Women’s Sports Column 2-8 December 2017

DSCN2151Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week in a short, but perfectly formed story of the week.  It’s the time of year when we see one awards ceremony after another, but the two biggies have to be BT Action Woman of the Year (women are winning that one!) and, of course, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (somewhat less of a chance of a woman winning that one).  The BT awards have been and gone – news below, but the opportunity to vote for your BBC SPOTY is still to come. I cover the runners and riders, so to speak, in this week’s “and finally”.  Other news comes from cycling, tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, horse racing, taekwondo, curling and football.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s results in the Premier 15s were:

2 December

Loughborough Lightning 43-33 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

DMP Sharks 3-26 Bristol Ladies

Firwood Waterloo Ladies 12-12 Worcester Valkyries

3 December

Richmond Women 0-44 Wasps Ladies

Harlequins Ladies 19-28 Saracens Women

After nine games, Saracens are top with 44 points, winning all of their games and missing out on just one bonus point.  Harlequins are second with 40, with Wasps seven points further back on 33.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries are marooned on two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on seven, with DMP Sharks one place above them on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures sees second placed Quins take on Wasps at Surrey Sports Park, while Saracens are at home to struggling Firwood Waterloo.  Here are the fixtures in full:

9 December

Harlequins Ladies v Wasps: Surrey Sports Park 1pm

Saracens Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies: Allianz Park 2pm

Worcester Valkyries v Loughborough Lightning: Sixways Stadium 2pm

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v DMP Sharks: TBC 4pm

10 December

Richmond Women v Bristol Ladies: Richmond Athletic Ground 2.30pm

Rugby union coverage

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of good news stories regarding the TV coverage of women’s rugby this week.  Firstly, Sky showed their first Tyrell’s 15 Premiership match last weekend.  Secondly came the news that England Roses’ Six Nations games will also be shown on Sky.  At last, some recognition for the progress the women’s game has made, particularly with the excellent staging and standard of the World Cup this summer.

Women’s Six Nations

Saturday 4 February

19:35: England v France – Twickenham (Sky Sports Mix)

Saturday 11 February

11:30: Wales v England– Cardiff Arms Park (Sky Sports 3)

Saturday 25 February

13:00: England v Italy – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday 11 March

20:00: England v Scotland – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2, delayed coverage, KO 13:00)

Friday 17 March

20:00: Ireland v England – Donnybrook, Dublin (Sky Sports Mix)

Taekwondo

There was double success for Britain’s women at the Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Ivory Coast this week.

Bianca Walkden won her fifth major title of the year when she took the +67kg category, beating Da- Bin Lee of South Korea in the final 16-9.  She won all four Grand Prix events in this calendar year as well as taking gold in the World Championships in June – the first fighter to do so.

Then Britain’s Jade Jones also took gold in the -57kg category.   She beat Marta Calvo-Gomez of Spain 26-7 in the final and ends the year as world number one in the -57kg category.

They now go on to compete for Britain the inaugural Taekwondo Grand Slam in China.

BT Action Woman

England footballer Jodie Taylor was named BT Action Woman of 2017 this week.  She beat off competition from Tammy Beaumont, Elise Christie, Hannah Cockcroft, Mallory Franklin, Johanna Konta, Katy McLean and Anya Shrubsole to take the award in a public vote.

Franklin was second, with Konta third.

Unsurprisingly the England Cricket Team took the team of the year award, while Judy Murray was given a Lifetime Achievement award for her contribution to tennis.

Rugby League World Cup

Semi-finals

England 4-52 New Zealand

England were well beaten by New Zealand at the Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney.

In truth, they were never really in it as the Kiwi Ferns took the lead in the second minute with a try from Maitua Feterika.  Shontelle Woodman and Krystal Murray added further scores before England could reply with a try of their own from Tara-Jane Stanley in the 21st minute.

England were only 14-4 down at half-time and would have been hoping for better in the second period, but it was not to be as New Zealand put on the afterburners and England had no response.

They scored seven tries in the second-half, Honey Hireme ending with a hat-trick and Krystal Murray with two.

Australia 58-6 Canada

Australia were dominant over Canada from the off.  They scored 42 unanswered points in the first-half.

The second period was more even as Australia eased through.  Natasha Smith scored Canada’s only try, while Ali Brigginshaw, Steph Hancock, Isabelle Kelly and Karina Brown all scored two tries, while Talesha Quinn, Ruan Sims and Nakia Davis-Welsh bagged one each.

Final – 2 December

Australia 23-17 New Zealand

It was an altogether tighter, and exciting, affair.  Australia took the lead on eight minutes with a try from Isabelle Kelly, with the extra points kicked by Caitlin Moran.  Four minutes later, New Zealand were level through Honey Hireme, extra points kicked by Kimiora Nati.

Hireme got her second on 20 minutes to send the Ferns into the lead.  But the Jillaroos were not to be outdone and on 36 minutes Moran scored a brilliant solo effort under the posts, converting it to give them a half-time lead of 12-10.

The second-half belonged to Australia.  Kelly scored her second try on 53, while just four minutes later Elianna Walton went over to take the game away from the Kiwi Ferns; 22-10 with just 20 minutes left.

New Zealand made a fight of it with Raecene McGregor going over in the 69th minute to take them back within a converted score of the lead.

But the Jillaroos were to have the last word.  Moran kicked a field goal in the final minute and Australia had won their second successive World Cup.

Cricket

The WBBL starts this weekend with many of the cricketing world’s biggest stars on show. Representing England are Tammy Beaumont (Adelaide Strikers) with Charlotte Edwards coaching, Georgia Elwiss (Melbourne Stars), Lauren Winfield (Hobart Hurricanes).

Coverage is on BT Sport at unholy times.  Check your TV listings for details.

Cycling

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the Track Cycling Cup in Milton, Canada, last week.

Katie Archibald won gold in the points race, winning the first four sprints and gaining a lap to take the title.  Jasmin Duehring of Canada finished second, nine points behind, with Jarmila Machacova of the Czech Republic, third.

Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson also then took gold in the madison with 29 points.  France came second on 24 and New Zealand third on 15.

Katy Marchant took silver in the keirin.  Kristina Vogel of Germany took gold, with Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands finishing in bronze position.

Curling

Scotland’s women’s Team, led by Eve Muirhead won the European Curling Championship in St Gallen, Switzerland, this week.  They beat Sweden, unbeaten up to this point, 6-3, on Saturday.

The team, Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray went behind early on, and were 2-1 down after the third end.  They took a double in the sixth end and one in each of the last three to take the match and the title.

Tennis

Serena Williams has entered the Australian Open in January.  She has returned to training after giving birth to a daughter in September and, if she takes part, this will be her first tournament back. There is no doubt that she’s still looking to equal (and break) Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles titles record of 24.  At the moment she has 23.  Who can bet against it?  Whatever happens, it will be great to see her in action again.

