PORTLAND, OR – Victorian Roller Derby League and London Rollergirls have a shared championship history that goes back to 2014 in Nashville, TN, where London won 173-142. That game marked the first time two international teams faced off at a WFTDA Championship. Victoria and London also met during the 2015 WFTDA Championships, where they played for 3rd place, making today’s match up the second time that these two teams have competed for the bronze.
Last season, Victoria was ranked #4 in the WFTDA and London was ranked at #3. VRDL won that game, 122-99, claiming 3rd place at Champs. Victoria experienced some penalty trouble early on in that game and garnered 7 jammer penalties by game end, earning a total of 26 penalties overall. Despite this, VRDL’s lead jammer status sat at 51.4% to London’s 48.6%.
Since these teams first played each other at champs in 2014, their rankings have changed. And this is the first time that VRDL enters this match up with a higher ranking, #2 in the WFTDA, than London, who is currently ranked #5.
Both teams have similar styles of play, defined by strong bracing powerquads and tripods that are able to rotate quickly to catch opposing jammers even as they cut from the outside to the inside line, but both teams took a few minutes before they were able to maintain their respective formations despite meddling from opposing blockers. Victoria steadily collected points thanks to earning a majority of the lead calls (66.7%) added to their defense’s ability to hold London’s jammer apart from their pivot, often delaying and sometimes successfully preventing the star pass. Victoria ultimately defended their bronze medal, with a win over London of 198-108.
After taking a hard hit in last night’s game, Rogue Runner seemed to have made a full recovery and escaped for the first lead status to draw first blood, putting London ahead after the first jam by 3 points. Christy Demons got things started for VRDL with a lead call and two full scoring passes, making it an 8-4 jam for Victoria after London passed the star to escape the pack, but that jam put Victoria in the game lead.
In the third jam, Giles collected points as Victoria’s blockers fell away, incurring penalties. Despite the short pack, Victoria was able to effectively contain London’s jammer for an extended time – featuring the work of Bianca Sciarretta, as she held the jammer at the top of the pack with strong backwards blocking before swinging her shoulder to knock Master Blaster to the outside. Strong one on one defense at the top of the pack for Victoria held London to 0 points.
During the first 10 minutes of play the packs were moving faster than both teams typically play, however, soon both teams found the strength of their formations and were able to lock down their respective opposing jammers – trapping them in tripods at the top of the pack and bottom. Unfortunately for London, while pivot Stef Mainey was bridging VRDL was able to hold the jammer just out of reach for a star pass, and were able to knock out and reset London’s jammer multiple times before she escaped.
The next jam saw VRDL take full advantage of a double power jam by Rogue Runner that extended into the next jam. Before Giles was able to grab lead, she was sent to the box, allowing Rogue Runner to pick up lead out of the box and add 9 points to London’s score, 46-16 with 15 minutes left to play in the first half.
The second quarter of the first half saw both teams settle into their respective styles of play. Victoria formed and maintained their power quads – with the exception of the start of jams, when Mick Swagger was often spared to mix in with London’s wall to provide immediate offense for VRDL’s jammers. London passed the star quickly when needed to give Kid Block, Juke Boxx, and Stef Mainey the opportunity to force their way through the braced walls.
London wasn’t able to complete the star passes as soon as they would have liked because their pivot was often at the top of the pack, forming part of the tripod that was holding Victoria’s jammer back, while their jammer fought to break through Victoria’s tripod with the star in hand.
The last 5 minutes of the half featured more of a swarming style of play from both teams, especially near the jam line, that resulted in a slow moving cluster of blue and pink jerseys lasting until turn 1 before a lead designation would separate the team’s walls into their respective formations.
Lady Trample earned double penalties in the penultimate jam of the period, but just after Trample was whistled off for her second penalty Master Blaster was given a penalty of her own, ending the jam at 86-39 in VRDL’s favor with just 1 minute left. Christy Demons closed the half with an apex jump that brought VRDL to 95-39.
The second half opened with Giles and Rogue Runner jamming against one another. Once again, Rogue Runner was out first for London but this time was only able to pick up 3 points for London before having to call off the jam. The second jam of the half featured another star pass for London that did not result in points, but it did force the call off after only 5 points for Victoria. Short jams with rapid call-offs started to look like they might be the new normal.
In her first turn as jammer, Trisha Smackanawa was quickly sent off for a forearm, allowing for a quick 5 points for VRDL and a powerstart for Christy Demons. After returning to the track, Smackanawa was dropped back repeatedly by Bianca Sciaretta and Lorrae Evans before finally pushing through the pack, bringing the score to 123-42 after 10 minutes of play.
Rogue Runner picked up the first lead jammer status for London in 5 jams – the team had substantially and crucially fewer lead claims than Victoria, at 17.6% to their 76.5%. That jam turned into a power jam for London but Swagdalene was out of the box and through her initial pass before Rogue Runner could escape the pack.
At 16:49, Victoria failed to field a jammer, which resulted in a defacto two-minute power jam as London ran it for all it was worth. The star was passed to Stef Mainey who tiptoed up the outside line to add to the jam total of 15 for London.
A few jams later the penalties racked up on both sides, leaving just 2 blockers for each team on the track, and so, though awarded lead status, London chose not to call the jam but instead pass the star to Mainey in order to clear the box. The jam was whistled over at the full two-minute mark, putting the score at 152-73 with Victoria holding the lead.
Shortly after, Lexi Lightspeed claimed lead, but lost a wheel, which caused her to fall. In order to pass on points-scoring, Lightspeed had to stand to legally pass that star to Kid Block, before she left the track with just under 5 minutes left in the game. Though Christy Demons had not yet completed her initial pass when Lightspeed lost her wheel, by the end of the jam it would have been better for London to call the jam at that point rather than forfeiting lead to extend the jam, which ended 13-13 with no differential advantage for either team.
A powerstart for Victoria’s Super Maria, who took on jamming for the first time in this game, began with a pivot line start that allowed Maria to work up to a sprint before she hit the pack. The strategy worked as VRDL earned a quick lead call and raced through multiple scoring passes.
Lexi Lightspeed returned to the track to jam for London in the final jam, against the jamming talents of Mary Swagdalene. Both were trapped in tripods of opposing blockers and knocked out and recycled multiple times before Lightspeed was finally called off on a penalty – ending the game in a brief power jam that helped VRDL earn a final lead call and saw Victoria wait for the clock to expire before calling the jam and the game. Victorian Roller Derby League won the bronze medal, 198-108 over London Rollergirls, repeating their victory from last season.