football, cricket, athletics, tennis, rugby union, rugby league, netball and hockey.

Let’s crack on… 

Football

Chelsea

Chelsea went out of the Champions League semi-final, drawing the second leg at home 1-1, with the aggregate score 3-2 to holders Olympique Lyonnais.

The Blues were 2-1 down after the away leg and although they had a vital away goal, it was always going to be a monumental task for them to beat Lyon, even on their own turf.

Lyon struck a blow when they took the lead through Eugenie Le Sommer in the seventeenth minute.

The home side could have caved in at this point, but they didn’t and got their reward through an excellent Ji So-Yun free kick.

Although they battled hard and had chances, they just couldn’t score the second to bring them level on aggregate and take it to extra time.  And every time Lyon broke they looked dangerous and likely to score.

This will be Lyon’s fourth final in a row.  A crowd of 4,670 watched the match at Kingsmeadow.

Barcelona 1-0 Bayern Munich

(Barcelona win 2-0 on aggregate)

With a 1-0 lead from the away leg, Barcelona were always going to be favourites to go through.

This they duly did, the only goal coming from a penalty, slotted home by Mariona Caldentey.

A club record 12,764 crowd saw them clinch their place in the final.

The final is in Budapest on Saturday 18 May.

PFA Player of the Year Award 2018-19

Vivianne Miedema beat Steph Houghton, Nikita Parris, Keira Walsh, Erin Cuthbert and Ji So-yun to take the PFA women’s Player of the Year award this week.

The Dutch striker has scored 22 goals in 19 appearances in the WSL for title-winning Arsenal this season.  In all competitions she has 39 goals in 46 appearances.

Georgia Stanway won the Young Player of the Year award, having scored 11 goals for Manchester City this season in the WSL.  The other shortlisted players were Miedema, Keira Walsh, Erin Cuthbert, Alisha Lehmann and Sophie Baggaley.

Steph Houghton also received the PFA Special Achievement award.   She will captain England at the World Cup in France this summer and has already 104 caps.

FAWSL

Arsenal clinched their first league title since 2012 last Sunday.  They beat Brighton 4-0 at the Amex Stadium in front of a record WSL crowd of 5,265.

The weekend’s results were as follows:

Brighton 0-4 Arsenal
Needless to say Vivianne Miedema was in amongst it all, scoring the first and creating the second for Katie McCabe.

Beth Mead added a spectacular third and Danielle van de Donk the fourth as the Gunners secured the title in style, with a match to spare.

Birmingham City 2-0 Liverpool
White 20’ 29’

Everton 3-2 Reading
Kaagman 40’, Boye-Hlorkah 52’, Magill 65’
Allen 8’, Williams 77’

Manchester City 2-1 Yeovil
Parris 30’ (PEN), Hemp 65’
Fergusson 1’

Bristol City 1-2 West Ham United
Rafferty 60’ (OG)
Kiernan 74’, Ross 89’

So with most teams having just one game to play, Arsenal are top and champions with 51 points from 19 games.  Manchester City will finish as runners-up and are currently on 47 points, 10 points ahead of an impressive season from Birmingham City who are third.  They may not finish third, however, as Chelsea are just a point behind and have a game in hand.

FAWC

The weekend’s Championship results were:

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Manchester United
Zelem 7’ (PEN), Turner 13’, Devlin 23’, Harris 29’ (PEN), Sigsworth 78’

London Bees 1-5 Aston Villa
McLachlan 66’
Richards 35’, Ale 38’, West 52’, Smith 80’ 90’

Leicester City 1-1 Durham
Johnson 82’
Robson 45’

Crystal Palace 1-4 Charlton Athletic
Balfour 77’ (PEN)
Eggesvik 24’, Graham 40’, Ejupi 75’, Agg 85’

Lewes 0-3 Sheffield United
Salmon 16’ 60’, Cox 35’

1 May
Aston Villa 1-1Tottenham Hotspur
West 50’
Naz 2’

As we know, Manchester United are champions.  With the draw against Villa, Spurs are promoted from second. All teams have one game left to play except for London Bees who have completed their season.

FA Cup Final

Don’t forget it’s The FA Cup final on Saturday.  Manchester City v West Ham Utd kicks off at 5.30pm and is live in the UK on BBC1 and on the radio on BBC 5 Live.

Tennis

Stuttgart Open

Petra Kvitova won the Stuttgart Open, defeating Anett Kontaveit in the final 6-3 7-6.

Kontaveit went through to the final after top seed Naomi Osaka withdrew with an abdominal injury before the match began.  Third seed Kvitova beat sixth seed Kiki Bertens in her semi-final 7-6 3-6 6-1.

Istanbul Open

Meanwhile, in Istanbul the final was between sixth seed Petra Martic, who had won the first set against Margarita Gasparyan in the first semi-final 6-1 when her opponent retired.  The second semi-final was a straight sets victory for the unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, who beat Barbora Strycova  6-2 6-1.

The final went to three sets, with Martic coming out the winner 1-6 6-4 6-1.

This week’s tournaments are in the Czech Republic and Morocco:

Prague Open

Two unseeded players will contest the final in Prague on Saturday 4 May.

Jil Teichmann will face Karolina Muchova, having beaten ninth seed Barbora Strycova (6-3 6-0) and the unseeded Bernarda Pera (6-2 7-5) respectively.

Rabat Open

Saturday’s Rabat Open final will be between sixth seed Maria Sakkari, who beat Alison Van Uytvanck (8) 6-4 6-4 and British number one Jo Konta (7), who defeated fourth seed Ajla Tomljanovic in her semi-final 6-2 7-6.

Netball

Vitality Super League

Last weekend’s results

Friday 26 April
Strathclyde Sirens 41-56 Wasps Netball

Saturday 27 April
Celtic Dragons 58-51 Surrey Storm
London Pulse 62-67 Loughborough Lightning
Saracens Mavericks 62-48 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 53-56 Team Bath

Wasps are out and away at the top with 42 points from 17 games.  They have qualified for the semi-finals.  Then come Thunder, Bath and Lightning on 36 points.  Lightning lie fourth with an inferior goal difference of just 14.  Just behind them, Mavericks are in fifth and can still qualify if they win and Bath or Loughborough lose as they have a massively better goal difference than the two above them.  It is bound to be an exciting final round of matches on Saturday.   Wasps have already secured a home semi-final.  The other is up for grabs.  Will Wasps get through again and if they do, can anyone stop them from making it a hat-trick of titles on 18 May?

It is the final (18th) round of matches this weekend before the semi-finals on 11 May.  All games start at 6pm.

Saturday 4 May
Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons
Saracens Mavericks v Strathclyde Sirens
Team Bath v London Pulse (Live on Sky Sports)
Severn Stars v Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm v Manchester Thunder

Hockey

Contrary to what I said in the column last week, the Investec Women’s Hockey Premier League play-offs actually took place on the weekend of 13-14 April, so my apologies for that.  It would be remiss of me not to mention it, now it has been pointed out to me so here are the results:

13 April
Holcombe 6-0 Buckingham
Surbiton 2-1 East Grinstead

14 April – play off final
Holcombe 0-1 Surbiton

So despite Holcombe finishing top in the regular season, Surbiton are champions for a sixth straight season after defeating them in the play-off final.

Slough went into the Promotion tournament, but could not finish in the top two, which means that along with Canterbury, they are relegated.  Hampstead & Westminster and Loughborough Students (at least they’re not called Lightning) finished first and second and are promoted.

Rugby Union

Premier 15s Grand Final

Saracens 33-17 Harlequins

Saracens retained their title in front of a (slightly disappointing?) crowd of 2,590 at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, on Saturday.

The holders took the lead on three minutes through Poppy Cleall.  They doubled their lead on 10 minutes when Sydney Gregson flew in on the wing.

On twenty minutes they were in for a third as Zoe Harrison went in and there were two more scores – a second each for Cleall and Harrison to make the score 27-0 to Saracens at half-time, leaving Harlequins with a mountain to climb if they were to get back into the match.

Quins made a spirited attempt after the break.  They were on the scoreboard early through an Emily Scott penalty.  Saracens responded with a penalty from Harrison.

Harlequins finally scored their first try on 54 minutes through prop Vickii Cornborough.  Soon afterwards captain Rachael Burford scored their second.

But it was not to be for the Quins who conceded another penalty late on, which Harrison slotted over.

Rugby League

Last weekend’s Super League results:

28 April
Bradford Bulls 58-6 Wakefield Trinity
Castleford Tigers 27-0 Leeds Rhinos
York City Knights 0-62 Wigan Warriors
St Helens 54-16 Featherstone Rovers

After three matches Castleford Tigers and St Helens have six points with three wins from three.  Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos have four.  Wigan Warriors and Wakefield Trinity have two and York City and Featherstone Rovers have yet to get off the mark.

Athletics

London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya won the elite women’s race in a time of two hours, 18 minutes and 20 seconds.  She beat defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot into second with Rosa Dereje of Ethiopia finishing third.  At 25, Kosgei is the youngest woman to win the race.

In the wheelchair race, Manuela Schar of Switzerland took gold in one hour 44 minutes and nine seconds.  She finished more than five minutes ahead of Tatyana McFAdden, with last year’s winner Madison de Rozario coming in third.

Cricket

Women’s T20 Challenge

No it’s not a Women’s IPL, but it’s building on last year’s event as so, should be applauded as progress.  The three squads have been announced, with the Australian’s due to play being notable absentees due to a spat between the BCCI and Cricket Australia over a men’s series due to played in India in January 2020.  So, the best female Australian cricketers will miss out on a big pay day and the exposure the tournament will bring because of a dispute between men.  ‘Twas ever thus, you might say.  Cricket Australia have apologised to Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy for their omission.

The squads are:

Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Anuja Patil, Arundhati Reddy, Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka), Jemimah Rodrigues, Lea Tahuhu (New Zealand), Mansi Joshi, Nat Sciver (England), Poonam Yadav, Priya Punia, Radha P Yadav, Sophie Devine (New Zealand(, Taniya Bhatia.

Trailblazers: Smriti Mandhana (c), Bharti Fulmali, Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Harleen Deol, Jasia Akhtar, Jhulan Goswami, R Kalpana, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shakera Selman (West Indies), Sophie Ecclestone (England), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies), Suzie Bates (New Zealand)

Velocity: Mithali Raj (c), Amelia Kerr (New Zealand), Danielle Wyatt (England), Devika Vaidya, Ekta Bisht, Hayley Matthews (West Indies), Jahanara Alam (Bangladesh), Komal Zhanzad, Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Sushma Verma, Sushree Dibyadarshini, Veda Krishnamurthy.

The tournament will be played from May 6-11 at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.  More news next week

And Finally,

Will she appeal?  Will she retire?  What on earth has possessed the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reject Caster Semenya’s challenge to the IAAF’s new rule restricting the testosterone level of female athletes?

Even more bizarrely, Cas said it has “serious concerns as the future practical application” of the new rule.  These include:

  • Worries that athletes might unintentionally break the strict testosterone levels set by the IAAF
  • Questions about the advantage higher testosterone gives athletes over 1500m and the mile
  • The practicalities for athletes of complying with the new rules

It also found that the ruling was discriminatory to those with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD).  Let’s just consider that statement in itself – it is not “positive discrimination” in any way; Just discrimination.  It goes on to qualify that by saying that it is “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to practise this discrimination to protect “the integrity of female athletics”.

But is it?

To muddy the waters further, not only has the United Nations Human Rights Council called the move “unnecessary, harmful and humiliating”, but before the ruling was made, the World Medical Association (WMA) issued a press release where it “urges physicians not to implement IAAF rules on classifying women athletes.”  Read the press release here.

The new ruling comes into effect on 8 May.  If Semenya (or any other athlete affected) wants to compete at the World Championships in September, she will have to start taking the testosterone-reducing medication in the following seven days.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve written this, but we’ve not heard the end of this one.  It’s a decision that strikes at the heart of women’s athletics.  Semenya has a naturally high testosterone level.  She has not cheated, she has not taken performance enhancing drugs.  There are many and varied views on this, but I for one don’t think she should be penalised and forced to undergo medical treatment for what is a natural condition.  More news on this as it develops.

And, and finally,

To end on a positive note, one last call to remind you that Bank Holiday Monday, 6 May is Women’s County Cricket Day.  Get out there and support your local county side and perhaps you’ll see some of the biggest stars in the English game.  If you still need to know when and where the matches are taking place, the link to the fixtures is here.

More news and view next week.

 

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 April 2019

tennis ballsWelcome to this week’s column.   Apologies for my prolonged absence, but hopefully you’ve been keeping up with the women’s sports news without me.  But also, hopefully, you’re still with me as I return to the weekly blog.

