Welcome to this week’s column. The Winter Olympics is upon us, the Six Nations has kicked off in style, the FA Cup is progressing and, sadly, the WBBL is now a distant memory. Relive everything that’s happened this week here with stories from the Winter Olympics, cricket, tennis, golf, football, netball and rugby.
Let’s crack on
There was the worst news for British snowboarder Katie Ormerod this week as she was forced to withdraw before the Games even started, after suffering not one, but two crashes in training.
On Wednesday she fractured her wrist, but was determined to carry on, but on Thursday she crashed again, this time fracturing her heel.
She has now had surgery in Seoul and will stay in hospital for at least a week.
Ormerod was a real Olympic medal hopeful for Great Britain.
In other news, Great Britain’s flagbearer in the opening ceremony is Lizzy Yarnold. Yarnold, who won gold in the skeleton at Sochi will be defending her title on 16-17 February.
There was also good news for Sochi Paralympic gold medallist, Kelly Gallagher. She was originally not allocated one of the two places for visually impaired skiers, but has now been given one of the spare slots. She will be partnered by new guide, Gary Smith.
Much more from the Games next week, when we will be in full swing.
Great Britain started their Fed Cup campaign with aplomb this week, defeating Portugal 3-0 in Tallinn.
Heather Watson beat world number 796 Francisca Jorge in the first singles rubber 6-4 6-1. Then Johanna Konta won against Maria Joao Koehler, 6-1 6-0.
Anna Smith and Katie Boulter took the doubles against Jorge and Koehler 6-0 6-2.
Great Britain now plays Estonia, a different prospect from the Portuguese team. If they win the tie and top the group, they will go into a play-off against the winners of Group C. The winner of the play-off will qualify for the World Group II plays-offs in April.
It’s quite a complicated format, but here is Europe/Africa Group I:
Group A: Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia
Group B: Great Britain, Estonia, Portugal
Group C: Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Sweden
Group D: Latvia, Poland, Austria, Turkey
St Petersburg Open
Petra Kvitova won the St Petersburg Open, beating Kristina Mladenovic in the final 6-1-6-2.
It is Kvitova’s 21st WTA title and she won it as a wildcard entrant to the tournament.
Wales 18-17 Scotland
Wales started well with wings Jess Kavanagh-Williams and Hannah Bluck scoring tries in the first half. They led 13-0 at the break.
On the restart Scotland pressed until Chloe Rollie went over, but Wales came back with a try from Kerin Lake.
Wales hit Scotland again with a second for Rollie, but the visitors launched a late comeback.
Ten minutes from time Jade Konkel pushed her way over and the conversion from Sarah Law cut the lead to 18-17.
But Scotland couldn’t quite overtake Wales as they opened their Six Nations account with a single point win.
France 24-0 Ireland
France claimed their first win, and bonus point, of the Championships on Saturday in Toulouse.
Les Bleues scored their first try of four after just six minutes through Cyrielle Banet.
Ireland then had a period of pressure that should have led to a try, but somehow the Irish just couldn’t break through, but then Jade Le Pesq went over for a second for France and it was 12-0.
Jessy Trémoulière scored a third before half-time to take the score to 17-0 at the break.
The second-half was more even but then Ireland suffered a blow as Ciara Cooney went down with a knee injury.
France were still looking for the bonus point, though, and seven minutes from time they got it as Le Pesq scored her second. Ireland had no answers and the final score was 24-0.
Italy 7-42 England
England captain Sarah Hunter bagged three tries in the second-half to see England pull away in what had been a tight match up to this point.
At half-time it was 7-7.
England took the lead with a try from Sarah Bern, which was converted by Katy McLean. But Italy pressed and Valentina Ruzza scored in the 34th minute and was converted by Michela Sillari to make it all square at the break.
Three minutes into the second-half McLean hit a penalty. After that, England went up a gear (or several).
Sarah Hunter bagged her first and England’s second, quickly followed by their third, this time through Poppy Cleall.
Abigail Dow crossed for England’s fourth and it was Hunter again for the fifth.
Ellie Kildunne slid over with ten minutes to go and then, with the final play of the game, Hunter claimed a loose ball from the scrum to go over for her hat-trick.