Horse Racing

Jockey Hayley Turner is to face a British Horseracing Authority inquiry after she was charged with a breach of betting rules.

The hearing will be on 14 December.

Football

Continental Cup

The final round of group matches took place this week:

Saturday 2 December

Bristol City Women 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Chelsea Ladies 8-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Sunday 3 December

Manchester City Women 2-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies 3-2 Durham Women

London Bees 1-1 Watford Ladies

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Reading FC Women

Oxford United Women 1-5 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Tuesday 5 December

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Liverpool Ladies

Wednesday 6 December

Chelsea Ladies 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-3 Manchester City Women

The quarter-final draw was made on 7 December:

Bristol City v Manchester City

Chelsea v Liverpool

Arsenal v Sunderland

Everton v Reading

Ties will be played over the weekend of 16/17 December.

And finally,

It’s that time again – the time when we look at the SPOTY shortlist and go, “seriously?  How many women?”  And this year is no exception.  In this year’s field of 12 twelve shortlisted, we have four women.  In the year of the Cricket World Cup, the Women’s Euros, the Rugby World Cup etc, etc, the BBC, in its wisdom, has managed to come up with four names.  Hey ho.  ‘Twas ever thus.  So the women to vote for (I’m not going to curse you if you vote for one of the men) are Elise Christie, Jo Konta, Anya Shrubsole and Bianca Walkden.

Voting has already closed in the Overseas SPOTY category.  The women shortlisted are Katie Ledecky (swimming), Tatyana McFadden (Para-athletics) and Sally Pearson (athletics).

No prizes for guessing who I’ll be voting for in the main event.  I’ve already said as much on social media – Anya Shrubsole gets my vote.  She made my summer and my year with her performance in the World Cup final.  I’m hoping the England team is nailed on for the Team of the Year award, but it would really be something special if Anya was at least close to winning it.

The programme is on Sunday 17 December and you will be able to vote by telephone on the night.

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 November 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s monster offering, hopefully this one will be a bit more manageable – but there is so much being contributed by women in the world of sport that I have to get it out there – both my pleasure and my duty!

Stories this week come from tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, speed skating, football, weightlifting and hockey.

Let’s crack on…

Tennis

Sadly, only one place to start this week and that’s with the sad news of the death of former Wimbledon champion, Jana Novotna at the age of 49.

One of the saddest, but most heartwarming sporting moments I can remember is watching the Duchess of Kent consoling Novotna after she had just the Wimbledon final to Steffi Graf in 1993.

And didn’t we all cheer and cry with her in 1998 when she finally got her Wimbledon win against Nathalie Tauziat?

She was certainly an accomplished tennis player, particularly in doubles, where she won 12 grand slam titles and four mixed doubles titles.

In later years she became a knowledgeable and likeable expert voice in the commentary box.

Johanna Konta

Rumour has it that Michael Joyce is set to become British number one, Johanna Konta’s next coach.  Joyce had previously worked with Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

Hockey

Apologies to all you hockey fans out there as I completely missed the Women’s Hockey World League Finals starting last week in New Zealand.  So here’s what happened to England over the course of the tournament.

It was a mixed event for England, but somehow they still managed to get through to the semi-final.

They were drawn in Pool B against Germany, Argentina and China.

They lost their opening match to Germany 2-0.  Germany’s goals came from two penalty corners scored by Charlotte Stapenhorst just after the half-hour, with Nike Lorenz grabbing the second.  England had a goal from Lily Owsley disallowed for dangerous play.

Things went no better in their second pool match as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Argentina.  Delfina Merino scored the winning goal in the 56th minute.

But things improved for England in their third pool game as they beat China 4-1.  Alex Danson scored the first and Sophie Bray the second to make it 2-0 at half-time.  Hannah Martin and Sarah Haycroft were also on the score sheet, while Mengling Zhong scored China’s solitary goal.

Somewhat fortunately this meant that England, in finishing third in their pool, managed to avoid the Netherlands in the quarter-final.  Instead they played the USA.

Quarter-final
England 2-1 USA

Sophie Bray scored twice to take England through to a meeting with the hosts in the semis.

Alyssa Parker scored in the fourth quarter to give the USA hope, but in the end there was no way back.

Semi-final
England 0-1 New Zealand

New Zealand qualified even after losing all three pool matches.  They beat Argentina 2-1 in the quarter-final.

It was a good, end-to end match, with both sides earning chances.   Lily Owsley had a second disallowed goal of the tournament, while Sophie Bray hit the bar.

But in the end it was New Zealand who were more clinical.  With just five minutes to go Olivia Merry scored from a penalty corner to take the win.  They now play Netherlands or South Korea in the final.

Meanwhile England will play-off for bronze on Sunday 26 November against the loser of the other semi-final.

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Meanwhile, back in the domestic league, last weekend’s results were as follows:
Bowdon 0-0 Surbiton
Leicester 1-1 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 2-2 Canterbury
Slough 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Buckingham 1-3 East Grinstead

It was very nearly draws all round as University of Birmingham went to the top of the league on goals scored with 17 points.  Surbiton lie second also on 17, with East Grinstead just one point behind in third.  Canterbury are bottom with six points from nine games, with Bowdon and Leicester just above on eight points.

Football

No news from on the pitch this week as it’s the international break with two World Cup qualifiers for England.  Tonight (Friday 24) they face Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Banks’ Stadium in Walsall.  The game is apparently a sell-out, but if you haven’t got tickets you can watch it live on BBC2 or listen to 5Live Sports Extra at 7pm.

Wales are also in action tonight, playing Kazakhstan at the Cardiff City Stadium.  Kick-off is 7pm and you can follow it live on the BBC red button and the BBC website.

Both sides then play again on Tuesday, with Wales facing the trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, while England are at home again, this time to Kazakhstan.

Champions League Draw

Hot off the press or out of the pot, this is the draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  And wow, there is certainly one standout tie – holders Lyon v Barcelona.  The draw in full:

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Montpellier (FRA) v Chelsea (ENG)
Wolfsburg (GER) v Slavia Praha (CZE)
Manchester City (ENG) v Linköping (SWE)
Lyon (FRA) v Barcelona (ESP)

The semi-final draw was also made:

Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Montpellier/Chelsea v Wolfsburg/Slavia Praha
Manchester City/Linköping v Lyon/Barcelona

Jodie Taylor

England striker Jodie Taylor is to leave Arsenal, firstly to play in the Australian W-League with Melbourne City and then to go on to join Seattle Reign.

She is no stranger to playing abroad, having already had spells in the USA, Australia and Sweden.

It is sad that she seems to be itching to get away.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“After two seasons I was ready to get back abroad.