I can’t pretend to be able to go through everything I’ve missed, but there’s plenty write about just from this week, so let’s crack on.

Stories and news this week come from football, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, hockey, netball, tennis and motor sport.

Tennis

Fed Cup

Great Britain beat Kazakhstan 3-1 in the promotion play-off to get into World Group II for the first time in 26 years.

Jo Konta started with a hard-fought win over Zarina Diyas in her customary three sets, 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Kazakhstan took the second rubber as a heartbroken Katie Boulter went down in three sets to Yulia Putintseva 3-6 6-2 7-6.

Konta beat Putintseva in the third rubber, again in three sets, 4-6 6-2 7-5

to make it 2-1 to Great Britain.

Boulter came through in the fourth match against  6-7 6-4 6-1, which meant Great Britain took the tie 3-1 and didn’t have to play the doubles rubber.

World Group

Meanwhile, in the World Group, the final will be between Australia and France.

Semi-final results:

France 3-2 Romania

Romania took 1-0 lead in Rouen as Simona Halep defeated Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-1.

Caroline Garcia drew France level, beating Michaela Buzarnescu in straight sets, 6-3 6-3.

In the third rubber, Halep won again, beating Garcia in three sets, 6-7 6-3 6-4 to take Romania ahead again, but in the final singles rubber, Pauline Parmentier defeated Irinia-Camelia Begu 6-3 2-6 6-2.

The tie was 2-2 going into the doubles, which went the way of France as Garcia and Mladenovic defeated Halep and Niculescu 5-6 6-3 6-4.

Australia 3-2 Belarus

Australia reached their first Fed Cup final for 26 years after they defeated Belarus in Brisbane at the weekend.

Belarus won the first rubber with Aryna Sabalenka beating Sam Stosur in three sets, 7-5 5-7 6-3.

Ash Barty levelled it with a win over Victoria Azarenka 7-6 6-3.  Barty also played the third rubber, defeating Sabalenka 6-2 6-2.

In the fourth, Azarenka comprehensively defeated Stosur 6-1 6-1, to take it to a deciding doubles rubber.

Barty and Stosur came out on top, defeating Azarenka and Sabalenka in three sets, 7-5 3-6 6-2.

The final will be in Australia over the weekend of 9-10 November.

Stuttgart Open

We are at the quarter-final stage in Stuttgart and the matches look like this:

Anastasija Sevastova (7) v Petra Kvitova (3)
Kiki Bertens (6) v Angelique Kerber (5)
Naomi Osaka (1) v Donna Vekic
Victoria Azarenka v Anett Kontaveit (8)

News on how it all panned out next week.

Istanbul Open

We are at the same stage in Istanbul and the matches are as follows:

Barbora Strycova v Elena Rybakina
Petra Martic (6) v Kristina Mladenovic
Lara Arruabarrena v Marketa Vondrousova
Veronika Kudermetova v Margarita Gasparyan

Again, more news next week.

Football

Champions League – Semi-Finals

Lyon 2-1 Chelsea

Chelsea grabbed a potentially vital away goal on Sunday, but it could and perhaps should have been even better for the London side.

Lyon took the lead through a Magdalena Eriksson own goal on 27 minutes.  Eleven minutes later the home side were two up when Amandine Henry scored from a corner.

Chelsea had the chance to pull one back on half-time when they were awarded a penalty.  Fran Kirby took it, but it was saved by Sarah Bouhaddi in the Lyon goal.

In the second-half, Chelsea did pull one back through Erin Cuthbert.

The second leg, at Kingsmeadow, is this weekend, on Sunday 28 April.  Kick-off is at 2pm.

Bayern 0-1 Barcelona

The Spanish side take a one-nil lead into the second leg.  After a goalless first-half, the only score came in the 63rd minute, through Kheira Hamroaui.

The second leg is also on Sunday 28 April at 11am.

FAWSL

With just two games to go in the regular season, Arsenal are in the box seat.

They have a four point lead at the top over Manchester City.  Arsenal have 48 and City 44.  Chelsea are third, some way back, on 36.  At the bottom, Yeovil are already gone and lie on -3 having had points deducted for going into administration.

Last weekend’s results:

Reading 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Furness 49’

Arsenal 2-1 Everton
Quinn 4’, Miedema 28’
Boye-Hlorkah 61’

Liverpool 5-2 Bristol City
Babajide 11’ 41’ 65’, Daniels 45’ Hodson 90+1’
Kerkdijk 35’, Fahey 83’ (OG)

West Ham 1-2 Birmingham City
Leon 27’ (Moorhouse sent off on 41’)
Ladd 44, Arthur 75’

FAWC

Manchester United have been crowned champions and will next season compete in the WSL.  They beat Crystal Palace 7-0 on Saturday to claim the title.

Last weekend’s results:

Manchester United 7-0 Crystal Palace
James 9’ 83’ 85’ 90’, Arnott 33’, Galton 35’, Sigsworth 46’

Sheffield United 4-1 London Bees
Cox 36’, Sarri 52’, Rayner 76’, Pennock 88’
Littlejohn 50’

Durham 1-0 Millwall Lionesses
Roberts 69’

Charlton Athletic 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Ejupi 41’, Graham 46’
Dean 53’ (PEN), Neville 71’ 80’

Aston Villa 2-2 Lewes
Ale 4’, Hutton 34’
Rood 45’ 90+2’

Everyone has two games to go.

West Ham

The FA Cup finalists have had their plea to move their men’s home game against Southampton on May 4 rejected.  Their match is due to kick off at 3pm on Saturday, with the FA Cup final kicking off at 5.30pm.

PFA Women’s Team of the Year

The Professional Footballers’ Association Team of the Year has been announced and features nine players from Arsenal, Manchester City or Chelsea.

Sophie Baggaley (GK) (Bristol City), Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Demi Stokes (Man City), Ji Sun-Yun (Chelsea), Steph Houghton (Man City), Aoife Mannion (Birmingham City), Kim Little (Arsenal), Lia Walti (Arsenal), Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea), Nikita Parris (Man City), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal)

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019

The shortlist for the award, drawn up by the BBC World Service is:

Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg), Ada Hegerberg (Olympique Lyonnais), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars and Perth Glory), Saki Kumagai (Olympique Lyonnais)

You can vote via the BBC website and voting closes on Thursday 2 May.  The winner will be announced on 22 May.

Netball

Vitality Netball Superleague

Last weekend saw a double round of fixtures with rounds 15 and 16 being completed.  The results were as follows:

Round 15 – Saturday 20 April
Strathclyde Sirens 44 -59 Loughborough Lightning
London Pulse 42-71 Manchester Thunder
Wasps Netball 76-42 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 42-53 Team Bath
Saracens Mavericks 55-50 Celtic Dragons

Round 16 – Sunday 21 April
Wasps Netball 64-48 Celtic Dragons
Strathclyde Sirens 47-44 London Pulse
Surrey Storm 46-51 Severn Stars
Loughborough Lightning 60-57 Manchester Thunder
Team Bath 45-51 Saracens Mavericks

So with just two full rounds to go, Wasps are top with 39 points from 16 games.  The other three in the top four spots are Thunder (36), Team Bath (33) and Lightning (33).  Mavericks are fifth on 30 and could still qualify if results go their way.

Round 17 is this weekend:

Friday 26 April
Strathclyde Sirens v Wasps Netball (7.30pm)

Saturday 27 April
Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm (4pm)
London Pulse v Loughborough Lightning (4pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Severn Stars (4pm – Live on Sky Sports)
Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (5pm)

The Grand Final is at the Copper Box in London on Saturday 18 May with the third/fourth place play-off at 3pm and the final at 5pm.  Both matches will be live on Sky Sports and the link to buy tickets is here.

Rugby Union

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

The Premier 15s Grand Final will be between Harlequins and Saracens, who beat Loughborough Lightning (26-10) and Wasps (31-13) respectively in their semis.

In the regular season the two teams finished top and second with Saracens top on 17 wins from 18 with Harlequins seven points behind them and with 15 wins.  Should be a classic.

You can still buy tickets here.  Under 16s get in for free.

The final is on Saturday 27 April at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton.  Kick-off is at 17.45.  The match will be live on Sky Sports Action.

Sevens

It was the fourth of six rounds of the World Rugby HSBC Sevens series at the weekend in Kitakyushu.

England looked as if they were about to claim their first round title since 2016 when Canada pinched it right at the end.

Final

Canada 7-5 England

England scored a try through Amy Wilson Hardy late in the first-half.  It looked as if this was to be the decisive score until Canada captain Ghislaine Landry broke through the defence to score behind the posts, giving herself an easy conversion opportunity.  She kicked the extra points and the title went to Canada.  It was Canada’s first leg win since 2017.

USA finished with the bronze, defeating France 24-12.

New Zealand could only manage fifth, beating Australia in the play-off 34-26.

The Women’s Standings are as follows:

  1. New Zealand 72
  2. Canada 66
  3. USA 64
  4. Australia 56
  5. France 46

The fifth round is in Langford, Canada over the weekend of 11-12 May.

Rugby League

While I’ve been off, the rugby league season has started once more, so apologies for the lack of coverage so far.  All Super League teams have played two games.  Castleford Tigers are top on points difference, having won both of their games, including a hammering of York City Knights away 80-0.  Needless to say, this has given a bit of a fillip to their points for column.  Leeds Rhinos and St Helens have also won their first two matches.

This weekend there are four fixtures:

Sunday 28 April
Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos (13.00)
York City Knights v Wigan Warriors (14.00)
Bradford Bulls v Wakefield Trinity (14.00)
St Helens v Featherstone Rovers (17.45)

If you haven’t already had a look at the rugby league website, I would encourage you to do so.  It is very informative and kept up to date.  Check it out here:

Hockey

Apologies again, but it’s the time of year when I start to try to get my head around the hockey play-offs.  If you don’t know what happens at the end of the season, here are the regulations (thanks to the England Hockey website):

Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and European Qualification
At the end of the regular season the team who finishes top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division will receive an automatic place in the EuroHockey Club Championships as England’s second ranked team. They can improve on this ranking, and compete to be crowned English Champions, in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Finals tournament. 

The team who wins the Investec Women’s Hockey League Final will be crowned Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions and will be England’s first ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships for the subsequent season. In the event that the team finishing top of the league at the end of the regular season also wins the Final, the runners-up in the Final will be England’s second ranked team in the EuroHockey Club Championships.

What are the Investec Women’s Hockey League Play-Offs?
There are two types of play-off that determine which teams are promoted and relegated in the Investec Women’s Hockey League.

Investec Premier Division Play-Off
Here the winners of the three Conferences join the ninth-placed team from the Premier Division to battle it out in a round robin tournament for two spaces in the top tier, with the tenth-placed side having been automatically relegated.

Investec Conference Play-Offs
Here the teams that finish ninth across the three Conferences fight it out for survival. The winner of this round robin tournament will stay up while the other two will be relegated to their respective regional league along with the teams that finished in 10th in each Conference. The fixtures are played across three weekend with each side play a home and an away tie. The five regional league winners are then promoted to fill the vacant spots.

Holcombe finished top of the table in the regular season with 41 points from 18 games.  Surbiton finished second on 38 and East Grinstead third on 34.  East Grinstead were also deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player.  Buckingham finished fourth on 29.

Canterbury finished tenth on just eight points and have been relegated.

Play-off dates are still to be announced.  More news when I have it (Yes Martin, I know it’s simple really).

EuroHockey Club Cup

Amsterdam were triumphant at the EuroHockey Club Cup last weekend.

It was the last edition of the competition before it becomes the EHL in 2020.  Amsterdam will take their place in that competition with this win.

The tournament, also held in Amsterdam, saw the hosts beat Real Sociedad in the final 7-0.

The places finished as follows;

Bronze went to Alster, who been Den Bosch 2-1 in the third place match.

Hamburg beat English representatives Surbiton 4-1 in the 5th/6th place match.

Loreto defeated Ritm Grodno 2-1 in the 7th/8th place play-off.

FIH Pro League

Great Britain are currently lying seventh in the table after losing their fourth match of six against Germany on Wednesday.  Hannah Grablach scored a double on 38’ and 58’ as they won 2-0.  Great Britain’s next match is against China on Friday 3 May.

Australia are top with six wins from seven matches and a win/loss percentage of 85.71.  Argentina lie second having played 10 matches.  They have a win/loss percentage of 83.33.  Great Britain’s win/loss percentage is 27.78 from six matches.

And Finally,

Don’t forget it’s Women’s County Cricket Day on 6 May.  Get down to see your local county in action if you can.  You can read all about in my piece published last week.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 February 2019

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

Let’s crack on.

Tennis

Fed Cup

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

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

Wednesday 6 February

Group A: GB, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia

Great Britain 3-0 Slovenia. 

