Women’s Sports Column 12-18 January 2019

abstract-accuracy-accurate-262438Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week with updates on some of last week’s stories, plus all the results and news from last weekend and the rest of the week.  This week we look at darts, tennis, boxing, football, cycling, ultra-running, netball, rugby union and cricket.

Let’s crack on.

Darts

I don’t know why I start with the darts this week, but I have been very much taken with Mikuru Suzuki’s darts journey, which culminated last weekend in her becoming the first non-European to win the Women’s BDO World Championships.

Suzuki beat Maria O’Brien of England 2-0 in the semi-final, while Winstanley saw off Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia 2-1.

The unseeded Japanese player then proceeded to complete the biggest shock of the week as she beat top seed Lorraine Winstanley of England 3-0 to take the title.

Indeed, Winstanley took only two legs off Suzuki, who averaged 90.12 over the match.

Suzuki’s nickname is “The Miracle” and while I probably wouldn’t go that far, it was a very impressive, surprising win and she obviously has the potential to do much more.

Ultra-running

Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to win the Montane Spine Race.  The British ultra-runner completed the 268-mile competition in 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds, beating the old course record by no less than 12 hours.

The race is run along the length of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders and is open to both male and female runners.  Two-thirds of it is run in darkness.

And if running 268 miles, in winter, mostly in darkness was not enough, Paris stopped at the aid stations along the way to express breast milk for her baby daughter, Rowan.

I can’t even begin to understand what this kind of endurance event must be like to compete in.  She has my complete admiration.  What an achievement.

Tennis

Sydney International

Petra Kvitova took the Sydney title, defeating Ash Barty in the final in three sets, 1-6 7-5 7-6.

Hobart International

Sofia Kenin of the USA claimed the title in Hobart, defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in straight sets, 6-3 6-0.

Australian Open

As usual, there were mixed fortunes for Britain’s women in the first round at Melbourne.

Harriet Dart crashed out badly, admitting that she let the situation and nerves get to her in her hard-earned first round tie against Maria Sharapova.  She had worked so hard to come through qualifying, but lost 6-0 6-0 against the Russian in one hour and two minutes.

In an interview with BBC Sport she said,

“I think nerves got the best of me but I tried my best and that’s all I could do.

“She hits a huge ball and it comes at you quick. She doesn’t give you anything so it was always going to be difficult.

“I’m glad to have these experiences and hopefully get more of big experiences on big stages.”

Katie Boulter, on the other hand, had a fine win in her first round match against 2015 semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova.  She won 6-0 4-6 7-6 (10-6).  For the first time this year there is a tie-break in the final set, but it is first to 10 points rather than seven. Boulter apparently forgot this and celebrated at 7-4, but managed to maintain her composure to take the match, hitting 53 winners in the process.

She couldn’t, however, repeat the performance in the second round and went out to 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets 6-3 6-4.  Although she played well, she was clearly frustrated with her performance.  In her post-match interview she said,

“I didn’t feel like I put my best game on the court.

“I’ve learnt so much just from playing matches on courts I haven’t played on before. I feel a lot more settled now,” she said.

Heather Watson suffered another disappointing first round exit, losing 6-1 6-2 to 32nd seed Petra Martic.  Cue many, many Watson-haters on the BBC website/Facebook/Twitter.  Watson certainly suffered in the heat (as have others, causing retirements) and has cited this as among the reasons for her loss, but she has also indicated that her mental attitude is also a problem and she lacks confidence and self-belief.

There is no doubt that Watson has talent, but has she fulfilled her potential?  Perhaps sessions with a sports psychologist may do the trick.  It would take a major miracle to silence the haters, but her first priority should be to herself.

Johanna Konta won her first round match after a difficult battle with Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.  She won a final set tie-break to take the match 7-6 2-6 7-6 (10-7.

However, she was undone in the second by 18th seed Garbine Muguruza in a spectacular match which lasted two hours 42 minutes.  Unfortunately, only 250 fans were left in the arena to see it as the match started after midnight and finished at 3.12am.  Fabulous scheduling by the tournament organisers.

The final score was 6-4 6-7 7-5 to Muguruza.  Konta will feel heartened that she played a brilliant match in difficult circumstances.  And another point to make – I know the women’s matches generally take less time to complete, but would the organisers have started another men’s match at nearly 12.30am if there had been one to play? I don’t think so.

Other highlights so far:

Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 22, lost in the first round to Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Danielle Collins of the USA is having quite a tournament.  Having disposed of 14th seed Julia Goerges in the first round, she then saw off 19th seed Caroline Garcia in the third round 6-3 6-2.

Home favourite Sam Stosur also went out in the first round, losing 7-5 6-2 to Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.  Yastremska then put out 24th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second, 6-3 3-6 6-1.

Tenth seed Daria Kasastkina lost to the unseeded Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-0.

More seeds fell in the second round as we lost Donna Vekic (29), Lesia Tsurenko (24), Anett Kontaveit (20) and Kiki Bertens (9).

World number one and top seed Simona Halep survived a real scare, eventually winning her second round match 6-3 6-7 6-4 over Sofia Kenin of the USA.

We are now in the middle of the third round:

Maria Sharapova (30) beat defending champion Caroline Wozniacki (3) in the third round 6-4 4-6 6-3.

The unseeded Amanda Anisimova accounted for 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Football

Charlton v Manchester United

Hopeless FA Klaxon!  It had to happen.  The match between Manchester United and Charlton was abandoned on Sunday after Charlton player Charlotte Kerr was injured.

But why did they have to abandon the game?  Kerr was treated on the pitch for nearly an hour, but there was no ambulance on-site and one had to be called.  The ambulance did not arrive for 30 minutes and during that time the medical staff used up the available emergency oxygen.

As there is a legal requirement to have oxygen (but not an ambulance) at the game, the referee had to call it off.

The current rules state,

“Clubs shall ensure that emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each Competition Match. Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

If there had been an ambulance present, Kerr would have been treated quicker, taken off to hospital quicker and the game could have continued.

The good news is that the sternum and rib injury was heavy bruising and Kerr has been released from hospital, but at the time it was not clear that it was just bruising.

Whatever the critics of women’s football say, this is elite sport.  This is the highest level in the country but the FA does not seem able to see its way to ensuring, as far as it is able, the safety of the players.  There have been reports this week that the FA is now considering introducing a new rule on ambulances.  Let’s hope that this is the case, before something more serious happens and we lose a player for want of an ambulance.

Transfers

As predicted last week, Marc Skinner has now left Birmingham City to take up the role as head coach of Orlando Pride.  He has side a 2.5 year deal.

West Ham United have been busy in the transfer market this week.  They signed Canadian forward Adriana Leon from Seattle Reign at the weekend.  Leon has 54 caps for Canada and has scored 12 goals.  Then at the beginning of the week they signed South Korean captain Cho So-hyun from Avaldsnes of Norway, an experienced midfielder with 120 caps.

FAWSL

Results from 13 January were as follows:

Yeovil 1-2 Liverpool
Donovan 52’
Sweetman-Kirk 27’ (Pen) 93’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Everton

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Miedema 80’
Cuthbert 26’ 63’

West Ham Utd 1-3 Manchester City
Ross 58’
Weir 15’, Hemp 39’, Parris 86’

Birmingham City 0-1 Bristol City
Evans 15’

Manchester City are now top of the table with 31 points from 13 games.  Arsenal are one point behind and have played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 13 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 12 games with Everton above them on six points from twelve.

Championship

The Championship results from 13 January were:

London Bees 2-1 Crystal Palace
Wilkinson 6’, Pickett 24’
Georgiou 17’

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Lewes
Naz 31’, Dean 52’, Schillaci 60’

Leicester City 3-2 Millwall Lionesses
Johnson 2’, Smith 35’ (Pen), Franklin-Fraiture 53’
Clarke 30’ 76’ (Pen)

Durham 2-2 Aston Villa
Robertson 21’, Salicki 75’
Hutton 22’, Welsh 45’

Charlton Athletic v Manchester United
Suspended

Tottenham are top with 30 points from 12 games.  Manchester United are second with 28 from 11, having had their game on Sunday postponed.  Charlton are third on 26 from 12.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from twelve.  Crystal Palace are above them with seven points from 13.

Continental Cup

The draw has been made for the semi-finals of the Continental Cup:

Tuesday 5 February
Arsenal v Manchester United

Wednesday 6 February
Chelsea v Manchester City

Cricket

WBBL

We now know the four teams who will take part in the WBBL semi-finals.  Sydney Sixers finished top of the pile with 20 points from 14 games.  Sydney Thunder finished second on 19 with Brisbane Heat third on 18 and Melbourne Renegades fourth on 15.

Saturday 19 January
First semi-final
Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 11.40pm)

Second semi-final
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 2.50am, Sunday morning)

UK coverage via BT Sport and BBC 5 Live Sports Extra radio.

The final is next Saturday, 26 January.

England tour of India

The schedule for England’s tour of India has (finally) been released.

There will be three ODIs played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and three T20s to be played at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Guwahati.

The ODIs will each score two points towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

All UK times:
ODIs – 22, 25, 28 February, Mumbai, 3.30am
T20s – 4, 7, 9 March, Guwhati, 4.30am

Boxing

Nicola Adams will challenge for the WBO World Flyweight title on 8 March at the Royal Albert Hall.  She faces Arely Mucino of Mexico.

Mucino became world champion in February and her ten years as a professional boxer has seen her amass 27 wins, two draws and three defeats.

Rugby Union

Saturday’s Premier 15s results:
DMP Sharks 14-53 Loughborough Lightning
Saracens 31-28 Harlequins
Worcester Valkyries 7-27 Gloucester-Hartpury
Firwood Waterloo 0-14 Bristol Bears
Richmond 12-38 Wasps

All of the teams have played 14 games.  Saracens are top with 65 points.  They have opened up quite a gap now, with Harlequins second on 58.  Loughborough Lightning are third on 55.  At the bottom, Valkyries are marooned on just four points.  Above them are DMP Sharks on 13 and Firwood Waterloo on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:
Loughborough Lightning v Firwood Waterloo (12pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Worcester Valkyries (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Saracens (4.30pm, Gillman’s Ground)
Harlequins v Richmond (5.30pm, The Stoop)

Netball

Quad Series

The first weekend of the Quad series saw two excellent games:

England 54-41 New Zealand
After a tight first half, England did the job in the second to stretch the lead and take the game away from the Silver Ferns.  At half-time the Roses had just a one point lead, 25-24.  By the end of the third quarter the lead was up to 10 points and the Roses kept up that momentum to take the win by 13.  Jo Harten scored 27/32 and Helen Housby 25/31.  For New Zealand, Solonaima Maria Folau shot 29/32 and Ameliaranne Ekanasio 12/13.

Australia 62-45 South Africa
Australia, having to cope with the loss of their captain, Caitlin Bassett, who is sidelined with a broken arm, made a slow start.  South Africa, in contrast, were quick out of the blocks and took an early lead.  They managed to maintain this good form until well into the second-half, but the Diamonds went into the break 27-25 up.  They then upped their game in the third quarter, taking control by the end of it and pushing their advantage to extend the gap to 17.  For Australia, Gretel Tippett shot 30/32 and Caitlin Thwaites 17/18.  South Africa’s main shooters, Lenize Potgieter and Ine-Marie Venter scored 35/40 and 7/9 respectively.

This weekend sees rounds two and three at the Copper Box in London.  There is TV coverage on Sky Sports and on BBC 5Live Sports Extra on the radio.

Vitality Netball Super League

Last weekend’s results:

Friday 11 January
Strathclyde Sirens 45-55 Team Bath

Saturday 12 January
Loughborough Lightning 52-44 Team Bath
Surrey Storm 39-59 Saracens Mavericks
London Pulse 40-67 Celtic Dragons

There are no fixtures this weekend as we concentrate on the Quad Series.  It’s early days of course, and most teams have only played two games.  Team Bath are on top with two from two.  Wasps and Thunder are next, although they have only played one game each and have one win.

Volleyball

The Women’s Super League is now entering into the second half of its season.  The league has split into top five and Bottom four.  Fixtures get underway again this weekend.  More news in a couple of weeks when I’m back.

Cycling

Former Team GB cyclist Jess Varnish has failed in her attempt to prove that she was an employee of both British Cycling and UK Sport at an employment tribunal.

This means she will, in effect, be unable to sue the bodies for wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination.

Varnish had claimed that British Cycling’s control over her made it an employer-employee relationship, but the governing body said it was more like a university grant situation.

There is no doubt that UK Sport will be heaving a huge sigh of relief at this decision, but it may yet have to review its processes and attitude to athlete welfare.

For more on this story see this excellent piece in Cycling Weekly.

And Finally,

First “And finally” of the year must go to Imke Wubbenhorst.  I know many of you will be asking “Who?” as I was, to be honest.  But she’s top of my pile this week for her fantastic response to yet another puerile question from a journalist.

Wubbenhorst is manager of BV Cloppenburg – a men’s fifth tier team in Germany.  She is the first woman to hold a managerial position at a men’s club at this level.

She was asked by a journalist whether she warned her players to make sure they put their pants on before she came into the changing room.

To which she replied,

“Of course not, I’m a professional; I pick my players based on their penis size.”

Love it.  No more need be said.

No column next week as I am out and about.