“I think I’m better suited in a league like America and the lifestyle as well away from football.”

 Jonna Andersson

Chelsea are to sign Swedish international defender Jonna Andersson from Linköping.

She will join the West London club when the transfer window opens on 29 December.

Andersson had been with Linköping for nine years, winning three league titles and three Swedish Cups in that time.  

Denmark Women

UEFA has handed Denmark women’s side a four-year suspended ban from UEFA competition matches “for which it would otherwise qualify” after their refusal to play a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Denmark are still in dispute with their governing body.

UEFA also issued a fine of £17,871.

Sweden were awarded the win by a margin of 3-0.

This one isn’t over yet.

Rugby League

England are through to the World Cup semi-final even though they were beaten 22-16 by the Cook Islands in their final group game.  Do not ask me to explain the format of this tournament, but I’m sure the game’s governing body is rubbing its hands at the sheer labyrinthine deviousness of it all.

After winning their first match against PNG, they were well beaten by Australia in their second, 38-0.  Australia’s points came through tries from Ward (2), Kelly, Davis-Welsh, Baker, Walton, Apps and Moran.  Baker (2) and Moran chipped in with the goals.

England suffered a surprise loss to the Cook Islands in their third game.  England’s 16 points came through tries from Slowe, Hardcastle and Bulman with two goals from Garner, while the Cook Islands scored four tries through Koiatu, Arona, Strickland and Ngata-Aerengamate, while their three goals came from Schofield.

It was only due to the fact that the Cook Islands suffered heavy defeats at the hands of both Australia and New Zealand, that England went through from Pool A on points difference.

To be honest, as with the men’s, I think we can probably hand the trophy to the Australians now.  The Jillaroos are through to the semis undefeated with their last third pool game an 88-0 thrashing of Canada.   They face them again in the semi-final!

Semi-final draw Sunday 26 November

Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney
New Zealand v England
Australia v Canada

The final is on 2 December in Brisbane as part of double-header with the men’s final.

Rugby Union

Off the pitch

Big, big, big news this week from World Rugby.  This is the headline on their website:

“Accelerating the global development of women in rugby 2017-25

OUR AMBITION: By 2025, rugby will be a global leader in sport, where women involved in rugby have equity on and off the field, are reflected in all strategy, plans and structures, making highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game of rugby.”

We’ve all heard the words before.  And words are usually all they are.  Many governing bodies talk a good game when it comes to women’s sport (I may have said this before), but this statement and strategy document is something else entirely.

And it’s not just on the field that the differences will be made.  The World Rugby Council will expand its membership from 32 to 49 next year.  The 17 new members will be women.

On the pitch they want to see one million women and girls registered to play by 2025.  Check this out.  I don’t often say this but it’s a game-changer – it’s also concise and to the point (another point in its favour):

https://www.worldrugby.org/womens-rugby/development-plan

Old Mutual Wealth Series

England have comfortably won the Test series against Canada.  They lead 2-0 with one match to play.  The first was an absolute exhibition by England, with Canada improving in the second.

First Test
England 79-5 Canada

Jess Breach scored six tries on her debut as England thrashed Canada in the first Test at Allianz Park.

Other tries came from Rachael Burford, Abigail Dow (2), Amy Cockayne, Marlie Packer, Rocky Clark and Ellie Kildunne.  Amber Reed kicked five conversions and Zoe Harrison kicked two.

Canada’s five came from a try by Cindy Nelles in the second-half.

Second Test
England 49-12 Canada

Although Canada were not able to put a score on the board until the 74th minute, it was a much improved performance from the visitors that saw them score tries through Janna Slevinsky and McKinley Hunt, while Brianna Miller put over one conversion.

England’s try count stood at eight; Heather Kerr, Rachael Burford (2), Ellie Kildunne (2), Danielle Waterman, Hannah Botterman and Jo Brown all went over the whitewash, while Amber Reed kicked two conversions and a penalty and Zoe Harrison one conversion.

Captain Sarah Hunter also won her 100th cap.

There is one game to play in the series on Saturday 25 November

Speed Skating

Elise Christie came away from Seoul with a gold medal last week as she took the 500m title, in a time of 43.27 seconds. Choi Min-jeong of South Korea was second with Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais finishing third.

Cricket

England’s women came back to draw the Ashes series 8-8 in Australia last week.  But, in truth, this will not compensate for seeing the trophy remain with Australia.  Fine performances in the final two T20s will encourage Mark Robinson and the management team, but on balance, they didn’t do enough to earn the series victory.

Second T20
England 152/6 (20 overs)
Australia 112 all out (18 overs)

Katherine Brunt finally made a contribution to this Ashes with a player of the match performance, making 32 not out and taking 2/10 from her four overs.

Knight won the toss and decided to bat.  Beaumont went cheaply, but Wyatt showed the way with 19 before she was caught by Haynes off the bowling of Schutt.

Taylor was run out for a useful 30 and then Sciver and Brunt took it on.  Sciver scored 40 before she was caught by Haynes off Perry.  It was then up to Brunt to anchor the innings and England posted a useful total of 152.

The Australian reply started well and they had made 45 before the first wicket fell.  Mooney was run out for 17 and Villani soon followed after scoring just one.  From then on wickets fell regularly as the home side found it difficult to put together a meaningful partnership.

Jenny Gunn starred again with the ball, taking 4/13 in three overs, but it was Brunt’s all round performance that swung the day as England won by a massive 40 runs.

Third T20
Australia 178/2 (20 overs)
England 181/6 (19 overs)

England left it until the last game to show the crowd and watching audience what they really can do.  But it was up to the batters to do the job.

Australia posted a massive 178/2 with Mooney finishing on 112 not out from 70 balls, scoring 19 fours and a six in the process – the first woman to score a T20 century in Australia, and only the fifth in all.  She was supported ably by Healy (19), Villani (16) and Perry (22).

It looked like a winning score and England would have to complete the highest T20 run chase by a women’s team to win.   They got off to a stuttering start with Beaumont and Taylor dismissed early on.  But Wyatt has been a revelation in these T20s and she took on the challenge with a vengeance.

She scored 100 from 57 balls, including 13 fours and two sixes – the second century of the match.  She was backed by Knight, who scored 51.  By the time Wyatt was dismissed England needed only eight runs to win off 11 balls.  They lost a couple of quick wickets, which kept us all on the edge of our seats, but Fran Wilson hit the winning runs with a cheeky four scooped over Healy behind the stumps.

Brave, bold and exciting stuff from England, but all too late to save the Ashes.

Weightlifting

A quick note of an important piece of news pertaining to women’s weightlifting.

As we know, barriers to women’s sport in the Muslim world are more stringent and profound than most, but recently women’s sport has begun to make great strides.  The latest of these is in weightlifting.