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

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

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

Group B: Croatia, Georgia, Serbia, Turkey

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

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

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

Thursday 7 February

Group A

Great Britain 3-0 Greece

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

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

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

Group B

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

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

Still to come:

Friday, 8 February

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

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

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

Saturday, 9 February

Play-off: TBC v TBC (16:30)

St Petersburg Open

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

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

Thailand Open

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

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

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

Rugby Union

Six Nations Championships

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

Ireland 7-51 England

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

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

France 52-3 Wales

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

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

Wales penalty: Wilkins

Scotland 7-28 Italy

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

Scotland try: Bonar
Conversion: Skeldon

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Hockey – Off the Pitch

Sophie Bray has announced her retirement from international hockey.

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

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

She announced her decision on Instagram:

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

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

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

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

Hockey – On the Pitch

FIH Pro League

New Zealand 5-1 Great Britain

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

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

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

The other scores so far:

6 January
Argentina 2-0 Belgium

27 January
New Zealand 0-1 Netherlands

1 February
New Zealand 0-1 Belgium

2 February
Australia 1-0 Netherlands

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

3 February
Australia 1-2 Belgium

The next fixtures:

15 February
New Zealand v Germany (Christchurch)

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

17 February
New Zealand v China (Christchurch)

Netball

Last weekend’s Vitality Netball Super League results were:

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

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

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

This weekend’s round five fixtures are:

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

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

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

Winter Sports – off the Snow

Lindsey Vonn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Sports – on the Snow/ice

Lindsey Vonn – Again

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

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

Her final race will be in the downhill on Sunday.

Speed Skating

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

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

Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships

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

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

Telemark World Cup Ladies Classic

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

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

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

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

Football

FA Cup Fourth round results:

Saturday 2 February
Manchester City 3-0 Watford

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

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

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

Fifth round draw

Ties to be played on 17 February:

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

Continental Cup

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

Chelsea 0-2 Manchester City

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

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

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

Arsenal 2-1 Manchester United

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

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

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

England Lionesses

World Cup Warm-ups

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

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

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

Sheffield United Racism Allegations

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

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

Jones has until 15 February to respond to the allegations.

Cricket

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

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

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

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

The overall salary pot has increased by 10%.

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

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

Volleyball

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

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

And Finally

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

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

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

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

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 July 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  When I started researching for this week’s column I thought it was going to be a quiet one, but the end of the week has brought such torrents of football news that the writing, I warn you, may just go on and on…

Stories this week come from, as I said, football (no, not that), athletics, cricket, tennis and netball.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

Superleague Grand Final
Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

Wasps proved too strong for Lightning again at the weekend as they claimed their second Grand Final a row, condemning the Lightning to be runners-up yet again, and by the same score.

After Lightning took an early lead, Wasps pulled it back and by the end of the first quarter it was 12 apiece.

The second quarter was tight until Wasps missed  a shot and Peace Proscovia put hers away at the other end  and Loughborough were ahead by two 21-19.  But they didn’t hold the lead for long, and by half-time the momentum had swung and Wasps were in front by four, 28-24.

Wasps pretty much maintained their lead in the third, which saw them three up by the end, 43-40.

But Loughborough were not giving up without a fight as they brought it back to 44-all.

This was as close as they got.  In the final minutes Wasps would pull away, and then Loughborough would get it back within two.  But in the end Wasps got the better of it and took the title again.

Other news

Big news from netball both in England and Australia this week as top two Vitality Superleague sides Wasps and Loughborough change their management teams and two big Diamonds stars announce their retirement.

Wasps Netball

Grand Final winners Wasps have appointed Mel Mansfield as their new Head Coach.  Mansfield had been assistant coach for the senior team for two years.

Tamsin Greenway has stepped down as Director of Netball but will stay with Wasps as a coach and brand ambassador.

Loughborough Lightning

Runners-up Lightning, meanwhile, have announced that their new Director of Netball will be Sara Bayman, who will join Loughborough from the Sirens in September.

Bayman is a former England international with 84 caps to her name.

Emily Perry will become Pathway Head Coach, moving from the Lightning Netball Academy.

Aussie Diamonds

Two Australian greats announced their international retirement this week:

Defender Laura Geitz won 71 caps, won two World Cups (2011, 2015) and Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow in 2014.

After giving birth to a son last year, Geitz had a break from netball, but knew she wanted to compete at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  The final, which the Diamonds lost to England Roses, was her last international match.

It is thought that she will continue her domestic netball career with Queensland Firebirds.

Just a day later, Madi Robinson also announced her retirement.  Robinson won 61 caps in an eight-year international career, playing at wing attack.

She was part of the gold-winning 2014 Commonwealth Games squad, but did not play in the 2015 World Cup due to injury.  She made a comeback at the Gold Coast Games.

She is also planning to continue her domestic career as captain of Collingwood.

 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague

But the week has not been without controversy.  The 2019 Superleague teams have been announced and, it’s safe to say, the North does not come out of it well.  Team Northumbria has withdrawn from the elite league and has been replaced by London Pulse.

The Pulse, under CEO Natalie Seaton, will play their home matches at the Copper Box.

England Netball CEO, Joanna Adams, said:

“We are delighted to welcome London Pulse into the Vitality Netball Superleague for 2019.

“They submitted an excellent proposal and it’s brilliant to have new investment into the league.”

There has been plenty of comment across social media platforms, with the new move being widely questioned.  There will be only Manchester Thunder representing the north and nothing in the northeast region at all.  It has been suggested that Leeds Rhinos would have been a more balanced fit, but it was not to be.  I would hate to see the sport become a “southern” sport – let’s hope the development of sides in the north continues and that, vitally, England Netball offers its support to teams and clubs in the north.

The ten teams who will take part in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague are:

Benecos Mavericks, Celtic Dragons, London Pulse, Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder, Severn Stars, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, UWS Sirens and Wasps Netball.

The 2018 Superleague awards were also announced this week.  The list of winners can be found here:

http://www.netballsl.com/2018/07/07/vnsl-2018-award-winners-announced/

Tennis – Wimbledon

Singles

It has been decided!  The Wimbledon women’s singles final will be between 25th seed Serena Williams and 11th Seed Angelique Kerber.

Both women have played some stunning tennis to get this far and both had straight sets victories in their semi-finals:

Williams beat 13th seed Julia Görges 6-2 6-4, while Kerber overcame French Open champion and 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3.

It is set to be a cracking final.  It all starts at 2pm on Saturday 14 July and UK coverage is via BBC Television and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Women’s Doubles

The women’s doubles semi-finals take place today (Friday 13 July) and will be as follows:

Kvete Peschke & Nicole Melichar (12) v Gabriela Dabrowski & Xu Yifan (6)
Alicja Rosolska & Abigail Spears v Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova (3)

Mixed Doubles

The semi-finals of the mixed doubles are also today (Friday) and there is still plenty of British interest, although someone will miss out as they play each other in the second semi-final:

Katerina Srebotnik & Michael Venus (9) v Nicole Melichar v Alexander Peya (11)
Harriet Dart & Jay Clarke (GB) v Victoria Azarenka & Jamie Murray (GB)

Wheelchair Singles

Of special note this year, Kgothatso Montjane is the first black South African woman to play at Wimbledon.

The ladies’ wheelchair singles semi-finals will be:

Aniek Van Koot v Yui Kamiji
Diede De Groot v Kgothatso Montjane

The wheelchair doubles semi-finals:

Diede De Groot & Yui Kamiji (1) v Katharina Kruger & Kgothatso Montjane
Sabine Ellerbrook & Lucy Shuker v Marjolein Buis & Aniek Van Koot (2)

All ties to be played today, Friday 13 July.

Football

I thought it was going to be all about the signings this week, but events have overtaken this until I am now starting to think, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the soul of the game is in peril.

The more news, the more my heart sinks and I wonder where it will end.  Does the FA actually have a plan?  Are they just going to wait to see who sinks and who swims?

Doncaster Rovers Belles

The news overshadowing everything this week is that Doncaster Belles will not be playing Championship football next season, but will drop down to the National League.  It a statement it said,

“The club can announce that for the 2018/2019 season we will be competing in the Women’s National League. We can confirm we have withdrawn from the Women’s Championship and await FA ratification of the move in their Special General Meeting (date to be confirmed). We have worked closely with the FA and have mutually agreed the change in leagues which will ensure the continued viability and re-growth of the club.

“Our 50th year is upon us and the recent changes have allowed us to reflect and refocus. Our philosophy has always been centred on creating opportunities for women and girls in football. We are proud of our legacy which has pioneered the women’s game. Our coaching structure focuses on individual development and has seen players hit personal achievements, move on to high profile clubs and created opportunities with national teams. Our unique female mentoring scheme for coaches and managers has seen tremendous talent enter the game and again move onto exciting opportunities within the sport including with the England Lionesses. This remains our philosophy and we are excited to see a wealth of young developing players have a great opportunity to hit their full potential under a fantastic coaching team.  More details will follow on our decision.

“We look forward to celebrating our 50th Birthday with you all #backthebelles and welcome your input and support.”

It has been said on social media that the club has only four players left, and their remaining is not a certainty.  There has been no word as to who will be taking their place in the Championship.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are celebrating as they are taking the Championship spot vacated by Sheffield FC.

Manchester United

And of course, there is always the looming presence of the new Manchester United outfit.  Casey Stoney announced this week that she now has a squad of 21 players, which will be unveiled on Friday 13 July.

Signings

There has been a considerable amount of disquiet this week amongst lovers of the women’s game about the numbers of overseas signings being made.  Are these good players, going to improve the health of the game in this country, or are they just cheap?  Is women’s football at the highest level about to go the way of the men’s Premier League in record time?  I really hope not.  Let’s hope that those signed from overseas are committed to playing here and making a difference, but let’s also hope that there are still pathways for young British players to come through and that they can get their chance at the biggest teams in the country.  I’d like to see every club with a wealth of talent and able to compete at the highest level – I don’t want it to become a fight for the title between the same four clubs every season.  Let’s see the best overseas players over here, enriching our clubs, teaching us what they have learnt in their respective leagues and making our clubs stronger both domestically and in the Champions League.

But let us not forget that professional women’s football in this country is, essentially, still in its infancy.  The FA is clearly going for a “survival of the fittest” policy and is unlikely to step in to help a club in trouble – and I have no confidence in it to have done the requisite checks before it issued licences.  I don’t think I’m alone in having a bad feeling about all of this.  More news and views as it happens.   

West Ham

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – West Ham mean business.  Matt Beard is assembling a fine squad, a good mixture of experience and youth.  They’ve been dabbling in the transfer market again this week:

Scotland striker Jane Ross has signed for them after being released by Manchester City.

They have also signed Dutch duo Esmee de Graaf from PEC Zwolle and Lucienne Reichardt from Dutch champions Ajax. De Graaf is a young striker, just 20, but she has already won two caps for the Netherlands.  Midfielder Reichardt is, by contrast, a relatively old hand at 27.

This takes the number of signings to seven, the others being Gilly Flaherty, Vyan Sampson, Rebecca Spencer and Brianna Visalli.

Reading

Reading, too, seem to be on the charge.  They have made an excellent signing, taking Gemma Davison from Chelsea.  Davison has been unlucky not to be getting regular starts for the champions and you can’t blame her for jumping ship in search of first team football.

Scotland defender Sophie Howard has also joined the Berkshire side.

Welsh international Charlie Estcourt has extended her contract with the Royals for another season and club captain Kirsty Pearce has also committed herself for another season.

Liverpool

After a mass exodus at Liverpool, it seems they are gearing up again with some major signings;

Ex- Donny Belles duo of captain Leandra Little and Rhiannon Roberts signed this week.

Goalkeeper Anke Preuss has signed from Sunderland

Athletics – World Cup

This weekend the London Stadium hosts the Athletics World Cup.  Eight countries are taking part: Great Britain & Northern Ireland, China, France, Germany, Jamaica, Poland, South Africa and USA.  Team GB largely comprises up-and-coming youngsters, but does include in-form long jumper Lorraine Ugen and high jumper Morgan Lake.

The women’s team in full:

100m Daryll Neita (Shaftesbury Barnet), 200m Beth Dobbin (Edinburgh,) 400m Anyika Onuora (Liverpool), 800m Adelle Tracey (Guildford & Godalming), 1500m Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan), 100m hurdles: Megan Marrs (Windsor, Slouth, Eton & Hounslow), 400m hurdles Meghan Beesley (Birchfield Harriers), High jump Morgan Lake (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow), Pole vault Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn), Long jump Lorraine Ugen (Thames Valley), Triple Jump Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford), Shot put Amelia Strickler (Thames Valley, Discus Jade Lally (Shaftesbury Barnet), Hammer Sophie Hitchon (Blackburn), Javelin Laura Whittingham (Sale Harriers), 4x100m TBC; 4x400m TBC.

