MALMÖ, SWEDEN – #3 London Rollergirls had two of the most anticipated games of the weekend. Saturday morning, London barely edged past a hungry #6 Rainy City team, to earn their spot to play against #2 Denver Roller Derby that evening. Meanwhile, Denver handled #7 Stockholm Saturday morning to punch their ticket to Champs and get a shot at a number one seed in Philadelphia.
What eventuated was far closer and more of a battle than the final score of 214-102 might imply, with Scald Eagle taking on the most points jamming for her new Colorado team against the London slow grinding churning tripods of London. What some people have overlooked is that Scald Eagle is not the only Rose City transplant on the Denver team and that last year’s Champs MVP, Brawn Swanson, is a bonus to the Denver defensive line and was part of the closer for London’s fate.
The first half started as a grind. Both teams weren’t about to let the other gain the advantage, and each one was grimly determined to shut the other’s scoring chances down. A scoreless first jam, despite each jammer getting out relatively rapidly really set the scene for this game, with both teams determined to not give any quarter to the other. In the following jam, Denver fielded Scald Eagle as jammer, and as the team had clearly hoped, points went up on the board for them, giving them the first game lead. They kept London at zero as Scald added in seven points, while the Denver blockers held back Delta Strike in their initial pass.
Essentially, the combined power of Denver clashed with the grinding control of London, keeping the game within 23 points for the first 15 jams. London relied heavily on the experience of Kid Block for both offensive strikes and defensive saves at the top of the pack against Denver’s own pivotal monster, Barrett. While London’s Onyeka Igwe was downright terrifying with her lateral movement through the pack to catch the power of Gypin on the edges.
By the time the final jams in the half came through, persistent point inching was cutting a swathe for Denver, but it was a string of six consecutive lead jammer grabs for the team that launched them firmly into the lead. The final two of these occurred while Delta Strike was trapped by penalty, and Denver’s jammers used this to chalk up 14 points in each jam, spreading the differential for Denver to hold the game into the half, and indeed for the rest of the game. Halftime score finished at 97-53, Denver in the lead.
Back into the half, after fairly low scoring jams through the first half, the jams slowed down and became higher scoring. With Denver taking the majority of the lead jammer statuses and scoring with every lead gained (and only then), the upwards movement seemed inexorable.
In what seemed like it might be the last jam, with under 2 minutes remaining on the game clock, Cotten managed to eke out 10 points despite a recycling and reforming London defensive line. London’s only hope at making it out was a star pass that simply forced a jam call-off, with 210-86 on the board in Denver’s favor.
A rapid time-out call from London, with only 41 seconds left on the clock, stopped it long enough to restart the game with Rogue Runner, London’s most successful jammer against Denver, out and jamming for London. The sheer pressure of that time clock seemed to light a fire under every member of the English team on that track, especially Rogue Runner, as she clocked up pass after scoring pass. London’s defense repeatedly reformed, despite Denver’s best offensive efforts, and repeatedly knocked out and drew back Wilhelm, refusing to let them gain points.
But even that 16-4 jam couldn’t persuade the differential close enough to overturn London’s destiny, as the game drew to a close and Denver took the win, 214-102.
Both teams go on to Champs, regardless of the score, but with this win, Denver heads to play Gotham in the last game of Sunday at 6pm CEST (12pm EDT/9am PDT) for a first place tournament exit and the coveted number one seed entry into Champs. London has lost their shot at that prize and instead plays Crime City for the 3rd place exit, the game prior at 4pm CEST (10am EDT/7am PDT).