From next year, Iran and Saudi Arabia will allow their women to compete internationally for the first time.

Women have competed at the World Championships since 1987.  Several Islamic countries have never taken part including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Somalia and Libya.

What the first competition featuring Saudi women will be is unclear, but the first for Iranian women, may be a friendly tournament against the United States in February or March 2018.

There will be no column next week as I’m out and about, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views.

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 November 2017

heartWelcome to this week’s column.  Only one top story this week and it’s not the one I was hoping for.  England were comprehensively outplayed by Australia in the first of their three T20s and Australia have, as a result, retained The Ashes with two games to spare.  Details to follow.  Hopefully this week’s offering will be a bit less controversial than last week’s, but there are still things to be said!

Stories this week come from cricket, football, rugby league, rugby union, hockey, winter sports and cycling.

Let’s crack on…

Cricket

The joy of the summer’s World Cup win is officially over and we England cricket fans are now in mourning once again as Australia retained the Ashes this week.

Test Match

The Test at the North Sydney Oval ended in a draw.  No space here to discuss the pros and cons of it, but suffice it to say, the surface was not conducive to producing a result, which was not fair to the excellent crowd present and viewing/listening.  Thus there then proceeded a raft of discussion about the merits (or otherwise) of Test match cricket in the women’s game.  “No appetite for it”, “Not going to be a major feature any time soon”, etc, etc, yelled the governing bodies.  Rubbish.  The players want it, the viewers want it, the crowds want it.  The only ones who don’t want it are the administrators.  They can’t be bothered to schedule it in.  And, crucially, they can’t be bothered to spend the money to host it.  I could go on – and I will at another time, but here are the match details:

England 280 all out
And 206/2

Australia 448/9 declared

Ellyse Perry was the standout superstar of this game.  She scored 213 not out in Australia’s first innings total of 448.  But the pitch did no-one any favours and it was always going to be hard for Australia to get 10 wickets in a day and an hour.  The England openers managed to see off a tricky night session to remain unbeaten going into day four.  Winfield (34) and Beaumont (37) built a platform that Knight and Elwiss took on, finishing undefeated on 79 and 41 respectively.

Points shared.

First T20 17 November
England 132/9 (20 overs)
Australia 134/4 (15.5 overs)

It was never enough.  England rallied late on but a score of 132 was never going to be enough to worry the Aussies. A disastrous opening saw England slump to 16/4.  Knight lasted two balls before she was caught behind by Healy.  Taylor was then given out to a ridiculous lbw decision – too high and possibly down leg side – apart from that it had everything going for it (!).  Brunt was culpable, though, a first ball slash and another catch for the excellent Healy.  Wyatt showed some resistance, building a partnership with Sciver.  But when she was run out on 50, it all went to pot again.  The Aussies also dropped five catches – things could have been much worse.

The batting was poor, not confident enough, not enough push and the Southern Stars would have been rubbing their hands and desperate to get out there to knock the total off.

And they did.  A fine 86 from Beth Mooney was enough to see them home.  The ball crashed to the boundary with monotonous regularity.  The bowlers huffed and puffed, but to no avail.  Brunt was off-key all day and suffered badly, conceding 33 in three overs.

Well done to Australia.  They outplayed England from the beginning of the game, and indeed, the beginning of the series.

The two remaining T20s are:

Sunday 19 November, Manuka Oval Canberra – 03.35 (GMT)

Tuesday 21 November, Manuka Oval Canberra – 8.10 (GMT)

Possibly as a distraction manoeuvre, the ECB released England’s fixtures for 2018 this week, so let’s look ahead to the summer:

Royal London ODIs v South Africa 

9 June: First ODI, New Road, Worcester (11am)
12 June: Second ODI, The 1st Central County Ground, Hove (D/N) (1pm)
15 June: Third ODI, Canterbury (D/N) (2pm)

IT20 Tri-Series – England, South Africa and New Zealand

20 June: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, South Africa v New Zealand, 1pm; England v South Africa, 5:40pm
23 June: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, England v South Africa, 1pm; England v New Zealand, 5:40pm
28 June: The Brightside Ground, Bristol, South Africa v New Zealand, 1pm; England v New Zealand, 5:40pm
1 July: Final, The Cloud FM County Ground, Chelmsford (3pm)

Royal London ODIs v New Zealand 

7 July: First ODI, Emerald Headingley (11am)
10 July: Second ODI, The 3aaa County Ground, Derby (D/N) (1pm)
13 July: Third ODI, The Fischer County Ground, Grace Road (D/N) (2pm)

Tickets on sale from 12 December

Rugby League

England’s women began their World Cup campaign with a fine win over the PNG Orchids.

England 36-18 PNG Orchids

Tries from Hoyle, Hardcastle, Stanley, Booth (2), Bound, Sutcliffe and goals from: Stanley (4) saw England home in their first match.  PNG’s scores came from tries from Kaupa and Oiufa.

In the other opening games Australia defeated Cook Islands 58-4 and New Zealand beat Canada 50-4.

England’s next game is against Australia on Sunday 19 November.

Football

On the Pitch

It was back to league action last weekend with a full programme of WSL1 and WSL2 matches.  Here are the scores:

Saturday 11 November

WSL1
Yeovil Town 0-2 Everton Ladies
Liverpool Ladies 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Sunday 12 November

WSL1
Reading Women 2-2 Chelsea Ladies
Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland Ladies
Manchester City Women 4-0 Bristol City Women

WSL2
Durham Women 0-0 London Bees
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Sheffield FC
Aston Villa Ladies 4-0 Watford Ladies
Millwall Lionesses 1-0 Oxford United Women
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1-4 Doncaster Rovers Belles

So in WSL1 Chelsea drop their first points of the season at Reading.  They are replaced at the top of the table by unbeaten Manchester City with 15 points from five games.  Chelsea are second with 13 and Arsenal third on 10.  At the bottom Yeovil are still yet to claim a point.  One up from them are Everton with three, after taking their first points of the season in beating the bottom side on Saturday.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles lead the way with 11 points from five games.  Durham, Millwall and Brighton are just behind on 10.  At the bottom beleaguered Watford have just one point from five as do London Bees.  Aston Villa took their first points of the season against Watford.

Champions League

Manchester City and Chelsea eased into the Champions League quarter-finals this week.  And not to denigrate the earlier rounds, but here they cannot avoid meeting the big teams.

The round of 16 second leg results this week were:

15 November

Wolfsburg 3-3 Fiorentina
Wolfsburg through 7-3 on aggregate

Rosengård 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea through 4-0 on aggregate

No score at half-time but in the 53rd minute Crystal Dunn put Ji So-Yun through to score for Chelsea and confirm their passage into the quarter-finals.

