Welcome to this week’s column. We’re coming to the end of a stunning summer for women’s sport and while there are those knuckle-draggers who will never give recognition to any woman playing sport, I’m glad to say there are many more of us (women and men) who take a very different view and the numbers are rising all the time. I can’t help feeling a tad melancholy this week as it draws to a close, but hopefully the news and stories below will help restore my mood (and cheer you too!).
Stories this week come from rugby union (obviously) tennis, netball, cricket, badminton, modern pentathlon, hockey, golf and cycling. But there’s only one place to start isn’t there – and what a game it was.
Women’s Rugby World Cup Final
Well I hope you were all watching, because although words are my business, I don’t think I can do justice to this match. Prime time TV, ITV1 in the UK – social media and conventional media alike crying out that it needed to be a great match to engage the masses and move women’s rugby up a level. And it didn’t disappoint.
England pressed from the off but were unable to convert pressure into points and were shocked after eight minutes when Selica Winiata pounced on a kick to score the first try. Cocksedge, who had a relatively poor game with the boot, missed the conversion.
On 15 minutes New Zealand were penalised for a dangerous tackle and Emily Scarratt duly slotted over the resultant penalty.
On 20 minutes Sara Goss was yellow-carded for another dangerous tackle and England knew they had to take advantage.
England pressed on towards the line i a series of scrums, but as they got closer to the line the Black Ferns realised they had to scrum with just seven or risk losing cover on the wing. This they did but broke up the scrummage illegally and the Red Roses were awarded a penalty try, taking it to 10-5 to England.
Eight minutes before half-time England were over again and looking confident. Lydia Thompson went over on the wing and Scarratt converted well to take it 17-5.
England probably thought this would be the half-time score and perhaps relaxed early, but this proved to be a fatal error. Toka Natua got in after they secured good line-out ball. The conversion was missed and the half-time score was 17-10.
The second-half was completely different. New Zealand came out a different team. They hustled and harried from the first minute and England had no answer.
Just five minutes in Natua went over for her second. England still seemed to be in the dressing room. And to make matters worse for the Red Roses Cocksedge began to find her kicking form as she popped over her first conversion to make it 17-17.
Five minutes later England were ahead again through another Scarratt penalty, but the lead was short-lived. Two minutes later Charmaine Smith pushed over, hitting the sponge around the post and again it was converted – 20-24.
On 55 England scored again Thompson flying 40 metres down to wing to cross the line for her second try of the match. Scarratt missed the conversion and England’s lead was just one point.
At this point England Head Coach Simon Middleton introduced a whole raft of changes, something that drew some criticism after the game. But there can be no doubt England were tiring and the changes made were quality ones.
On 58 Natua got her hat-trick under the posts and Cocksedge converted. The tide was turning in the Black Ferns’ favour.
Five minutes later Cocksedge got a try of her own, but she missed the conversion. New Zealand were 36-25 ahead. With 20 minutes to go, although the scoreline was still tight, it seemed to be one-way traffic.
On 69 Winiata went over for her second after another good kick from Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali. Cocksedge missed yet another conversion, but it mattered not as England appeared to be a beaten side.
But England had not finished scoring. Izzy Noel-Smith went over with three minutes to go and Scarratt converted.
Kefu was yellow-carded for New Zealand, but England didn’t have the time to make it count and before they knew it the game was over.
New Zealand had won 41-32.
The better team had won – no doubt about it. England fought to the end, but the Black Ferns’ third quarter had battered England into submission.
Without wanting to sound mawkish or trite and realising that I sound both, it was women’s rugby that was the winner on Saturday. So many people will now realise what a great product it is (and what a good scrum can look like guys). Let’s hope it leads not only to young girls taking up the sport, but also that the new revamped championship gets the coverage it deserves (i.e., any at all –and yes, BBC Sport, I do mean you).
Women’s Champions League
The round of 32 draw will be made on 1 September. The 11 teams that made it through qualifying are:
Gintra Universitetas (LTU), Olimpia Cluj (ROU), Ajax (NED), Medyk Konin (POL), Apollon (CYP), Minsk (BLR), *Zürich (SWI), Stjarnan (ICE), BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ), Avaldsnes (NOR). PAOK (GRE)
*qualified as best runners-up.
