This Sunday (9th August) sees the British Champs Tier 2 South season reach its crescendo at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath. In most divisions there’s often nothing to play for on the final day. Here in T2 South there’s *everything* to play for. Three teams (Royal Windsor, Bristol and London Rockin’ Rollers) are vying for two playoff places, whilst another three (Brighton Rockers, Portsmouth and Seaside Sirens) are fighting to stay in the division – two of the latter trio will be relegated to Tier 3. We have a full preview of Sunday’s action, with predictions plus quotes from all six teams taking part, further down this piece. We begin though with a look at how things went in the previous T2 South Game Day, also in Haywards Heath, last month…
People have said we often concentrate more on a venue’s beer selection in these reports than on the actual roller derby. Whilst we don’t think that’s the case, WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THE DOLPHIN CAFE TODAY? Usually it has a selection of bottled ales and lagers, and although these will run out during the day, there’s always at the very least a few ciders or Bacardi Breezers left at the end. Not today. The first game hasn’t even started as we bound up to the bar. “What fine ales do you have, o Yeoman of the Caff?” we ask. Blank look. “What beers are you selling?” A shake of the head. “Lager? Cider?” More head shakes. “What alcohol do you have?” Our server gestures to four bottles sat atop the fridges. Two miniatures of white wine, one of red wine and one Smirnoff Ice. Our faces drop at the realisation this is all they will be selling today. Then drop even further when we realise these aren’t a display of the drinks they stock, these *are* the drinks they stock. Just these four warm (no-one thought to put them in the fridge) bottles. That’s it. We buy the whites and Smirnoff Ice, leaving just one 187ml bottle of red wine for everybody else in the hall to share.
MEMO TO THE BRIGHTON ROCKERS: PLEASE SUGGEST TO THE DOLPHIN THAT THEY GET SOME BEERS AND THAT IN FOR SUNDAY. NOT ONLY IS IT GOING TO BE A VERY LONG DAY OF DERBY WATCHING, BUT THE WHOLE ‘SUNDAY’ THING MEANS THE NEARBY SAINSBURY’S SHUTS AT 4PM. AU SECOURS! THANKS XXX
First up on track is the all conquering Royal Windsor versus the London Rockin’ Rollers. LRR have big playoff aspirations this season, but such is RWRG’s dominance of the division that the main aim in this game is surely to keep the differential down. LRR are just 17 points worse off than second place Bristol differential wise, but every point that Windsor beat them by here will add to that gap. The first few jams are low scoring as the two sides test out their opponent’s defences. With things standing at 15 points apiece seven minutes in, the division’s star jammer Cle-Blam-O sets to work, effortlessly driving in 20 points with Rammit picking up none in return. It’s 35-15 to Windsor, but good work from Pand’Assassin sees LRR close back to 34-42. The likes of Mimika Mayhem and DisorderLee putting in tough blocks for the Londoners, but Windsor’s jammers – particular Cle-Blam-o and Culverhouse – are super wily, and the Royals go into the break 123-83 up. That’s damn near spot on the predicted 3:2 differential.
The second half sees LRR rally. Some great apex jump sprinkled jammer outings from Rammit, taking advantage of a bigger than usual blocker penalty accruement from RWRG, and the ladies in red have closed the gap to 137-171. Star pass problems for Miss N Link put Windsor back in the ascendancy, but LRR are keeping the gap down to the 40 points they were behind at the break. They are also gaining lead jammer status way more often than anyone else has managed against Windsor in Champs, just 14-16 behind in leads midway through the second half. Culverhouse powering through again and again now, taking advantage of her low centre of gravity to dip straight through the middle of the London pack for a series of natural fives. “Let’s go London, let’s go…” chants from the rowdy travelling support, who are small in number as indeed is the crowd in general. (London Rollergirls are hosting an event in South London that has leeched a fair chunk of today’s potential audience.) Windsor holding the LRR jammers back through tough blocking from Laptalis, Hillsdon, Riley Cyrus and others. We can’t help noticing that half the Windsor squad are single named, with the rest rarely more than eleven characters. RWRG must have the lowest ‘letters on the back of shirts’ expenditure in UK derby. Von Bitch throwing hits at Cle-Blam-O left right and centre, but the Windsor jammer is through. Rollin Stone R calling a team timeout with the clock on fifteen seconds to force a final jam, and the 3:2 prediction turns out remarkably close with a final score of 296-197 (we make that a differential of 3:1.99662).