Lyon 9 (nine)-0 BIIK Kazygurt
Lyon through 16-0 on aggregate

Linköping 3-0 Sparta Praha
Linköping through 4-0 on aggregate

Barcelona 3-0 Gintra
Barcelona through 9-0

Montpellier 6-0 Brescia
Montpellier through 9-2 on aggregate

16 November

Slavia Praha 0-0 Stjarnan
Slavia Praha through 2-1 on aggregate

Manchester City 2-1 LSK Kvinner
Manchester City through 7-1 on aggregate

LSK took the lead in the second leg through Marie Berget, but the comeback really was never on.  A minute into the second-half Izzy Christiansen and Nikita Parris scored the second for City to take the win and a place in the quarter-finals.  Defender Megan Campbell (she of the long throw) was stretchered off for City, which will be of some concern.

The quarter-final draw is on 24 November.  News next week.

Continental Cup

We’re coming to the business end of the Conti Cup with the quarter-finalists almost decided.  The teams already qualified are Sunderland, Arsenal, Reading and Liverpool.

This week the scores were:

15 November
Liverpool Ladies 5-1 Aston Villa Ladies
Reading Women 4-0 London Bees
Yeovil Town Ladies 0-2 Bristol City Women

16 November
Sheffield FC Ladies 1-1 Sunderland AFC Ladies
Everton Ladies 4-0 Oxford United Women
Watford Ladies 0-6 Arsenal

Special mention to Reading this week as their game, marketed brilliantly and played at the Madejski Stadium drew a crowd of 2,110.  Fabulous for a mid-week Conti Cup match.  Well done to all at Reading.

Off the Pitch

WSL Applications

After the doom and gloom of last week, it’s good to bring you details this week of some clubs who are going to apply for a WSL licence.

London Bees announced this week that it is to apply.   A club statement said,

“London Bees has strategic planning to achieve growth, sustainability, increased financial investment and the exponential support for its players and staff. Our approach will promote effective use of the Grade A facilities here at The Hive London with new and exciting developments to the infrastructure, including a brand new Medical Centre.

“London Bees are delighted that new developments to our match day experience has led to increased attendances thanks to direct links with our community projects which reach across the county. We are proud to continue working with our existing partners and FA sister clubs as well as sponsors Canons High School for the coming seasons as we push the club to the next level.”

And after it looked as if it was not going to happen, Yeovil Town Ladies are also putting in a bid,

“After a lengthy and very detailed process of collaborative thinking and working with a number of interested parties, Yeovil Town Ladies FC has today submitted what it considers to be a very strong submission for a Tier One application for the 2018/19 season, to continue to play football at the elite level of the women’s game.

“The collaborative approach will not only see full-time players training 19.25 hours per week (rising to 20.25 in the 2020 season), but it also has a strong mission and vision, for the new academy programme.

“With an already strong and established partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College, this will see the education partners not only become an essential part for the clubs future elite players, whereby players aged sixteen plus can study and play, but it also becomes the clubs full time training ground, with access to grass pitches, 3G, gym, performance lab, medical room, classrooms, analysis suite, plus more.

“Furthermore, the club has devised a strategic plan, which will focus on building its links even more in the community, with plans to engage with 20,000 children in the 2018/19 season.

“The application relies solely on developing and growing its own financial resources and is based on long term self sustainability which the Club has always placed at the heart of its ethos. It is not reliant in any way on any investment from Yeovil Town Football Club, which is named as the parent Club in the application.”

England

Next week sees the first of two World Cup qualifiers for England.  They play Bosnia & Herzegovina at the Banks’s Stadium, Walsall on Friday 24 November.  Kick-off is 7.05pm.

On Tuesday 28 they play Kazakhstan at the Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester.  Kick- off is also 7.05pm.

Mo Marley has already named her squad:

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), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), 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 (Arsenal).

Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson have been handed their first senior call-ups.

Tickets are still available for both games.  See here for details.

Rugby Union

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

Richmond Women 5-43 Harlequins Ladies
Saracens Women 44-19 DMP Sharks
Worcester Valkyries 5-51Wasps Ladies
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 29-22 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
Bristol Ladies 8-12 Loughborough Lightning

England

England’s women will receive a match fee for the first time this autumn.  They have come to an agreement with the RFU and Rugby Players’ Association.

The figures have not been released but will apply to the three match series against Canada, which begins this Friday at Allianz Park.

Let’s face it, it won’t make up for the scrapping of contracts for the 15-a-side players, but it is a start.

The Old Mutual Wealth Series fixtures:

Game 1:  17 November, Aliianz Park 19.30
Game 2: 21 November, Twickenham Stoop 19.45
Game 3: 25 November, Twickenham 17.40 (after the men’s game against Samoa)

Coverage is via the England Rugby website, and allegedly, although it took me a long, long time to find it, the BBC will have radio coverage via their website.

Barbarians

Munster 0-19 Barbarians

Players from eight countries took part in the Barbarians’ first match in Limerick.  In the first-half the visitors took the lead through a penalty try as Munster stood up in the scrum and then prevented Kelly Russell from playing the ball.

In the second-half Irish prop Ailis Egan went over after a sustained drive.  It was converted by Player of the Match, Megan Goddard.

The Barbarians’ third came from the best move of the match.  The Baa-baas turned the ball over on their own 22, Nora Stapleton and Christelle LeDuff working the ball down the left wing to put England’s Georgina Roberts away to score.

Cycling

Track Cycling World Cup

Great Britain’s women won two golds and a silver at this, the second of five World Cup events, in Manchester last weekend.

Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald started the ball rolling on Saturday with a win in the madison.  The beat current world champions, Belgium, by two points with Italy third.  They then teamed up with  Emily Nelson and Neah Evans to take gold in the team pursuit, beating the Italian team in the final by almost five seconds.

Archibald also took silver in the omnium with American Jennifer Valente taking gold.

In other events Katy Marchant and Sophie Capewell reached the semi-final of the women’s team sprint, but lost to Germany.

Emily Kay was seventh in the scratch race, which was won by Rachele Barbieri of Italy.  Eleanor Dickinson finished eleventh and Hayley Jones of Wales twelfth.

Round three takes place in Milton, Canada from 1-3 December.

Winter Sports

Snowboarding

Katie Ormerod won silver at the first Big Air World Cup event of the season in Milan last weekend.

She had let going into the final round, but Anna Gasser of Austria snatched victory from her, pushing her into second.

Bobsleigh

But bad news from bobsleigh this week as Donna Creighton has announced her retirement from the sport.

Creighton was the pilot of the second team that was trying to raise £30,000 to compete at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February 2018.  Unfortunately, while Mica McNeill and Mica Moore succeeded in their bid, Creighton’s bid raised only £12,000 by the deadline.

With the failure of the crowdfunding bid, Creighton has taken the difficult and distressing decision to call it a day.