Para-Athletics

The GB team for the WPA European Championships, which takes place in Berlin from 20-26 August has also been announced this week.  The female athletes taking part are:

Kare Adenegan – T34 100m & 800m, Hollie Arnold – F46 Javelin, Martina Barber –T20 Long Jump, Olivia Breen – T38 100m, Sally Brown– T47 100m, 200m & 400m, Jo Butterfield – F51 Club Throw, Hannah Cockroft  – T34 100m & 800m, Hannah Dines  – RR3 100m, Sabrina Fortune – F20 Shot Put, Kylie Grimes  – F51 Club Throw, Kayleigh Haggo  – RR3 100M, Sophie Hahn – T38 100m, 200m & 4x100m mixed relay, Maria Lyle  – T35 100m & 200m, Polly Maton  – T47 Long Jump, 100m & 4x100m mixed relay, Stef Reid – T64 Long Jump and 200m* (200m subject to confirmation), Ali Smith – T38 100m, 200m, 400m & Long Jump, Laura Sugar – T44 100m & 200m, Vanessa Wallace – F34 Shot Put & Javelin, Eve Walsh Dann  – T36 100m & 200m.

Cricket

England v New Zealand ODI series

Hell hath no fury like an England team batting first.  In truth this has been somewhat of a disappointing series, with the first two ODIs hardly contested.  Let’s hope that the third, taking place at Grace Road, Leicester, today (Friday 13 July) is a closer affair.  From an England point of view, of course, it couldn’t have gone better and there are four ICC Women’s Championship points in the bag.

First ODI
England 290/5 (50 overs)
New Zealand 148 all out (35.3 overs)
England won by 142 runs

The England openers had amassed 111 before New Zealand took a wicket.  Tammy Beaumont went for 40, caught by Martin off the bowling of Tahuhu.  Amy Jones and Heather Knight both scored 63 – in fact everyone made a contribution as England scored a huge 290.

In response, as is becoming horribly regular, the Ferns’ openers made a good start, but after they were out the collapse was most definitely on.   Bates scored 28 and Devine 33, but only Maddy Green, of the rest of the side, got over 20.

Second ODI
England 241 all out (48 overs)
New Zealand 118 all out (38 overs)
England won by 123 runs

New Zealand managed to take all ten wickets in this game, but still lost the game convincingly.

Jones was out relatively early, having made 20.  Beaumont top-scored with 67 and Sciver made a useful 54.  The wickets were shared around with Devine, Kasparek and Watkin taking two each and Huddleston, Tahuhu and Kerr, one each.

Bates made 20 at the top of the order for New Zealand, but again Green with 20 was the next best scorer.  The middle order was pretty much reduced to single-figure scoring.  Katie George and Sophie Ecclestone took three wickets each and in the end it was all too easy for England.

ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Bangladesh and Ireland have booked their places in the World T20, which takes place in the West Indies in November.

They face each other in the final of the Qualifying tournament on Saturday.

Bangladesh beat Scotland in their semi-final.  Bangladesh scored 125/6 off their 20 overs, but Scotland could only muster 76/7 in reply.

Ireland overcame Papua New Guinea in their semi.  Batting first, Ireland scored 113/6 off their 20 overs.  PNG were all out for 86 in 19.2 overs.

News and report of the final next week.

And finally,

Don’t forget there is another World Cup to look forward too – and it’s getting closer!  The Women’s Hockey World Cup begins in just two weeks.  Can England follow up their Olympic gold with a World Cup win?

It all begins on 21 July at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre in London.  TV coverage is via BT Sport.

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 30 June – 6 July 2018

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s unexpurgated rants, expect nothing but serenity and calm this time round (possibly).  Stories this week come from tennis, athletics, netball, badminton, winter sports, golf, cricket, rugby union and football.

Tennis

A Week is a long time in tennis – isn’t that what they say?  Well it certainly is for Caroline Wozniacki, who went from Eastbourne winner last week to out in the second round at Wimbledon this.

Eastbourne

Wozniacki came from a set down in her semi-final against Angelique Kerber to take it 2-6 7-6 6-4.  She was joined in the final by Aryna Sabalenka who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, just coming back into form after a long injury lay-off, 6-3 1-6 6-3.

The final was altogether a more straightforward, if tight, affair.  Top seed Wozniacki took the title in straight sets 7-5 7-6.

Wimbledon

Into Wimbledon fortnight and almost immediately the seeds in the women’s draw began to fall.

The biggest shock of the first round was a really limp display from fourth seed Sloane Stephens, who was easily beaten by Donna Vekic 6-1 6-3.

The second biggest shock of the first round was the exit of the fifth seed, Elina Svitolina, who went down in three sets to Tatjana Maria 7-6 4-6 6-1.

Petra Kvitova, seeded eight, lost in three sets to Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 4-6 6-0.

Sixteenth seed, Coco Vanderweghe, also went out in the first round, defeated in three sets by

Katerina Siniakova 6-7 6-3 8-6.   She had sustained an injury during the match and, although she completed it, later had to pull out of the doubles.

Twenty-first seed Anastasija Sevastova lost to Camila Giorgi 6-1 2-6 6-4, Maria Sharapova, seeded twenty-four, lost to Vitalia Diatchenko, Hsieh Su- Wei defeated thirtieth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 4-6 6-3  and Andrea Petkovic beat thirty-first seed Zhang Shuai 6-4 4-6 6-2.

Of the British players, Heather Watson went out in the first round to Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 7-5.  Katy Dunne lost to twelfth seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 7-6.  Gabi Taylor went out to qualifier Eugenie Bouchard 6-0 4-6 6-3.  Third seed Garbine Muguruza defeated Naomi Broady 6-2 7-5.  Harriet Dart took a set off seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, but went down 7-6 2-6 6-1.

British number one Jo Konta beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva 7-5 7-6 in a closely fought encounter and there were fine wins for Katie Boulter against Veronica Cepede Royg 6-4 5-7 6-4 and Katie Swan, who defeated Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2 6-2.

The second round was just as bloody.  Second seed Wozniacki lost in three to Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 1-6 7-5.Third seed Muguruza was beaten by Alison Van Uytvanck 5-7  6-2 6-1.

Thirty-second seed Radwanska lost to Lucie Safarova 7-5 6-4.

All of the remaining British players lost, including twenty-second seed Konta who succumbed to Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 6-4.  Cue the haters on social media, including one particularly pernicious chap who repeatedly called Konta an “LTA funding leech”.  Ugh.

Boulter lost to Naomi Osaka (eighteenth seed), 6-3 6-4 and Swan to Mihaela Buzarnescu (twenty-ninth seed) 6-0 6-3.

And that’s just after the first four days!  Will there be any seeds left by the business end of the tournament next week?  Is it opening up for Serena (and have I just jinxed her by saying it?)  News and updates next Friday.

Cricket

England were triumphant in the T20 Tri-Series against New Zealand on Sunday.

In truth it was a bit of an anti-climax as New Zealand batting first could only muster 137 in their 20 overs:

New Zealand 137/9 (20 overs)
England 141/3 (17.1 overs)
England won by seven wickets with 17 balls to spare

Openers Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates began well, making 31 apiece, but after that it all fell apart as New Zealand limped to a below par 137.  Dani Hazell, Katherine Brunt and Sophie Ecclestone took two wickets each.

In response the England openers Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont made a stand of 81 before Beaumont was out for 35.  The visitors had no answer to Wyatt’s strength and style as she scored 50.

Sarah Taylor was bowled by young star Amelia Kerr, but Nat Sciver and Heather Knight took it on and saw England home, scoring 21 and 17 not out respectively.

England squad to play ODI series against New Zealand

Dani Hazell has been left out of the ODI squad.  In comes Alex Hartley, while young fast bowler Katie George keeps her place:

Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Laura Marsh (Kent), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Sarah Taylor (Sussex, wk), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

The three-match series starts tomorrow (7 July) at Headingley (11am start), with the second match at Derby on 10 July (1pm start) and the third at Leicester on 13 July (2pm start).  There are ICC Women’s Championship points at stake in all three games.

All matches are live on Sky Sports and radio coverage is on BBC TMS on 5 Live Sports Extra.

 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

The qualifying tournament begins on Saturday 7 July in Rotterdam.

Group A comprises Bangladesh, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and UAE
Group B comprises Ireland, Scotland, Thailand and Uganda

Ireland begin on 7 July against Thailand.  They then play Scotland on 8 July and Uganda on 10 July.

Scotland’s first match is against Uganda on 7 July and their last against Thailand on 10 July.

Athletics

There were some big performances by Team GB’s women at the British Athletics Championships last weekend.

On the track:

Laura Muir won the 800m in 2:01.22 seconds with Shelayna Oskan-Ckarke second (2:01.94) and Adelle Tracey in third (2:02.00).

Beth Dobbin won the 200m in 22.75, her second personal best time of the weekend.

Rosie Clarke won the 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 9:45.83 which was good enough to get her to the European Championships.

Bethan Davies won the 5,000m walk.

Steph Twell won the 5,000m with Melissa Courtney in second and Eilish McColgan in third.

Meghan Beesley won the 400m hurdles in 55.73 with Kirsten McAslan second (56.48) and Jessica Turner third (57.10).

In the field:

Lorraine Ugen maintained her good form in the long jump, which she won with a jump of 7.05m with Jazmin Sawyers in second (6.86m).

Holly Bradshaw won the pole vault with a height of 4.60m, Sophie Cook in second (4.25m, PB) and Sally Peake in third (4.15m)

Morgan Lake won the high jump (1.97m), Katrina Johnson-Thompson second (1.90) and Nikki Manson third (1.87, PB).

Jade Lally won the discus with 56.61.

Laura Whittingham won the javelin with 55.55m.

Sophie Hitchon won the hammer with a championship record throw of 72.02.

Other Athletics News

British 400m runner, Christine Ohuruogu has retired at the age of 34.  Ohuruogu became World Champion in 2007 and won gold the following year at the Beijing Olympics.

She won silver at the London Olympics and a second world title in Moscow in 2013.

She was also a stalwart member of the 4 x 400m relay team, winning two Olympic bronzes (2008, 2016), one World Championship silver (2013) and no less than five bronze medals (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015).

Polish sprinter, Irena Szewinska has died at the age of 72.

She won three Olympic golds medals; in the 4x100m relay in Tokyo (1964), in the 200m in Mexico City (1968) and in the 400m eight years later in Montreal (1976).

She was the first woman to break 50 seconds for the 400m and set 10 career world records.

In 1998 she became a member of the International Olympic Committee and in 2005 became only the third woman to serve on the IAAF Council.

Golf

Women’s PGA Championship

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea won the PGA at Kemper Lakes near Chicago at the weekend.

Three golfers finished on -10, Park, Nasa Hataoka of Japan and Ryu So-yeon, also of South Korea and went into a play-off.

Park and Ryu both birdied the first play-off hole, while Hataoka was eliminated as she made only par.  Play was then suspended for 20 minutes due to the weather and on the resumption, Park birdied the second play-off hole, while Ryu could only make par.

Best British finishers were Charley Hull tied for sixth on -6, Bronte Law tied 18th on -2 and Jodie Ewart Shadoff tied 25th on -1.

Netball

Vitality Super League Grand Final

It will be a repeat of last year’s Grand Final at the Copper Box in London this Saturday as Loughborough Lightning take on Wasps Netball for the title.

Last season, if you remember, Lightning finished top and Wasps second.  They defeated their semi-final opponents and met in the final where Wasps came out on top 55-51.

So this season Lightning will be out for revenge.  Their finishing places were reversed this year and they both had good wins in their respective semi-finals, Loughborough defeating Manchester Thunder 59-50 and Wasps beating Team Bath 54-39.

Who will come out on top at the Copper Box?  If you can’t get there, full coverage is on Sky Sports and the match starts at 5pm.

England Roses

The Roses have moved up to second in the world rankings for the first time.

Since rankings began in 2008, Australia and New Zealand have filled the top two places, but England have overtaken the Silver Ferns in the latest table.

Top 10:

  1. Australia
  2. England
  3. New Zealand
  4. Jamaica
  5. South Africa
  6. Malawi
  7. Uganda
  8. Northern Ireland
  9. Scotland
  10. Trinidad & Tobago

Wales have dropped out of the top ten and stand at 11, while Ireland are 19th.

England qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup as hosts and are joined in automatic qualification by Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, South Africa and Malawi.