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 5-11 January 2019

new tennisSo here it is – 2019!  I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all my followers and, if I might be so bold, suggest that this is going to be a mammoth year for women’s sport.  I’m rather chuffed to say that my husband came up with the goods for my “big” birthday, giving me Netball World Cup tickets.  We have one session that should, all being equal, include an England Roses game.  So what with that, the football World Cup and Women’s Ashes coming up this summer, it’s going to be all systems go.

But there’s still plenty to get our teeth into this winter.  Stories for the first column of 2019 come from football, cricket, rugby union, netball, darts and tennis.

So for the first time this year, let’s crack on…

Tennis

After what seems a miniscule couple of weeks off, the WTA season has begun again with tournaments in the Far East and Australia, leading up the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, which begins on 14 January.  This week sees two tournaments in Australia:

Sydney International

It has been a bad week for British number one Jo Konta who was forced to withdraw from the Sydney International twice in two days.  She was working her way through qualifying when she had to retire in the second round with a neck injury.  She still went through to the main draw as a lucky loser and was due to Kiki Bertens in the first round, but withdrew again.

World number one Simona Halep fared no better as she was beaten in the second round after a first round bye, losing to Ash Barty 6-4 6-4.  It was Halep’s first competitive match in three months after she ended last season early with a back injury.

Quarter-finals
Petra Kvitova (5) beat Angelique Kerber (2) 6-4 6-1
Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-3
Ash Barty beat Elise Mertens (10) 6-3 6-3
Kiki Bertens (7) beat Yulia Putintseva 6-2 6-2

Semi-finals
Ash Barty is into the final, having defeated Kiki Bertens 6-7 6-5 7-5.  Sasnovich v Kvitova is still to take place at time of publishing.

Hobart International

No better news for British number two Heather Watson as she crashed out of the Hobart International in the first round, losing in straight sets to Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-1 6-4.

Quarter-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Kirsten Flipkens (7) 7-5 7-5
Alize Cornet (6) beat Greet Minnen 6-1 6-4
Belinda Bencic beat Dayana Yastremska 7-6 6-3
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5 7-5

Semi-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Alize Cornet (6) 6-2 6-4
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Belinda Bencic 7-6 4-6 6-2

The final is tomorrow, Saturday 12 January

Australian Open Qualifying

There are 16 spots up for grabs in Qualifying.  Of the British players, Naomi Broady lost in the first round, beaten by Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-4 3-6 6-3.  Gabriella Taylor also departed in the first round, losing to Kirstie Ahn of USA 6-1 6-1.

But Harriet Dart is through to the first round proper of the Australian Open.  She beat her first qualifying round opponent, Chloe Paquet of France 6-3 4-6 6-2.  She then defeated Ivana Jorovic of Serbia 1-6 6-3 6-1.  No easy draw for Dart though.  She now faces Maria Sharapova in the first round.

There are four British women in the main draw as Jo Konta seems to have declared herself fit: Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart.

Heather Watson faces 31st seed Petra Martic, Katie Boulter also has a tough one against Ekaterina Makarova (all Monday 14 January).  Jo Konta has an extra day to recover; her first match is on Tuesday against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.

Fed Cup

Great Britain have named a full-strength team for February’s matches in Bath.

The team, along with their world rankings, is Jo Konta (38th), Heather Watson (93rd). Katie Boulter (99th), Harriet Dart (132nd) and Katie Swan (181st).

It is the first time in 26 years that Great Britain has hosted a Fed Cup event.

The Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 event will comprise eight teams.  The teams will be in two groups of four, the draw for which is on 14 January.  The winners of each group will then play each other to determine who will go into the World Group II play-off, which takes place in April.

The event from 6-9 February is at the University of Bath.  Check out the ticket situation here.

Football

Racism Allegation

Tottenham Hotspur defender Renee Hector used social media to allege that she was the subject of racist abuse by a Sheffield United player during their game on Sunday 6 January.

She tweeted:

“Such a shame that racism seems to be rising up again in football.  I received some monkey noises from an opposition player. The only reaction was to let football do the talking.”

Sheffield United Women have made a statement that they:

“are aware of the post on social media and have already begun an investigation to determine the full facts”.

Hector also reported the incident to the referee during the game and Tottenham reported it to the Football Association.

There will be more on this as the situation progresses.

FA Cup Third Round Results:
Billericay Town 3-4 Loughborough Foxes
Coventry United 1-2 Crawley Wasps
Derby 1-2 Stoke
Huddersfield 4-1 Leeds
Hull City 0-3 AFC Wimbledon
Keynsham 2-1 Fylde
Middlesbrough 2-7 Watford
Cardiff 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest 0-1 MK Dons
Oxford United 1-2 Blackburn

FA Cup Fourth Round Draw

The FA Cup fourth-round draw has been made.  Crawley Wasps, AFC Wimbledon and Keynsham Town are the lowest ranked sides left in the competition – they all play in the fourth tier of women’s football.  This is the point at which the Super League and Championship teams make their first appearance:

Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United
West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Manchester City v Watford
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
AFC Wimbledon v Bristol City
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses v Lewes
Durham v Cardiff City
Everton v Chelsea
Crawley Wasps v Arsenal
Leicester City v London Bees
Reading v Keynsham Town
Liverpool v Milton Keynes Dons

Ties will be played on Sunday 3 February.

Continental Cup

We now know the semi-final line-up after the quarter-finals were completed this week.

Manchester City 7-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 6’, Hemp 23’ 86’, Weir 59’, Emslie 88’, Stanway 90’, Beckie 92’
Buet 9’

Manchester Utd 2-0 West Ham Utd
Sigsworth 17’ 53’

Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham City
Van de Donk 83’, Miedema 90’
Quinn 61’

Chelsea 4-0 Reading
Kirby 3’ 86’, Asante 37’, Riley 90+1

WSL

Sunday 6 January
Bristol City 1-1 Manchester City
Graham 62’ (pen)
Parris 36’

Chelsea 3-0 Everton
England 6’, Spence 60’, Blundell 69’

Liverpool 0-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Rafferty 34’, Umotong 49’

Birmingham City 2-1 Reading
Harrop 72’, Sargeant 89’
Hampton 88’ (OG)

West Ham Utd 2-4 Arsenal
Ross 11’, 43’
Williamson 26’, Arnth-Jensen 31’, van de Donk 59’ 65’

Arsenal are top with 30 points from 11 games.  Manchester City are second, two points behind and having played a game more.  Chelsea are third on 25 points from 12 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 games and above them are Everton with 5 points from 11.

Championship

Sunday 6 January
Sheffield Utd 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Schillaci 6’ (OG)
Dean 5’, Wiltshire 51’

Leicester City 4-0 Lewes
M Johnson 41’, Worts 50’ 55’, L Johnson 89’

Manchester Utd 9-0 London Bees
Devlin 2’ 57’, Toone 28’ 66’, Arnott 39’, Green 40’, James 68’ 73’, Zelem 80’ (Pen)

Crystal Palace 3-1 Millwall
Burr 6’, Mackenzie 52’, Bryan 63’
Ravenscroft 53’

Charlton Athletic 2-2 Durham
Bailes 20’, Gurr 85’
Ness 42’ 45’

With their thumping win over the Bees, Manchester United are top by one point.   They have 28 points from 11 games.  Just behind them are Tottenham with 27 from 11 and Charlton Athletic are third on 26 from 12. At the bottom, Millwall Lionesses have just two points from 11 games and Crystal Palace have seven from 12.

Transfers

The transfer window is upon us.  Pick of the transfers so far:

Ann-Katrin Berger has signed for Chelsea from Birmingham on a contract which takes her up to 2022.  Best bit of transfer business so far?  Probably.  Don’t forget Berger was still battling with thyroid cancer in November 2017.  Her comeback has been nothing short of stunning and she is bound to be a real asset to Chelsea.

Danish winger Katrine Veje has signed for Arsenal from Montpellier. Veje has already won more than 100 caps for Denmark.

Jade Bailey has signed for Reading from Chelsea on loan until the end of the current season.

Scottish forward Abbi Grant has left Glasgow City to play for Anderlecht.  Her aim is to make the Scotland World Cup squad and she believes the only way to do that was to leave Glasgow.  So far she has just one cap.

I’m not one to repeat gossip (often), but rumour has it that Birmingham City head coach Marc Skinner has been approached by Orlando Pride with respect to joining them as their head coach.  No confirmation or denial on either website, but just what I’ve heard from fans’ forums.  If it does turn out to be true, this will be a massive loss for Birmingham.  More news when I get it.

Finally, can I add my congratulations to Annie Zaidi, who has been named as the new Solihull Moors Ladies coach.  I have met Annie on several occasions and she is a brilliant example to any woman wanting to become a football (or any sports) coach.  In addition to the new role she will continue as the Under 16s boys.  If you don’t know her story, check it out here.

Netball – off the Court

When are Benecos Mavericks not Benecos Mavericks?  When they’re Saracens Mavericks, of course!

Having just got used to calling them Benecos Mavericks, as opposed to Hertfordshire Mavericks, they’ve gone and changed their names again.  With good reason.  Saracens Rugby Club have bought a 50% stake in the Mavericks.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Kathryn Ratnapala, Mavericks’ Director of Netball said,

“This has been a fantastic opportunity to join forces with Saracens and continue to push to be the standout, ultimate franchise within Vitality Superleague.”

“Saracens have proved to be role models and leaders in their field and merging with this high-performance culture and club is a great step forward for Mavericks.

“We would like to thank Benecos for their support for the last two years as we continue to work with them as our title sponsor this season.”

Tim Hunt, who oversees the commercial operation at Saracens said,

“Netball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and we are excited to be joining forces with Mavericks. Part of our growth strategy is to collaborate with others that share our ethos and help widen our audience reach.”

“To achieve this, the dual-priority is to create an environment where our elite teams continually strive for sporting excellence and to inspire our local communities to lead healthier, happier lives through the positive power of sport. Mavericks mirror our culture making them a perfect match for Saracens.”

Seriously, it is great to see another sport realise the potential that surrounds netball.  I hope it’s a beneficial relationship for both clubs.

Netball – on the Court

The Vitality Netball Super League 2019 is underway in this huge year for netball!

Last weekend saw the Super 10 opening extravaganza at the Birmingham Arena.  All ten Super League teams were in action over the course of the day.  The scores were as follows:

Celtic Dragons 41-58 Team Bath
Wasps Netball 72-42 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 49-51 London Pulse
Strathclyde Sirens 56-38 Surrey Storm
Manchester Thunder 58-61 Saracens Mavericks

The second round is this weekend and then there is a break for the Quad Series.

11 January
Strathclyde Sirens v Team Bath (7.30pm) (Live on Sky)

12 January
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Saracens Mavericks (6pm)
London Pulse v Celtic Dragons (7pm)

Quad Series aka Vitality International Series

The latest Quad series takes place in Liverpool and London between 13-20 January.

Sunday 13 January (Liverpool)
South Africa v Australia (3.15pm)
England v New Zealand (5.30pm)

Saturday 19 January (London)
Australia v New Zealand (4.15pm)
England v south Africa (6.30pm)

Sunday 20 January (London)
South Africa v New Zealand (3.15pm)
England v Australia (6pm)

All games live on Sky Sports

England have already named a 12-strong squad. There is no place for captain Ama Agbeze as she is still recovering from injury.

Roses squad: Helen Housby, Chelsea Pitman, Geva Mentor, Jo Harten, Jade Clarke, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Serena Guthrie, Layla Guscoth, Rachel Dunn, Razia Quashie, Fran Williams

Darts

We are at the semi-final stage of the BDO Darts Professional Ladies Championships at Lakeside.

The semi-finals take place today, Friday 11 January.

Lorraine Winstanley of England takes on doubles partner Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia while Mikuru Suzuki of Japan faces Maria O’Brien of England.

More news next week.

Cricket

WBBL

With just one round of matches to go, Sydney Thunder are still on top with 19 points (nine wins).  Both they and the Hurricanes have played 13 matches, one more than everyone else.  Just behind them, on 18 points and also with nine wins are Sydney Sixers.

The other two finals day qualifying places are currently held by Brisbane Heat on 14 points and Melbourne Renegades on 13.  At the bottom, the luckless Hobart Hurricanes still have only two wins from 13 and are on four points.  Perth Scorchers are currently in fifth, just one point behind fourth place.

The two standouts over the past couple of weeks have both involved New Zealand all-rounder Sophie Devine.  Her display with both bat and ball for the Adelaide Strikers on 23 December against the Melbourne Stars led them to a fine win and she was at it again as the Strikers triumphed in a Super Over win over the unlucky Hobart Hurricanes on 8 January.

Sophie Devine

Devine became the first WBBL player to hit a half-century and take five wickets in a match.  She hit 95 off 66 balls (5 sixes, 8 fours) for the Strikers and was out in the penultimate over as they posted a total of 172/3.  She then took the wickets of Lizelle Lee, Angela Reakes, Erin Osborne, Georgia Elwiss and Nicola Hancock as the Stars fell 19 runs short in their chase.

On 8 January, the Strikers posted 189/5 with Devine scoring 99 not out from 53 balls, an innings that included 10 fours and four sixes.  Tahlia McGrath also made 63.  In chasing 190, the Hurricanes always looked to be up against it.  Smriti Mandhana made 52 at the top of the order, but she lost three partners in quick succession.  The lower order took it on though and the Hurricanes managed to end on 189/8, which took it to a Super Over.