Speed Skating

Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin are both through to the semi-finals of the 1500m at the World Cup event in Seoul this weekend.  They are drawn in separate heats in the semis which take place on Friday 17 November.

Christie is also through to the quarter-final of the 500m and both are through to the quarter-final of the 100m where they are both drawn in heat two.

News of how they got on next week.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

11 November
University of Birmingham 4-1 Leicester
Surbiton 1-2 Buckingham

12 November
Canterbury 1-0 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 3-4 East Grinstead
Holcombe 3-0 Slough

After eight games Surbiton and University of Birmingham are joint top on 16 points.  They cannot even be separated on goal difference or goals scored!  Buckingham lie third, just a point behind.  Canterbury are at the bottom on five points from eight games, with Bowdon and Leicester above them on seven, with Leicester two better on goal difference.

And finally,

You will all know by now, that to me cricket is more dear to me than life, so I make no apologies for this: come on England (men), you have to beat those Aussies.  This is even more poignant now that the women have so horribly failed in their attempt to regain the women’s version.  So, Root, Cook, Anderson, et al, I am relying on you for this winter not to be a complete disaster.

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 October 2017

camerawomanWelcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s short, but perfectly formed column, this week promises to be another bumper effort!  Good grief, women, what are you doing playing/officiating in/running/campaigning about all this sport?  Whatever next?  In fact there’s so much to put in I’m going to have to leave it to you to find this weekend’s fixtures for the various sports leagues.  No room!!

Anyway, on to the news.  Stories this week come from cricket, rugby union, rugby league, football, netball, gymnastics, hockey and tennis.  Plus, a tiny rant from me for this week’s “And finally”.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

It was a clean sweep for England as they retained their Netball Europe Open Championships title at the weekend.  They were the clear favourites to take the title and put together a fine series of wins to remain unbeaten by the end of the tournament.

Results:
5 October
Fiji 34-52 Scotland
Wales 46-47 Northern Ireland

6 October
England 61-48 Scotland
Fiji 40-61 Wales
England 75-44 Northern Ireland

7 October
Fiji 46-58 Northern Ireland
Wales 49-58 Scotland
England 94-31 Fiji

8 October
Scotland 45-46 Northern Ireland
England 72-50 Wales

Final Standings:

P W D L PTS
England 4 4 0 0 8
Northern Ireland 4 3 0 1 6
Scotland 4 2 0 2 4
Wales 4 1 0 3 2
Fiji 4 0 0 4 0

Football

Off the pitch

Eventually….

Manchester City have apparently asked to talk to the FA about the response of the officials and services available after Pauline Bremer broke her leg in the game against Everton on Saturday.

According to Sportsmail City are unhappy at the lack of emergency services available at the game.  The ambulance apparently did not arrive for an hour and her teammates had to carry her off on a stretcher.

Both clubs had medics available, but there were no emergency services and there is no FA requirement for them to be even at top flight women’s games, whereas they must be available at all men’s professional games.

So, hey ho FA, here we go again.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s all a part of their half-brained thinking.  Last week it was the announcement of a fully professional first tier of women’s football; this week it’s revealed there’s not even an ambulance present at current matches.  Just who is putting these schemes and ideas together?  Are they even aware of the present situation?  Before we move on to the next big thing, can we get the present middle-sized thing right first, please?

Yeovil

Yeovil Town Ladies announced this week that they were going to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise the £350,000 necessary to put in a bid to be part of the new fully-professional top tier.

As reported a couple of weeks ago, the deadline to apply is 10 November.

The club has said,

“We have the structure, facilities and ambition to become a full-time professional club given time, but we currently do not have the financial support to do this.

“We do not have the budget to allow our players and coaches to become full-time athletes, unless further investment comes our way soon.”

And while you can applaud the club’s ambition and appreciate that it is currently where it is on merit, you have to wonder about the wisdom of building a long-term future on a crowdfunding campaign.  If they don’t have the investment now, is a one-off injection of £350,000 make the club any more sustainable?

I’m hoping they’ve done the sums and I apologise if I am wrongly doubtful. It’s a great club that has come so far and deserves a shot.

Here’s the link to the campaign should you wish to contribute:

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/turning-professional-in-the-top-tier-of-the-fawsl

And it’s not just in this country that women’s football is sadly underestimated and treated with contempt:

Brazil

A number of former Brazilian women internationals have sent an open letter to their federation to protest at some of their recent actions.

And although they attack some specific issues, such as the sacking of head coach Emily Lima, their key complaint is one heard again and again throughout women’s sport –

“We, and almost all other Brazilian women, are excluded from the leadership and decision-making for our own team and our own sport”.

Lima’s sacking led to five members of the current Brazilian squad to retire from international football; Cristiane, Francielle, Rosana, Andreia Rosa and Maurine have all given up on their international careers.

But it’s the set-up and governance of the women’s game that is the main focus of the protest.  FIFA has guidelines in place that say women must be included at all levels of governance of the game.  But the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) does not follow these guidelines – indeed there are no women on its governing board.

Can we expect FIFA to intervene?  Impose sanctions?  I suspect not.  But both the CBF and FIFA will have to respond in some way.  And when they do, I’ll be covering it.

England

Mo Marley has named her first squad as interim England Manager.  A squad of 24 has been named for the friendly against France, which takes place on Friday 20 November at the Stade du Hainaut.

The match will be shown live on the BBC red button – friendlies on the TV, whatever next?

Goalkeepers: Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool) 

Midfielders: Izzy Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Reading), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Dan Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal)

Norway – Good News!

And some good news to round off the “off the pitch” section.

The Norwegian Football Association announced this week that it is to pay the same to both male and female internationals.

Head of the Norwegian Players’ union, Joachim Walltin, said,

“Norway is a country where equal standing is very important for us, so it is good for the country and for the sport.

“For the girls, it will certainly make a difference. Some of them are working and studying, as well as playing football, and it’s hard to improve then.

“The feeling of being really respected is very important for them. The federation can see it as an investment to increase the level of the women’s team.”

And so say all of us.  Norway is taking the lead here – it would be good to see others follow suit.

On the Pitch

It’s been a busy week with WSL, Continental Cup and Champions League action all taking place.  After this week’s results we’re now down to the last 16 in the Champions League and it’s good to report that both English clubs went through, but Glasgow City went out on the away goals rule.  

Bayern Munich 2-2 Chelsea
Chelsea win 3-2 on aggregate

This was a fine result for Chelsea after being only one up after the home leg.  It was tight all the way through, but when Fran Kirby stuck away an excellent goal on 60 minutes, thereby securing an away goal, the task seemed much easier.

Bayern needed three in 30 minutes and were stung into action.  They pulled one back after sustained pressure as substitute Gemma Davison deflected the ball into her own net and then Lucie Vonkova pounced on some poor goalkeeping from Lindahl to poke home from close range.

