Making roller sports history again, the Birmingham Blitz Derby Dames hosted the Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz in the first ever pan-European bout held in the UK. The bout was an heart-pounding, ever-changing competition that many Midlands fans said was the most exciting derby match they’d ever seen.
The teams consisted of abbreviated 12 player rosters, although Birmingham’s jammer Roisin Roulette soon had to remove herself from the competition due to illness, resulting in a team of 11 for most of the bout. Birmingham was also skating without two of their most experienced players, having lost Bee Sting to an injury and Sleazy Rider rider to work obligations (something has to keep us in skates!). But, the Dames were bolstered by the presence of Helen Fury – who cancelled a holiday to fill in at very short notice, jammer Tear E. Hatchet – just back from injury herself, and the debut of blocker Victoria Cross. Stuttgart Valley Rollergirls showed their own dedication to the derby grail even before the bout began, having persevered through a series of travel nightmares that extended their trip to Birmingham by 10 hours!
Scoring was close for the first few jams as the teams evaluated each other. SVRG’s Blitzkrieg Baby grabbed the first lead jammer status of the evening, but no points were scored in that jam. Early on Stuttgart showed their ease with body checks and general derby physicality, whilst the Dames started with a strong defensive strategy. Differences of opinion over WFTDA guidelines and the still-young 3.1 ruleset emerged early, and sometimes re-appeared throughout the bout, but Justine Credible fulfilled her first bout as head ref with grace and authority, calling official time outs as needed.
By the second jam, Birmingham was creating chaos as jammer Violet Attack earned the lead jammer moniker and called off the jam just as SVRG’s jammer Dolly BustHer reached the pack, Birmingham’s more experienced blockers also showed their offensive side by creating chaos with hard checks. Stuttgart’s Miss Tsunami roared into the third jam to score 4 points to Blitzdame’s 0 and by the end of jam four the score was nearly tied, at Birmingham 6, SVRG 5.
In the fourth jam Roisin Roulette jammed her first and only run, despite her condition. With the help of the Dames’s blockers to clear a path, she gained two points as Polly Purgatory scored zero. Fortune appeared to turn as SVRG’s Public Enemy initially grabbed lead jammer status and two points the next jam, but was soon trapped by blockers Kiki Kasplat (who executed one near-horizontal block)and pivot Elle Fire as Union Jack jammed for four points and called off the jam. Jam 5 was an immediate reversal as the Dames’ Tear E. Hatchet gained lead jammer, but the SVRG got the point spoils, at 4 to Dames 0. This success came at a price, and Stuttgart started jam 8 with a full penalty box. As the jam whistle blew, SVRG had one extra skater on the track, providing some confounding moments until the ref crew sorted the situation. The UK’s youngest rollergirl, Birmingham’s Gun Bunny, came out blazing to the lead jammer status in her first jam of the game despite a recent roller derby hiatus. In this close race, both teams garnered another three points.
It wasn’t all smooth bearings for Gun, however, as in Jam 16 she was the target of a full-body take-down hit from Miss Tsunami that threw both players far out of bounds, after the jam had been called off! Fortunately the medical staff checked her over and she was soon bout-fit again, and Tsunami was sent off to the penalty box after an official time-out. The Dames came back for jam 17 in energetic fashion as Tear E. scored lead jammer and four points, whilst SVRG’s Public Enemy failed to score.
Throughout the first period, and indeed the entire game, Blitzdames’ Hilda Blizzhard and Stuttgart’s Dolly BustHer showed impressive versatility in a variety of roles, from jamming to quick pack blocking strategy. Pack performance was also demonstrated by Saintly Sin of Birmingham, who showed tactical agility in defensive and active blocking roles. The Blitzdames had a more unified strategy than SVRG throughout the first period, allowing them to achieve a 19 point lead by the end of the first half, at a score of 49-30.
The Birmingham Dames were beginning to feel the strain of being a jammer down, and SVRG increased their focus to gain momentum in the second half. However, Birmingham’s line up managers, Von Bitch and Jack Attack from the London Rockin Rollers, rallied to reorganise the team through the entire second period. These honorary BlitzDames for the evening showed precision in their ability to rotate tired skaters and match skater skills to track needs. Newer Blitzdames skaters Diamondback Belle and Victoria Cross also volunteered for increased track time, both blocking actively and keeping the pack pace.