The Hurricanes could only post 12/1 from their one over, hampered by the wicket of Mandhana second ball.  The Strikers, needless to say in the form of Devine, hit six, six, four to win the game and end as player of the match yet again.

Rugby Union

England Roses
I know I’m a bit late to this, but I think it bears repeating: the RFU have awarded 28 full-time 15s contracts.  There are also seven EPS agreements where players will take part in camps and England training, but not the full-time programme.

England Women Elite Player Squad 2019

Forwards
Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women), Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women), Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)*, Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies), Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women)*, Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women), Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies), Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Justine Lucas (Loughborough Lightning), Cath O’ Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens Women), Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)*, Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

Backs
Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies), Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies), Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning), Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women), Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies)*, Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Lagi Tuima (Bristol Bears Women), Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

* EPS agreement

It is great news and shows England Rugby’s commitment to women’s and girls’ rugby.

Premier 15s

Premier 15s rugby is back this weekend.  The fixtures are as follows:

12 January
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol Bears (1pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Richmond v Wasps (3pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Harlequins (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Get out there and support them if you can.

That’s all for this week.  More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 15-21 December 2018

IMG-20160720-00581Welcome to the last Women’s Sports Column of 2018.  It’s been an invigorating, strange, frustrating, air-punching year, punctuated by big highs and fairly rotten lows.  On the whole, I’d say women’s sport (with some exceptions) is on the up.  The respect for female athletes is improving and attendances and viewing figures are improving.

But it only takes me a minute to cast my eye over some of my “And finally” sections this year to realise that there is still work to do, attitudes to change and sexism to rigorously call out.

Anyway, for the final time this year, here are stories from football, cricket, darts, rugby union, taekwondo, SPOTY, sailing and cycling.

Let’s crack on…

Sports Personality of the Year

I’ve honestly never seen so much hot air in my life as that generated by the SPOTY shortlist/winners/event.  Really folks if you are so outraged about this as a subject, you must have had a very easy life not noticing the things in the real world that are going on around you.

Is it disappointing that Georgia Hall was not shortlisted?  Yes.  Is it disappointing that neither of the two women shortlisted made it into the top three?  Yes.  Is it the end of life as we know it because Harry Kane didn’t win?  No.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all so subjective that it’s not worth worrying about.  The contenders’ accomplishments are facts, but when it comes to voting, if you don’t like athletics or cycling or perhaps, women, then you’re not going to vote for them.  Football supporters are particularly one-eyed, as we all know.

The shortlist: Harry Kane, Geraint Thomas, Lewis Hamilton, Dina Asher-Smith, Lizzy Yarnold, James Anderson.

The top three:
Geraint Thomas
Lewis Hamilton
Harry Kane

I have my own preferences, as I’m sure you all do.  I would have liked to have seen Dina Asher- Smith win it, but it was always, I’m afraid, unlikely.

But the women did well elsewhere.  Two awards for the England Roses; Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year for their Commonwealth Games win against Australia and Team of the Year.  It’s a pity that Tracey Neville didn’t win Coach of the Year, but that was always going to be Gareth Southgate (perfectly nice man and nothing against him) for winning nothing and wearing a waistcoat.

The Unsung Hero award went to 28-year old Kirsty Ewen, swimming coach with Inverness ASC.  Kirsty had issues with her mental health since her teenage years and was reluctant to become a volunteer.  Now she says, “volunteering in sport saved my life” and although she still experiences difficult patches, her swimming coaching lessens the effects and gives her joy and the chance to inspire others.  There’s a great short film about her on the BBC website.  Check it out here.

The Lifetime Achievement award went to Billie Jean King.  As you will all know, King no only had an outstanding tennis career (35 singles and doubles Grand Slam titles, including 20 Wimbledon titles), but has spent her whole life fighting for equality in sports for women.  She founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and was its first president.  She and then husband Larry King also founded the Women’s Sports Foundation, specifically aimed at ensuring that all girls and women have access to sport.

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and was awarded the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama in 2009.

Football

Continental Cup Draw

The quarter-final draw was made this week:
Manchester United v West Ham United
Chelsea v Reading
Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal v Birmingham City

Ties will take place 9-10 January 2019

Sailing

British Yachting Awards

I am most happy to say that Dee Caffari duly won the Pro Sailor of the Year award at the British Yachting Awards last week.  It was a good night all round for female sailors:

Maria Stanley was awarded Amateur Sailor of the Year, Emily Mueller was Youth Sailor of the Year, while the Outstanding Achievement Award went to Tracy Edwards MBE.

Cricket

Ireland Women

There was excellent news from Cricket Ireland this week as it announced it is to offer professional contracts to some women players in 2019.  The number has not been specified and the contracts will be part-time, but it is a veritable step forward for Irish cricket.

Cricket Ireland chief executive, Warren Deutrom, said,

“We are delighted to become one of a very select number of sports in Ireland to offer professional contracts to women players.  It has been an ambition of ours for a number of years, and we now find ourselves in the position to push ahead with this much-needed improvement to our sport.

“The professionalism shown by our senior women’s team during preparation, qualification and performance at the recent ICC T20 World Cup was a demonstration that this side of our sport is ready to progress and grow.

“Like we did with the men’s side a number of years ago, we will now bring a measured approach to player contracts. A small number of part-time contracts will be offered in early 2019, with the plan to expand this programme over subsequent years.”

WBBL

December 15
Hobart Hurricanes 133/5 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 155/3 (14.4 /15 overs – target 152)
Sixers won by 7 wickets (DLS)

The Hurricanes had reached 112/4 off 14 when the rain came, causing the match to be reduced to 15 overs.  England captain Heather Knight scored 51 not out off 35 balls.  The target was revised to 152 via DLS.

The Sixers openers for once went cheaply, Alyssa Healy for 8 and Ellyse Perry for 10.  But Ash Gardner powered her way to 79 not out from 50 balls, supported ably by Erin Burns with 43 from just 20 balls.   When Burns was out, Sara McGlashan came in and she and Gardner squeaked home with two balls remaining, McGlashan hitting a four to win it.

Adelaide Strikers 132 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 134/4 (17.3 overs)
Thunder won by six wickets

If it hadn’t been for captain Suzie Bates, this might have been much, much worse for the Strikers.  Opening the innings with Tahlia McGrath, she anchored the innings, scoring 79 not out from 60 balls.

But the support was not there.  The only other Strikers player to reach double figures was Alex Price, coming in at number 10.  Rene Farrell took 3/12 from four overs, Stafanie Taylor 3/36 from her four and Maisy Gibson 3/23 from four.

The chase was measured and untroubled.  Rachel Priest opening scored 58 not out and although Taylor was run out for a duck, Stalenberg (19) and Kaur (33) broke the back of the target and it was left to Nicola Carey to score the winning runs, ending the game with a boundary.

Melbourne Stars 124/9 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 125/2 (19 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets

Stars lost wickets disappointingly regularly in this innings and their top-scorer was Georgia Elwiss with just 26.  The wickets were shared across seven bowlers.

The Scorchers took their time with the chase, anchored by captain Elyse Villani, who scored 52 not out from 49 balls.  Amy Jones went for just five, but Nicole Bolton (23) and Heather Graham (39 not out) steered it home with one over remaining.

December 16
Brisbane Heat 174/8 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 153/7 (20 overs)
Heat won by 21 runs

Sammy-Jo Johnson top-scored for the Heat with 31 and there were other solid contributions from Beth Mooney (25), Jess Jonassen (26) and Laura Harris (29) as they posted a good 174.  Molly Strano was pick of the bowlers for the Renegades, taking 4/21 off her four overs.

The Renegades’ response began well with an opening stand between Danni Wyatt and Amy Satterthwaite of 75.  But after those two were out, Satterthwaite first for 38 and Wyatt for 32, only one other batter made double figures.  They fell behind the run-rate and fell 21 short of their target.

Sydney Sixers 158/3 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 141 all out (19.1 overs)
Sixers won by 17 runs

Ellyse Perry was at it again on Saturday as she scored 72 not out to lead the Sixers to another win.  Alyssa Healy contributed 30 and Erin Burns 44 as they posted 158.

In response, Fazackerley went for just four and the Hurricanes found it hard to build partnerships, regularly losing wickets.  Georgia Redmayne provided the only stiff resistance for the Hurricanes, scoring 47 not out from 36 balls.  But they were always going to be short.  Marizanne Kapp took 4/27 off her four overs and Alex Hartley was the last wicket to fall, run out without facing a ball as the Hurricanes finished well short.

Adelaide Strikers 145/4 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 146/5 (18.2 overs)
Thunder won by five wickets

Bridget Patterson top-scored for the Strikers with 36 from 40 balls as they posted a decent 145.  The Thunder used seven bowlers, the pick of whom was Stafanie Taylor, who took 2/33 from her four overs.

Rachel Priest went for a first ball duck with Stalenberg following for just one in the second over, but Stafanie Taylor provided the anchor, scoring 55 from 42 balls before she was run out in the fifteenth over.  Harmanpreet Kaur took it on further down the order and was 52 not out from 34 balls at the end.  She hit two fours off the first two balls of the penultimate over, bowled by Devine, but the winning run came from a wide and the Thunder had won with 10 balls to spare.

Perth Scorchers 90/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 91/6 (15.3 overs)
Stars won by 4 wickets

The Scorchers had a nightmare against the Stars, scoring a paltry 90 from their 20 overs and although the Stars lost wickets in the chase, they still won with 27 balls to spare.

Nicole Bolton made 36, but took 44 balls in doing it.  The only other player to get into double figures was Hayley Jensen who scored 12 from 15 balls.  All of the bowling figures looked impressive with Kristen Beams taking 3/13 from three overs and Georgia Elwiss 2/10 from three.

Stars never looked in any trouble in their chase.  Opener Lizelle Lee scored 26 from 19 and Katie Mack 33 from 31. Nicola Hancock hit the winning run in the sixteenth over.

December 18
Hobart Hurricanes 173/7 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 173/6 (20 overs)
Match tied – Scorchers won in the Super Over

Hobart got off to a good start, with a partnership of 59 between Smriti Mandhana and Erin Fazackerley, before Mandhana fell to Heather Graham for 38.  She was top scorer, Fazackerley made 36 and Stefanie Daffara 31 as they posted a decent total for the Scorchers to chase.

Amy Jones and Elyse Villani also got off to a good start.  Jones was the first to go for 21.  Heather Graham top-scored with 44 and Villani made 41.  The two sides couldn’t be separated over 20 overs and so the game went to a Super Over.

The Hurricanes recorded 10/2 in the Super Over, but the Scorchers made 16/0 and took the two points.

19 December
Melbourne Stars 132/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 138/0 (10.5 overs)
Heat won by 10 wickets

Move over Ellyse Perry, there’s a new kid in town.  Grace Harris stole the show in Brisbane as she smashed a 42-ball 100 as the home side chased down their target with more than nine overs to spare.  With her team needing one to win and with Harris on 95, she hit her sixth six of the innings to win the match and to take her to her century.

The Stars started badly with Lizelle Lee out for just one in the second over.  The rest of the middle order got a start but no-one could put together the big innings needed.  Angela Reakes top scored for the Stars with 30 as they posted 132/7 off their 20 overs.

Enter the Heat openers.  No-one else got a look-in as Harris and Mooney took it on and cruised to victory.  Mooney played the steady back-up, scoring 28 from 25 balls, but it was Harris and her stunning 101, containing 13 fours and six sixes who will remain in the memory.

21 December
Hobart Hurricanes 153/9 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 156/4 (17.2 overs)
Thunder won 6 wickets

Hurricanes again got off to a good start with an opening stand of 43. Fazackerley was out for 35 and was top-scorer.  The top five batters all got into double figures, but none was able to push on to a big score.  None of the next five batters scored over seven and so although the score was competitive, it did tail away towards the end.  Stafanie Taylor was pick of the bowlers for the Thunder, taking 3/24 from her four overs.

By contrast, the Thunder got off to a poor start in their chase with Rachael Haynes perishing in the first over for five.  But Rachel Priest (40) and Naomi Stalenberg (55) with Kaur, Blackwell and Taylor all contributing as they reached their target with 16 balls to spare.

Adelaide Strikers 144/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/6 (19.3 overs)
Stars won by four wickets

Two batters stood out for the Strikers.  Opener Sophie Devine hit 46 from 36 balls and towards the end of the innings Tegan McPharlin 41from 34.  In between there were a lot of single-figure scores.  Erin Osborne took 2/16 from her four overs.

The Stars went well in response until they lost two wickets in the tenth over as Dani Hazell got Du Preez went for 17 and Mack for a duck.   It was a tight finish, but the Stars got home with three balls to spare.  Erin Osborne top-scored for the Stars with 54 not out from 45 balls.

As it stands, Sydney Thunder are top with 10 points from six matches.  Sydney Sixers are second with eight from five and Melbourne Stars are third with eight from seven matches and an inferior net run-rate.  At the bottom, Hobart Hurricanes have only one win from seven games and have two points.  Melbourne Renegades are just above them on three, but from only four matches.

In the UK, there is coverage of some WBBL matches on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra and BT Sport.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

15 December
Loughborough Lightning 29-10 Gloucester-Hartpury

16 December
Firwood Waterloo 0-65 Harlequins
Saracens 48-0 Richmond
DMP Sharks 7-5 Bristol Bears
Worcester Valkyries 5-48 Wasps

After 12 games, Saracens are top with 55 points.  Harlequins are second on 51 and Loughborough Lightning are third with 49.  At the bottom, the Worcester Valkyries have just four points, DMP Sharks are just above them on 13 and Firwood Waterloo are one point ahead of them and third from bottom.