Chelsea resisted wave after wave of attack, much as they did in the first leg.  The home side had a good shout for a penalty when the ball seemed to strike Millie Bright’s arm, but the referee waved it away.

Bayern did put the ball in the net in injury time, but it was disallowed for a push in the box and Chelsea held on for the win.

The Bayern staff and manager were not happy with what they perceived as Chelsea time-wasting as player after player went down.  And while there certainly was an element of this, the players had also played themselves into the ground and were genuinely feeling the effects.  Several times Chelsea were down to ten and playing on.  Ramona Bachmann appeared to have pretty constant cramp for the last half-hour!

Manchester City 3-0 St Polten
Manchester City win 6-0 on aggregate

It was an altogether easier night for Manchester City as they cruised past Austrian champions St Polten and into the last 16.

With a healthy 3-0 cushion from the away leg, City matched the tally with goals from Nikita Parris, Jill Scott and Mel Lawley.

In truth, it wasn’t a flowing performance from City and a better team would have made them pay.  Jane Ross missed a penalty in the first-half and was then anonymous for the rest of the game.  The defence, still adapting after losing Lucy Bronze to Lyon, looked creaky at times.  But they’re through and will, no doubt, take confidence from the tie to go on into the last 16.

Glasgow City 4-1 BIIK Kazygurt
4-4 on aggregate, but BIIK Kazygurt go through on the away goal

It was heartbreak for Glasgow City as they so nearly came back from a 3-0 away deficit to complete a miraculous win.

Their task was made so much harder as BIIK took an early lead through Chinwendu Ihezuo and the home side needed five.

Abbi Grant scored a hat-trick and Noelle Murray one to bring the sides level on aggregate.

Then Glasgow were awarded a penalty with eight minutes to go and the chance to win the tie.  But Leanne Ross hit the post and the chance was lost.

City had further chances to score but the ball refused to go in the net and Glasgow had gone out at the round of 32 stage for the third year running.

Round of 16

There are eight seeded teams and eight unseeded in the last 16 and the good news for Manchester City is that they have snuck into the seeded pot.  Chelsea are not so lucky:

Seeded
Lyon (FRA, holders)
Wolfsburg (GER)
FC Rosengård (SWE)
Barcelona (ESP)
Manchester City (ENG)
Brescia (ITA)
Slavia Praha (CZE)
Sparta Praha (CZE)

Unseeded
Linköping (SWE)
Chelsea (ENG)
Montpellier (FRA)
LSK Kvinner (NOR
BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ)
Gintra Universitetas (LTU)
Stjarnan (ISL)
Fiorentina (ITA)

The draw will be made on Monday 16 October with everyone wanting to avoid Lyon and Wolfsburg!

FAWSL1

7 October
Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
Everton 2-3 Manchester City

8 October
Arsenal 1-1 Bristol City
Reading 2-2 Birmingham City
Yeovil Town 0-1 Sunderland

Chelsea are top on goal difference with three wins from three.  Manchester City are equal on points, but five behind on goal difference.  Sunderland are third on six points.  Neither Everton nor Yeovil have yet taken a point, with the Lady Glovers bottom with a worse goal difference.

FAWSL2

8 October
Durham 4-0 Watford
London Bees 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses 4-3 Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield FC 2-1 Aston Villa
Oxford United 2-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Millwall are top of division two on goals scored.  Both they and Oxford United are on seven points from three games.  They have the same goal difference, but Millwall have scored three more goals.  Durham are third on six points.  Aston Villa, London Bees and Watford are still to register a point with Watford bottom of the pile on goal difference.

Continental Cup

The Cup begins in a group stage this year with four groups, the top two from each going through to the knockout stage.

The Groups are Groups One and Two (North) and Groups One and Two (South).  If games end in a draw at 90 minutes, they go straight to penalties.

Group 1 (N)
Liverpool 6-0 Sheffield FC
Durham 0-0 Sunderland (Sunderland won 3-2 on penalties)

Group 2 (N)
Birmingham City 4-0 Oxford United
Doncaster Rovers Belles 0-3 Everton

Group 1 (S)
Arsenal 7-0 London Bees
Watford 1-0 Millwall Lionesses

Group 2 (S)
Brighton & Hove Albion 4-2 Yeovil Town
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Bristol City

Gymnastics

Claudia Fragapane claimed bronze in the floor at the World Gymnastics Championships in Montreal at the weekend.

Japan’s Mai Murakami took gold with a score of 14,233, Jade Carey of the USA, silver, 14,2 with Fragapane coming in with 13.933.

Amy Tinkler finished 17th in the all round final with a total of 50.899.  It was quite an achievement as she was taking part just seven weeks after ankle surgery.  Morgan Hurd of the USA took gold with 55.232, with Ellie Black of Canada in silver position and Elena Eremina of Russia taking bronze.

Hockey

This week’s Investec Women’s Hockey League results were as follows:

7 October
Buckingham 0-0 Holcombe
Slough 1-0 Canterbury
Bowdon 0-2 East Grinstead
Surbiton 1-0 Leicester

8 October
Clifton Robinsons 1-4 University of Birmingham

This means that with three games gone, Surbiton are still top on goals scored from Slough.  Both are on seven points.  In third lie Holcombe with five.  Canterbury are still bottom with one point.

Rugby League

I realise I have been somewhat remiss in my coverage of women’s rugby league – in fact I’ve just never covered it.  I have no defence.  I love rugby league – in fact the first piece I ever wrote for the Sheffield University newspaper was on Sheffield Eagles.  So, in an attempt to redeem myself, there were two big stories this week.

Grand final
Bradford Bulls 36-6 Featherstone Rovers

Bradford Bulls scored seven tries through seven different players to ensure they won the inaugural Women’s Super League Grand Final at the Manchester Regional Arena on Saturday.

It also ensured a league and cup double for the Bulls who won the Challenge Cup earlier in the season and meant they completed the season with a 100% record.

At half-time it was still all to play for as Bulls led 16-6.  The Bulls began with tries from captain Kirsty Moroney and Lois Forsell.  Georgia Roche scored for Rovers, who then took and scored the conversion. Bulls then scored their third through Charlotte Booth.

But Rovers couldn’t score again in the second-half as the Bulls ran away with it.  Claire Garner, Amy Hardcastle, Charlene Henegan and Haylie Hields all crossed for tries, while Garner put over four conversions.

World Cup Squad

England have named 23 players in the squad to take part in the World Cup in November in Australia.

