Photos courtesy of Jason Ruffell – Roller Derby on Film
In sport, we often hear of ‘a game of two halves’. Never was this more true than at last Saturday’s match between LRD’s Whip-its and the Nottingham Roller Girls.
It was Nottingham’s design to use the bout with Leeds in between their ‘Heartland’ games as a sort of measuring stick; to gauge where they stood in the great unknown of the Derby ranking system. While NRG have progressed a long way in the preceding year, could they leave it all on track when it really mattered?
From the very first whistle, Leeds set out their intent with strong, impenetrable walls and fleet-footed jammers. Their ‘hit it and quit it’ approach soon racked up an 18 – 0 lead by the end of Jam 5. The first jammer penalty came in jam 6 when Hell ‘n’ Back gained the lead but was sent to the box for a back block. Ferret, a recent LRD transfer, felt this was the time to throw in the first of her 3 apex jumps as NRG dug in for a full two minute jam. Nottingham finally managed to notch up some points – but LRD’s lead stood firm at 33-10.
The next five minutes saw the LRD blockers start to rack up the penalties allowing NRG to chip away and pull the score back to 41-27. Notable mention goes to LRD’s Devil Rae whose thunderous seal club on The Ruth Hurts had the crowd wincing up in the bleachers.
The next 7 jams were nip and tuck with points being traded and the odd stolen against lead. Jam 17: Louisey Rider headed off to the box for a forearm major and LRD’s lead jumped back up to 40 points. It was back to ‘tit-for-tat’ as LRD slowly eked out their advantage, repeatedly gaining lead but being closely chased by their opposing star bearer making this a low scoring part of the half.
LRD advanced their lead by 83 points but the half was rounded-out with Damndrea snatching lead as LRD’s Tripping the Velvet went to the box.
Half time, the scores stood at 123 – 56.
The second half started with NRG’s focus renewed, forcing two track cuts on the LRD jammers in the first 5 jams. With a closing gap of 143 – 112, jam 8 saw a difference of just 31 points. The Whip-its gathered strength from this early riposte and proceeded to grab lead for 5 out of the next 6 jams pushing it back to a 45 point lead by jam 15.
From here on, NRG’s ability to stay calm, clean and on track shone through – only claiming 3 penalties in the entire second half. NRG’s solid four-walls got the better of the tiring LRD jammers – resulting in Leeds points remaining static for almost fifteen minutes. Hell ’n’ Back, LouiseyRider and Damndrea pulled out 6 consecutive leads collectively bringing the score back to 163-139 with only 1:20mins left on the clock.
Damndrea stepped up to the jam line, probably hoping to just close the gap. Tripping the Velvet suddenly went to the box and the hunt for those elusive points was on. Facing some tough, determined walls, Damndrea battled through lap-after-lap, watching the clock count down and the scores creep ever closer. She called the jam with only 15 seconds left collecting a valuable 19 points. Owl (NRG’s bench) instantly called for a team time-out securing one final power jam. The scores stood at 168-167.
Hell ‘n’ Back valiantly donned the Star for the final jam knowing a quick lead and two points would secure what was thought an unlikely victory.
Five seconds, the whistle, and NRG’s blockers bridge back on Tripping the Velvet.
Hell ‘n’ Back burst through the LRD wall, hearing that all important double toot from her jam ref.
The Leeds blockers fell back, desperately trying to get their jammer out, as Hell ‘n’ Back snuck around the outside gathering the points she needed before being blocked off the track.
A furious smack of the hips as Tripping the Velvet closed in on the NRG wall.
It was the sweetest four whistle salute I’ve ever heard. It cut out across the hall like an arrow. Puncturing the home team’s hopes and making the visitors’ hearts soar.
Final score: Whip-its 168 – 170 NRG
MVP & Crowd pleaser – Damndrea
MVP – Ferret
Crowd pleaser – Sally Jones