The only disappointment for England was McLean’s kicking form – something that will need to be remedied in future, tighter, fixtures.
This weekend sees round 2:
Saturday 10 February
England v Wales (12.15)
Scotland v France (19.05)
Sunday 11 February
Ireland v Italy (13.00)
Tyrell’s Premier 15s
Here are the results from last weekend’s fixtures:
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 80-0 Worcester Valkyries
DMP Sharks 10-18 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens Women 41-0 Richmond Women
Bristol Ladies 13-12 Harlequins Ladies
Loughborough Lightning 26-20 Wasps Ladies
Saracens are 10 points clear at the top on 65. Second, on 55, are Harlequins with Wasps third on 49. Worcester Valkyries are still clearly bottom with just two points and a massive points difference of -712. Firwood Waterloo are second bottom on 11 points.
Just one fixture again this weekend:
DMP Sharks v Harlequins (4pm, Darlington RFC)
Three cheers for the Oates Vic Open! The event, held at Barwon Heads near Melbourne, had men and women competing at the same time, on the same course and for the same prize money of £370,000 apiece.
It’s an innovation that seems to be admired by both the women and the men. The women’s winner was home favourite Minjee Lee, who won by five shots. Another Australian, Simon Hawkes, won the men’s version.
The crowd gets to see both sets of players in action, widening both the fanbase and exposure of the sport to those who may not ordinarily have watched.
Some of the best Ladies European Tour golfers were in action as the tournament counts on the LET.
In an interview with the BBC, Cheyenne Woods said,
“They do value the equality in both men and women’s golf together.
“I think a lot of tours and sponsors can learn from that. You see it in the tennis game, just watching tennis the last few weeks, the Aussie Open. I think that hopefully in the next few years it will get more like this.
“I love the format. It’s different from any professional event that we play. I think a lot of tours could learn from this format because it brings so many different fans to come and appreciate not only the men’s game, but the women’s game as well.
“From a player’s point of view, I love it. I love being alongside the men and from a fan’s perspective, it’s nice to get the best of both worlds.
“A lot of tours could take something from this, including the LPGA and PGA Tour and I’m hoping that in the next few years we can get a little something similar to this.”
The Sydney Sixers retained their WBBL title in style as they thrashed Perth Scorchers at Adelaide.
Perth Scorchers 99 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 100/1 (15 overs)
It was not the fitting end to an entertaining WBBL3 that we’d all been hoping for.
The Scorchers won the toss and elected to bat. But from then on it all went wrong for the Scorchers. It began with acceptable, if slow, opening partnership of 23, but as soon as Villani was out for 16 in the seventh over, all hell broke loose. Bolton went for five and Sciver, two, in quick succession as the Scorchers slipped to 29/3.
Only Piepa Cleary with 18 not out provided any resistance as the Scorchers slumped to 99, taking 20 full overs to get there too, with Emily Smith run out for duck on the last ball.
Sarah Coyte (player of the match) was standout bowler, taking 3/17 off her four overs. Erin Burns took 2/26 off her four.
It’s not unfair to say the Sixers cruised home, losing only one wicket in the process. Alyssa Healy was probably kicking herself as she fell, stumped by Smith off the bowling of Emma King for 41.
Ellyse Perry (36) and Ash Gardner (22) took it home for the Sixers, in a mere 15 overs.
South Africa v India Series
Counts towards ICC Women’s Championship (qualifying for 2021 World Cup)
India 213/7 (50 overs)
South Africa 125 all out (43.2 overs)
India won by 88 runs
The home side was out-classed in the first ODi in Kimberley. The visitors won the toss and batted. Opener Smriti Mandhana made 84 from 98 balls and Mithali Raj 45 as they posted a competitive total. Marizanne Kapp was the standout bowler for SA, taking 2/26 off her 10 overs,
But it was the Indian bowling that caught the eye. The brilliant Jhulan Goswami took 4/24 from 9.2 overs and Shikha Pandey 3/23 from 8 as the hosts were skittled out with more than six overs to go.
