The opening game of the WFTDA Division 1 International Playoffs Columbia saw the playoff debut of the Rainy City Roller Derby All Stars of Oldham, Greater Manchester, UK as they matched up against a team that has participated in every WFTDA playoff since 2009: Steel City Roller Derby Steel Hurtin’ of Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Despite their inexperience on a Division 1 stage, Rainy City came in determined to prove that their ranking earned at Beach Brawl was not a fluke.
Steel started off with veteran Leanne Groll wearing the star. She easily grabbed lead jammer status, but Steel’s jammers wouldn’t come out ahead again until jam 9. Rainy City’s jammers Wilde, GoGo Chanel, Smack Mamba, Faye-tal Blonde, and Alex Valentine quickly put Rainy City up to a 32-3 lead while Steel jammers struggled against unrelenting defense. Penalty trouble plagued both teams’ blockers. Steel racked up 12 penalties in the first half and Rainy had 16, with Direction of Game Play being the penalty of choice for both teams.
When they would lose a player to the box, Rainy utilized walls of three quickly rotating blockers to stymie Steel City jammers. Pivots Menace and Ruthless Philly kept their triangle formation tightly-packed but mobile. Blockers Fay Roberts, Missy Rascal, and Liz Yeatman were key pieces in the laterally-strong Rainy defense. Menace and Roberts were exceptional at timing their explosive offense before returning to close gaps.
Manchester’s strong defense brought the score at halftime to 87-37 in favor of Rainy City. The halftime break was just what Steel City needed to get reorganized. According to BB Basher, the locker room conversation was “offense. All about offense, and playing more dedicated offense.” At the beginning of the second period, Steel began splitting lead jammer status with Rainy City, and in jam 8 of the half, Baranauskas put up 14 points for Steel. It was the biggest jam for Steel up to that point and only the second time in the game that Steel had a multi-pass jam.
Leanne Groll followed up on a power start by sliding past the Rainy untouched for lead jammer and 7 points, bringing Steel within 30 points of Rainy, the closest margin of the game since the first jams. Ada Bloodlace and Ally McKill organized the Steel defense and did their best to keep the walls slow. Raven was diligent about guarding lines, and Nick Rollfiliac displayed great partner work. But despite the powerful blocking, momentum slowly eased back to Rainy City after jam 10, ending Steel City’s 36-8 scoring run. Rainy City maintained control for the remainder of the game and came out ahead 175-93.
“When we found out that we had made it into playoffs, things changed,” explained Rainy City Captain Vivien Leigh-thal. “We ramped up our training, we watched SO much footage, and there’s been a lot of visualization going on. We’re a long way from home, but we’re excited to get in some great opponents and some great games.”
Rainy City climbs ahead to battle the Jacksonville RollerGirls (seed #2) today at 4 p.m. Steel City moves to the consolation bracket, where they’ll play the loser of Game 5 on Saturday at 12 p.m. EST.
Rainy City Roller Derby (#7) 175
Steel City Roller Derby (#10) 93