The teams receiving a bye into the round of 32 are:
Lyon (FRA, holders), Wolfsburg (GER), FC Rosengård (SWE), Barcelona (ESP), Fortuna, Hjørring (DEN), Bayern München (GER), Brøndby (DEN), Rossiyanka (RUS), Manchester City (ENG), Glasgow City (SCO), Zvezda-2005 (RUS), Brescia (ITA), Slavia Praha (CZE), Sparta Praha (CZE), Linköping (SWE), Chelsea (ENG), Montpellier (FRA), LSK Kvinner (NOR), St. Pölten (AUT), Atlético Madrid (ESP), Fiorentina (ITA)
As you probably know, coverage in the UK will be absolutely minimal so I’d again recommend you check out the UEFA website for updates:
These are the dates you need to know:
Round of 32: 4/5 & 11/12 October
Round of 16: 8/9 & 15/16 November
Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Final: 24 May 2018, Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo Stadium, Kyiv
Other football news and signings
Lieke Martens was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 2016-17 this week.
The 24-year old plays for Barcelona and had a stand-out tournament for the Netherlands at the Euros earlier in the summer.
She finished ahead of Pernille Harder of Denmark in second and Dzsenifer Marozsán of Germany in third.
1: Lieke Martens (Netherlands, Rosengård and Barcelona)
2: Pernille Harder (Denmark, Linköping and Wolfsburg)
3: Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany, Lyon)
4: Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands, Bayern München and Arsenal)
5: Eugénie Le Sommer (France, Lyon)
6: Wendie Renard (France, Lyon)
7: Jackie Groenen (Netherlands, FFC Frankfurt)
8: Lucy Bronze (England, Manchester City and Lyon)
9: Jodie Taylor (England, Arsenal)
10: Shanice van de Sanden (Netherlands, Liverpool)
Previous winners of the award:
2012/13 ─ Nadine Angerer (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2013/14 ─ Nadine Kessler (Germany, Wolfsburg)
2014/15 ─ Célia Šašić (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2015/16 ─ Ada Hegerberg (Norway, Lyon)
Striker Danielle Carter has signed a new contract with Arsenal. The length of the contract has not been revealed although it is described as “long-term”.
Liverpool, however, have not had such a good week. Their Dutch star Shanice van de Sanden has left to join Champions League holders Olympique Lyonnais Feminin.
Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed another title at the weekend when she won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open by two shots from compatriot Lee Mi-rim.
She finished on -13, with M Lee on -11, with a tie for third between Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, Chun In-gee of Korea, Shanshan Feng of China and Cristie Kerr of USA on -10.
Park hit a seven-under 64 in the final round to overcome a four shot deficit from the third round.
Holly Clyburn was top British finisher on -3 while Charley Hull was way back in the pack on +6.
American star Michelle Wie had to withdraw before the start of the final round when she had to undergo surgery to remove her appendix. This seems to be catching – see cycling below!
England’s women secured a bronze medal at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam with a 2-0 win over Germany.
Hannah Martin and Alex Danson scored the goals.
The gold medal went to the Netherlands who beat Belgium 3-0 in the final.
Their goals came from Margot van Geffen, Kelly Jonker and Ireen van den Assem (Penalty stroke).
A sport featuring rarely in this column, but as the World Modern Pentathlon Championships were held in Cairo this week it should be in.
The events were pistol shooting, fencing, 200m swimming, show jumping and a 3km run (apologies if you already knew this).
In the women’s events the results were as follows:
Gold went to Gulnaz Gubaydullina of Russia with 1,292 points. Silver was taken by Zsófia Földházi of Hungary, who was a mere seven points behind on 1,285 and in bronze position was Anastasiya Prokopenko of Belarus, again just behind with 1,281 points.
The team title went to Germany with 2,815 points. Second were Russia on 2,797 and third Italy on 2,791.
The relay winners were Germany on 1,276 points with Egypt in second on 1,243 and Japan third on 1,238.
Kirsty Gilmour was defeated in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Glasgow. She lost 21-19 18-21 21-15 to Saina Nehwal of India.
The gold medal went to Nozomi Okuhara of Japan who beat PV Sindhu of India 21-19 20-22 22-20.
Bronze medals went to Chen Yufei of China and Saina Nehwal.
Chris and Gabby Adcock lost in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles to Chinese pair and top seeds Zheg Siwei and Chen Qingchen 21-15 23-21. This meant they secured a bronze medal but they were still disappointed with the outcome. Gabby Adcock spoke to BBC Sport:
“We’re disappointed because we felt we had a chance today.
“It was one of our worst performances of the week and I’m struggling to find a reason as to why but we just couldn’t get going.”