The response started badly as South Africa slumped to 23/3 with Lizelle Lee (3), Trisha Chetty (5) and Mignon du Preez (0) all falling early. Dane van Niekerk showed some resistance, scoring 41, before she was stumped off the bowling of Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
Laura Wolvaardt, Kapp and Sune Luus all made it into the 20s, but couldn’t push on. No-one else got into double figures and India won by 88 runs.
India 302/3 (50 overs)
South Africa 124 all out (30.5 overs)
India won by 178 runs
It went from bad to worse for SA in the second ODI. They won the toss and put India in to bat. But India put them to the sword.
Smriti Mandhana showed her excellent form once again and was player of the match for the second game running. She scored 135 from 129, finally stumped by Chetty off Raisibe Ntozakhe in the 44th over.
Harmanpreet Kaur scored 55 not out and Veda Krishnamurthy 51 not out as South Africa were only able to take three wickets in the innings.
Lizelle Lee top-scored for the home side with 73, but began to run out of partners before she was lbw to Deepti Sharma.
Marizanne Kapp was the only other player to get into double figures with 17.
Poonam Yadav took 4/24 off just 7.5 overs with Gayakwad and Sharma taking two apiece.
The third ODI will be on Saturday 10 February.</em
FA Cup Fourth Round
There were some hefty defeats for lower-league sides in the fourth round with Chelsea putting 10 (ten) past London Bees and Sunderland 13 (thirteen!) against Brighouse Town. The Chelsea score should give cause for concern considering the Bees are only one league down in WSL2 and so we see the ever-widening gap between the two divisions, a gap that is not going to close any time soon, if the FA’s new plans are anything to go by.
Liverpool 5-0 Watford
Aston Villa 4-0 Middlesbrough
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester City
Cardiff City 0-0 Oxford United
Durham 2-1 Sheffield FC
Everton 3-1 Bristol City
London Bees 0-10 Chelsea
Reading 0-1 Birmingham City
Sunderland AFC 13-0 Brighouse Town
Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Yeovil Town 0-3 Arsenal
Millwall Lionesses 4-1 Coventry United
Wednesday 7 February
Liverpool 0-3 Arsenal
Meidema 29 (pen), Janssen 45, Evans 62
According to reports, new England boss Phil Neville is looking to those English players who play abroad to possibly strengthen his squad. Obviously stalwarts such as Lucy Bronze (Lyon) and Toni Duggan (Barcelona) will be firmly in his sights, but there are others, not so well known, who are also playing overseas and may come into the reckoning.
Australia: Jodie Taylor – Melbourne City, Laura Bassett – Canberra United
Cyprus: Ashleigh Bullock and Rosella Ayane – Apollon Limassol
Finland: Sarah Burn – Aland United
France: Lucy Bronze – Lyon
Germany: Leah Galton – Bayern Munich, Lily Agg – Frankfurt, Jessica King – FF USV Jena
Italy: Ellie Brazil – Fiorentina, Katie Zelem – Juventus, Emma Lipman – Verona, Sophie Williams – Calcio Latina
Netherlands: Abby Holmes – PEC Zwolle
Spain: Chloe Richards – Zaragoza, Toni Duggan –Barcelona
United States: Natasha Dowie – formerly Boston Breakers, Rachel Daly – Houston Dash
It’s a fair point. Some of the European leagues, especially, are far ahead of the WSL when it comes to facilities, fanbase and player-experience. Anything these players bring to a squad could be of benefit. But it’s also true to say that the WSL has no shortage of excellent English players to choose from. So Neville must balance the squad between home-based (and therefore easily accessible) members and those playing further afield.
It has also been reported that Neville has petitioned Manchester United in the hope that they will start a women’s senior team. Good luck with that.
Don’t forget the Vitality Netball Superleague begins again this week. Get out and support your local team! But if you can’t, tune into Sky Sports on Saturday when they will be showing Wasps Netball v Surrey Storm at 7pm.
It would be remiss of me this week not to mention and celebrate the glorious 6th. One hundred years ago on Tuesday, the Representation of the People Act 1918 became law, granting property-owning women over 30 the vote. And yes, there was still plenty of opposition (there’s probably still some today!), and yes, there was (and is) still plenty of work to do if women are to play their fair part in all sectors of society. Of course, that includes in sport, as inch by inch we redress the balance.