PORTLAND, OR – For three years in a row the Rose City Rollers and Gotham Girls Roller Derby have met each other in the final game of WFTDA Championships. 2014 ended in heartbreak for the Wheels of Justice by losing to the Gotham giant by three points, but then they enacted revenge the next year when they took them down by 11 points. Gotham has remained at the top of the WFTDA rankings however, and Rose City came into this tournament at #3 with their only loss this season coming at the hands of this weekend’s 3rd place team, Victorian Roller Derby League.
Yesterday Gotham played a very evenly matched semifinal game against London but with a slight edge in the second half, New York took them out 189-163. Rose City finished out the tense day with a thrilling game against Victoria where the Wheels of Justice came from behind in the last jam to beat VRDL 155-152. Those games began the excitement that would carry through to the final day and Rose City didn’t disappoint their hometown fans with yet another comeback victory and second consecutive Championship win against Gotham, 186-166.
The stress and excitement seemed to come through on the track with a messy first half and penalties coming in clumps. A patient Bonnie Thunders earned the first four points of the game, but with Sexy Slaydie and VanEssa ‘V-Diva’ Sites in the box, Rose City started the next jam with the pack advantage. Scald Eagle got Rose City’s first four points, but with a fast and loose pack, ShortStop was able to add three more to Gotham’s total for a score of 7-4.
In the third jam Licker*N*Split nearly escaped the pack first but was recaptured by OMG WTF and ‘V-Diva’, allowing Bonnie to get lead status. Rose City’s Jes Rivas returned to the track to try and lay a hit on Bonnie, but she spun out of the hit as she sped down the inside line for four more points. At 11-4 in Gotham’s favor, they spent the rest of the half pushing the game lead just out of reach of Rose City as the Wheels of Justice built and lost momentum with their penalty count.
Loren Mutch gave up the first power jam of the game with a forearm, a popular penalty of the night, and losing lead status the jam went two minutes. Sandwiched between Rivas and Quigley, Miss Tea Maven earned a forearm of her own, but she met Mutch back in the penalty box after Loren earned a cut. By the end 10 points went to Rose City and 9 went to Gotham. Another jam ended split 10-10 after Scald got lead status while the strong blocking duo of Jessica Chestnut and Rivas forced Bonnie into her own forearm penalty. By the end of the jam however, Scald was in the box with a track cut.
Most of the first half, Gotham started at the back with more of a flat four-wall while Rose City alternated between a braced triangle start with one offensive blocker, or split into pairs to disrupt the Gotham wall. The split start worked for Scald Eagle several times but with all three jammers in their rotation taking a turn in the box, Gotham went on a 28-0 run to bring the score to 78-32 with ten minutes left in the half.
Rose City got a bit of momentum back with a braced triangle pinning Bonnie down and Mutch picked up 11 points, followed by eight for Licker*N*Split when Vicious van GoGo cut the track while held up by Brawn Swanson. With the pack slowed down during power jams, Rose was able to single out opponents to break up and allow space for the jammer. The jam ended with Vicious standing with one second left in her penalty, and in the power start Quigley aided Scald to lead status but Gotham kept her to four points with a star pass to ‘V-Diva’.
Gotham worked through their jammer rotation with an emphasis on Bonnie and ShortStop, with Miss TeaMaven and Vicious van GoGo added in. Rose City seemed to have a hard time blocking ShortStop, and while she added nine more points to Gotham’s total, Licker passed the star to Chestnut. While fighting in the braced triangle of Envy Atoms, Elicia Nisbet-Smith and Sarah Gaither, ShortStop fell and her helmet popped off in the chaos. Rose City used their official review to ask for an illegal procedure on ShortStop due to an equipment violation, but the referees decided it was due to natural game play, thus no penalty.
It started to feel like Gotham was taking control of the game at 94-61, but then ShortStop earned her first penalty of the tournament season with a forearm and Scald Eagle swooped in for multiple grand slams. After ShortStop returned, WOJ blockers caught her one at a time and forced her into a track cut, allowing Scald to end the half with a 20-point jam and closed Gotham’s lead to 97-81.
Things picked back up for Gotham in the second half, and they added 24 points over seven jams while Mutch was the only one to earn lead status and scored five points in total. Four of those were scored while Brawn, Rivas, and Chestnut held onto Bonnie, but ‘V-Diva’ and Mutch seemed to be racing each other in run backs at the back of the pack. Slowed down by Sexy Slaydie and Bonita Apple Bomb, Mutch called it with just one scoring pass and the score was at 110-86. After a grueling jam for Bonnie, ‘V-Diva’ took the star and gained a quick lead status and even quicker four points. She continued to be a vital part of the hive mind, whether as a blocker or taking star passes, but that was the only time they fielded her as a jammer from the start.
Gotham’s scoring run brought their lead to 121-86 with about 2o minutes left in the game before it was Scald Eagle again who brought Rose City back into contention. Her powerful jamming put up 17 points, despite a high block, and nine points to Gotham put the score at 130-103, New York still leading.
Rose City broke up their three-jammer rotation with Frisky Biscuits, but with Rose City blockers making rounds to the penalty box, Bonnie was able to score 16 points before a WOJ star pass to Tarantula could help end the jam. Scald picked up the momentum a few jams later with lead status and letting the jam run long, she put up 13 points to Vicious van GoGo’s eight bringing the score to 154-116.
With ten minutes left in the game, penalties were taking their toll on both sides, and Gotham was forced to sit Violet Knockout for the rest of the game after accruing six while Rose City’s side sat Tarantula for the middle part of the game, but she was back on the track to end the game. Things slowed down in the pack and Mutch fought against a Gotham tripod and a little assistance by Hannah Jennings helped her escape between turn one and two. She continued on a scoring spree while her blockers held onto ShortStop who hadn’t made it past the pivot line yet. By the jam’s end, Mutch added 17 and brought the game within 19 points.
Scald Eagle and Loren Mutch did back to back jams to add a few more points but then one big 21-point jam by Scald got Rose City ahead for the first time in the game by eight points. Gotham took their last timeout with their official review remaining while Rose City still had two team timeouts and their review. The home crowd went wild as Licker got lead status in the next jam and she waited for Brawn to get out of the box before calling it off and setting Rose up for a 4:2 pack advantage for the next jam.
With the Wheels of Justice pinning the two Gotham blockers at the start, Mutch got a quick lead but was followed by ShortStop. With the game lead and time on their side, Mutch let ShortStop score, but after getting held up in the pack she passed it to ‘V-Diva’. This had been a successful strategy previously, but Elicia Nisbet-Smith, Sarah Gaither, and Quigley effectively rotated their triangle to hang onto ‘V-Diva’. After a 18-4 jam, Rose City led 184-162 with about a minute left in the game.
With the small lead, it would seem that the next lead status would make or break the game for either team and as Scald Eagle emerged with it the crowd went crazy. Scald’s bench told her to wait out the period clock, and in a repeat of the Jacksonville and Minnesota game, the crowd counted it down and Wheels of Justice skaters started celebrating on the track even though the jam hadn’t actually ended. Bonnie skated to her team on the bench, and then everyone realized the game hadn’t ended and she earned a skating out of bounds penalty as the final whistles sounded.
Gotham used their review to ask for an unnatural end to game play, which if successful, it could have yielded another jam at the discretion of the Head Referee. (Section 188.8.131.52). It was deemed that the skaters on the track did not excessively affect the game, and Rose City took their second victory over Gotham, 186-166.
Be sure to return to 2016 WFTDA Champs Central for more recaps and score updates.