The gold medal winners were Tontowi Ahmed and Liliyanna Natsir of Indonesia who beat the Adcocks’ vanquishers 15-21 21-16 21-15 in the final.
The Women’s Doubles title was taken by Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China who beat Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan in the final 21-18 17-21 21-15. Bronze medals went to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, also of Japan, and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark.
The Quad Series in Brisbane is in full swing. England are finally showing how much they have improved recently and have so far recorded one loss and one win.
Australia 54-50 England
So tight and so close for the Roses! But it wasn’t always that way. At half-time England were trailing by 10 points 32-22 and it looked as if the Diamonds were in for yet another easy win.
By the end of the third quarter England had cut the deficit to six and were getting closer by the end but Australia managed to hold on.
Helen Housby top scored for England with 30 goals, an 88% conversion rate, but this was knocked into a cocked hat by Australia’s Caitlin Bassett who scored 43 goals at a conversion rate of 93%.
But England would have been buoyed by this performance going into their second game against New Zealand.
New Zealand 45-49 England
On Wednesday 30 England registered their first win against New Zealand in a Quad Series.
The Roses were down by just one point 37-36 going into the fourth quarter in Auckland and they had a storming last period to take it by four. Kadeen Corbin scored seven goals in the final quarter as the Roses pulled away.
Helen Housby was top scorer again for England with 26 goals at a conversion rate of 81%. Bailey Mes scored 28 for the Silver Ferns.
England play South Africa on Sunday to see if they can finish second in a Quad Series for the first time.
South Africa have lost both of their first two games, against New Zealand 63-56 and Australia 58-52.
Lizzie Deignan’s participation in the World Championships is in doubt after she had her appendix removed this week.
The Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway, from September 17-24. The women’s road race is on 23 September.
Deignan would be one of the favourites if she recovers in time to take part.
It’s been a bizarre old start to the US Open with seeds falling like dominoes. Everyone has an opinion on the participation of Maria Sharapova, including former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki who branded the scheduling of Sharapova’s matches all on the show courts to be “questionable”. I’ll leave you to make up your own minds on that one.
Some of the high (and low) lights so far:
Both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson lost in the first round. Konta lost to unseeded world number 78 Aleksandra Krunic 4-6 6-3 6-4.
Watson lost to Alizé Cornet of France in straight sets 6-4 6-4.
Defending champion Angelique Kerber also departed in round one, losing in straight sets to world number 45, Japanese 19-year old Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-1.
Maria Sharapova, who is, as I’ve already said never far from the headlines, is through to the third round. Her first round defeat of world number two, Simona Halep 6-4 4-6 6-3 sent shockwaves around Flushing Meadows.
She defeated Timea Babos of Hungary in the second 6-7 6-4 6-1 and faces the unseeded Sofia Kenin of the United States in the third.
Other players of note to go through to the third round are world number one, Karolina Pliskova, who had to fight off a strong challenge from Nicole Gibbs to win 2-6 6-3 6-4. French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is still in the mix after she defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4 6-4.
One seed to bite the dust in the second round was number 23, Barbora Strycova, who was soundly beaten by American Jennifer Brady 6-1 6-1. Three more Americans through to the third round are Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.
I think it’s safe to say it’s wide open!
The past week has seen and will see the culmination of the women’s cricket season in England. Last weekend the County Championship was decided and on Friday 1 September it’s Kia Super League Finals day.
Lancashire have been crowned Division 1 champions, having won five of their seven games this season. The full standings were as follows:
Sussex and Berkshire are relegated to Division 2. Their places are taken by the top two finishers in the second division this year, which were Hampshire and Somerset.
Kia Super League
The last three matches took place on Saturday 26 August. Loughborough won again, but with Western Storm also taking the points it was not enough for the Lightning to go through. To be honest, they didn’t deserve to anyway on the performances I saw.
Bristol County Ground
Lancashire Thunder 122/5 (20 overs)
Western Storm 123/5 (17.1/20 overs)
Western Storm won by 5 wickets
Loughborough Lightning 171/3 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 90 all out (18 overs)
Loughborough Lightning won by 81 runs
Southern Vipers 138/6 (20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 108 all out (18.3 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 30 runs
Finals Day – Hove
Southern Vipers automatically qualify for the final with the other place being fought out between Surrey Stars and Western Storm.
This has just popped up into my inbox and so I had to share it, especially as it is about my Leicestershire neck of the woods. Good grief Cycling Weekly. Sort yourselves out:
Apologies, but there will be no column next week as I am out and about elsewhere.