The last time these two teams met, the obvious smack talking and bee-related jokes that happened made the lead up to the event quite entertaining to watch develop before the game even happened. After the New Yorkers proved that they indeed could be taken down at Champs last fall, there was no smack talking required this time around as tickets sold out in record time to see the London and Gotham rematch.
If you weren’t one of the lucky golden ticket holders or simply were far, far away from the action, you would have accessed the game, like I did, via the livestream in crystal clear HD. Or nearly, because you know the internet’s never entirely predictable. And boy was it worth the watch!
This time in a game tensed with defensive focus, the two teams kept their big hits to the most effective moments, and reined themselves in for knock outs and recycles. Play also featured dense, scrum-like starts that enfolded around jammers who pushed into the middle for their track advantages. The points went to lead jammer holders predictably, with many of the points coming from brief gaps in walls that jammers profited from, and plenty of leaping, darting, and apex jumping taking place.
After both Gotham and London started with a much more team-focused intro than we’ve usually seen from them, they assembled on the track for the first jam as ‘Turn Down For What’ played in the background – Goffum’s usual skate-out song previously. Whether it was this anthem that spelled out the potential for their domination, we will never really know, but Gotham certainly seemed to take it that way.
This was a game in which the world got to see V-Diva with her new league and see how the Team USA skater fit into the Hive Mind. A star jammer for Philly in the past, she has taken on the role of pivot with Gotham, which makes perfect sense as she rapidly paired with Bonnie Thunders, grabbing the star as needed and living up to the ‘alt jammer’ status that position has taken on.
Bonnie Thunders started the game jamming against Lexi Lightspeed. When Lexi took lead jammer status for London, Bonnie set the tone for their pairing by passing the star to V-Diva in the pivot cover – almost as though they’d expected it. A narrow squeak-by of scoring later, the game started off 1-0 in London’s hands, suggesting this game had the potential to go very differently from the last time they’d met.
Total focused silence from the crowd greeted the start of the second jam. Gotham first took ahold of the game lead at 5-1, followed immediately by a lead jammer claim for Bonnie into the third jam, where she cleaned up with 8 more unanswered points.
A London lead status for Master Blaster was greeted with cheers, but Vicious Van Go-Go chased her up the back of the pack so fast that the jam was left at zero points for either team. This started a trend in which London’s lead jammer grabs were repeatedly less productive than Gotham’s, despite Gotham clearly trying to stick to the ranged four wall, leaving the middle weakened.
By the time the second quarter locked in, the score was at 45-19 on the board with Gotham in the lead, and a 4-2 blocker advantage on the track. By this time, Gotham seemed to have adapted their defensive strategy and regrouped into braced three-walls. This forced London’s jammers into pushing up the middle, much like they had done earlier while searching for weakness, but Gotham was still able to wear them down with tap outs and draw backs repeatedly.
Gotham took a team timeout with 7 minutes to go in the first period, which was a relatively new thing for a team who had been sparing on timeout usage during much of their five year reign. Following that, there was an immediate London jammer lead for Lexi Lightspeed who was by far the most effective jammer against the New Yorkers. This was hardly the way a team would hope the game would go after their own timeout, so that lead claim was responded to with reactive blocking by Gotham, as they were caught on the defensive.
After almost a full minute elapsed in the final jam of the first period, Lexi claimed lead and came around the track unimpeded to take points. Meanwhile London blockers repeatedly recycled to trap Gotham on the initial pass, and even a star pass to V-Diva wasn’t enough to earn them points. The game entered the halftime break at 79-41, with Gotham holding the lead.
The second half saw Bonnie once again setting the pace, but only a 5-0 grab for Gotham made it clear it was going to continue to be a low-scoring game. A 4-0 hit-it-and-quit-it addition in the next jam for London seemed to confirm this, but then a 16-5 jam in London’s favor after that suggested that the game might be shifting.
Jams started to lengthen as the game came into the 10th minute at only the 4th jam. Tight defense made it last the full two minutes with the Gotham jammer only making it out of the initial pass for lead jammer status in the final seconds. The crowd made it clear who they were most supporting, as the London leads were being rewarded with loud cheers and claps.
But from then on, Gotham successfully added points in small increments, while London’s were rarer with more conservative point scoring. The ‘scrum start’ became common place, with jammers taking quick release moments from blockers to leap through and break for lead and points.
When a full-length jam awarded 22 points to London’s Lexi Lightspeed, Gotham took a team timeout even though they scored a little in reply. A couple of jams later, Vicious van GoGo’s jammer penalty handed London’s Master Blaster the chance to score, and the crowd waited on the edge of their seats to see if this might be one final upward push for London.
With only minutes left and a large gap to cover however, London wasn’t able to bridge it. The game was tense into the final jam, and Gotham won the rematch 149-118. Although the final result was the same as the last time they played in similar circumstances, the ‘London Bridge’ was set up by the waiting crowd instead of the usual high-fives, giving the home team more hearty congratulations for their performance than conciliatory sentiments.