Welcome to this week’s column. I got the feeling when I was preparing this that it would be a big one – so much news from so many different sports. So forgive me if I’m brief with each piece – just trying to get as much in as possible.
So here we go. Stories this week come from athletics, hockey, diving, netball, football, rugby union, cycling, tennis, triathlon and cricket. It’s also Women’s Sport Week next week, so this makes my “and finally”, with my usual combination of enthusiasm and cynicism.
Super League Final Four
I made no secret of it as I nailed my colours firmly to the Loughborough Lightning mast at the beginning of the season. But I could not help but have that sinking feeling at the weekend when both Lightning and Wasps won well to go into the Final Four final. And so it was borne out by the final result. Loughborough will have the satisfaction of winning the league (by a whopping nine points), but they will be angry that the only team they couldn’t beat during the whole season was Wasps – twice.
Saturday 10 June
Loughborough Lightning 66-45 Team Bath
Wasps Netball 63-48 Manchester Thunder
Sunday 11 June
Third place play-off
Manchester Thunder 56-48 Team Bath
Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball
So congratulations to Wasps. It’s been a great Super League season.
Twenty-year old Jelena Ostapenko became French Open champion on Saturday. She defeated third seed and tournament favourite Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3.
The unseeded Ostapenko was one set and 3-0 down before she came roaring back and in doing so became the first unseeded woman to win at Roland Garros since 1983. She also became Latvia’s first Grand Slam champion.
It was an amazing performance and hopefully the world number 47 will have a great future.
Magdalena Rybarikova won the Surbiton trophy, beating Britain’s number two Heather Watson in in the final in straight sets, 6-4 7-5.
Laura Robson exited the Nottingham Open in the first round. She went out to American Julia Boserup 6-4 6-3.
Heather Watson also lost in the first round, going out to fourth seed Alison Riske of the USA 6-2 6-3.
Meanwhile Britain’s number one, Johanna Konta is through to the quarter-final. Her first round opponent, fellow Briton Tara Moore, retired with a foot injury. At the time Konta was up 6-2 3-0. It was Konta’s 300th career singles win.
She played Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in round two, winning comfortably 6-4 6-1.
Konta plays Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the last eight.
Aegon Trophy, Manchester
Britain’s number three, Naomi Broady is through to the quarter-finals with a second round win over American Maria Sanchez 7-6 7-6.
She will play top seed Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei in the last eight.
The French Open runner-up has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham next week with an ankle injury.
This means that wildcards will now be given to Naomi Broady and Heather Watson and there will, therefore, be three Britons, including British number one Johanna Konta, in the draw.
Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton due to a thigh injury. She had been awarded a wildcard to compete in Birmingham.
She is not expected to return until the end of July.
The Women’s Tour
Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma claimed the overall Women’s Tour at the weekend, after the final stage in London.
The Stage Five results were:
- Jolien D’Hoore – 1hr 28mins 23secs
- Hannah Barnes – same time
- Christine Majerus – same time
- Roxane Fournier – same time
- Katie Archibald – same time
- Katarzyna Niewiadoma – 16hrs 34mins 53secs
- Christine Majerus – +1min 18secs
- Hannah Barnes – +1min 30sec
Other British finishers were Alice Barnes in 6th, Dani King in 9th, Katie Archibald in 18th and defending champion Lizzie Deignan who finished in 42nd place.
England had a disappointing international weekend at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
England 1-5 Argentina
Argentina took the lead through an Agustina Habif penalty corner on 17 minutes. Lily Owsley almost equalised a couple of minutes later but her shot went wide.
On 22 minutes England were level from Surbiton’s Hannah Martin’s well worked penalty corner.
The teams went in all square and with all to play for in the second-half.
But it was all downhill for England as two penalty corners, from Martina Cavallero on 44 and Magdalena Fernandez on 48 took Argentina well in front.
And English misery was complete when Delfina Merino on 56 and Eugenia Trinchinetti on 60 scored field goals to make it 5-1.
It was a somewhat experimental England side with several new faces but it was also an excellent performance from the Argentinians.