This weekend’s fixtures, the last of 2018, are:

22 December
Harlequins v Worcester Valkyries (1.30pm, Surrey Sport Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Firwood Waterloo (2pm,)
Wasps v Saracens (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Richmond v DMP Sharks (5pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Bristol Bears v Loughborough Lightning (5.30pm, Shaftesbury Park)

Volleyball

There were just two games in the Women’s Super League last weekend:

TeamBU Wessex 2-3 Tendring VC Ladies (25-23, 25-23, 17-25, 13-25, 12-25)
Birmingham Volleyball Club1 0-3 London Orcas (15-25, 12-25, 16-25)

All nine teams have now played eight games.  Durham Palatinates are top with 23 points, Tendring VC Ladies are second with 19 and London Orcas are third on 17.  At the bottom, Polonia SideOut London and Birmingham VC1 have three points each.

Cycling

Track Cycling World Cup IV – London

Team GB’s women riders claimed two golds at the fourth event in the Track Cycling World Cup in London at the weekend.

Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald won gold in the madison and they were also part of the team, along with Neah Evans and Ellie Dickinson, that took gold in the team pursuit.

Results:

Sprint: Stephanie Morton (Aus) beat Emma Hinze (Ger) in the final.  Laurine van Riessen (Ned) took bronze.

Keirin: Stephanie Morton (Aus) took gold, Daria Shmeleva (Rus) silver and Urszula Los (Pol), bronze.  Katy Marchant finished fourth.

Omnium: Kirsten Wild (NED) won gold, Jennifer Valente (USA) silver and Allison Beveridge (CAN), bronze.  Elinor Barker was fifth.

Team sprint: China won gold, Germany the silver and Netherlands the bronze.

Team Pursuit: Great Britain took gold, USA silver and Italy the bronze.

Madison: Great Britain (Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald) won gold, Australia (Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson took silver and, Belgium (Julien D’Hoore and Lotte Kopecky) took bronze.

Taekwondo

It was two out of three golds for Great Britain’s female finalists at the World Taekwondo Grand Slam finals in China.

Bianca Walkden defeated Madelynn Gorman-Shore of the United States to win the +67kg category.

Lauren Williams overcame Nur Tatar Askari of Turkey to win the -67kg category.

Jade Jones took a silver, losing out in the final to Lijun Zhou of China in the -57kg class, while Rebecca McGowan just missed out on bronze in the +67kg category.

Each winner took home over £54,000, the largest prize even given in the sport.

Darts

The second female qualifier for the PDC World Darts Championship, Anastasia Dobromyslova, lost in straight sets in the first round to Ryan Joyce of England.

And Finally,

I hope you have enjoyed the column this year.  I have enjoyed writing it!  I love getting the stories together, to see just how much women all over the world are contributing to the sporting landscape, very often for little but personal satisfaction in return.

2019 promises to be a storming year with the football World Cup in France, netball World Cup in Liverpool and the Ashes during the English summer to look forward to.

Hopefully I’ll be about to bring it all to you (hopefully I’ll get to see some of it in person!).

But until then, I would like to wish you all a happy sport-filled Christmas and New year and I look forward to writing for you and interacting with you all again in 2019.

Penny

Women’s Sports Column 8-14 December 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the no-show last week.  I had it half-written, but felt so ill from Thursday onwards that I just couldn’t complete it.  Shame, because it was going to be a good one (but you’ll just have to take my word for that…)

Anyway, still plenty to get our teeth into this week with stories from football, cricket, volleyball, rugby, tennis, sports sponsorship, taekwondo, darts and sailing.  Plus, it was due to be my “And Finally” last week, but I just can’t let that twerking farrago go!

Let’s crack on.

Football

World Cup 2019 Draw

No doubt as to the top news story this week, as Saturday’s World Cup 2019 draw saw England and Scotland drawn in the same group.  It had a strange air of inevitability to it, I thought, as I watched the balls being pulled from the goldfish bowls.

The draw in full:

Group A
France, South Korea, Norway, Nigeria

Group B
Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Group C
Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Group D
England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan

Group E
Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands

Group F
United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

Group D fixtures:
(all local time)

9 June
England v Scotland, Allianz Riviera, Nice (6pm)

10 June
Argentina v Japan, Parc des Princes, Paris (6pm)

14 June
Japan v Scotland, Roazhon Park, Rennes (3pm)
England v Argentina, Stade Océane, Le Havre (9pm)

19 June
Japan v England, Allianz Riviera, Nice (9pm)
Scotland v Argentina, Parc des Princes, Paris (9pm)

My thoughts at this point could easily become a list of clichés, so I’ll keep it brief.  I’ll suggest that it is a truism rather than a cliché to say that there are no easy groups at the World Cup.  Scotland will be massively motivated to beat England and the Lionesses will not be able to afford to “warm up” as the group progresses.  They will need to be sharp from the start.  It’s not a gimme for England, that much is sure.  Japan will probably provide the toughest test, so ideally Neville will want his team to have made a positive start and have points in the bag by the time they play them.

France and Germany should have a fairly easy ride; Group C is anyone’s guess; it’s tough between Canada and Netherlands in Group E and also between United States and Sweden in Group F.

Looking forward to it immensely.  If any enterprising publication/website would like to send me over to cover it, just let me know.  Not looking forward to all the misogynist bile that goes with it (plenty going around already).

Jordan Nobbs

England have already received one blow to their chances as it has been confirmed that Jordan Nobbs will not make it to France 2019.  The Arsenal midfielder has had surgery for the anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in the match against Everton in November.

Nobbs had had a storming start to the season and will, without doubt, be missed.

Afghan National Team

Meanwhile, although we bemoan the status of women’s football in this country, we should, perhaps, consider ourselves lucky, when we see what others have had to go through in order to pursue their footballing passion.

I must admit I was doubtful that there would be any meaningful investigation into the allegations of sexual and physical abuse of members of the Afghan women’s team by Afghan Football Federation (AFF) staff.

But this week the Afghanistan Attorney General, Farid Hamidi, has suspended six members of the AFF, including the president, Keramuddin Karim while an investigation is carried out.

The Guardian reported in November that allegations of abuse taking place in Afghanistan as well as at a training camp in Jordan had been reported by senior officials.

In The Guardian’s report this week the team’s former coach, Kelly Lindsey, is quoted as saying,

“For years I have listened to stories of how women are treated in Afghanistan – seeing and hearing the disparity in our players’ voices. I have seen how these men have destroyed the bonds, trust, and unity these women built together through teamwork. For every step forward we went through a despairing step back at the hands of these men.

“I stopped in my tracks when I saw the news and felt for once in these women’s lives they can see that unity can lift them out of despair. That their voice has finally been heard and hopefully for their bigger mission to help all women and children of Afghanistan have a voice and live their dreams.”

And Mina Ahmadi, a player excluded from the team for refusing to sign a new contract, said

“I was in awe when I saw the news. When we started this whole movement I was hoping for a fundamental change but because so many people before us tried it as well, I wasn’t sure if we will be heard.

“The fact so many people joined us in our fight and we honestly brought some change just makes me feel so proud. I’m proud to know so many female fighters for justice and I just hope that it’s the beginning of a greater and brighter future for our country. It’s the biggest honour to be part of this mission and to show people that you should raise your voice when you are treated wrongly.”

I will follow up on this story as it progresses.

SheBelieves Cup 2019

The US will once again host the SheBelieves cup in February, which will serve as a useful World Cup warm-up tournament for those involved.  The teams will be US, Japan, Brazil and England.

The Lionesses will begin their campaign against Brazil in Philadelphia on 27 February.  They then move on to Nashville to play the US on 2 March and then to Tampa to play Japan on 5 March.

WSL

This weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

9 December
Yeovil Town 0-5 West Ham
Lehmann 19’ 27’, Simic 34’ 59’, Visalli 53’

Reading 2-2 Liverpool
Williams 62’ 84’
Sweetman-Kirk 10’ 68’

Manchester City 1-0 Birmingham
Stanway 12’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea
Ericsson 55’, England 69’ 91’, So-yun Ji 76’

Everton 0-2 Bristol City
Rutherford 65’, Rood 91’

Arsenal are now top on goal difference only (although it’s a healthy gap), but they have a game in hand over the chasing pack and have 27 points.  Man City are second, with Chelsea five points behind in third.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 matches, Brighton are just above them with four and Everton third from bottom with five from ten matches.

WC

This weekend’s WC results were as follows:

Aston Villa 5-1 Sheffield Utd
Hutton 40’ 63’ 73’, Haywood 42’, smith 82’
Jones 51’ (Pen)

Lewes 0-2 Charlton Athletic
Eupji 40’, Agg 69’

Durham 3-1 Manchester Utd
Salicki 22’, Hepple 60’, Ness 87’
Toone 42’

London Bees 2-1 Leicester City
Beckett 52’, Wilkinson 70’
Johnson 27’

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Crystal Palace
Dean 26’

Durham proved that Manchester United are beatable by doing just that at the weekend, but United stay top on 25 points from 10 games.  They are only ahead on goal difference from Charlton, who have played a game more with Durham in third a point behind, also having played 11.  At the bottom, Millwall still have two points from ten games and Crystal Palace are just above them with four.

Continental Cup

12 December
Reading 5-6 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur 0-5 Chelsea
Birmingham City 1-3 Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses 1-3 Arsenal
Yeovil Town 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield Utd 3-1 Leicester City
Charlton Athletic 0-2 West Ham Utd

13 December
Everton 0-3 Manchester Utd
Aston Villa 0-4 Manchester City
Crystal Palace 7-2 London Bees

The quarter-finalists are: Manchester City/Birmingham City (Group 1 North), Manchester Utd/Reading (Group 2 North), Chelsea/Brighton & Hove Albion (Group 1 South), Arsenal/West Ham Utd (Group 2 South).

Sports Sponsorship

There was good news and frustrating news in the world of women’s sports sponsorship this week.  Make no mistake, the good news is major.

Visa have signed a seven-year deal with UEFA to become women’s football’s first sole sponsor at all levels.

Visa will be the main partner for the Champions League and the Women’s Euros.  It will also sponsor the Women’s Under-19 and Under-17 Championships and the UEFA Women’s Futsal European Championships.

The deal runs until 2025.

By contrast, Guinness have just signed a six-year deal to sponsor the Six Nations Rugby – the men’s tournament that is, not the women’s.  For some reason the women’s Six Nations has not been included and this major tournament remains without a sponsor.

Sailing

British yachtswoman Susie Goodall was rescued by a 40,000-tonne cargo ship after capsizing in the Golden Globe Race.

Her boat went over 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn and she was picked up two days later by the Tian Fu which used one of its cranes to hoist her out of the water.

The Tian Fu was sailing from China to Argentina when it was diverted by the Chilean Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to make the rescue.

The accident was so violent that Goodall was knocked out and when she came to Goodall was able to raise a distress signal.  The conditions were so bad that the rescue ship could not put out a rib boat to pick her up, but had to try the difficult manoeuvre with the crane and hook.

Goodall was in fourth place in the race when the accident happened.

Tennis

Amelie Mauresmo has withdrawn as France’s Davis cup captain and instead will become coach to world number 32 Lucas Pouille.

She had been appointed in June to take over from Yannick Noah in 2019, and would have been France’s first female Davis Cup captain.

BT Action Woman of the Year

In case you missed it last week, the results of this year’s Awards bear repeating:

Dina Asher-Smith was named BT Action Woman of 2018.  There can be no doubting the appropriateness of the honour – this year she won gold in the 100m, 300m and 4x100m at the European Championships as well as gold in the 4 x100m and bronze in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games.

The England Netball team won the Team of the Year award after their gold medal-winning performance at the Commonwealth Games.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in encouraging both disabled and non-disabled youngsters into sport as well as recognising her role in leading a government review into the safety of sporting events.

Cricket

The WBBL is well underway and, thanks to my indisposition last week, I am way behind in reporting what has happened so far.  So here’s a quick re-cap:

All teams have now played three games.  The Sydney Sixers once again look like the team to beat.  After losing their first game to Melbourne Stars on the first day of the tournament, they have come back to win the next two and lie top of the table.  Ellyse Perry is on blistering form having hit a 59-ball hundred against the Perth Scorchers – the century coming from the last runs of the match.

But it was South African Lizelle Lee who hit the first century of this season’s WBBL.  She hit 102 from 56 balls against Sydney Sixers as they reached their target with 2.4 overs to spare.

Perth Scorchers also won well in the first part of the opening day double-header.  Elyse Villani hit 58 from 39 as they chased down the Hobart Hurricanes’ 144 with just three balls left of the match.  Hurricanes lost a key player just before the start as the West Indies’ Hayley Matthews broke a toe in training.

England captain Heather Knight made 82 from 55 balls for Hobart Hurricanes in their defeat to Melbourne Stars.

So, it’s all very tight at the moment.  The two Sydney teams plus Melbourne Stars have four points from three games, with the Sixers top on net run rate.  Then come Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades with one win and one no-result and three points each, while Hobart Hurricanes, Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers all have one win and two losses and two points.

More scorecards and detailed match information from this weekend’s games in next week’s column.