“Interesting” that in the 15 comments I saw when I looked at this story on the BBC Sports page, eight were from men with variations of “It’s not a proper sport”, “sexist if men can’t play”, “who cares?”, three were removed because they broke the house rules (makes you wonder what they actually said) and the grand total of four were actually positive comments about the Roses’ achievement.  So it seems that women shouldn’t be allowed to participate in “men’s sport”, i.e., football, but neither should we have what is perceived, incorrectly, to be a “women’s sport”, i.e., netball.  I think that leaves us with what is called Hobson’s choice……

Winter Sports

UK Sport has announced increased funding for curling running up to the Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing in 2022.  But four winter sports have had their funding cut:

  2014-2018 funding 2018-22 funding
Bobsleigh  £5m (men’s only) £0
Curling £5.66m £6.35m
Figure Skating £1.24m £0
Short-track speed skating £4.76m £0 (extra support for Elise Christie)
Skeleton £6.55m £7.2m
Ski & snowboard £5m £6.75m
Para-ski & Snowboard £2.77m £3.5m
Wheelchair curling £1.14m 0

This is broadly in line with UK Sport policy of only funding where the prospect of medals is a real one, a policy which you will know, if you are a regular reader of this column, is not something with which I necessarily agree.  Even stranger than that, UK Sport has made special provision for short-track speed skater Elise Christie, who they consider has made “significant and consistent world-level success.”  This has drawn criticism from some quarters, especially as Christie did not win a medal in Pyeongchang.

Rugby Union – Sevens

France won the first leg of the European Grand Prix Series in Marcoussis.  They defeated Russia in the final 17-12.

Ireland finished third, beating England by 39-7, their biggest ever win against England in either 7s or 15s.

Wales finished fifth and newly promoted Scotland had a great weekend, making it to the quarter-finals before they were beaten by Russia.

This weekend sees the second leg in Kazan.  News and results next week.

Badminton

Chris and Gabby Adcock reached the semi-finals of the Malaysia Open last weekend before they fell to eventual champions and fourth seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong.  They lost 21-17, 18-21, 19-21.

Zheng and Huang then went on to defeat second seeds Wang Yiiu and Huang Dongping in the final 21-19, 21-18.

Football

The Welsh FA have announced that the Wales v England World Cup qualifier will be played at Newport’s ground, Rodney Parade.

The game, scheduled for 31 August, will kick-off at 7.45pm.

It is between England and Wales as to who finishes top – the runner-up will probably go into a play-off, while the group winner will qualify automatically.

Signings 

  • Arsenal have signed Swiss international midfielder Lia Walti and German international Tabea Kemme.
  • Former Lioness Rachel Yankey has joined the coaching staff at London Bees.
  • Reading have signed goalkeeper Rachael Laws from Sunderland and midfielder Remi Allen has signed a new contract with the Berkshire club.
  • Chelsea are about to sign Finnish international forward Adelina Engm
  • Liverpool have made two singing s from Bristol City; forward Yana Daniels and defender jasmine Matthews.
  • Everton have signed Sunderland midfielder Dominique Bruinenberg.
  • Bristol City Women have named their new manager; she is former Birmingham City assistant coach Tanya Oxtoby. She was previously assistant coach at Perth Glory Women and the Australia Under-20s.

Birmingham City Ladies have changed their name to Birmingham City Women.  In a statement the club called it “an important and progressive step.”

The FA has released its new logos for the rebranded women’s leagues.  Needless to say, as with pretty much all things FA-related, I’m not totally convinced.  Take a look for yourselves and let me know what you think: http://www.thefa.com/news/2018/jun/06/fa-womens-leagues-new-brand-identity-060618

And finally,

I gather there’s some men’s football going on this weekend?  I will actually miss it as I’ll be at the theatre in Stratford!  For those of you old enough to understand this reference, my husband and I will be re-enacting that Likely Lads episode until we can get home and watch the recording!  Good luck to England’s men against Sweden on Saturday.  Let’s hope it’s a better and much less tetchy and miserable match than the one against Colombia.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 28 April – 4 May 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  After a surfeit of ranting last week, calmness reigns as I endeavour to present as much as I can without going on to 3k words!  Stories this week come from rugby union, football, tennis, cycling, hockey, netball, cricket, rugby league plus a reminder about the Be a Game Changer awards.

Rugby Union – on the pitch

Tyrrell’s Premier 15s Final

Saracens are the inaugural Premier 15s Champions.

They beat Harlequins 20-24 in the final at Ealing Trailfinders RFC on Sunday.

It was a fitting final to a fine season; full-blooded with plenty of flowing rugby on offer.

Saracens took the lead after five minutes when Sam Martinez Gion went over for the first try.  Quins hit back quickly with an Ellie Green penalty.

Saracens looked to have got a second on 10 minutes when Poppy Cleall crossed, but it was disallowed and the penalty given to Quins.  Saracens were clearly on top, but couldn’t seem to make the most of their possession until Lotte Clapp went over under the posts to make it 12-3.

Quins tried to get back into it, but were disappointed when Garnet Mackinder went in for Saracens’ third just before half-time.  They didn’t give up, however, and got their due reward as Holly Myers scored the try to get them back into the game and make it 8-17 at the break.

The momentum was with Quins and they took full advantage, Jess Breach scoring their second try nine minutes in.

There then followed a period when it looked to be anyone’s game.  Hannah Botterman scored a try for Saracens and then Deborah McCormack did the same for Quins, taking the score to 24-20 with just two minutes left.

Quins thought their comeback could be completed when Poppy Cleall was sin-binned for killing the ball on the line.  But Jess Breach could not quite get over and nothing Quins tried came off.

The game ended with a turnover by Player of the Match, Marlie Packer and Saracens had won it.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

England full-back and wing Danielle Waterman has announced her retirement from international rugby.

She won 82 caps for England in a career spanning 15 years and scored 47 tries.

“It has been an incredible journey and a true honour to be a Red Rose for the past 15 years,

“It’s been a huge privilege to have not only played alongside and against some of the best players in the world, but to have been part of the huge development and progression of women’s international rugby to date.

“Winning the World Cup in 2014 was definitely a dream come true and to beat New Zealand for the first time in 16 years and go world number one was amazing, and to do it with the support of the Lions crowd was amazing.”

Waterman will continue to play her club rugby with Wasps.

Tennis – on the court 

Stuttgart Open

Karolina Pliskova defeated Coco Vandeweghe 7-6 6-4.  Vanderweghe had been very much in it in the first set, but at the beginning of the second she fell and injured her hand, necessitating a medical timeout.

In the end, Pliskova’s serve was the difference – she served 11 aces in the two sets.

Istanbul Open

Meanwhile, In Istanbul France’s Pauline Parmentier was triumphant, beating Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-4 3-6 6-3.  Three out of four semi-finalists were unseeded and Parmientier saw off the last of them, Irina-Camelia Begu, seeded seven, in straight sets.

This week we’re on to Prague and Rabat, Morocco.

Prague Open

Unfortunately, it gets no better for Britain’s Heather Watson this season.  She lost in the first round of the Prague Open to wildcard Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-1 6-3.  Last week’s Stuttgart winner, Karoline Pliskova, has withdrawn from her home tournament, through injury.

We are now at the semi-final stage:
Zhang Shuai (6) v Petra Kvitova (2)
Mihaela Buzărnescu (7) v Camila Giorgi

Morocco Open

We lost second, third and fourth seeds, Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Martić and Timea Babos in the first round.

The semi-final line-up:
Ajla Tomljanović v Aleksandra Krunić (7)
Elise Mertens (1) v Su-Wei Hsieh (8)

Tennis – off the court

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Madrid Open which starts next week.  She has said she does not yet feel ready for the clay season.

Football

Don’t forget it’s the FA Cup final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.  Apparently over 40,000 tickets have already been sold.

It’s bound to be a close-fought thing with Arsenal and Chelsea well-matched.  Neither side has had the ideal run up to the final with Arsenal beaten 3-0 by Birmingham City at the weekend and Chelsea totally outplayed by Wolfsburg on Sunday.

The match kicks off at 5.30pm and is live on BBC1 from 5.10pm.

Champions League

Unfortunately it was all too predictable for the remaining English teams as both went out at the semi-final stage to their impressive opponents.

Lyon 1-0 Manchester City
(Lyon win 1-0 on aggregate)

Former City player and England star, Lucy Bronze, put paid to City’s hopes on Sunday with a stunning volley to take her new club through to the final.

In truth, City barely raised a chance throughout the tie (both legs) and went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Lyon had several other chances, the best of which fell to Amandine Henry in the second-half, but her shot came off the post.

After the season started well, City only have the league title to go for and they currently lie second behind Chelsea.

Wolfsburg 2-0 Chelsea
(Wolfsburg win 5-1 on aggregate)

The damage was done in the first leg of this tie.  Wolfsburg took it incredibly easy as they romped away to a 2-0 win.

Pernille Harder scored the first put the first away after making a good run into the box and Ewa Pajor headed the second to seal the win.

Although the British teams are getting closer, I’m afraid it still looks as if they are some way behind their continental European colleagues when it comes to European competition.  There will, undoubtedly be further progress next season and there needs to be if the world’s best players are to be tempted to play in the FAWSL.

FAWSL

Saturday 28 April
WSL2
Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 London Bees

Sunday 29 April
WSL1
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Reading
Birmingham City 3-0 Arsenal (hat-trick for Ellen White)
Liverpool 1-1 Everton

WSL2
Tottenham Hotspur 6-3 Durham
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Aston Villa
Sheffield FC 4-1 Oxford United
Watford 0-4 Millwall Lionesses

Wednesday 2 May
WSL2
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Millwall Lionesses

Thursday 3 May
WSL1
Bristol City 1-6 Manchester City

There’s a change at the top of WSL1 as Man City’s drubbing of Bristol City meant not only drawing level with Chelsea on points, but overtaking them on goal difference.  They have 32 points from 14 games and a goal difference of28.  Chelsea are second with a goal difference of 26 from 14 games and Reading are third with 28 points but having played two games more.  We may just be saying at the end of the season that bagging that six at Bristol won City the WSL1 title. Yeovil are still bottom with just two points from 14, while Bristol City are second from bottom on 10.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles are still top on 38 points from 15 games.  Millwall missed the chance to close the gap as they could only draw their game in hand against Spurs and are second on 33.  Brighton & Hove Albion lie third with 31 from 14 games.  Watford lie marooned at the bottom with just a solitary point from 13 games.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey Premier League Final

Surbiton completed their fifth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1 in the final on Saturday 28 April at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.

They scored in the first half through Sarah Page (8th minute field goal), Hollie Pearne-Webb (10th minute penalty corner) and Beckie Middleton (26th minute penalty corner), taking the match away from Holcombe.

In the second-half Holcombe battled back, scoring a goal through Heather McEwan (35th minute field goal), but it proved only to be a consolation as Surbiton took the title once more.

Play-offs

Slough retained their Premier League status after they draw 1-1 with Beeston, while Hampstead & Westminster beat Stourport 4-2.

Slough 1-1 Beeston

Beeston scored first through a Sophie Robinson field goal, but Slough kept on pressurising the Beeston goal until in the 23rd minute Mel Ball rounded the keeper to equalise.

It was a competitive second-half, with both sides having chances to win it.  In the end the draw for Slough was enough.

Hampstead & Westminster 4-2 Stourport

Hampstead & Westminster not only needed a win, but they needed Slough to lose to be promoted.  Whilst they fulfilled their part of the bargain, the Slough draw meant they were foiled in their attempt.

Stourport took the lead through a Lorna Mackenzie penalty corner, but Hampstead & Westminster equalised soon after with a Lauren Turner field goal.  Just minutes later they were in front as Jessica Orrett fired home a penalty corner.

In the second-half both teams were still battling hard.  A reverse strike from Sophie Thompson brought Stourport level, but the Londoners were not done.  Louise Radford scored their third and Turner their fourth and her second to take the tie away from Stourport.

Rugby League

The Super League scores from the weekend were as follows:

Castleford 40-16 Bradford Bulls
Wigan Warriors 14-20 Leeds Rhinos
St Helens 40-14 Featherstone Rovers

So after three matches of the season, St Helens are top with the only 100% record.  Castleford Tigers are second on four points.  There are still three teams yet to get off the mark; Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights, although the latter two have only played two games.

Cycling

It’s the Tour de Yorkshire this week and stage one was won by Dutch rider Kirsten Wild of the Wiggle High5 team.

Britain’s Dani Rowe lies fourth after she picked up four bonus seconds in intermediate sprints and fellow Briton Pfeiffer Georgi will be in the Queen of the Mountains jersey as she reached the only climb of stage one in first place.

Friday’s second stage starts in Barnsley and is 128km long.