Amy Hardcastle (Bradford Bulls), Andrea Dobson (Featherstone Rovers), Beth Sutcliffe, Charlotte Booth, Claire Garner (all Bradford Bulls), Danielle Bound (Thatto Heath St Helens), Danika Priim (Bradford Bulls), Emily Rudge (Thatto Heath St Helens), Emma Slowe (Featherstone Rovers), Faye Gaskin, Jenny Welsby (both Thatto Heath St Helens), Jessica Courtman(Bradford Bulls), Jodie Cunningham (Thatto Heath St Helens), Katherine Hepworth (Castleford Tigers), Kayleigh Bulman (Featherstone Rovers), Kirsty Moroney, Lois Forsell (both Bradford Bulls), Rachel Thompson(Thatto Heath St Helens), Rhiannon Marshall, Sarah Dunn (both Featherstone Rovers), Shona Hoyle, Stacey White (both Bradford Bulls), Tara-Jane Stanley (Thatto Heath St Helens).

England’s group fixtures begin against Papua New Guinea Orchids on 16 November.

The tournament final will be before the men’s at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on 2 December.

Group fixtures will be played at the Southern Cross Stadium, Woolooware, NSW.

16 November: Papua New Guinea Orchids (kick-off 09:30 BST)
19 November: Australian Jillaroos (04:45 BST)
22 November: The Cook Islands (04:45 BST)

 Belinda Sleeman

 Meanwhile, the men’s Rugby League World Cup has appointed its first female official.  Australian Belinda Sleeman is one of 24 officials selected.

Needless to say she has already accomplished a series of first – the most recent being the first woman to officiate at a Test Match, when she was a touch judge at the Fiji v Tonga match in May.

Watch out everyone – female officials are on the march at last.  They are progressing as never before in rugby (both codes), football and cricket.  Coming to a match near you!

Rugby Union

 Barbarians Women’s Team

The invitational team, the Barbarians are to introduce a women’s team.

The side’s first game will be against Munster on 10 November at Thomond Park, with further fixtures to be announced in due course.

Giselle Mather will coach the team and Fiona Stockley will manage it.

So far Susie Brown (Scotland), Fiona Coghlan (Ireland), Claire Cripps and Megan Goddard (England), Elen Evans (Wales), Emma Jenson (New Zealand), Christelle Le Duff (France) and Kelly Russell (Canada), have accepted invitations to play.  These eight start with 440 international caps between them.

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Last weekend’s scores were as follows:

Saracens Women 30-0 Wasps Ladies
Harlequins Ladies 36-10 DMP Sharks
Loughborough Lightning 30-19 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
Bristol Women 28-20 Gloucester-Hartpury Women
Richmond Women 48-12 Worcester Valkyries

Harlequins Ladies are top with four from four and maximum bonus points.  Saracens lie second, a point behind, with Bristol three points further back on 16 after winning three of their first four matches.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries remain pointless, with Firwood Waterloo and DMP Sharks on one and two points respectively.

Cricket

Australia have announced their squad for the Ashes, which start on 22 October.  As we know, captain Meg Lanning is out and her place is taken by Rachel Haynes, a decision that has raised some eyebrows as it has been suggested that Haynes has been picked mostly for her captaincy skills rather than her cricketing skills.  We’ll see in just over a week whether this proves to be an inspired decision (or not).

There are six uncapped players in the squad, two of whom are just returning from long-term injury; Lauren Cheatle has been out for six months with a shoulder injury, while Tahlia McGrath has been out for eight months with a stress fracture.

The squads in full:

Test squad: Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (Capt), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

ODI squad: Beams, Blackwell, Bolton, Cheatle, Gardner, Haynes, Healy, Jonassen, McGrath, Mooney, Perry, Schutt, Villani, Wellington.

ICC Women’s Championship

The quest to qualify for the 2021 World Cup began this week.  Four teams qualify automatically. The first round of fixtures is between West Indies and Sri Lanka and the first game was played on Wednesday 11 October:

Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Tarouba
Sri Lanka 136 all out (49.4 overs)
West Indies 138/4 (39 overs)

It was a comfortable win for the home side in the first game of three on Wednesday.  Yasoda Mendis top scored for Sri Lanka with 34.  Fletcher, Matthews and Taylor took three wickets each.  The only downside for West Indies was Hayley Matthews retiring hurt during the West Indies innings.  Kycia Knight made only one and captain Stafanie Taylor, two, but the middle order all contributed to see the Windies home.

The second game is on Friday 13 October.  Each game is worth two points in the Women’s Championship.

Tennis

On the Court

China Open

Caroline Garcia of France took the China Open title, beating new world number one Simona Halep in the final, 6-4 7-6.  She then pulled out of the Tianjin Open with injury.

Tianjin Open

Of course, at this stage of the season, it’s another week, another tournament.

The quarter-finals of the Tianjin Open have just been decided:

S Peng (3) beat S. Sorribes Tormo 6-0 6-1
M Sharapova beat S. Vögele 6-3 6-1
S Errani beat S McHale 5-7 7-6 6-1
A Sabalenka beat L. Zhu 6-3 6-4.

The semi-finals, which take place on Saturday 14 October, will be Errani v Sabalenka and Sharapova v Peng.

Off the Court

Johanna Konta is still suffering with a foot injury and has been forced to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup, which takes place next week.  It means she will no longer be able to qualify for the end of season Singapore tournament.

The places have been decided for Singapore and are:

  • Simona Halep (Romania)
  • Garbine Muguruza (Spain)
  • Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
  • Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)
  • Venus Williams (USA)
  • Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)
  • Caroline Garcia (France)

And finally

First, let me start by saying God bless the BBC for its efforts in promoting women’s sport in the face of all the bile produced by the Neanderthals every week, who feel their “No-one cares”, or more usually “Who the **** cares?” postings are the sharpest, wittiest comments since Oscar Wilde put pen to paper.

However, (and you knew this was coming) I do have to take issue with their Women’s Champions League coverage.  Last week Chelsea’s first leg match against Bayern Munich was on 5 Live Sports Extra. And very good it was.  The match, which Chelsea won 1-0, was excellent, and the tie was left on a knife-edge.  So it was with some excitement that I tuned in for the second leg on Wednesday, only to find that it wasn’t being covered.  So what was being covered?  The Manchester City v St. Polten tie on Thursday.  So what do these two matches have in common?  They’re the HOME legs.

So the BBC can “splash the cash” to send a reporter to London and Manchester, but can’t stretch to Germany or Austria.  Can you imagine John Murray being told he could cover Manchester United at Old Trafford, but couldn’t travel to an away leg – anywhere in Europe?

I did find the Chelsea game, by the way; excellent coverage, commentary and pictures via Chelsea TV on YouTube.  Would recommend.

Meanwhile, BBC, cover both legs will you?

And, and finally – a special shout out to Ipswich Town Ladies who annihilated Norwich City Ladies 8-1 in the Premier League South East Division One this week.  Fabulous hat-trick for Zoe Cossey.  Good one, ladies.  Come on you Tractor Girls!!