Volleyball

Last weekend’s Women’s Super League results were as follows:

Saturday 8 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21. 18-25, 20-25, 25-15, 15-5)
Sheffield Hallam 1-3 TeamBU Wessex (23-25, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25)
London Orcas 0-3 Durham Palatinates (20-25, 15-25, 20-25)

Sunday 9 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-20, 25-16, 25-21)
Bristol VC1 0-3 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (22-25, 11-25, 16-25)

Durham Palatinates are still top with a clean eight wins from eight games and 23 points.  Tendring are second with 17 points from seven games and Malory Eagles third with the same number of points from eight games.  At the bottom, Polonia have only one win from eight games and three points.  Above them lie Birmingham with three points from seven games.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

8 December
Harlequins 43-7 Loughborough Lightning
Gloucester-Hartpury 53-7 Bristol Bears
Wasps 34-0 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens 59-0 DMP Sharks

9 December
Richmond 21-18 Worcester Valkyries

After 11 rounds of matches, Saracens are top with 10 wins and just one loss.  They have 50 points.  Harlequins are second on 46, with Loughborough Lightning third on 44.  At the bottom, Worcester still have four points, DMP Sharks are second from bottom on nine and Firwood Waterloo are just above them with 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:

15 December
Loughborough Lightning v Gloucester-Hartpury (12pm, Loughborough Uni)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Firwood Waterloo v Harlequins (2.15pm,Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Saracens v Richmond (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Bristol Bears (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Darts

Lisa Ashton fell in the first round of the PDC World Championships at Alexandra Palace this week.  She was beaten three sets to one by world number 43 Jan Dekker of Netherlands.

Ashton took the first set, but Dekker came back to take the next three to progress into the next round.

The second female qualifier, Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia, starts her campaign on Monday against Ryan Joyce.

Taekwondo

Grand Slam Champions Series

This second edition takes place in Wuxi, China from 12-16 December.

This really is the elite – the world’s top 16 fighters in each of the Olympic weight categories – four male and four female.

Great Britain is looking good for medals and there are some big prizes up for grabs.  Jade Jones and Lauren Williams are already through to the semi-finals of the -57kg and -67kg categories respectively.  They hope to be joined by Bianca Walkden, who is yet to fight.

Jones beat Zongshi Luo of China and will now face Maria Stetic of Croatia in the semi-final.

Williams beat Paige McPherson of the USA and will fight Ruth Gragbi of Ivory Coast in her semi-final.

News of who won what next week.

And Finally,

No apology for going ahead with this one, even though it’s “old news” (how I wish it was).  This is how I reacted to Twerkgate last week, before I was struck down by my miserable virus:

No prizes for guessing who the “One step forward, two steps back Award” goes to this week.  We finally see a Women’s Ballon d’Or Award (and goodness knows there are plenty of men out there that think that shouldn’t even be happening), when the DJ Martin Solveig, who was there for what purpose goodness only knows, asked the winner Ada Hegerberg, if she knew how to “twerk”.

She had collected the award and made a speech about inspiring the next generation of footballers, encouraging them to believe in themselves when she is asked if she can dance in a sexually provocative way!

Why would you do this, for crying out loud?  Every week I (and my fellow women’s sport enthusiasts) spend our time talking about and writing about the great things women are doing in sport.  Every week women everywhere are derided and dismissed for any role they play in sport.  It is also a particular problem in football.

So when you finally see a female Ballon d’Or winner, what do you do?  Do you a) congratulate her and say what a great year she has had and how women’s football is on the up all over Europe or do you b) ask her if she would like to dance in sexual manner in celebration of winning?

Well, apparently it’s b).  Suffice it to say, now that Solveig has had his error of judgement (if you can call it that) pointed out to him, he has apologised “to anyone who may have been offended.”

Great response by Andy Murray on Instagram, by the way,

“Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport.

“What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modric?  I’d imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks I’m overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t. I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

No more to add.

That’s all for this week.  Back next week with one last brief update before my Christmas break. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 February 2018

skisWelcome 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

Winter Olympics

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.

Tennis

Fed Cup

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.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

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)

Golf

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.”

Cricket

WBBL Final

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)

First ODI
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.

Second ODI
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

Football

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

FAWSL1
Wednesday 7 February

Liverpool 0-3 Arsenal

Meidema 29 (pen), Janssen 45, Evans 62

England

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.

Netball

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.

And Finally,

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.

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.

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 January 2018

gavelWelcome to this week’s column.  No prizes for guessing what’s been bugging me beyond endurance this week.  But actually there’s a bigger story that should be given prominence – the conviction of US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.  But there is plenty of news from other sports this week – news that, thanks to Mr Neville, has received even less (if that were possible) coverage than usual.

Stories this week come from netball, cricket, rugby union, football, Winter Olympics, tennis, bowls and Commonwealth Games.

Larry Nassar 

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years imprisonment for the abuse of girls and young women he was supposed to be caring for in his role as US Olympic gymnastics team doctor.

Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault.

The 54-year old had already been sentenced to 60 years for the possession of child pornography.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina delivered a devastating speech in sentencing Nassar.

“As much as it was my honour and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it was my honour and privilege to sentence you.

“Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.”

156 girls and women accused Nasser and the court heard seven days of testimony.

In response to the accusations Nassar said,

“What I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling.

“There are no words to describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred.”

 Football

Now let’s just get the next subject over with so we can move on other things as there is a lot to get through.

 FA appoints Phil Neville as new England Women’s Head Coach

It’s all been said.  I can add nothing new, but it won’t stop me putting my two penn’orth in.  The FA’s job advert said it was looking for:

“an outstanding football coach with a track record of consistent and successful management and development of elite players and coaches to high-performance levels.”

Or, alternatively, we can hire Phil Neville.  As I said last week, I’m ready to be converted, but if things do go well, will it because of Neville or in spite of him?

And, it never ceases to amaze me that hundreds of men who have never given a second’s consideration to women’s football unless it is to dismiss it as irrelevant, now feel it is their right, nay their duty, to give their opinion on this topic.  Should I be grateful that the “great and the good” of the men’s game now have an opinion – largely that the appointment is wrong?  No, I should not.  You’ve never shown any interest before – don’t pretend you’re commenting because you feel outrage at this appointment.  Can’t quite believe I’m going to say this, but at the moment those saying “who cares?” are the ones I want to read – at least they’re consistent……

Many of the social media comments over the last few days have been unpleasant and personal about Neville and have no place in any reasoned argument.  Neville’s tweets from way back have been a distraction from the real issues.  I don’t have much of an opinion either way on Neville as a person, but if the FA couldn’t find anyone better qualified for this role they are doing something wrong and Baroness Sue Campbell coming out and saying that the other candidates were “nervous” about the media grilling they would receive is not going to convince me otherwise.

Right, enough and onwards.

FAWSL

We’re up and running again in the WSL this weekend.  These are the fixtures:

Saturday 27 January

FAWSL1

Liverpool v Bristol City (5.30pm, Select Security Stadium)

FAWLS2

London Bees v Watford FC (2pm, The Hive)

Sunday 28 January

FAWSL1

Chelsea v Everton (12.30pm, Kingsmeadow Stadium)

Birmingham City v Yeovil Town (2pm, Solihull Moors)

Reading v Arsenal (2pm, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

Sunderland v Manchester City (2pm, Mariners Park)

FAWSL2

Millwall Lionesses v Durham (12 noon, St Paul’s Sports Ground)

Sheffield v Tottenham Hotspur (1pm, Sheffield FC)

Doncaster Rovers Belles v Brighton & Hove Albion (2pm, Keepmoat Stadium)

Oxford United v Aston Villa (2pm, Oxford City FC)

Other Football News

There has been a mixture of good and bad in the other news this week; I’m afraid it’s been one step forward, at least two back:

Manchester City

Manchester City are signalling their clear commitment to women’s football by launching their new “Same City, Same Passion” campaign.

As part of this they are merging their men’s and women’s social media channels and say that the campaign is,

“Focused on promoting women’s football by demonstrating that the same skills, same excitement and same passion exist wherever a ball is kicked”.

The club statement went on to say,

“Despite the rapid growth the sport has experienced since then, the general public perception of women’s football does not always match the reality of what can be seen on the pitch.

“In 2014, FIFA’s women’s football survey found that only 13 per cent of its member associations believed women’s football was perceived as a quality sport.

“Same City, Same Passion has been created to combat this misconception and to show that the similarities to the men’s game are far greater than the differences, and that men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ football can be enjoyed by everyone.”

“Same City, Same Passion aims to highlight that the similarities between men’s and women’s football are far greater than the differences and, regardless of who’s playing, it’s just football.

“Merging social media channels as part of this campaign offers us a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of our women’s team and to offer our supporters the chance to enjoy the excitement and passion that defines every Manchester City team.”

Let’s face it, the club is often accused of “buying” success, but, to be honest I say let them buy it if they are going to put this much faith in their women’s team.  Let it show the others how it’s done.  Hopefully, others will follow suit with similar commitment.  I’m not holding my breath, but it’s a definite step forward.

Boston Breakers

Bad news from the US this week as it has been announced that Boston Breakers have gone out of business.

The details are still sketchy, but it is believed that the players were told by email on Thursday.

England striker Natasha Dowie plays for the Breakers and the manager is former Liverpool boss Matt Beard.

More news in next week’s column.

Yeovil Town

It was announced today that Yeovil manager Jamie Sherwood will leave the club at the end of the season.  Sherwood has been doing the job part-time and with the league going fully professional from next season, he cannot carry on his other job in Wales and this one.  So he has opted to stand down from his role at Yeovil.

In a similar position is Ellie Curson, who is also to leave Yeovil to concentrate on her teaching career as she does not want to commit to a full-time professional team.

 Transfers

  • Chloe Kelly and Taylor Hinds have left Arsenal for Everton
  • England under-20 forward, Rinsola Babajide, has signed for Liverpool from Watford.

Netball

World Cup Qualifying

Scotland and Northern Ireland have qualified for the 2019 World Cup after the qualifying tournament at the weekend.

Friday, 19 January

Wales 40-52 Scotland

Wales were ahead at half-time 23-21, but the Scots came back and by the end of the third quarter were 32-31 up.  Then Nia Jones was sent off for Wales, the match had turned for good, Scotland extended their lead and took the match by 12.

 Saturday, 20 January

Northern Ireland 57-42 Wales

Northern Ireland were always ahead in this game.  They led 16-11 after the first quarter and 28-21 at half-time.  They were never headed and they took the match comfortably.

Sunday, 21 January

Scotland 52-31 Northern Ireland

Both sides had already qualified by beating Wales.  Scotland went on the offensive early and were 14-6 ahead at the end of the first quarter.  By half-time they were 27-14 up.

Scotland’s defence was stronger and their attackers more accurate as they stretched away to make the final gap 21 points.

Wales

The Welsh coach, Trish Wilcox, has already paid the price for failing to qualify for the World Cup as she was sacked this week.  She also leaves her role as Celtic Dragons coach.

Wales are now looking to appoint an interim head coach for the Commonwealth Games, before they make a permanent appointment later on in the year.

Wilcox had been in post for three and a half years.

Quad Series

 20 January (Copper Box)

South Africa 50-54 Australia

The Diamonds’ shooting was the difference in this match.  And yet, it could all have been different.  At half-time South Africa were one point ahead.

But they couldn’t maintain their form as Australia found theirs.  Going into the final quarter the Diamonds had reversed the deficit and were one point ahead 39-38.

The gap was stretched to four points by the end, but it was a whole lot tighter than expected.

England 64-57 New Zealand

What a game!  What a comeback from the Roses!

England came back from six down as the fourth quarter started, to tie the game 49-49 at the final hooter.  And so into extra time.

But it needn’t even have got that far, as Kadeen Corbin missed a shot in the last seconds which would have won the game in normal time.

The Roses powered through extra-time, forcing the Silver Ferns into mistakes and turning the ball over.  New Zealand seemed to visibly wilt as England got stronger and there was only going to be ne winner by the end.

Player of the match was Serena Guthrie, a ball of furious energy throughout.

 22 January (Copper Box)

England 46-50 Australia

But it was the same old story against Australia as England fell short.

The Roses were 28-21 down at half-time, a gap too large to come back from against the World’s number one side.

They brought it back to 37-34 at the end of the third, but Australia held on for the win.

25 January (Johannesburg)

South Africa 46-51 New Zealand

The Silver Ferns led by five after the first quarter, 14-9.  They maintained the gap with the score at 25-21 at half-time.

The gap was five 39-34 going into the final quarter, and although the Proteas fought in the fourth, New Zealand took the game by five.

There are two games to go: 28 January (Johannesburg)

Australia v New Zealand

South Africa v England

Tennis

The Australian Open final will be between the top seed, Simona Halep and second seed, Caroline Wozniacki.

Halep overcame 21st seed Angelique Kerber in a semi-final epic, 6-3 4-6 9-7

Wozniacki defeated Elise Mertens in straight sets, 6-3 7-6

The final is on Saturday 26 January.