Netball

It was round nine of the Netball Superleague last weekend.  The results were:

Wasps 64-60 Manchester Thunder
UWS Sirens 44-58 Surrey Storm
Celtic Dragons 51-56 Team Northumbria
Severn Stars 43-58 Loughborough Lightning
Benecos Mavericks 57-41 Team Bath

So Wasps maintain their 100% record with 10 wins from 10 games.  As I have said before the figures may be somewhat skewed as although it was round nine, Wasps have played 10 and some teams only seven!  Benecos Mavericks have 21 points – that’s seven wins from nine games.  Lightning are third on 18 – six wins from nine.  Team Northumbria are off the bottom of the table, having registered their first win of the season in their ninth attempt when they beat the Celtic Dragons on Saturday.  UWS Sirens are bottom with only one win, but they have only played seven games.

This weekend sees a kind of combined round 10 & 11 to cover the Bank Holiday in the UK.  The fixtures are:

Friday 4 May
Team Bath v Celtic Dragons (7.30pm)

Saturday 5 May
UWS Sirens v Manchester Thunder (2pm)
Surrey Storm v Benecos Mavericks (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Team Northumbria (6pm)

Monday 7 May
Surrey Storm v Celtic Dragons (3pm)
Team Bath v Severn Stars (5pm) – Live on Sky Sports
Manchester Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (5pm)
Team Northumbria v UWS Sirens (6pm)

Cricket

Two pieces of cricket news this week.

Firstly, Wales have signed New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter Rachel Priest for the 2018 county season.  This is a major coup for Wales, who play in the second division in both the Women’s County One-Day Championship and the Women’s County T20.

It is hoped that Priest’s presence will inspire Wales in their push for promotion in both competitions.

Priest has played 86 ODIs for New Zealand with an average of 28.35.  She also played in the Kia Super League in 2017 for tournament winners, Western Storm.

Secondly, Sarah Taylor has given an interview with the BBC on how she has coped with the anxiety that put her out of the game for some time a couple of years ago.  It’s well worth a listen.  Here’s the link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/43991569

Be a Game Changer

Don’t forget you still have time to vote in the Women’s Sport Trust #Be A Game Changer Awards.  Check it out: https://www.womenssporttrust.com/bagc2018/

And finally,

No ranting; just something to consider.  This is a comment left at the end of the BBC website’s piece on the retirement of Danielle Waterman from international rugby:

“6. Posted by Bionic weather man

On 1 May 2018 11:15

I think it’s great what she has achieved but truth be known women’s rugby and women’s sport in general is a complete travesty. The tens of millions they waste on women’s sport could be better used else where [sic] to improve infrastructure etc.”

This is what we’re up against, Ladies and Gentlemen.  I’ll leave it there.

No column next week, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 March 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column. After saying I was going to be out and about last week, I ended up actually being very much in and not about, laid up with flu.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – when you’ve got flu, you know about it.

Anyway, I’m back up and running now and there’s plenty to get to grips with this week. Stories come from the Paralympics, rugby, netball, football, cycling, athletics, tennis, cricket and golf.

Winter Paralympics

The Winter Paralympics open today in Pyeongchang with 670 athletes vying for medals in six sports.

Team GB has been set a target of seven medals.

Downhill skier, Millie Knight, along with guide Brett Wild, will be aiming for a medal, as will Kelly Gallagher and new guide Gary Smith in the Super G.  Great Britain also has high hopes in the wheelchair curling.

Full coverage across the BBC.

 Football

 SheBelieves Cup

Thursday 1 March
England 4-1 France

The Lionesses got off to a fine start in the four-team tournament in the US.  True, this French team is but a shadow of its former self as several of the previous stalwarts, and often thorns in England’s side, have retired or are unavailable for selection.  The Lionesses too, however, are missing key players, including captain Steph Houghton, who withdrew from the squad with an ankle injury.

Toni Duggan opened the scoring, slipping Fran Kirby’s pass into the net on seven minutes.

The French offered little and were soon two down as Jill Scott grabbed the second.  Jodie Taylor scored a third before half-time and the game was done as a spectacle.

The second-half saw the Lionesses take their foot off the gas and substitutions caused the game to become disjointed.  But Fran Kirby still found time to grab England’s fourth, before Gaetane Thiney scored a consolation goal for France.

The only downside for England was Anita Asante’s injury incurred in the first-half.  She has since returned to the UK and is set to be out for some time with a knee injury.

USA 1-0 Germany

A goal from Megan Rapinoe on 17 minutes was enough to clinch the opening match for USA.

Sunday 4 March
USA 1-1 France

France recovered from their heavy loss to England to gain an impressive point against the US.  Mallory Pugh scored for the home side, ten minutes from half-time.  France equalised just three minutes later through Eugenie Le Sommer.  Neither side could find the winner in the second-half.

England 2-2 Germany

Whilst there was much to admire in England’s 2-2 draw against Germany, the Lionesses will surely watch the video rerun through their fingers, unwilling to view some of the comedy defending.

But Phil Neville will be heartened by the team’s resilience.  At one time, they would have capitulated after going behind to Germany, but on this occasion they came back – twice.

The Germans took the lead through Hasret Kayikci but England came straight back when a long-range shot from Fara Williams was deflected by Ellen White into the net.

On the resumption, Germany had the better of the play and went ahead again when a poor clearance from Siobhan Chamberlain bounced off Millie Bright and into the net.

This discombobulated England for a while, but Ellen White struck again, getting on to a fine through ball and just beating the German offside trap, to slide the ball home.

The last fifteen minutes were end-to-end, with both teams squandering chances.  England’s best came through Rachel Daly who, having done the hard work to get into a one-to-one with the goalkeeper, then chipped the ball straight to her when it seemed easier to score.

Thursday 7 March
France 3-0 Germany

No-one saw this one coming; France were abject against England and improved against the USA, but 3-0 against Germany?

Armandine Henry opened the scoring for France in the tenth minute with a great shot from 23 yards out.

Germany thought they had equalised when Dzenifer Marozsan chipped the goalkeeper nearly from the half-way line, but Sarah Bouhaddi managed to scramble back to make the save.

In the second-half, France scored through Eugenie Le Sommer (her 66th international goal) and Valerie Gauvin.

The Germans played an inexperienced side against a full-strength French side and paid the price.

The result also ensured Germany finished bottom of the SheBelieves table.

USA 1-0 England

England needed just a point from their final match to take the trophy.  But it was not to be for Phil Neville’s men as an unfortunate own goal from ‘keeper Karen Bardsley saw the points and the title go to the USA.

For most of the first-half the teams were even, but towards the break the US started to take charge.  In the second-half they came out firing again and on 58 minutes a sliced clearance from Millie Bright hit Bardsley and deflected into the net.

The Lionesses had chances to equalise, including one for Ellen White just minutes from time, but she her header came off the post and was cleared by the USA defender.

Football – Off the Pitch

League Restructure in England

From season 2018-19 the women’s game will be renamed/restructured as follows:

Current name                                                     New Name
Tier One:   WSL1                                                 FA Women’s Super League
Tier Two:   WSL2                                                 FA Women’s Championship
Tier Three: Women’s Premier League             FA Women’s national League North/South
Northern/Southern Division
Tier Four:  Women’s Premier League              FA Women’s National League 1 (4 regions)
(4 Regions)

So far, the following clubs have been awarded licences for the top two divisions:

FA WSL: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women, Yeovil Town.

FA Women’s Championship: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur.

In addition to this, there are up to four places available in the FAWSL through the second lot of applications and five in the Championship.

The second application process for places begins this month for those currently outside the two top tiers.  We already know West Ham intend to apply for the WSL and Crystal Palace for the Championship.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s Round Four of the Six Nations this weekend.  The fixtures are:

10 March
France v England (8pm GMT)

11 March
Wales v Italy (11.45am GMT)
Ireland v Scotland (1pm GMT)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Unsurprisingly, last weekend’s fixtures were hit by the weather, with only one tie going ahead:

Gloucester-Hartpury 40-36 Harlequins

This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

10 March
DMP Sharks v Saracens (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby club)
Loughborough Lightning v Bristol (3pm, Loughborough University)
Harlequins v Richmond (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Worcester Valkyries (3pm, Tywford Avenue Sports Ground)

Cycling

Track Cycling World Championships

Katie Archibald and Emily Nelson won gold in the madison.  Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters of the Netherlands took silver and Letizia Paternoster and Maria Giulia Confalonieri of Italy the bronze.

Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Emily Nelson won silver in the women’s team pursuit.  The gold was taken by the USA team of Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert, Kimberly Geist and Kelly Catlin.  Bronze went to Letizia Paternoster, Elisa Balsamo, Tatiana Guderzo and Silvia Valsecchi of Italy.

Elinor Barker was due to take part in the madison, withdrew after a crash and then finished twelfth in the points race.  Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands won.  Jennifer Valente of the USA took silver and Jasmin Duehring of Canada the bronze.

Barker also finished sixth in the omnium.  Kirsten Wild won it with Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark in second and Rushlee Buchanan of New Zealand in third.

Lauren Bate and Katy Marchant finished sixth in the team sprint.  Gold went to Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel of Germany, silver to Kyra Lamberink and Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and bronze to Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova of the Russian Federation.

Golf

Michelle Wie of the US won her first tournament since 2014 last weekend when she took the Women’s World Championship title by one shot with a three-way tie for second.

Wie carded a 65 on the final round, holing a monster 40-foot putt on the last, to go to -17. Brooke Henderson of Canada and Danielle Kang and Nelly Korda of the US tied second on -16.  Best placed UK finisher was Charley Hull, back on -10.

Netball

Netball Super League round five took place last weekend, although a couple of fixtures fell foul of the weather.  The results were as follows:

Friday 2 March
Team Bath v UWS Sirens POSTPONED

Saturday 3 March
Manchester Thunder v Celtic Dragons POSTPONED
Loughborough Lightning 49-60 Wasps Netball
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm POSTPONED

Monday 5 March
Team Northumbria 53-71Benecos Mavericks

One fixture from Round Six also took place on Monday 5:

Loughborough Lightning 53-51 Surrey Storm

The table is a bit uneven now with the postponements, but Wasps are top with five wins from five and 15 points.  Team Bath are second with 12 points from four games and Loughborough Lightning third, also on 12 points, but from six games.  Severn Stars, Surrey Storm and Team Northumbria are yet to pick up a point.

This weekend’s fixtures look like this:

Friday 9 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm Live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 10 March
Celtic dragons v Severn Stars (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Wasps Netball v Team Northumbria (7pm)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Premier League

Several fixtures fell victim to the weather at the weekend, with just two taking place:

3 March
Surbiton 1-2 Holcombe

4 March
East Grinstead 3-0 University of Birmingham

Surbiton are top with 28 points from 15 games.  Holcombe are second, one point behind, from 15 games and University of Birmingham are third on 26 from 14 games.

Cricket – on the Pitch

The West Indies are currently playing a one-day series in New Zealand, the results of which count towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

First ODI – 4 March
West Indies 277/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 278/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand won by 1 run

West Indies won the toss and elected to field first.  Sophie Devine hit 108 and Suzie Bates 44 to steer New Zealand to a defendable total of 278.

The Windies chased with a vengeance.  Kyshona Knight looked to have put them on course as she hit 44 from 31 balls.  They needed 10 off the last over, to be bowled by Leigh Kasperek.

Two runs off the first two balls.  Then a wicket as Tremayne Smartt was caught by Maddy Green for five.  But the dangerous Knight was still there.  The fourth ball went for a boundary and the West Indies needed four off the last two.  The fifth ball went for only a single and the last for two and New Zealand had won by one run.

Second ODI – 8 March
West Indies 194 all out (48.1 overs)
New Zealand 195/2 (30.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 116 balls to spare

The second match of the series was an altogether more one-sided affair.  Stafanie Taylor top-scored for the West Indies with 86, but it was not enough to get them to a useful score.  Kasperek took 4/44 from her 10 overs and Leah Tahuhu 3/42 from 9.1.

New Zealand were ruthless in response, knocking off the total in just over 30 overs.  Devine and Bates were again outstanding, scoring 80 and 101 not out respectively, taking the White Ferns into a 2-0 lead in the series.

The third game is on Sunday 11 March.

Cricket – off the Pitch

England

The ECB has named its squad to tour India and also compete in the tri-series with India and Australia.  Katherine Brunt has been left out with a back injury and Sarah Taylor has been rested.  Lauren Winfield, Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh are also left out.

There are three new names in the squad; Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith and Katie George, while Kate Cross, Tash Farrant and  Amy Jones are recalled.

