Bath’s venue is, like their uniforms, very yellow. I wonder which came first; did they base their uniform colour choice on the lighting quality of their home venue? Choose their venue to compliment the hue of their uniforms? Neither of the above? Once our eyes had adjusted to the tone, we sought out our fellow BRDers and congregated in the suicide seating of the traditionally laid out sports hall. After quickly establishing that there was no position you can sit in on a sports hall floor that is comfortable for more than 30 seconds, we claimed our territory.
The Bath A versus Swansea B game was a relatively evenly matched affair. Interest was added by the fact Bristol’s A team was due to play Swansea’s A team in a closed game the following day, and by the appearance of our former teammate Wrecks on the Bath roster. We cheered loudly for Wrecks, warming up our vocal chords for the main event. Bath’s A team took the win, 180 to 115.
After the obligatory visit to the cake stall (I opted for a cupcake topped with a mini malteaser bunny despite the fact that I had 4 full size bunnies in my bag courtesy of Delta Strike who is an addiction enabler), Bristol’s B team took to the track for their skate out. It was an understated single-lap, pairs formation affair that I am totally stealing for the A team. The Bristol B team functions as a pool of skaters, and a spot is open to all of our female skaters not on the A team charter. If you think that this set-up makes the team transitionary or casual in any way then you would be wrong. The Bees, headed up by their fearless Captain Rip Tease and the deceptively sweet-mannered Vice Bear Thrylls, are a cohesive, driven unit, perhaps more so than other B teams who aren’t fighting it out for a roster space in such a large group. Combined with the established and experienced husband and wife bench team of HTM Hell and Thundercat Ho!, they are a force to be reckoned with.
The roster versus Bath B was a nice mix of experienced and newer skaters, with long time BRD skaters like Power Kraut and Frau POW! lining up with those playing in their first open B team game like Jennything Goes, Lex Lethal and Hard N Sharpe.
It was a far from ideal start, with Bath getting a run of lead jammer calls and a power jam in their favour, allowing them to open an early lead of 25-10. This all changed in jam 8 when Jennything Goes stepped up to jam for Bristol. The Bristol pack was a great mix of styles, with Captain Rip Tease supported on either side by the powerful combination of Knockers and PK, aided by newcomer Hard N Sharpe. Sharpe is one of those players who just looks like they should play derby. Something in the way she carries herself speaks of an innate athleticism, and I am glad we met as BRD members and not in a supermarket where I probably wouldn’t have been able to resist telling her this in a clumsy recruitment effort in the cat food aisle. Rip’s lateral movement held the jammer behind and slow, allowing PK to repeatedly hit her out and recycle. Meanwhile, Jenny went to work on the Bath blockers, aided by some timely offence from various Bristol blockers demonstrating the beautiful ballet of a well-executed defence to offence switch. Jenny is my favourite kind of jammer; exciting to watch, brave in her decision making, not afraid to test the full width of the track. The jam ended 31-0 in Bristol’s favour and with a lead change, with Bristol now with 47 points to Bath’s 32.
After a relatively muted start, this jam really allowed the Bristol crowd to warm up. We were vastly outnumbered by the home fans, but BRD are steadily building a reputation for being able to make a lot of noise with not very many people. As a write up of one of our recent A team fixtures put it, ‘As away fans in any sport go, they’re pretty damn awesome’. Gash was on tweeting duty and we decided on the # Bristolareloud. Part of me thinks it should have been Bristol is loud (something to do with the subject being singular??) but by then my grammar standards were slipping. In the end, Bath seemed to give up with competing chants completely, instead opting to add a single ‘G’ to the end of our ‘BRD’ to complete their team acronym. We were winning and feeling generous so didn’t mind them claiming 3 quarters of our chant for their own.
A Storm power jam took the points up to 79-41. I hear a lot of people in roller derby described as ‘deceptively strong’. Glossing over the fact that this erroneously implies that one’s strength is linked to their size, you cannot fully comprehend what someone being deceptively strong means until you are in a wall trying to hold back Storm. The 28-0 jam in Bristol’s favour meant that Bath were perhaps beginning to comprehend this. Pow jammed next, with Beccy, Bear, Rip and Lex making up the pack. Bear and Rip aren’t often seen on a line up together, their experience generally used to head up separate blocking packs, so seeing them block together was a rare treat. Their smiles on the way to the line indicate that they felt the same way I do when I get the opportunity to block with my fellow A team leader The Blizzard. Speaking of Blizz, the biggest compliment I can pay Beccy Blackout is that she seemed to be channelling the fearless Team Finland star, who is renowned for her ruthless chasing and pinpoint hit accuracy in what mostly appears to be the last millimetre of the engagement zone. We decided it was probably a Scandinavian thing (after E-Z Roller and I spent a good 10 minutes trying to remember the word Scandinavian). In the second half she will take a star pass and casually make the switch from blocker to jammer and score an effortless 19 points. Lex Lethal was skating with her vest tucked into her shorts, which combined with her height made her look like a 90s basketball star. Later, Thundercat Ho! will tell me that Lex reminds her of A team star Raven Lunatic who made a quick transition from B team to A team last season, and I can completely see the similarities.
The second half began with Bristol up 65-176, and Bath’s jammer rotation ever growing. They used 9 different jammers in the game in the end. This may have been the plan all along, but I rather suspect this was plan B (and C, and D) and that they were searching for a way through Bristol’s strong defence. A power jam in Bath’s favour woke up the home crowd, but they were prevented from scoring by the blocking combination of Zoom, Nitro, Bear and Tuff. Zoom is a pleasure to watch; her tactical awareness speaks of great understanding of the game and allows her to be in the right place at the right time so often that it seems to verge on pre-cognition. Bear’s positional blocking held the pack together, and well-timed hits and quick bridging forwards and backwards from Nitro and Tuff neutralised the offence attempts of the Bath pack.
Storm took the points above 200, and Brizzee added a quick 10 more, punching through the Bath walls with her strong shoulders. I’d describe her as deceptively strong if I hadn’t lamented the overuse of the phrase a few paragraphs ago. Brizzee’s 100% lead jammer record today is even more impressive when you know that she was unwell. The points began to be added at an increasing rate, with Bristol’s propensity to run the jam for 2 minutes allowing them to be racked up in impressive chunks. An official time out slowed the point scoring temporarily, with HTM Hell demonstrating BRD’s generally laidback attitude by strolling into the middle with coffee in hand. In the last 5 minutes, Pow took the Bristol score above 300 with an impressive 28 point jam, a feat rarely seen in a roller derby game, but the 5th time Bristol scored over 20 points in a single jam in this game. A Bristol jammer penalty in the final minute allowed Bath to finish strongly on a power jam, but it was too little too late, and Bristol took away a convincing away win, 127-341. The game was an absolute pleasure to watch, and it seems likely that if they continue in this vein then the Bristol Bees will be featuring in the final of the SW:UK tournament. We’ll be there to cheer them on!
– Black Thorn