Winter Olympics

The GB team for Pyeongchang has been announced.  The games begin on 9 February.  It’s great to see the crowdfunded “Micas” on the list.  The women taking part are:

Skeleton

Lizzy Yarnold, Laura Deas

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill (Pilot), Mica Moore (Brakewoman)

Curling

Team Muirhead (In with a great chance of a medal)

Eve Muirhead (Skip), Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer

Figure skating

Penny Coomes (with partner Nick Buckland) (ice dancing)

Short Track Speed Skating

Elise Christie (500m, 1000m, 1500m) – (Great chance of a medal if she can stay out of trouble)

Charlotte Gilmartin (500m, 1000m, 1500m) (outside chance of a medal)

Kathryn Thomson (500m, 1000m, 1500m)

Biathlon

Amanda Lightfoot (7.5km Sprint)

Alpine skiing

Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley

Cross-country skiing

Annika Taylor

Freestyle skiing

Izzy Atkin, Rowan Cheshire, Emily Sarsfield, Katie Summerhayes, Molly Summerhayes

Snowboarding

Aimee Fuller, Zoe Gillings-Brier, Katie Ormerod.

Bowls

The World Indoor Bowls tournament is underway at Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk and the women’s singles has been won by Katherine Rednall from Ipswich.

This is Rednall’s third title.  She beat Rebecca Field from Norwich in the final 13-3 13-6.

She now goes on to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Commonwealth Games

Wales have already announced their team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which take place 4-15 April 2018.  Included is 11-year old Anna Hursey, who be representing the Principality in table tennis.

The hockey, sevens and netball squads are still be finalised.

Aquatics: Jazz Carlin, Georgia Davies, Kathryn Greenslade, Ellena Jones, Harriet Jones,  Beth Sloan, Alys Thomas, Chloe Tutton, Harriet West.

 Athletics: Hollie Arnold (para), Olivia Breen (para), Rebecca Chapman, Melissa Courtney, Bethan Davies, Seren Bundy Davies (still to reach qualifying standard), Caryl Granville, Beverley Jones (para), Caryl Jones, Elinor Kirk, Heather Lewis, Carys Parry-Evans, Sally Peake,

Boxing: Rosie Eccles, Lynsey Holdaway, Lauren Price.

Cycling: Elinor Barker, Eleanor Coster, Joe Holt, Ciara Horne, Rachel James, Manon Lloyd,  Dani Rowe (having switched from representing England to representing Wales),

Lawn bowls: Anwen Butten, Laura Daniels, Jess Sims, Caroline Taylor, Julie Thomas (para), Pauline Wilson (para), Emma Woodcock.

Shooting: Sian Corish, Coral Kennerley, Sarah Wixey.

Squash: Tesni Evans, Deon Saffery.

Table Tennis: Charlotte Carey, Anna Hursey, Chloe Thomas.

Triathlon: Olivia Mathias, Non Stanford.

Weighlifting & Powerlifting: Tayla Howe, Laura Hughes, Catrin Jones, Holly Knowles, Nerys Pearce (para), Faye Pittman, Hannah Powell, Christie Williams.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Tyrell 15s results were as follows:

20 January

Firwood Waterloo 0-29 Loughborough Lightning

Gloucester-Hartpury 34-17 Bristol

Wasps 5-0 Saracens

DMP Sharks v Harlequins Postponed

Worcester Valkyries 5-22 Richmond

Just the one fixture this weekend:

27 January

DMP Sharks v Richmond (4pm, Northern Echo Arena)

So Saracens lose their unbeaten record at Wasps.  They are still top on 60 points from 13 games.  Harlequins are second on 54, with Wasps third on 47.  At the bottom, luckless Worcester lie on two points with Firwood Waterloo above them on seven.

Sevens

It’s the Sydney round of the World Sevens this weekend.  Check out http://www.sydney7s.com.au/ for details.

Standings: Australia are top on 20 points, USA are second on 18, Russia third on 16 with Canada next on 14 and New Zealand fifth on 12.

England lie eighth on six points and Ireland are one further back on four.

Cricket – off the Pitch

 History will be made this year as Anya Shrubsole will become the first woman to appear on the cover of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.  It is the bible for cricket fans worldwide and this will be the 155th edition of the book.  Another small step in the right direction for women’s cricket.

Cricket – on the Pitch

WBBL

20 January

Melbourne Stars 118/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 118/6 (20 overs)

Stars won in Super Over

It was a thriller at the MCG as the teams finished dead level after 20 over and the game went into Super Over.

Stars won the toss and elected to bat.  Lizelle Lee top-scored with 31, with contributions from Alana King (22), Anna Lanning (21 not out) and Georgia Elwiss (18).  The wickets were evenly distributed between the Renegades bowlers.

In response, Amy Satterthwaite scored 31 not out, Sophie Molineux 25 and Claire Koski 19 as the Renegades managed to finish on exactly the same score.

In their Super Over, the Renegades scored a healthy 10 runs, but lost four wickets in the process, including ducks for Molineux, Brown and Satterthwaite.

Lee and du Preez took it on for the Stars.  Lee scored seven and du Preez, three and won the game having lost fewer wickets.

Sydney Thunder 148/4 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 111 all out (19.2 overs)

Thunder won by 37 runs

Rachel Priest scored 51 from 27 balls and Naomi Stalenberg 41 from 30 as the Thunder put on a good total of 148.

The Strikers lost wickets at regular intervals with Bridget Patterson scoring 30 from 20 balls.  But it wasn’t enough.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 from four overs and Stafanie Taylor and Nicola Carey two each.

Hobart Hurricanes 122/4 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 126/1 (16 overs)

Scorchers won by 9 wickets

Isobel Joyce top-scored for the Hurricanes with 52 not out and Georgia Redmayne 43, but no-one else made a significant contribution.  Katherine Brunt continued her good form with 2/22 off her four overs.

Elyse Villani attacked in response with 70 not out from 48 balls, Nicole Bolton scored 34 and Nat Sciver 18 not out as the Scorchers won with four overs to spare.

21 January

Sydney Thunder 114/5 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 114/4 (20 overs)

Strikers won by 1 in the Super Over

Strikers won the toss and chose to bat.  They struggled to 114 with Suzie Bates top-scoring on 40.  The Thunder top four all got into the twenties, but were unable to get over the line and the game went to a super over.

Sophie Devine bowled for the Strikers, conceding just six runs and taking one wicket. She then opened the batting for the Strikers – she scored six and Suzie Bates one and Adelaide had won by one run.

Melbourne Stars 106/7 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 107/5 (18 overs)

Sixers won by five wickets

The Stars’ top four managed only 15 between them, but Erin Osborne scored 39 and Anna Lanning 18 as they limped to 106.  Marizanne Kapp took 2/13 from her four overs.

Alyssa Healy scored 21 from 16 and Ellyse Perry 39 not out from 45 as the Sixers took the win.

Hobart Hurricanes 130/7 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 134/4 (18.5 overs)

Scorchers won by six wickets

Georgia Redmayne scored 53 from 49 before she was caught and bowled by Katherine Brunt.

But 60 not out from Nicole Bolton, 21 from Elyse Villani and 24 from Nat Sciver were the telling innings for the Scorchers who got home with seven balls to spare.

24 January

Melbourne Renegades 68 all out (15.5 overs)

Sydney Thunder 69/6 (16 overs)

Thunder won by four wickets

Renegades were skittled by the Thunder as five players scored only one and Amy Satterthwaite top-scored with 17.  Nicola Carey took 3/10 off 3.5 overs, while Rene Farrell and Stafanie Taylor chipped in with two each.

Thunder took it easy in response and lost wickets along the way.  Rachel Haynes scored 37, keeping her head as wickets fell.  She was fifth wicket to fall and it was up to Stafanie Taylor and Rene Farrell to see it home.

After 12 matches, Sydney Thunder are top on 18 points.  The Sixers and Strikers are second and third respectively on 16 and Perth Scorchers lie fourth on 14.

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 January 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Back to myself, just about so how about starting with a rant?  Honestly, I don’t know what to say about Phil Neville.  Perfectly amiable chap I would imagine, but the best candidate to manage the Lionesses?  I think not.  Yet again, the FA, in its inestimable wisdom, treats the women’s game with contempt.  Anyway, enough ranting for now – yes, more is promised later.

This week’s stories come from netball, cricket, football, rugby union and winter sports.

Let’s crack on.

Football – off the Pitch

 Lionesses

No doubt as to the biggest story of the week.  I mentioned it last week, in the hope that it was a giant hoax – let’s face it, if April Fools’ Day had been impending we’d have thought it was a none-too-subtle effort on the part of the FA.  But apparently it’s not.  If the mainstream media is to be believed, Phil Neville is about to be revealed as the Lionesses’ new Head Coach.

“I have the opportunity to go to a World Cup and be successful with a group of driven and professional players, and as coach it’s the best job I could ask for.” (my italics)

Is this a slightly disingenuous statement from Neville?  “the best job I could ask for”?  You’re not wrong, sir.  Whether it’s the best job you deserve is another matter.

The rumours are that Casey Stoney is going to be trained up to be his assistant, which has got to be a good move.  But it doesn’t deflect from the main event.

“I’m excited to see how discussions turn out,” says Neville.  I’m not sure “excited” is how I feel right now; more like angry and betrayed.  Not new emotions when I consider the FA.

I am more than ready to be proved wrong.  What I want is what is best for the England women’s team, both now and in the future.  If this is Phil Neville, then so be it.  But in my view it’s a big gamble and at this stage the Lionesses should be pushing on, not going backwards.  Let’s see.

Transfers and other news

    • Bristol City have signed England under-21 forward Millie Farrow from Chelsea. She had previously been on loan at City in 2016, but a knee injury cut the spell short.
    • Brighton & Hove Albion have signed Swedish full-back Amanda Nilden until the end of the season. She is set to make her debut on 28 January against Doncaster Rovers Belles.
    • England left-back Demi Stokes has signed a new three-year contract with Manchester City.
    • Birmingham City goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger is already back in training after her operation to treat thyroid cancer. Amazing, considering she was only diagnosed in November.

Football – on the pitch
14 January – WSL1

Birmingham City Ladies 2-0 Bristol City Women
Mannion (54) pen
Wellings (61)

14 January – Continental Cup semi-finals
Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City

An eighteenth minute goal from Danish international Nadia Nadim was enough to see the league champions through to the final.  There were plenty of chances for Chelsea to equalise, but they couldn’t take one.  Nikita Parris had a couple of chances to double the away side’s lead, but in the end one goal sealed the tie.

Reading Women 2-3 Arsenal

Manchester City will face Arsenal in the final as the Gunners left it late to defeat Reading at Wycombe.  The away side took the lead through Beth Mead in just the fifth minute.  But two minutes later Reading were level as Brooke Chaplen hit a fierce shot to beat Arsenal goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.  The sides went in level at half-time.  As the game opened up in the second-half there were plenty of chances, but the third goal did not come until the 70th minute when Lauren Bruton hit home from the edge of the area.  But Arsenal were not done.  Seven minutes later Viviana Meidema drew the Gunners level and on 82 Jordan Nobbs won it for Arsenal.

Rugby Union

 Last weekend’s Tyrell’s 15 Premiership scores were as follows:

13 January
Wasps Ladies 31-10 DMP Sharks
Saracens Women 105-0 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins Ladies 17-10 Loughborough Lightning
Bristol Ladies 57-7 Firwood Waterloo

14 January
Richmond Women 15-37 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

So that’s eight from eight for Saracens, and in some style against beleaguered Worcester.  They lead the table by five points on 59, with Harlequins second on 54.  Third are Wasps, but way back on 43.  Worcester are bottom with just two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on 7 with Richmond just above them on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:

20 January
Worcester Valkyries v Richmond Women (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
DMP Sharks v Harlequins Ladies (2pm, Darlington RFC)
Wasps Ladies v Saracens Women (2.30pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Bristol Ladies (2.30pm, venue tbc)
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (4.45pm, Firwood Waterloo RFC)

Netball
World Cup

The launch event for the Netball World Cup 2019 took place this week in the host city, Liverpool. The event featured an exhibition game in the Great Hall of St George’s Hall and countries from across the netball-playing world were represented.

The “branding” of the tournament, the flag under which it is being played (a better term, I think) is “This is Netball” and comprises four ‘pillars’; *Elite Sport*, *Empowering Women and Girls*, *One Incredible Destination* and *Welcoming the World*.

It’s going to be a fantastic event and I would encourage as many of you as possible to make the effort to attend.  You can keep up to date with the build-up to next year’s event via the World Cup 2019 website: https://www.nwc2019.co.uk/

This weekend sees all of the home nations in action as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland take on each other at the European qualifying tournament for the World Cup in Perth, Scotland.  Two teams will qualify.

Coverage of the qualifiers is on the BBC website:

Friday, 19 January
19:30-21:00: Wales v Scotland, Connected TVs & online

Saturday, 20 January
15:00-16:30: Northern Ireland v Wales, Connected TVs & online

Sunday, 21 January
12:00-13:30: Scotland v Northern Ireland, Connected TVs & online

England, who have already qualified will be taking on New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the Quad Series.  It will be played over six test matches at the Copper Box in London and in Johannesburg.  Please be aware that if you haven’t already booked your tickets, several of the games are already sold out.  Check the venue for details.

Full coverage on Sky Sports plus one random game on the BBC – Eng v NZ 17:45-20:00, coverage on the BBC Red Button, Connected TVs & online

20 January (Copper Box)
South Africa v Australia
England v New Zealand

22 January (Copper Box)
England v Australia

25 January (Johannesburg)
South Africa v New Zealand

28 January (Johannesburg)
Australia v New Zealand
South Africa v England

Tennis – off the court

Shenzhen has been awarded a 10-year contract to host the WTA Finals.  It beat off competition from Manchester, Prague, St Petersburg and Singapore.