The squad in full:

Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Tash Farrant (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

Fixtures:

Twenty20 tri-series

(All matches played at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai)

March
22 India v Australia (04:30 GMT)
23 Australia v England (04:30 GMT)
25 India v England (05:30 BST)
26 India v Australia (05:30 BST)
28 Australia v England (05:30 BST)
29 India v England (05:30 BST)
31 Final (05:30 BST)

India v England ODI series

(Not counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship)

April
6 1st ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
9 2nd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
12 3rd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)

News on media coverage when I have it.

Kia Super League

The ECB announced the England players’ Kia Super League allocations this week.  Now forgive me if I’m being particularly grumpy here, but it does seem that it’s all becoming a bit random.  I can’t help thinking we’re just marking time now until the new franchise system is introduced and we start again.  Now it just appears people are moving for no reason – how can supporters get to know a team that’s always changing?  Anyway, the moves are:

Beth Langston – Loughborough Lightning to Yorkshire Diamonds
Jenny Gunn- Yorkshire Diamonds to Loughborough Lightning
Tammy Beaumont – Surrey Stars to Southern Vipers
Sarah Taylor – Lancashire Thunder to Surrey Stars
Alex Hartley – Surrey Stars to Lancashire Thunder

The ECB is looking for balance, but in the end, the divvying up of England players detracts from the tournament for me.

Athletics

World Indoor Championships

There were some excellent performances by Team GB at last weekend’s Championships in Birmingham.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson was the star of the show, taking her first senior title with gold in the pentathlon.  She won with 4750 points.  Silver went to Ivona Dadic of Austria and bronze to Yorgelis Rodriguez of Cuba.

Laura Muir took bronze in the 3000m in a season’s best 8:45.78.  The winner was Genzebe Dibabe of Ethiopia, in a time of 8:45.05.  Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands took silver in a time of 8:45.68.

Muir then went one better, taking silver in the 1500m.  Dibabe was again the winner, with Hassan in bronze.

It was a one/two for the US in the 400m with Courtney Okolo taking gold and Shakima Wimbley, silver.  Eilidh Doyle took bonze for Great Britain with a season’s best 51.60.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took bronze in the 800m with a personal best time of 1:59.81.  The gold went to Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and the silver Ajee Wilson of USA.

Bronze also went to the 4x400m team.  United States took gold with Poland in silver.

London Marathon

Kathrine Swizter, the first woman to be given an official number in the Boston Marathon, fifty years ago, is to run in the London Marathon this year.

Switzer, 71, entered the Boston race using her initials only, hoping to pass through unnoticed.  She was roughly attacked by security men on the day, who tried to remove her from the course.  She eventually completed the race in four hours 20 minutes.

The race takes place on Sunday 22 April.

Tennis

She’s back folks!  I crave your indulgence for just a moment to mention the fact that Serena Williams is back.  Now I know that after childbirth women return to all kinds of work in ridiculously short amounts of time, and I also know that they generally neither ask for nor get recognition for that.  So I’m not necessarily shouting about the fact that she’s returning after childbirth, but just the fact that she’s back.

In her first match back at Indian Wells, she beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5 6-3.  She plays 29th seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in round two.

And finally,

It would be remiss of me not to mention #IWD2018.  I know that in the scheme of things, when women and girls all round the world suffer daily horrific treatment, sport is not one of life’s priorities.  FGM, trafficking, pornography, rape, “honour” killing, withdrawal of abortion and health rights, harassment and forced marriage are just a few things happening to thousands of women and girls every day.

I know I’ve said this before, but while I speak out, sign petitions and protest against all of these things, my actual area of expertise is sport.  Women everywhere have the right to play, officiate, manage, take charge of and watch any kind of sport they want to without fear of reprisal, violence, discrimination or even just scorn and general derision.  But it doesn’t happen.  And while there is a sporting fight to be had, I’ll be there.  Happy #IWD2018 everyone.

 

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 February 2018

curlingWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get into this week with stories from the Winter Olympics, netball, AFL, football, cycling, rugby and cricket.

So let’s crack on.

Winter Olympics

I don’t plan to cover everything, just what I would consider the highlights.  Only one place to start…

Short track speed skating

What does Elise Christie have to do to get an Olympic medal?  At least she didn’t get disqualified from the 500m; if you remember, she was relegated from all three distances at Sochi, but this will be scant consolation for the Scot who fell in her first final this week.

She had been going so well, making the final with two Olympic record times.  But it seems to me that short-track is a lottery at the best of times and in this final it was even more congested as five skaters contested it instead of the usual four.

Christie fell on the penultimate lap, but that was not the end of the controversy as home favourite,  Choi Minjeong, was relegated and the Canadian, Kim Boutin took bronze.

Arianna Fontana of Italy took gold, with Yara van Kerkhof in silver and Kim Boutin of Canada in bronze.  Christie was officially placed fourth.  There have been reports that Boutin has received death threats after taking the bronze medal away from Choi, which, if true, is a pretty sad and ludicrous state of affairs.

Christie has two more chances to win a medal; in the 1000m and 1500m.

Skiing

Michaela Shiffrin duly took gold in the giant slalom on Thursday 15 February.  She took gold in a two-run combined time of 2:2.02.  Silver went to Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway with a time of 2:20.41 and bronze went to Italian Federica Brignone whose time was 2:20.48.

Shiffrin was going for four golds at Pyeongchang, but could finish only fourth in the slalom.  She complained of feeling unwell afterwards.  Frida Hansdotter of Sweden took the title, 0.05 seconds ahead of Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.  Katharina Gallhuber of Austria took bronze.

Shiffrin still has chances to add to her medal tally in the downhill and alpine combined.

Curling

It’s two wins and one loss for Team Muirhead so far as the round robin stage begins to take shape.

They began with an easy victory over the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) 10-3, but were then beaten by the US team 4-7.

It was back to winning ways in the third match with a tense 8-7 win over China that went to sudden death after the teams finished at 7-7 after 10 ends.

Bobsleigh

I have deliberately stayed out of the patronising “Cool Runnings” hype that has continuously done the rounds since the Jamaican women entered a team for the Olympic bobsleigh.  But things have taken a ridiculous turn for Jazmine Fenlater-Victorian and Carrie Russell.

Three days before the start of the Games, their coach Sandra Kiriasis quit, and in true tantrum style, took her bobsleigh with her.  She claimed that she had secured the sled through her contacts and was “legally responsible” for how and when it was used.

Now the team expects to compete with a sled “donated” by Jamaican beer producer, Red Stripe.

But the sled needs to be checked by the IBSF and cleared to run if they make it to the actual race runs.  They also need to make two runs in official training without crashing to be allowed to compete in the race proper.  It will take the duo some time to get used to a new sled – let’s hope they can get it together in time.

Netball – on the court

Vitality Netball Superleague

The 2018 Superleague season began on Saturday and the results were as follows:

Team Northumbria 39-52 Team Bath
Severn Stars 47-48 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning 55-44 UWS Sirens
Wasps Netball 68-43 Surrey Storm
Celtic Dragons 49-61 Benecos Mavericks

Round two is this weekend. The Sky televised match will be Manchester Thunder v UWS Sirens on Monday at 7pm. Here are the fixtures in full:

Saturday 17 February
Severn Stars v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Team Northumbria v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)

Monday 19 February
Celtic Dragons v Team Bath (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v UWS Sirens (7pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Surrey Storm (7.30pm)

Netball – off the court

England have announced their squad for this April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia:

Ama Agbeze, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Jade Clarke, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Jodie Gibson, Serena Guthrie, Jo Harten, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Helen Housby, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman.

Other squads to follow as they are announced.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Saturday 10 February
England 52-0 Wales

A more than comfortable win for England as they scored eight tries without reply at the Stoop on Saturday.  Poppy Cleall scored the first for the Red Roses after eight minutes and this was converted by Katy McLean.  Abigail Dow scored a second on 17 and scrum-half Leanne Riley grabbed a third four minutes later. On the half-hour England secured their bonus point as Ellie KIldunne scored the first of her two and it was 26-0 at half-time.

It was more of the same in the second period.  There was a second for Kildunne and a second for Cleall.  Marlie Packer and Rachel Burford scored the others and McLean kicked six conversions in total.

Scotland 3-26 France

Scotland deserved so much more than three points for all their skill and effort in atrocious conditions at Scotstoun.

There were handling errors aplenty as the ball took on the aspect of a bar of soap, but it was France who held it together sufficiently to take the win.

The Scots took the lead through a Sarah Law penalty, but two storming tries from Agathe Sochat and Cyrielle Banet gave France a 12-3 lead at half-time.

There was no further score until nine minutes from time when France went over twice as Scotland tired.  Tries from Caroline Boujard and Jade le Pesq saw France take the bonus point win.  Tremouliere also kicked three from four conversions.

Sunday 11 February
Ireland 28-8 Italy

Italy were well in this match up to half-time.  The Irish went in 7-3 ahead but were not convincing.  Megan Williams scored the opening try after 10 minutes and this was converted by Niamh Briggs, but there was no further scoring until first-half injury time when Michela Sillari put over a penalty.

In the second-half Ireland got it together, scoring two further tries as the Italians tired.  Ciara Griffin scored both after 67 and 74, both of which were converted by Briggs.

Italy scored a consolation try in the last minute through Eleonora Ricci, but this went unconverted.

Round three takes place 23-25 February.

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Just one result from the weekend:

10 February
DMP Sharks 22-31 Harlequins

With that win, Harlequins are just six points behind Saracens at the top of the table. Sarries still top then on 65, with Harlequins second on 60, Wasps third on 49 and Gloucester-Hartpury fourth.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Saturday 17 February
Harlequins v Worcester Valkyries (1.30pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Bristol (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (2pm, Allianz Park)
Loughborough Lightning v DMP Sharks (3pm, Loughborough University)

Sunday 18 February
Richmond v Firwood Waterloo (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

Cycling

Sarah Storey has announced that she will compete for Great Britain at the Para-Cycling Track World Championships in March.  She is back on track after missing the 2017 season after the birth of her second child.

The full women’s team is:

Lora Fachie & Corrine Hall, Sophie Thornhill & Helen Scott, Katie Toft, Megan Giglia, Crystal Lane-Wright, Sarah Storey.

Australian Rules Football

There were more developments in the case of Hannah Mouncey this week.  The AFL has agreed to let her play women’s football for Victoria state.

She becomes the first transgender player to play at state level, having previously played at local level for Canberra.

Football

Scores from the weekend’s FAWSL matches were as follows:

Saturday 10 February
WSL1
Birmingham City 0-2 Chelsea
Bristol City 1-2 Sunderland AFC

Sunday 11 February
WSL1
Manchester City 4-0 Liverpool
Arsenal 4-0 Yeovil Town
Everton 2-1 Reading

Another big win for Man City sees them two points clear on 25 from nine games at the top of WSL1. Chelsea lie second on 23 from nine, with Arsenal third on 17 from nine.  Yeovil are still rock bottom after eight games and yet to take a point.

WSL2
Durham FC 1-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Aston Villa 0-2 Millwall Lionesses
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 London Bees
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Oxford United
Watford FC v Sheffield FC (postponed)

Doncaster Rovers Belles have a slender one-point lead at the top of WSL2.  They have 23 from nine matches with Millwall in second with 22 from nine.  Brighton lie third on 16 from eight games.  Watford are bottom of the pile with just one point from seven games.

Cricket – on the field

After pummelling their hosts in the first two ODIs, there was a somewhat surprising result in the third, which took place Potchefstroom on Saturday 10 February:

India 240 all out (50 overs)
South Africa 241/3 (49.2 overs)
South Africa won by 7 wickets with 4 balls remaining

Mithali Raj won the toss and elected to bat first.  They got off to a bad start when Smriti Mandhana was out for a duck, caught by Wolvaardt off the bowling of Ismail.  Raj was the second to go for just five.  There was a fine 79 from Dipti Sharma and 56 from Krishnamurthy, but the innings stuttered to 240 all out as Poonam Yadav was run out on the last ball.  Shabnim Ismail was the main wicket-taker with 4/30 off nine overs.

In response, Lizelle Lee went early for 10, but Wolvaardt scored 59 and Mignon du Preez 90 not out as they reached their total comfortably with Dane van Niekerk contributing 41 not out at the other end.

The series goes to India 2-1.

We are now into a five-match T20 series.

First T20 – 13 February
South Africa 164/4 (20 overs)
India 168/3 (18.5 overs)
India won by 7 wickets with 7 balls remaining

India put South Africa in to bat in the first T20 at Potchefstroom on Tuesday.  All of the South Africa batters got in but couldn’t get to the big score that would take the game away from India.  In the end, the visitors reached their total with seven balls to spare, Mithali Raj top-scoring on 54 not out.

The other four fixtures take place on 16, 18, 21 and 24 February.  More news and match reports next week.