The first jam started off well for SVRG, with 3 points to Blitzdames’ 1. The next jam saw the Dames change focus to holding Stuttgart’s jammer in the pack, keeping them from scoring at all whilst Violet Attack fought her way through to still gain 4 points. SVRG’s Miss Tsunami demonstrated quick thinking and quick footwork to slip past blockers in jam 3 as the Dames were clearing a path for their own jammer. Tsunami then scored 6 points, and called the jam off just in time to allow the Dames only one point. The fourth jam was marked by confusion as Polly Purgatory unsuccessfully attempted to call the jam off despite no lead jammer. During this jam Blitzkrieg Baby showed renewed determination as took down Violet Attack. By the end of this jam Stuttgart had lessened the divide to only 9 points, at 56-47.
In jam 5, Stuttgart got lead jammer but Blitzdames’ Tear E. outscored her, with four points to Public Enemy’s three. Then, in jam 6, the Dame’s pivot, blocker 2 and blocker 3 ran a combination at the front of the pack to envelope Blitzkrieg Baby within the pack whilst Gun Bunny scored a fantastic eight points and called the jam, with Stuttgart’s jammer only managing to gain four points. This again increased the Dames margin, and was followed up with an another six Birmingham points to SVRG’s three in Jam 7 with Violet Attack facing Public Enemy, for an overall score of 74-57 in the Dames’ favour.
In the next jam SVRG’s jammer Polly Purgatory was met a solid defensive wall at the front from Birmingham blocker Helen Fury and
Union Jack-U-Up after her first pass. Polly stepped inside the track to pass the wall and this time was promptly sent off to the box for the major penalty of cutting the track. However, SVRG rallied and blocked effectively to prevent the Dames’ jammer capitalising on having the being the only jammer on the track.
In jam nine there was no lead jammer and Birmingham’s pivot was sent to the penalty box. During the long two minute jam the Dames scored zero while veteran Birmingham skaters flew to the front of the pack in a display of impromptu leadership to hold SVRG’s jammer Miss Tsunami after she scored one point. Miss Tsunami then fouled, resulting in a visit the the penalty box before the full two minute jam finished.
In jam 10 The SVRG’s jammer, Blitzkrieg Baby showed impressive stamina. Helen Fury first took Blitzkrieg out, but didn’t know when to stop and had to spend some quality time in the penalty box for blocking out of bounds. Union Jack U-Up continued the punishment by delivering a stunning block to take out Blitzkrieg Baby again, legally this time. However, Blitzkrieg still managed to gain nine points during the long two minute jam. With Birmingham ganering only three points this jam, the gap was again closing. Blitzkrieg amazingly stepped back on the track as a blocker for the next jam, but soon left for a tripping penalty. During that jam SVRG’s Public Enemy scored 2 points and strategically called off the jam before Birmingham’s jammer hit the pack.
SVRG again made a strong showing in jam 12 as Polly Purgatory took lead jammer status and scored four points to Birmingham’s zero. This made the score the closest since the beginning of the game, at 77-73. By jam 13 both teams were showing signs of fatigue. SVRG’s jammer lost focus and had to go to the penalty box soon after getting lead jammer status. Birmingham’s jammer was noticeably coasting more, and missed inside holes as she skated behind a two-blocker SVRG wall at the front of the pack, whilst a second Dame missed her pivot’s cues to stay back so that the SVRG skaters would hit 20 feet and have to let the jammer go. Several fans in the stands expressed their frustration as neither team scored during the two minutes.
By jam 14 both teams pulled out their ‘dream team’ line-ups, and the Dames again managed to widen the gap just a fraction, by scoring 4 points to Stuttgart’s 2. With the score at 81 -75 and very little time left on the clock, jam 15 also required veteran-heavy skater presence on the track. Birmingham jammer Violet Attack came out again against Blitzkrieg Baby. Knowing that if the scores remained the same it would be a Birmingham victory, Violet Attack got in front of her opposing jammer and did some amazing positional blocking preventing the Stuttgart jammer from scoring at all. Neither jammer passed through the startled pack a second time. Some of the crowd were bewildered, with Violet Attack receiving boos from the Stuttgart supporters but cheers from those supporting Birmingham. This was a fine demonstration of tactical thinking, positional blocking and the power of a properly deployed backside winning it for Birmingham (and England!), final score Blitzdames 81-75.