Whether you were watching the stream or in the venue, the atmosphere at the London Brawling vs. Gotham Girls Roller Derby The Rematch was incredible.
There’s nothing that can be written here that actually represents the atmosphere, the gameplay, the community and the queue for the Gotham merchandise. But at very least I’ll try.
This game was a game of defence. But defence like the UK had not seen in a while from Brawling. Instead of the well-known slow formations that require the opposing jammers to slog, this game was fast-paced, with walls that rotated and drained jammers in news ways.
Often the crowd witnessed jams where one-minute would pass without a lead call. And almost equally as often there were reforms from both defences that would make even the strongest jammers weep.
Brawling and Gotham were playing the same game – and before you claim I’m stating the obvious, I mean fast-paced, dominating, recycle heavy roller derby, with a three-wall at its core.
With no floor space available around the track, the crowd poised, and the warm-ups finished, the game was on. And the first jam saw Bonnie Thunders for Gotham matched against Lexi Lightspeed for Brawling.
With almost no time burnt on the jam clock, Lexi took lead for Brawling and after a quick star pass from Bonnie to V-Diva, the jam was called 1-0 in Brawling’s favour.
In all honesty, this jam was an anomaly in the game. This is because for the rest of the match-up, lead jammer was not so easily attained. In fact, for the next five jams we saw both packs and jammer rotations test the water (also known as lines and pack definition).
Next on the line was Shorty vs. Rogue Runner, which saw Shorty dash up the line for five unanswered points before the jam was called.
The crowd was cheering indiscriminately and at a loud level. Especially as Brawling demonstrated a star pass from the back of the pack, as Stef Mainey returned as the pivot from the box to the jammer McAdam’s aid. In a move much like a Harry Potter “apparate”, Stef emerged from the pack seemingly untouched and jam three ended.
This is just one example of smart gameplay to take place in the game. Timely star passes seemed a ready tactic for both Brawling and Gotham and offence seemed integral to each jam’s success.
By jam 14 it seemed liked the game was opening up – with a score in Gotham’s favour of 62-19.
But at the end of jam 16, Gotham called a (un)timely timeout, which saw Brawling smash back with renewed fight leaving Bonnie Thunders in Brawling’s pack for two minutes in jam 17.
Jam 18 also saw a whole minute without a single lead jammer call – the crowd’s reaction to was as deafening as the noise that ensued the hall during Brawling’s skate out. After thinking this game was set and potentially going the same way as the 2014 match-up between these two teams, Brawling brought it back and the half time score stood at 41-79 in favour of Gotham.
Moving into the second half, it felt like there was no stopping Brawling who had definitely found their stride. By jam five of the second period, all of London Brawling’s jammers were on the lead board and scoring. London’s packs also seemed more comfortable working in a three wall, leaving one person dedicated to offence.
But Gotham didn’t let that go unanswered and brought their offence into the game more aggressively too, and often very effectively on the corners.
Jam four of the second period was probably the standout jam of the bout, which saw both Gotham’s jammer (Bonnie Thunders) and London’s jammer (Lexi Lightspeed) get held up in the pack for a whole two minutes. A big shout-out to the crowd here who were nothing but encouraging!
The rest of the second half seemed to play out as a tit-for-tat on point scoring; the plays were becoming more aggressive, and the star passes became more frequent and with that tempers became more easily frayed. But the skill level remained classy with Captain Juke Boxx pulling out her token line work as the new pivot/jammer, and the recent Gotham transfer, V-Diva, giving everybody a lesson in backwards blocking.
By jam 14 of the second half London were hungry to close the gap between them and the visitors. To do this, they capitalised on a two-person Gotham pack, with Lexi scoring an incredible 22-4 jam bringing the scores to 106-136 to Gotham. Brawling also began to run the jams when the opposing star had been passed to a pivot, which was successful for them in terms of points differential.
With the time on the period clock dwindling and a series of timeouts called by both sides, Brawling got their final power jam of the game that saw them score 12 points to Gotham’s 1.
It was getting close – but unfortunately for London, the last jam went in Gotham’s favour seeing Bonnie Thunders score four unanswered points and the period clock stop.
The final score was 118 to 149 with the visitors Gotham Girls Roller Derby declared as the winners.
A massive thanks to Jason Ruffell for all the photographs used in this article, find Roller Derby on Film for more!