 Tennis – on the court

Not much to shout about for British women’s tennis this week. Naomi Broady fell in the last round of qualifying for the Australian Open.  She was beaten by Bibiane Weijers of the Netherlands 7-6 6-2.

So, just two through to the first round proper.  Heather Watson bit the dust in quick time, losing to Yulia Putintseva 7-5 7-6, while British number one, Jo Konta, lasted into the second, suffering a shock defeat to world number 123 Bernarda Pera of USA, 6-4 7-5.

As you know, I’ve stopped reading the comments on the BBC sports pages when it comes to women’s sport.  I had to make a conscious effort to stay away from these – Konta usually receives a ridiculous and shameful amount of vitriolic comment even when she’s winning.  I’m glad I did.  There’s no escaping the bad results for both of the British players, but they are both human and no-one should suggest they weren’t trying their best.  They’re both talented individuals who had off-days.  End of story.

They weren’t the only ones.  Casualties in the first round included Aussie favourite Sam Stosur, 25th seed Peng Shuai, Americans Jennifer Brady, Coco Vandeweghe, Alison Riske and Venus Williams, 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova and 31st seed Ekaterina Makarova.

The second round saw the surprise exit of third seed Garbine Muguruza, beaten 7-6 6-4 by world number 88 Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan.

There are still some big names progressing, though, so looking forward to updating you all next week.

Winter Sports – ice hockey

Intriguing news before the start of the Olympics as it was revealed this week that North Korea and South Korea are to field a combined women’s ice hockey team in Pyeongchang.

In a spirit of détente the team will combine and the two countries will also march under the same flag.

But the move has not gone down well in Seoul.  The move essentially means that half of the South Korean team will have to be left out to make way for those from the North.

“I think there is damage to our players,” Sarah Murray, the coach of the South Korean team, said.

“It’s hard because the players have earned their spots, and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players.”

There have been online petitions and protests against the idea, but it seems the politics will win out.

Cricket – WBBL

13 January
Perth Scorchers 87/9 (16 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 88/4 (15.5 overs)
Strikers won by 6 wickets

Heather Graham top-scored with 19 as the Scorchers were nearly bowled out for an obviously under-par score.  Tahlia McGrath took 3/17 from her three overs, with all the other bowlers contributing.

In response, Suzie Bates led the way with 49 not out.  Tammy Beaumont was out for a duck, lbw to Katherine Brunt, but the Strikers took their time and claimed the win with one ball to spare.

Sydney Sixers 113 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 114/6 (19 overs)
Thunder won by four wickets

After Alyssa Healy went cheaply, Ellyse Perry took on the scoring, making 25 from 25 balls.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 off four overs and the Sixers lost wickets regularly as they posted a middling score of 113.

Thunder lost Rachel Priest and Alex Blackwell without scoring, but Rachael Haynes with 17, Harmanpreet Kaur with 27 and Naomi Stalenberg with 48 took them to the brink of victory.  It was down to Stafanie Taylor (9 not out) and Rene Farrell (5 not out) to see it home.

Brisbane Heat 93/8 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 94/4 (17.2 overs)
Stars won by six wickets

Another low scoring match saw the Heat muster just 93.  Jess Jonassen top-scored with 46.  Erin Osborne was pick of the bowlers, taking 4/20 off four overs.

The Stars chased it down with over two overs to spare.  They lost Lizelle Lee early on but Katie Mack’s 20 and Mignon du Preez with 36 not out broke the back of the total, with du Preez hitting the winning runs with a boundary.

14 January
Hobart Hurricanes 100 all out (18.5 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 102/0
Renegades won by 10 wickets

Hurricanes started well with opening stand of 62 between Hayley Matthews and Stefanie Daffara.  But once they were gone there was little contribution from the others and they were all out in 18.5 overs.  There were three wickets for Maitlan Brown in 3.5 overs with two each for Lea Tahuhu and Amy Satterthwaite.

It was not enough though.  A fine batting display from openers Sophie Molineux (53 not out) and Emma Inglis (42 not out) saw the Renegades home by 10 wickets.

Adelaide Strikers 107/7 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 76 all out
Strikers won by 31 runs

A second poor batting performance in a row saw the Scorchers slump to a 31 run loss at Alice Springs.  Tahlia McGrath scored 34 off 28 balls as the Strikers posted a low-ish score of 107.

But the Scorchers had another off-day in the batting.  Nicole Bolton scored 30 but no-one else made much of a contribution.  The wickets were shared pretty evenly – Suzie Bates was player of the match with her 2/6 off three overs and 27 with the bat.

15 January
Hobart Hurricanes 120/9 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 116/6 (20 overs)
Hurricanes won by 4 runs

A solid start saw the first four wickets put on 97.  After that things tailed off but 120 was always going to be competitive.

Amy Satterthwaite scored 65 for the Renegades, but they fell just short in the chase.

18 January
Sydney Sixers 160/5 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 151 all out (20 overs)
Sixers won by 9 runs

Alyssa Healy scored a fine 70 off 43 balls opening for the Sixers.  Ellyse Perry chipped in with 25 and Dane van Niekerk 44 not out as the Sixers posted a competitive score.

The Heat started well in response with Beth Mooney and Kirby Short putting on a first wicket partnership of 94.  Deandra Dottin scored 18, but then things fall apart for the Heat and they could not reach the Sixers’ total.  Sarah Aley took 3/31 from four overs and Dane van Niekerk 2/28 off her four.

19 January
Sydney Sixers 144/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 126/4 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 18 runs

Two wins in two days for the Sixers.  Healy went for duck this time, but 54 not out from Erin Burns was the standout batting performance as the Sixers scored a good 144.  Delissa Kimmince took 3/23 off four.

The Heat fell short of their chase.  Beth Mooney went for a duck.  Everyone else contributed well with Jess Jonassen finishing on 55 not out, but they just could not overtake the Sixers’ total.

It’s all Sydney at the top of the table.  Sixers head it with 14 points from 11 games.  Thunder are second on the same points from just nine games but on an inferior net run rate.  The Strikers are third, again on 14, this time from 10 matches and again with an inferior net run rate.    The Hurricanes prop up the table with just two points from 10 games.  Second to bottom are the Stars with six points from 10.

And finally,

I’m sure you all follow Jacqui Oatley on social media, and if you do you’ll probably know what I’m going to say.  But if you don’t I would encourage you to seek out just what has been happening this week as regards the Sheffield Star newspaper and a man named Ken.  Google it – sexist bites off more than he can chew when taking on women’s sports reporters (God bless ‘em).

 

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 January 2018

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the brevity of this week’s offering, but a bout of sickness has meant I’ve been a bit pushed for time.  Hopefully there’s enough here to keep you entertained.  Stories this week come from tennis, hockey, boxing, rugby union, cricket, football and sports politics.

So here we go.

Tennis

Australian Open

The draw for the first round of the Australian Open has been made and Jo Konta, fit again after pulling out of the Brisbane International, has a tough draw.  She faces American Madison Brengle, 92 in the world.

Heather Watson’s first opponent is Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan who, at 50, is ranked 24 places higher than Watson.

Naomi Broady is through the first round of qualifying, beating Kathinka von Deichmann of Liechtenstein 7-6 5-7 6-3.  She plays Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands in the next round and needs to win three to get through to the first round proper.

The tournament begins on Monday 15 January.

Hobart International

Heather Watson seems to be getting into her stride before the start of the first Grand Slam of the year.  She made it to the semi-finals of the Hobart International, losing to the 2017 champion and second seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 1-6 6-2.

Mertens will play Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine of Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the final.

Boxing

Irish boxing star, Katie Taylor, will fight her first professional Dublin bout on 14 April.  It will be her second defence of her WBA World Lightweight title.

The venue is yet to be decided.

Football – off the pitch

Eni Aluko

The big news this week is that Eni Aluko is in discussion with Paris St-Germain over a possible transfer.  Aluko, 30, has five months left on her Chelsea contract.  PSG lie currently in the French division one behind Lyon.

Lionesses

Drew Spence has been recalled to the England squad for their 10-day training camp in Spain; it will be the first time she has been involved since the debacle with Mark Sampson last year.  The squad is preparing for the SheBelieves Cup in the US in March.  The full squad is as follows:

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

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Drew Spence (Chelsea), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).

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

Meanwhile, although we are assured by the FA that the search for the new England Head Coach is well underway, some of the best candidates are slipping through their fingers.  John Herdman, the Canadian women’s coach has just left his post, but has gone directly to take over the Canadian men’s team.   One name that is, apparently, in the hat, is that of Phil Neville.  As the current parlance would have it, I’ll just leave that here.

Football – on the pitch

FA Cup Fourth Round

After the excitement of last week’s third round, the fourth round draw has been made and this is where the WSL sides make their first appearance.  Ties will be played on Sunday 4 February.  There is one outstanding tie from the third round this Sunday (14 January) when Derby County take on Brighouse Town fourth round fixture away to Sunderland AFC.

The New Saints v Chichester City
Durham v Sheffield
Aston Villa v Middlesborough
Sunderland AFC v Derby County/Brighouse Town
Keynsham Town v Lewes
Tottenham Hotspur v Doncaster Rovers Belles
Liverpool v Watford
Cardiff City v Oxford United
Reading v Birmingham City
Plymouth Argyle v Leicester City
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City
Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
Yeovil Town v Arsenal
London Bees v Chelsea
Everton v Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses v Coventry United

For fixture times and venues please see the FA Website.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

Rugby Australia

Good news from Australia this week as it was announced that a deal between Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players’ Association means that its men’s and women’s sevens sides will be paid the same (at entry level), at least until 2020.

The fifteens team, the Walleroos, will be covered by the new deal and will receive payments for Tests for the first time.

There will be a new Pregnancy Policy to ensure players have the security to return to their contracts if they have children.

Rugby Union – on the pitch

There was one game in the Premier 15s last weekend:

Worcester Valkyries 7-38 Loughborough Lightning

We’re all-guns-blazing again this weekend with a full programme of fixtures:

Saturday 13 January

Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, Allianz Park)
Harlequins v Loughborough Lightning (2pm, Surrey Sports Park)

Sunday 14 January

Richmond v Gloucester-Hartpury (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

Cricket

WBBL latest scores:

6 January
Melbourne Renegades 142/6 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/3 (19 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets

Jess Duffin top-scored for the Stars with 40, ably supported by Claire Koski, who finished 33 not out.  Erin Osborne took 2/14 from her four overs.  In response Georgia Elwiss scored 58 not out and Mignon du Preez 45 from 35 balls as the Stars took the game with an over to spare.

7 January
Hobart Hurricanes 111/4 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 114/2 (14.2 overs)
Heat won by 8 wickets

The Hurricanes’ total never looked like being enough.  Jess Jonassen took 2/17 off her four overs.  Beth Mooney scored an unbeaten 62 from 43 balls as the Heat got home easily.

Sydney Thunder 145/6 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 144/6 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 1 run

Scorchers needed three runs off the last ball, but as Mathilda Carmichael came back for the second, ‘keeper Rachel Priest took the ball and broke the bails, denying the second run and super over and claiming the win for the Thunder.  Earlier Priest had also top-scored with the bat with 42 from 32 balls.

But it was Rene Farrell who took the player of the match award for her dismissal of the two Scorchers openers.  She also effected the run out of Perth’s English batter Nat Sciver.

8 January
Brisbane Heat 168/4 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 126 all out (18.5 overs)
Heat won by 42 runs

Kirby Short starred for the Heat with 79 of 55 balls as they posted an excellent total.  In response the Hurricanes lost Hayley Matthews for just eight and after the top four had been dismissed, no-one else got into double figures.  All of the Heat’s seven bowlers, excepting bizarrely, Deandra Dottin, all picked up wickets to contribute to the win.

Sydney Thunder 134/4 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 136/2 (18.1 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets

The Scorchers were back to winning ways on Monday as they beat the Thunder with nearly two overs to spare.  Alex Blackwell starred for the Thunder, scoring 81 off 58 balls, as their openers faltered with Priest bowled for a duck by the in-form Katherine Brunt.  Stafanie Taylor also contributed with 31.

Elyse Villani was run out early on for just nine for the Scorchers, but Nicole Bolton scored 28 and then England pair Nat Sciver and Brunt took it on, scoring 61 and 17 not out respectively to ensure the win.

9 January
Melbourne Stars 132/5 (20 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 134/9 (20 overs)
Strikers won by 1 wicket

Lizelle Lee top-scored for the Stars with 52 with Katie Mack backing up well with 42 from 32 balls

Although the Strikers all got starts, none went on to make a big score and with the Stars taking regular wickets it looked as if they had the game sewn up.

When the ninth wicket went on 129 with just two balls to go it was down to last recognised bat Tabitha Saville to score the winning runs.  Beams bowled a dot for the fifth ball but then committed the cardinal sin of bowling a no-ball on the sixth; one run for the no-ball and a free hit.  Saville tonked the free hit for four and the Strikers had won the game.

12 January
Melbourne Stars 133/3 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 134/5 (18.1 overs)
Heat won by 5 wickets

Beth Mooney is in fearsome form, as the Stars found to their cost on Friday.

Katie Mack put in her second big score of the week with 57 off 48 for the Stars with Mignon du Preez backing her up with 30.  Deandra Dottin took 2/13 off three overs for the Heat.

But there was no stopping Mooney.  She hit seven fours in an innings of 57 off just 38 balls.  She was ably supported by Jess Jonassen who scored 23 not out from 21 balls as the Heat won with nearly two overs to spare.

