Gotham Girls Roller Derby (Madison #1) vs. London Rollergirls (Montreal #1)
London was calling, but Gotham answered and put them on hold: The Gotham Girls Roller Derby of New York, NY, USA, overcame another too-close-for-comfort game on their quest for the top spot at the 2016 International WFTDA Championships in Portland, Oregon, USA, overcoming the challenge from the London Rollergirls of London, England, UK, 189-163. Although London (Montreal #1, WFTDA #5) put up a formidable fight, snatching the lead from Gotham’s (Madison #1, WFTDA #1) clutches multiple times, the New York squad’s deep roster and stellar strategy held them through for their chance to retake the Hydra in Sunday’s championship game.
London came out full speed ahead with Rogue Runner breaking out first, poised to give London the first points of the game. Gotham jammer Bonnie Thunders quickly passed the star to pivot VanEssa “V-Diva” Sites to limit any London damage, but a penalty for cutting the track sent Rogue Runner to the box, and gave Sites a power jam to start — which she aptly dealt with, posting 13 points in the first two-minute jam to the six points Rogue Runner eked out. But a last-second penalty to Rogue Runner in the first jam gave Gotham the chance to start the second jam unopposed, which jammer ShortStop was all too happy to use for a quick five points.
Low-scoring jams dominated the early minutes of the game as dynamic jammers wreaked havoc on their packs, forcing both teams to throw any thoughts of blocking formations out the window as they tried to contain jammers who seemed to be everywhere at once. A power jam for London broke the point-trading as AnDracula jumped on a power jam opportunity for London, posting 12 points despite ferocious last-line defense from Gotham blocker OMG WTF — enough to grab London’s first lead while London’s Stefanie Mainey prevented Gotham jammer Miss Tea Maven from doing any damage after returning from the box. A fast hit-and-quit jam from Bonnie Thunders narrowed the lead to just one point, and a five-point jam for ShortStop put the lead squarely in Gotham’s hands again, 30-26. Putting Bonnie Thunders on the jammer line once again, the longtime Gotham captain worked to solidify their lead with a 12-point power jam, stopping only when a formidable wall of Mainey, Katie “Hellvetica” Black, and Kid Block held her long enough for London jammer Master Blaster to emerge from the box and threaten the score.
A power jam for London didn’t fare quite as well — despite their blockers managing to hold back Gotham powerhouse blocker Sexy Slaydie long enough to split the pack and allow AnDracula to emerge for lead, she had to fight for each of the four points she put up in the jam. But the points did start adding up, and three jams in a row with points for London brought the game’s first tie score, 42-42, just past the halfway mark of the first half. ShortStop broke that tie in Gotham’s favor by living up to her name and ducking underneath opposing blockers Die Die and Juke Boxx to escape their painfully effective defense. Bonnie Thunders continued to make derby look easy despite intimidating opposition, spinning through packs and pouncing on power jams with laser-like efficiency, busting through London’s defensive tripods with two 9-point jams. A chaotic final jam in the first half saw star passes, power jams, and even some gymnastics, as Gotham’s Caf Fiend landed in a split on the track after a sideways bump from London jammer Master Blaster in her 14-point run, but Gotham hung on 80-61 going into halftime.
If Gotham expected an easy second half, they were quickly set straight, as Rogue Runner leveraged a power start into a 28-point jam, the highest of the game, leaping apexes and opposing blockers alike. But likewise, if London expected Gotham to let up in the second half, they had another thing coming, as a two-minute leadless jam saw Bonnie Thunders post 14 points to bring the score within a single point as Slaydie sucked Lexi Lightspeed (who still earned six points in the jam) back into the pack. ShortStop put the lead back in Gotham’s hands in the next jam, somehow making it past bone-jarring blocks from Arocha that would have felled a lesser jammer. Bonnie Thunders put up another five points as OMG WTF inserted themselves in the middle of London’s defensive triangle to destroy their blocking, and was then everywhere London jammer Master Blaster wanted to be.
London was back within a handful of points after a power jam for AnDracula, but heavy defense from both teams made for rough work for both jammers and slowed the points for the last minute of the jam, and the lead was back to London in the next jam as Rogue Runner sprinted up the inside line just a hair faster than Sites or Bonita Apple Bomb could catch her, bumping the score to 113-111. Lexi Lightspeed built on that lead with a quick four points after a shrewd move re-entering on the inside line ahead of Gotham blockers already sprinting back to spot her, and managed to cling to it as as Bonita tangled with Master Blaster and pivot-turned-jammer Sites fought off Arocha for nine points, but another jam from their captain brought the game back to Gotham’s hands.
Chaotic jams kept blockers and jammers tumbling to the ground and trading small points, but a power jam for Master Blaster put the lead in London’s hands, 136-129, with the clock slipping down into single digits. Both teams deployed star passes to keep scoring runs low, with London’s Mainey and Gotham’s Sites doing the most damage for their teams. ShortStop and Bonnie Thunders inched the score up for Gotham, putting them within spitting distance of London’s lead, but it was an 18-0 jam for Sites, starting the game as a jammer for the first time, that put Gotham in a double-digit lead for the first time since early in the period, reclaiming the lead for the last time and bringing the score to 163-147. After a power jam for Bonnie Thunders earned Gotham another five points, Gotham ran what was ultimately the last jam long — despite a 16-point scoring run for London’s Rogue Runner, pushing on through an injured leg, ShortStop still put up more points and called the jam with 17, and no time remaining on the game clock for a final score of 189-163.
Gotham moves on to play the winner of Saturday’s other semi-final game between the Rose City Rollers of Portland, Oregon, USA and the Victorian Roller Derby League of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, at 6 p.m. PST Sunday for the championship. London will play the loser of that semi-final game at 4 p.m. PST Sunday for third place.
Gotham Girls Roller Derby (#1) 189
London Rollergirls (#5) 163