England 2- 2 Netherlands
Netherlands won 4-3 on penalties
As always seems to be the way between these two, this was a game to savour as England came from 2-0 down to force the game into a penalty shootout.
The Dutch took the lead on just three minutes with a goal from Laura Nunnink after a pinpoint Frederique Matla cross.
They doubled their lead on 15 minutes after some fine counter-attacking hockey – the shot from Laurien Leurink to powerful for Maddie Hinch to keep out.
But England were not out of it. Alex Danson scored on 42 minutes and and then Sophie Bray pulled them level on 52 from a great cross by Susannah Townsend.
The shootout went to sudden death. Hollie Webb thought she had scored the winning goal, but it was disallowed for having touched her foot.
Matla put the next Dutch penalty away, Nicola White’s was saved and the Netherlands had won.
EuroHockey Club Cup (EHCC)
With German teams finishing as runners-up in the top division of the women’s EHCC and winning the second division (the Trophy), they will have two places for next year’s event and England will only have one.
Surbiton Ladies will be the England’s representatives in 2018.
Red Roses on Tour
England 53-10 Australia
England started their International Women’s Rugby Series with a convincing win over Australia at Porirua Park, New Zealand.
Although the Wallaroos took the lead in the third minute when Ashleigh Hewson went over for a try, it was pretty much all Red Roses action from then on.
They scored nine tries in all with Sarah McKenna bagging a hat-trick and Kay Wilson a brace. The other tries came from Izzy Noel-Smith, Abbie Scott, Vicky Fleetwood and Harriet Millar-Mills. Emily Scott put over four conversions.
Canada 20-27 England
The Red Roses continued their fine form against Canada in Christchurch. They scored four tries; two from Lydia Thompson and one each for Abbie Scott and Kay Wilson. Emily Scarratt kicked seven points.
Canada’s tries came from Carolyn McEwen and Karen Paquin, while Magali Harvey kicked two penalties and two conversions.
New Zealand are also in fine form. They defeated Canada in their first match, 28-16 and Australia in their second, 44-17.
The two unbeaten sides, the Black Ferns and the Red Roses meet on Saturday at the Rotorua International Stadium in a winner-takes-all shoot-out.
Just as Japan were the surprise package at the men’s World Cup in 2015 (who can forget their incredible win over South Africa?), it seems the Japanese women should not be underestimated in this year’s tournament in Ireland.
They have just undertaken a short tour of Ireland and Wales and although they lost narrowly twice to an Ireland XV, they defeated Wales 52-10 this week.
They have been drawn in Pool C with Australia, France and Ireland. And all should ensure they don’t take the points for granted when playing the Asian Champions.
England’s sevens squad, meanwhile takes part in the Malemort Sevens at the weekend. The squad is Natasha Brennan, Katie Mason, Alice Richardson-Watmore, Millie Wood, Olivia Jones, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Kelly Smith, Lotte Clapp, Jo Richardson-Watmore, Holly Aitchison and Chantelle Miell.
Malemort is the first leg of Rugby Europe Women’s Grand Prix Series.
Pool A: Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain
Pool B: France, Belgium, Wales, Sweden
Pool C: England, Ireland, Italy, Portugal
England’s pool games will be as follows (all times BST):
Saturday 17 June
v Portugal, 9.44am
v Italy, 12.29pm
v Ireland, 3.14pm
It’s an important two-part series for England as it will be their last chance to quality for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July 2018. Qualification through the HSBC Rugby Women’s Sevens Series is unlikely as England are currently eighth after five of the six rounds.
On the Pitch
England’s Euros warm-up
Switzerland 0-4 England
England put in another impressive display in Biel to win comfortably against Switzerland this week.
After a first half-hour’s stalemate Jordan Nobbs broke the deadlock with a fine 20-yard curler.
Ten minutes later they were two-up when Fran Kirby went round the Swiss Goalkeeper, Gaelle Thalmann to score from close range.
In the second-half Jodie Taylor scored twice and England could have had more.
Scotland’s Euros warm-ups
Mixed fortunes for Anna Signeul’s side as they prepare for the Euros next month.