As it stands

Thunder are top with 12 points from 8 matches.  The Heat are second with the same number of points, but from nine matches.  They are followed by the Sixers and then the Strikers.  Hobart Hurricanes are still to get off the mark and are bottom with no points from eight games.

Hockey

Jaffa Super 6s Finals

The four qualifiers for Finals Day at the Copperbox Arena have been decided.  The men’s and women’s tournament will be played on Sunday 28 January and the semi-final line-up is as follows:

10.45 am – East Grinstead v Leicester
12 noon – Bowdon Hightown v Holcombe

The women’s final will be at 15.45pm.

Saudi Arabia

It’s finally happening.  Today women will watch a football match from inside the stadium – legally.

From now on, there will be areas for women fans in the grounds at Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.  There is a large female fanbase for men’s football in Saudi Arabia, but until now they have had to follow games on the television only.

The three grounds expect a big turnout at their first inclusive matches and also expect crowds to build over time.  Make no mistake, this is a significant step for sports-loving women in the country, and while we realise it’s a drop in the ocean compared to many indignities women have to suffer, it is, however, a very definite drop.

And finally,

Well done and commiserations to Ipswich Town Ladies in their third round FA Cup defeat to Charlton Athletic.  The Blues took the lead through Cassie Craddock in the second-half, but Charlton equalised and then took the lead.  Craddock was in again late on to take the game into extra time.  Charlton, top of the league above Ipswich, took their chances, scoring three during extra time to take the game 5-2.

 

Women’s Sports Column 30 December 2017 – 5 January 2018

new tennisWelcome to the first Women’s Sports Column of the New Year and let me wish you all a happy, sport-filled 2018.

It’s the relative calm before the storm at the moment, but there is plenty to come this year.  Stories this week come from taekwondo, tennis, a shocking story from cycling, New Year’s Honours, cricket, football and winter sports.

I’m also happy to say this week’s TWO “And Finally(s)” are positive ones.

Let’s crack on and start with taekwondo (don’t get to say that very often, but it’s a big (and a great) story.

Taekwondo

Bianca Walkden may have missed out on any kind of recognition from the Great British Public at SPOTY, but she completed her stellar year by annihilating all-comers last week to win the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Series title for the +67kg category.

She beat An Saebom of South Korea 14-1 in the quarter-finals and then recorded an 11-0 golden point victory over Nafia Kus of Turkey in the semi-final.

In the final she faced Jackie Galloway of USA, defeating her 10-2 to take the title and £52,000 prize money.

In 2017 she defended her world title and won all four Grand Prix events.

Next to compete in the Grand Slam Series will be Wales’ Lauren Williams, who fights in the -67kg category.  Charlie Maddock is next on 13 January in the -49kg category and Jade Jones competes on 20 January in her -57kg division.

Tennis

The world’s best tennis players are currently gearing up for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which begins on Monday 15 January.

There are several warm-up events going on, the main ones being in Brisbane and Shenzhen, China.

Brisbane International

Heather Watson bowed out early on.  She won her first match, against Danielle Lao of the USA 7-5 6-3.  She won her second versus Misaki Doi of China 6-2 6-4, but succumbed in the third to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4 6-1.  She still advanced to the round of 32, though, to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-0 6-3.

British number one, Jo Konta, began well.  She was seeded five at Brisbane and in the round of 32 she defeated American Madison Keys 4-6 6-4 6-3.  In the round of 16 she beat wildcard Ajila Tomljanovic of Croatia 4-6 6-1 6-4.  These have been two gruelling three-set matches.  And this told on Konta as she withdrew with injury on Thursday as she played third seed Elina Svitolina.

Konta had been playing well up to that point, taking the first set 6-1 against the third seed.  The second went to Svitolina on the tie-break and she was 3-2 up in the third when Konta pulled out.

Konta had treatment on her right hip on the court and the injury is thought to be in the right hip/groin area.  There is no news yet as to whether she will compete in the Sydney International, the next warm-up tournament, which takes place next week and which she won in 2017.  .

The other quarter-finals were:

Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 3-6 7-5 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova  (Latvia)beat Aleksandra Krunic (Serbia) 6-2 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(Belarus) beat Alizé Cornet (France) 3-6 6-2 6-3

In the semi-finals:

Sasnovich beat Sevastova 7-6 6-4
Svitolina beat Pliskova 7-5 7-5

The final is on Saturday 6 January.

Petra Kvitova had to withdraw before the start of the tournament with a virus and Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew during her second-round match after suffering a bout of cramp.  It’s pretty worrying that some of the big players (both men and women) have already pulled out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Shenzhen Open

No British interest here, but the quarter-final line-up was as follows:

Irina-Camelia Begu (Romania) beat Timea Babos (Hungary) 7-5 7-5
Simona Halep (Romania) beat Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) 6-2 6-2
Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 6-3 6-3
Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) beat Kristyna Pliskova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-2

The semi-finals finished:

Siniakova beat Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-3
Halep beat Begu 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 6 January

Serena Williams

Meanwhile there was a disappointing announcement today as Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open, as she doesn’t feel quite ready yet:

“Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be,” she said.

It will be the first Australian Open she has missed since 2011.

Football – Off the pitch

No live football to report on at the moment, but plenty of transfer news.

Natasha Harding

The biggest news so far is that Natasha Harding has turned down a new contract with Liverpool, in favour of a move to Reading.

Harding is currently vice-captain of the Wales national side and has won 50 caps for her country.

Birmingham City

Chloe Peplow, currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers Belles was out of contract at the end of December and not going to renew, while German international striker Isabelle Linden, also out of contract at the end of 2017 is to leave as well.

On the other hand Marisa Ewers and Andrine Hegerberg have both extended their contracts with the club.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Belles have pulled off somewhat of a coup with the news that former Rotherham and Leeds United manager, Neil Redfearn is to be the club’s new manager.

On the Pitch

Meanwhile the on the pitch action starts again this weekend with the following fixtures:

Saturday 6 January

FAWSL 1
Bristol City v Everton (17.30, Stoke Gifford Stadium)
Liverpool v Yeovil Town (17.30, Select Security Stadium)
Sunderland v Birmingham City (18.00, Mariners Park)

Sunday 7 January

FAWSL1
Chelsea v Arsenal (13.30, Kingsmeadow Stadium)
Reading v Man City (16.00, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

FAWSL2
Oxford United v Durham (12.00, Oxford City FC)
Aston Villa v London Bees (14.00, Tamworth FC)
Millwall v Sheffield FC (14.00. St Paul’s Sports Ground)
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00, Cheshunt FC)
Watford v Doncaster Rovers Belles (15.00, Kings Langley FC)

Cycling

Caroline Buchanan, Australian cyclist and two-time Olympian, is in hospital after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in New South Wales.

She suffered a broken nose, broken sternum and collapsed lung in the accident.

The 27-year old has three BMX world titles to her name, as well as five mountain bike world titles.

Needless to say, she will be out of action for some time.

 Cricket – WBBL

We’re about half-way in this year’s tournament.  Top of the pile lie Sydney Thunder with five wins from six with the Sixers in second with five wins from eight.  Hobart Hurricanes are yet to get off the mark with no points from six games.  Second from bottom with one win from six.

Most recent matches:

30 December 2017

Sydney Sixers 138 all out (19.5 overs)
Perth Scorchers 139/4 (18.5 overs)

Alyssa Healey was out for a first ball duck, but Ellyse Perry scored 45 and Dane van Niekerk 29 as the Sixers posted 138.  But it was not enough.  Elyse Villani scored 63 off 43 and Nicole Bolton 42 off 49 as the Scorchers eased home.

Hobart Hurricanes 112/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 116/3 (17 overs)

Stafanie Taylor took 4/15 off her four overs as the Hurricanes slumped to 112 off their 20.  Rachael Haynes then took on the Hurricanes’ bowlers, scoring 64 off 49 balls as the thunder won with three overs to spare.

31 December

Hobart Hurricanes 97 all out (19.4 overs)
Sydney Thunder 99/2

The Hurricanes were comprehensively beaten by the Thunder on Sunday.  Samantha Bates took 3/12 four and Stafanie Taylor 2/13 off 2.4 as the Hurricanes could only manage 97 off 19.4 overs.  The Thunder took no time in knocking off the runs, scoring 99 in 15 overs.  Alex Blackwell top-scored on 43 not out.

Adelaide Strikers 119/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 122/2 (16.2 overs)

The Strikers could only post 119 and it never looked enough.  Most of their top names got a start but no-one could kick on as Bridget Patterson top-scored with 37.  It seemed as if Beth Mooney wanted to do it all on her own in reply as the scored 81 not out off 48 balls.  She was supported well by Kirby Short, who scored 27.

2 January

Sydney Sixers 128/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 92 all out (19 overs)

Ellyse Perry top scored with 64 of 56 balls as the Sixers posted an average total against the Renegades.  But their opponents never got started in response with van Niekerk taking 4/13 off her four overs with Kapp and Aley taking two each as the Renegades subsided to 92 all out.

3 January

Bizarre and miraculous goings-on at Geelong as the Renegades v Sixers game went to a super over, but it would not have even got there if it hadn’t been for some smart work on the part of the Sixers.

Melbourne Renegades 120/7 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 120/7 (20 overs)

It had looked as if the Sixers had it in the bag until Perry was out and Chamari Attapatu had taken 2/6 in two overs.  It went down to the last ball – the Sixers needing three to win.

Sarah Aley went for the single and the game looked to be over, but Renegades keeper Emma inglis was too intent on celebrating and didn’t break the wickets to end the game.  Aley spotted the error and ran the second to tie the scores and send the game into a super over.

Sydney Sixers 8/2 (1 over)
Melbourne Renegades 9/0 (1 over)

Alyssa Healey perished for a first ball duck and Perry four, but the Sixers still posted a decent eight runs off their super over.

But the Renegades kept their cool with Jess Duffin hitting a single off Marizanne Kapp’s last ball to take the match.

5 January

Adelaide Strikers 144/5 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 122//9 (20 overs)

Tammy Beaumont top-scored for the Strikers with 46 from 48 balls as they posted a competitive total.  The Stars fell well short despite Lizelle Lee’s 44 of 42 balls.  Three ducks in a row down the order (King, Kearney, Faltum) put paid to any chance the Stars had of reaching the Strikers’ score.

Winter Sports

The Winter Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, so between then and now I’m going to try to get as many winter sports snippets into the column as I can.

 Alpine Skiing

Russian bans

Eleven Russian winter sports athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics after they were found to have committed doping offences at Sochi in 2014.  Out of the eleven, four are women:

Tatyana Ivanova (luge) – won silver in Sochi
Natalia Matveeva (cross-country skiing)
Liudmila Udobkina (bobsleigh)
Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina (ice hockey)

Mikaela Shiffrin

She’s odd-on to retain her Olympic slalom title, and Mikaela Shiffrin is already in fine form as she warms up for the big one.  Although she was upset in the giant slalom in Lienz, Austria , last week, she already has a 371 point lead in the World Cup standings with 881.  Viktoria Rebensberg lies second.

Skeleton

Meanwhile, in skeleton, the latest World Cup event, in Altenberg, Germany, the home nation made it a clean sweep with Jacquelline Loelling taking the title in 1:57.54 for the two runs.  Tina Hermann came second 0.13 seconds behind with Anna Fernstaedt in third 0.43 behind the winner.

For Great Britain, Laura Deas finished eighth, 1.35 seconds behind Loelling and Lizzie Yarnold nineteenth, a massive 3.22 seconds back.

Paralympics

There is no place in the GB Paralympic squad for Sochi skiing gold medallist Kelly Gallagher.

GB has two places available for visually impaired skiiers – these have gone to world champion Millie Knight and newcomer Menna Fitzpatrick.

There may still be a place for Gallagher, though, as other teams may not take up their full allocation and will be re-allocated elsewhere.

The Winter Paralympics begin on 9 March. Top of Form

Queen’s New Year Honours

Several sportswomen were honoured by the Queen:

Cricket
Heather Knight (OBE)
Tammy Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole (MBE)
Mark Robinson (women’s coach) (OBE)
Clare Connor (CBE) – tweet about Geoff Boycott notwithstanding, for services to cricket.

Paralympic Athletics
Stef Reid (MBE)

Other
Sarah Lewis (OBE) International Ski Federation secretary, for services to sport.
Joyce Cook (OBE) for services to sport and accessibility.
Sue Anstiss (MBE) for services to grassroots and women’s sport.
Christine Bower (MBE) British Olympic Association athletes services co-ordinator, for services to British Olympic sport.
Helen Phillips (MBE) for services to Welsh gymnastics and the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales.
Patricia Reid (MBE) Dunfermline Tennis Club secretary, for services to tennis and lacrosse in Scotland.

And Finally,

And finally, the Women’s Sport Trust has just issued its calendar of women’s sport for 2018.  So, if you missed it here’s the link: www.themixedzone.co.uk.  And if you don’t already subscribe to The Mixed Zone, a fantastic resource of articles by both professional athletes and writers, I suggest you do!

And and finally,

I don’t usually do endorsements, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  My friend Joanne is not just an ace yoga teacher, but also nutritionist par excellence.  She’s just started a new venture called “The Ravenous Athlete” with advice and help on what to eat and when if you’re serious about your sport.  If you need any help with your nutrition – given in a non-patronising, non-jargon way, please check her out: www.healthandhart.com.