On Saturday morning, the Bristol Roller Derby A Team got on the bus at 8am to head from West to East to play Brighton Rockers Roller Derby in their second game of the British Championships.
On arriving at the venue, the team were shown to their changing room whilst other league members went to set up the merch stand or found their seats in the stands. We have to give a shout out to one of our skaters, Tooms, who came all the way from Bristol, on the train, lugging her cast. That’s dedication – props to you!
The Bristol v Brighton game was the second game of the day, so there was a tense wait to endure. Most of the players took the chance to watch our hosts, the Seaside Sirens, take on Royal Windsor Roller Girls. Delta Strike headed over to the merch stand to get her hair done. This is not on our usual list of services offered, but we’re pretty dedicated to fundraising!
You might already know that the Bristol v Brighton game was nail-bitingly close, to the point where passing out was the only way to cope with such a tension overload.
After the skate-outs, Delta Strike was first on the jam line. Brighton got lead but couldn’t make much of it, so the game started with a 1 point jam. This was the same kind of margin that had Brighton and Bristol fans alike gripping their seats later in the game.
After a few jams, Brighton pulled away after making the most of a power jam, with a score of 23:3 to them. The Bristol walls were pretty solid to the point that the power jams to Brighton looked like incredibly hard work. Til Thrillster equalized with a 2 minute jam, during which her technique can only be described as ‘smashing her way through’. It was fantastic to watch, and the scores were starting to even up.
“Bristol 3 woman wall a force to be reckoned with” – tweet from @BritishChampsLive
You’re damn right it is!
Bristol took the lead about halfway through the first period when Ophelia Pain jammed against The Mighty Mighty Bash, who found herself skating to the box. The jam ended 38:35 to Bristol Roller Derby: this was a lead that they wouldn’t give up for the rest of the game.
The highlight of the first period, for me anyway, was seeing Til break through the pack with ease and then realise one of her skates was untied. Rather than call the jam or panic, she just coasted on one foot round the track while she re-laced it. Before you knew it she had completed her scoring pass, picking up 5 points.
The penultimate jam of the period saw Lil Miss Bloodlust get the lead over Gin Atomic, bringing the score to 108 to Brighton’s 61.
The final jam of the period saw The Blizzard, Raven and Til all sitting in the box, leaving a power jam for Brighton with Velizeraptor and Liv Fast defending for Bristol. Brighton opted to hold back and leave their jammer to it, which would seem like a sensible idea. It wasn’t: those two were holding so strong that Brighton could only pick up 8 points before the clock ran out, and the jam was whistled to a close with a score of 108:69 in Bristol’s favour!
The first period of the second half was good to watch, as we saw Bristol settle into their game and put into practice the tactics that the coaching team had been drilling into the whole league.
It’s also worth mentioning that Bristol Roller Derby crowd team are winning at cheering these days. Super loud and super proud!
“Bristol fans winning the crowd here today in Essex today!” – @BritishChampsLive
The same can be said for the game against London Rockin Rollers, when they out-cheered LRR fans on their home turf! It might be advisable to pack ear plugs for the game Bristol are hosting in May because it’s our 5th Birthday as well AND WE’RE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT! B-R-D! B-R-D! B-R-D!
Anyway, back to the game. Period 2 began with a real show of force from Brighton. They’d clearly spent the break discussing their tactics and how to reclaim the lead. Gin Atomic was jamming and stormed out on the whistle. Brighton managed to inch the scores closer with The Mighty Mighty Bash wearing the star and pushing the score to 112:102, still in Bristol’s favour.
There was then a particularly exciting jam with Bloodlust sporting the star for Bristol. She managed to absorb some really big hits from Brighton, whilst The Blizzard showed off some great 1 on 1 defense. In the next jam there was some jammer on jammer action, which is always great to watch, and gave Delta the chance to push Bristol’s lead to 24 points clear of Brighton.
Next up we saw Ophelia Pain enjoying a power jam. When The Mighty Mighty Bash rejoined her on track, Raven and Silva stopped her in her tracks, driving her off the track. 155:125 to Bristol.
A few jams later, Bristol forced a cut on Gin giving Blood a POWER JAAAAAAM! There was some great offense from her team mates to clear the way and they were ready as soon as Gin hit the track. Gin made contact with a solid wall made up of Vile Shadow, Liv and E-Z and promptly bounced off it. The jam ended just after a star pass to E-Z who was then sent to the box!
With everything still left to play for, Brighton started the next jam with a power jam, with the score at 170:147 to Bristol. The penalty box for Bristol started to look a bit busy, but they still held Emma back. The jam went the full two minutes and Brighton picked up 10 points, working to close the gap between the two teams with only 10 minutes left on the period clock.
As The Blizzard left the track having fouled out, Bristol took the chance to have an Official Time Out.
This was where things started to get really tense. There were less than 10 minutes on the clock, and not many points in it. There were 2 official reviews in 5 minutes, the second being when the point differential was at a mere 20. Both teams wanted the win, and both were really pushing themselves. The jammers gave each other very little room when completing initial passes and the walls were strong and aggressive.
Blood took a big hit when she was up to jam, but Silva took a bigger one with play being stopped. She was up after a short while, no doubt stunned by the force with which her head hit the ground; it might even have been audible in the stands. A stark reminder to love your noggin and treat it to a good helmet like Silva does. She gave a cheeky bum wiggle and the Bristol screaming contingent let out a sigh of relief.
With only 4 minutes left on the clock, Firey, Shadow and Liv dealt out some beautiful hits. In fact both teams had really upped their game; there was a frantic energy, but play was still tight. 230:197 to Bristol!
I pointed out that Blizz had taken her skates off, so it’s only fair to mention Liv Fast found herself in the same position. However her exit was so discreet we can’t be sure how many jams it took for the crowd to notice…sly!
The final jams might have been some of the tensest roller derby I’ve seen, not least because there were two of them! The score was at 220:193 to Bristol. In the first, Delta took the jam line but Gin got lead. Hearts were in mouths – there wasn’t enough of a gap in the scores. Delta gave up very little track and was determined to match point for point or force a call off. The jam was called at its height when Vile Shadow went down. Luckily, after a short while she was back on the bench and looking better. The refs decided to have ANOTHER FINAL JAM.
Through partially closed eyes I saw Brighton get lead – nooooooo! The scoreboard said 224:205 to Bristol, damn it was close. Til picked up a cut track giving them a power jam……it was all too much! Brighton edged closer in points….argh! Then after a painful 30 seconds, which must have felt a lot longer for Til, she was back on track. Brighton had been clocking up points and when the whistles were blown the scoreboard said 227:223 to Bristol.
The scorekeepers were kept busy doing some serious double checking. I would not have enjoyed taking on that role. Well done to Boi Wonder from Bristol Roller Derby who did, and managed to avoid accidentally letting out a cheer – very professional!
After a painfully long wait it was official: Bristol Roller Derby took the win with 227 points to Brighton Rockers’ 223. Sighs of relief exploded into cheers. It was a hard fight all the way to those final whistles, but Bristol Roller Derby A Team fought to the end. Wow guys, just wow…
Roll on May when they take on the Portsmouth Roller Wenches on our home turf and celebrate Bristol Roller Derby’s 5th Birthday. We’re really excited to have some of the founding members still with us and ready to skate on the day. Tickets on sale soon – keep an eye on the Facebook event page!
– Hard N Sharpe