Scotland 2-0 Romania
Lisa Evans started the scoring for the home side after just two minutes, when she headed in from a Fiona Brown cross. They went in 1-0 up and then doubled their lead just after half-time when Jane Ross headed in another cross from Brown to seal the win.
It was a good, positive, attacking performance from the Scots.
Sweden 1-0 Scotland
Scotland’s second game was against altogether tougher opponents.
Although Sweden dominated the game they were unable to break through the Scottish defence until the 84th minute, when Caroline Seger headed home after almost constant Sweden pressure.
Off the Pitch
News broke this week that Dame Heather Rabbatts has announced she is to step down from her role as an FA non-executive director and board member.
In her resignation letter she cited her frustration “at the lack of progress for BAME coaches.”
The FA will now have to recruit three, not two women to its board in time for the beginning of the 2018/19 season, in order to adhere to the new Code for Sports Governance.
She made such a significant contribution in what must have been, at the very least, an unhelpful atmosphere. She will be missed and I hope those women that come after her can harness some of her confidence and strength and will be able to make their own telling contributions.
Manchester City have made their first signing of the summer. They have signed defender Mie Jans from Brondby for next season.
City fans will also be relieved that captain Steph Houghton has signed a new contract. The club’s website stated:
“I’ve only ever seen my future at the club.
“This will be my fourth season and I’ve loved every single minute of it. I had no intention of going anywhere else and this is my home now.”
The length of the contract has not been disclosed.
Bristol City Women have also been dabbling in the transfer market this week. They have signed Belgian striker Yana Daniels from Anderlecht.
Everton will be the team to replace Notts County in WSL next season.
Only they and Doncaster Rovers Belles applied. Everton finished top of the WSL2 Spring Series.
The Belles have seven days to appeal the decision.
England continued their World Cup warm-up with a match against India this week.
They beat India by 140 runs in Loughborough. Returning captain Heather Knight took three wickets, as did left-arm spinner Alex Hartley. Nat Sciver continued her fine form with 69. Lauren Winfield also put in a good knock of 50.
England 243 all out
India 103 all out
Next warm-up will be against Sri Lanka on 19 June in Chesterfield.
Leeds Triathlon (World Triathlon Series)
The winner of the Leeds event was Flora Duffy of Bermuda in a time of one hour 57 minutes, 02 seconds. Second was Taylor Spivey of the USA in one hour 58 minutes, 32 seconds and in third was Alice Betto of Italy in one hour 59 minutes, 36 seconds.
First Briton home was Jessica Learmonth, who finished sixth in a time of two hours, one minute and 06 seconds.
Non Stanford finished in 11th.
Speaking of whom, Stanford has had to withdraw from the European Championships in Kitzbuhel, Switzerland at the weekend, due to illness. No further details have been given, but she is believed to have been feeling ill since competing in Yokohama in May.
Britain’s Lois Toulson won 10m platform gold at the European Championships in Kiev this week.
She scored 330.70, with Russians Anna Chuinyshena (326.90) and Iuliia Timoshinina (313.3) capturing silver and bronze.
The World Championships take place from 14 July in Budapest.
There was sad news this week as it was revealed that double Paralympic champion Kadeena Cox has had two of her gold medals stolen.
She had left the medals, from the 2015 IPC World Championships T37 100m and T35-38 4 x 100m relay, in her car outside her house in Prestwich.
Let’s hope they are returned.
It’s that time again! It’s Women’s Sport Week next week. And those of you who have been with me for some time will know of my mixed feelings about this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for shouting about women’s sport (as well you know), but I still think every week should be “Women’s Sport Week”.
But until this is the case, and let’s face it this is a long, long way away, let’s celebrate. I want you all to go out and talk about women’s sport next week. Tweet about it, Facebook it. Do all those lovely social media things. But also watch it and read about it. I know you’ll have to make a bit of an effort to find it (hence this column), but I promise you it will be worth it.
And of course, if you’re a female reader of this column, you can always get out and play something! Book a court, go for a run, go bowling, walk up a hill, have a kickabout in the park – then shout about it!
I’d love to hear what you’re doing to celebrate Women’s Sport Week. Let me know and I’ll Tweet the best and check out www.womeninsport.org for more ideas and information.