Cricket – off the field

Ellyse Perry is now top of the ODI batting rankings, taking over from Mithali Raj.  She also leads the all-rounders rankings.

Raj is second, with Meg Lanning in third.

 

Women’s Sports Column 27 January – 2 February 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s somewhat truncated column.  It will probably seem particularly short this week, after last week’s mammoth effort.  No ranting this week, but stories from football, cricket, rugby union, hockey, Winter Olympics, WWE (yes, really – desperately pretending I know anything about this one) and this week’s “And Finally” comes from Formula 1.

Let’s crack on.

Winter Olympics

With just a week to go before the opening of the Pyeongchang games uncertainty still surrounds the participation of Russian athletes.

Speed skater Olga Graf has declined her invitation to compete as a neutral.  In an interview she said,

“As an athlete and as a citizen, I was extremely negative about the decision of the IOC to admit Russia to the Olympic Games under a neutral flag,” added Graf.

“Nevertheless, I was ready to defend the honour of the country even on these discriminatory and degrading conditions.

“But at the end of January we learned that the majority of athletes of our Olympic speed skating team will not be able to perform at the Olympics, which means all my hopes in the struggle for the Olympic pedestal will not come true because the sport has become a bargaining chip in dirty political games.”

British Build-up

A good performance from Izzy Atkin at the X Games in Colorado last week saw her take silver in the ski slopestyle.

The winner of the event was American Maggie Voisin on 92.33, Atkin scored 88.00 and Jennie Lee Burmansson of Sweden took bronze with 85.00.

Atkin is due to compete on 17 February and will, hopefully, be one to watch for Team GB fans.

Rugby Union

Just the one result from the Tyrell 15’s Premiership last weekend:

DMP Sharks 10-15 Richmond Women

This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

Saturday 3 February

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, venue tbc)
DMP Sharks v Firwood Waterloo (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Saracens Women v Richmond Women (2pm, Allianz Park)
Bristol Ladies v Harlequins Ladies (2pm, Cleve RFC)
Loughborough Lightning v Wasps Ladies (3pm, Loughborough)

Six Nations

But of course, this weekend also sees the start of the Six Nations Championship and it promises to be tighter, more competitive and more exciting than ever.  It all begins on Friday.

Friday 2 February

Wales v Scotland (6pm UK time, Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay)

Wales starting 15:
15. Jodie Evans, 14. Hannah Bluck, 13. Kerin Lake, 12. Rebecca De Filippo, 11. Jess Kavanagh-Williams, 10. Robyn Wilkins, 9. Jade Knight, 1. Caryl Thomas, 2. Carys Phillips (Captain), 3. Amy Evans, 4. Natalia John, 5. Mel Clay, 6. Alisha Butchers, 7. Beth Lewis, 8. Siwan Lillicrap

Scotland starting 15:
15. Chloe Rollie, 14. Liz Musgrove, 13. Lisa Thomson, 12. Lisa Martin (Captain), 11. Rhona Lloyd, 10. Helen Nelson, 9. Jenny Maxwell, 1. Jade Konkel, 2. Rachel Malcolm, 3.Megan Kennedy, 4. Emma Wassell, 5. Deborah McCormack, 6. Hannah Smith, 7. Louise McMillan, 8. Sarah Bonar

Saturday 3 February

France v Ireland (8pm UK time, Stade Ernest Wallon)

France starting 15:
15. Jessy Trémoulière, 14. Caroline Boujard, 13. Jade Le Pesq, 12. Camille Boudaud, 11. Cyrielle Banet, 10. Pauline Bourdon, 9. Yanna Rivoalen, 8. Romane Ménager, 7. Gaelle Hermet (Captain), 6. Marjorie Mayans, 5. Safi N’Diaye, 4. Celine Ferer, 3. Julie Duval, 2. Agathe Sochat, 1. Lisa Arricastre

Ireland starting 15:
15. Kim Flood, 14. Megan Williams, 13. Claire McLaughlin, 12. Sene Naoupu, 11. Alison Miller, 10. Niamh Briggs, 9. Ailsa Hughes, 1. Lindsay Peat, 2. Cliodhna Moloney, 3. Fiona Reidy, 4. Ciara Cooney, 5. Orla Fitzsimons, 6. Anna Caplice, 7. Claire Molloy, 8. Ciara Griffin (Captain)

Sunday 4 February

Italy v England (5.30pm UK time, Stadio Mirabello)

Italy starting 15:
TBA

England starting 15:
15. Ellie Kildunne, 14. Abigail Dow, 13. Lauren Cattell, 12. Rachael Burford, 11. Danielle Waterman, 10. Katy Daley-Mclean, 9. Leanne Riley, 1. Rochelle Clark, 2. Lark Davies, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Abbie Scott, 5. Tamara Taylor, 6. Poppy Cleall , 7. Marlie Packer, 8. Sarah Hunter (Captain)

It’s hard to see past an England championship win, but they will surely be pushed harder than ever before in this year’s tournament.

France will be the biggest test, but there could be a few surprises in store this year, especially between the home nations.

Media coverage is its usual patchy and inconsistent self (it is slowly getting better).  If I read it correctly, you should be able to catch at least highlights on terrestrial TV with some also live on the BBC red button and online:

BBC: Scotland, Ireland and Wales matches (but not Wales v Ireland or France!) – keep checking the BBC website for details.

Sky: All England games on Sky Sports Action and/or Sky Sports Mix

Sevens

Australia won the Sydney leg of the Sevens Series at the weekend without conceding a point.  Over the course of three days they scored 213 unanswered points.

In the final they beat New Zealand 31-0.  Australia’s tries came from Parry, Caslick, Green, Pelite and Sykes.

England made good progress at this event:

Friday
USA 24-27 England
New Zealand 33-12 England
England 10-17 Japan

Saturday
England 52-0 Papua New Guinea

Challenge Trophy Final
England 29-10 Fiji

Hockey

Bowdon Hightown won the Jaffa Super 6s last weekend, defeating Leicester in the final.

Bowdon took the lead in the fourth minute of a tightly contested final from a Sally Walton penalty corner.

The lead lasted into the second half but on nineteen minutes Leicester equalised through Rachael Mack.

But with just four minutes to go Charlene Mason hit the winner for Bowdon in open play.

Leicester pushed to draw level for a second time, but were unable to convert their chances.

Cricket

Women’s Big Bash League Semi-finals
Perth Scorchers 148/2 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 121/8 (20 overs)
Scorchers won by 27 runs

The Scorchers are through to the final after a convincing win over the Thunder at the Perth Stadium.

The Thunder won the toss and put the Scorchers in to bat.  But they found it hard to make inroads into the strong Perth batting line-up.  Villani and Bolton compiled an opening stand of 65 before Villani was out for 38 from 37 balls.  Bolton hit a battling 37 from 26 balls before she was caught by Stalenberg off the bowling of Taylor.

It was down to Sciver and Graham to take it on and they scored 38 and 27 respectively.

It shouldn’t have been beyond the Thunder, but several batters got bogged down as the run-rate went up.

Haynes was out early for just one and Blackwell, usually so dependable, went for nine from 22 balls.  The Thunder lost wickets at regular intervals.  Only Fran Wilson, with 46 from 28 balls showed any spark, and the Thunder possibly missed a trick by not moving her up the order.

In the end the Thunder were comprehensively beaten.  Player of the match was Emma King, who took 3/17 from her four overs.

Sydney Sixers 138/5 (20 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 121/9 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 17 runs

At one point it looked as if this was going to be a massacre.  But a fine 50 From Tammy Beaumont brought the Strikers closer to chasing their total than it seemed possible.

The Sixers got off to a bad start with Healy dismissed for just two, Ellyse Perry mustered 16 before she was caught by McGrath off the bowling of Devine.

But Ashleigh Gardner’s 72 off 45 balls took the Sixers to a decent 138.

The Strikers would have been confident of chasing down the total, but could not anticipate the devastating effect of Sarah Aley.  She took two wickets in her first two balls; Suzie Bates for 14 and Tahlia McGrath for a duck.  Kim Garth then took two in the next; Sophie Devine for seven and Bridget Patterson for a duck.  Then Aley was back into the attack.  In her second over she struck twice again, getting both Amanda Wellington and Tabitha Saville for ducks.  At that point the Strikers were 23/6.

Tammy Beaumont provided the resistance, scoring 50 from 46, but she was out in the seventeenth over.  From that point it was clear that the Strikers were going to fall short.

Unsurprisingly, Sarah Aley was player of the match for her 4/18 bowling performance.

The final, between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers takes place at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday 4 February (1am UK time) and will be live on BT Sport and BBC 5Live Sports Extra.

Netball
Quad Series

Australia finished top of the Quad series pile this week, defeating the New Zealand Silver Ferns by 19 goals thereby avenging their surprise defeat at the hands of the Ferns during last year’s series.  The England Roses finished an excellent second, their best final position in a Quad Series.

New Zealand 48-67 Australia
In the first quarter alone New Zealand conceded 13 turnovers and this set the tone of the match.

At half-time it was 35-22 to the Diamonds and the Ferns never looked like they would recover the deficit.  New Zealand coach, Janine Southby, made 14 changes in the game, but nothing seemed to work.

In the end the Diamonds ran away with it, claiming the Quad Series title in the process.

South Africa 47- 52 England
England finished an impressive Quad series as runners-up as they beat the Proteas in Johannesburg on Sunday.

The Roses were eight ahead, 30-22, at half-time and never lost the lead.  But South Africa fought hard, coming back to be trailing by only three going into the fourth quarter.

This was a much-improved performance by South Africa but Tracy Neville will be heartened by the fact that she made changes to the side established in the first two games and the Roses were still able to take the win.

Vitality Superleague
Next weekend sees the start of the 2018 Superleague.  There will be one match per week televised live on Sky and I would urge you, if you’ve never watched netball and have access to Sky, to give it a go.  Better still, go and watch it in the flesh.  It’s a breathless hour of entertainment.  The opening weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

 Saturday 10 February
Severn Stars v Manchester Thunder (6pm, University of Worcester Arena)
Loughborough Lightning v UWS Sirens (6pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps Netball v Surrey Storm (7pm, Ricoh Arena and Live on Sky Sports)

Monday 12 February
Celtic Dragons v Benecos Mavericks (7pm, Sport Wales National Centre)

Check out the Superleague website and book tickets!

WWE

Ronda Rousey has officially made the switch from UFC to WWE.

Rousey was the first woman to win a UFC bout and was the first UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

Since losing her title to Amanda Nunes in 2016 she has been repeatedly linked with wrestling and she will now take her place amongst the WWE elite.

Football – off the pitch

England defender Gemma Bonner is set to be out for up to 12 weeks with ankle ligament damage sustained in the game against Bristol City.

Birmingham City’s Norwegian midfielder, Andrine Hegerberg has signed for PSG.

Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park will host the Continental Cup final between Manchester City and Arsenal on 14 March.

Football – on the pitch

Saturday 27 January
FAWSL1

Liverpool 2-0 Bristol City

FAWSL2

London Bees 3-1 Watford FC

Sunday 28 January
FAWSL1

Chelsea 1-0 Everton
Birmingham City 3-0 Yeovil Town
Reading FC 0-0 Arsenal
Sunderland AFC 0-3 Manchester City

FAWSL2
Millwall Lionesses 3-2 Durham FC
Sheffield FC 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Doncaster Rovers Belles 4-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Oxford United 3-1 Aston Villa

Thursday 1 February
FAWSL1

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City

It was a tight, good quality game at Kingsmeadow, befitting the top two FAWSL1 sides, but neither team could break the deadlock.  It leaves City still two points clear at the top.

The downside for City was the loss of ‘keeper Karen Bardsley, who was stretchered off after just two minutes.  She was taken to hospital with x-rays taken on her left shoulder.  No news yet as to the extent of Bardsley’s injury.

This weekend sees the fourth round of the FA Cup.  For full match details click this link to the FAWSL website.

And Finally,

Formula 1 is one of those sports that divides people at the best of times.  It has a loyal (although diminishing) following, but it has an equal number of detractors who just, quite frankly, don’t see the point.

I used to be quite a fan in my younger days when Ayrton Senna was at his majestic peak, but recently I’ve tended towards the “What’s the point” camp.

But one thing’s for sure, any sport that needs scantily clad women to walk next to the participants and hold their umbrellas for them has a serious problem with its image.  And if they are needed as a “selling point”, there is something fundamentally wrong with the product.

So the decision by F1’s governing body to dispense with the services of “grid girls” from the start of the 2018 season works for me.

We need to see “girls” (that is, women) as drivers, engineers, team directors, etc., rather than as an adornment to the competitors.

It looks like darts (!) may follow suit and then it’s just up to cycling to get its house in order; the sooner the better in my view.