The day’s second game, featuring the hosting Brighton Rockers up against Portsmouth Roller Wenches, is a biggie. Should Brighton win they will guarantee their own survival whilst sending Portsmouth and the Seaside Sirens to Tier 3. Victory for the Wenches will make PRW favourites for survival due to having the easier final game (v Sirens). Rockers picking up a lot of defensive penalties in the early stages, with Mass Janeycide calling an early team timeout in response. Wenches sending out really tough packs here, with the likes of RIP McMurphy, Dropkick Molly and Halcyon Daze proving a challenge to pass. The Duchess of Crutches is a particular ‘last line of defence’ annoyance to the Sussex jammers, with Brighton forced into quite a few star passes over the course of the game. The Rockers are battling hard – Hairy Fairy and Chaka Carnage sturdy in the packs as Swann trades hits with McMurphy on a regular basis – but the Wenches defence is taking it out of the Brightonians. Sussex starheads looking knackered as PRW call a team timeout with a 74-26 lead. Skate Bush toughing it out well against Duchess as the impressive recent A-team addition claws some back for the Rockers. Final jam of the period is a masterclass of staying in bounds from Dr Whooligan, who shakes off tough hits to score eighteen without reply. It’s 91-56 to Portsmouth at the break.
As a line forms at the cafe – do they not know we drank all the booze? – we do a bit of maths. There’s two ways this could go. Brighton could produce one of their famed second half revivals to send Portsmouth down. Or the Wenches could hold on for the win. The latter would put these two sides level on points, with only differential separating them. At the interval the Rockers are 89 points better off on -113 compared to PRW’s -202. Every point more or less than the current 35 scoreline gap that Portsmouth win by here will add or subtract two from that 89. Each point is worth two since it’s +1 to one side and -1 to the other. Yikes! Things start out better defensively for Brighton as play resumes, with Hairy Fairy sending Nina Nunchucks to ground as the Rockers packs fight to keep Duchess out of their own jammers’ way. Gin Atomic takes advantage of a penalty call on RIP McMurphy to win the fourth jam 23-4. Rockers have closed it to 97-112. McMurphy off now with what looks like a recurrence of the nose injury she picked up in Pompey’s previous Champs game. Wenches 120-100 up with twenty minutes to go. Psyclone DestroyHer putting up some good points for PRW now, before Molly takes advantage of a power jam start to open up a bigger gap for the visitors. Portsmouth timeout as they lead 189-135. “Gin, Gin, Gin, Gin” chants from the Rockers bench – hopefully whoever stocks the cafe is listening, but they’re actually chanting for Atomic, who claws a few back. There’s not enough time left for a Rockers rally though, and the Wenches close out a 215-150 win.
HOW THINGS CURRENTLY STAND: The Rockers and Wenches repair to the beer garden of Brighton’s Hobgoblin pub for an old school after party with pot luck panties, limbo dancing, gin roulette and more. We sit in the corner with a calculator working out how things stand ahead of the final divisional Game Day (this Sunday). Essentially the Tier 2 South is now split in half. The top three could all finish in any of those positions (1st, 2nd and 3rd) with the top two progressing to Playoffs against two Tier 2 North sides in LRR’s venue, Newham Leisure Centre, on September 19th. Similarly, the bottom three could all finish 4th, 5th or 6th. Only the team finishing fourth will remain in Tier 2, with the other two sides relegated to Tier 3.
It’s fairly unlikely that Windsor will miss out on Playoffs or that Sirens will stay up, so the real battle is between LRR and Bristol (both currently on nine points) for the second playoff place, and between Brighton and Portsmouth (both on three points) for fourth place survival. If these pairs match results – eg both LRR and Bristol lose on Sunday – then placings are decided on score differential. Bristol are currently 116 differential better off than LRR, with Brighton 29 (not 31 like we maths wrong in Sunday’s fanzine) better off than PRW. What happens if two sides finish up on the same points *and* same differential? We put the question to Champs Tournament Head NSO Pettichoke, who tells us, “it’s then decided by the result when those two teams met.” This gives LRR (who beat Bristol) and Portsmouth (who beat Brighton) the edge in ties. If you understand all of the above, well done. Please can you explain it to us.
GAME DAY SEVEN @ SUNDAY 9TH AUGUST: This weekend’s event, the final Tier 2 South Game Day, is something of a first for Brighton as hosts. The first time (we think) they’ve hosted an open door on a Sunday, and the first time (we’re sure) they’ve hosted a triple header. As you’d expect, fitting in three games means a fairly early start. Doors are at 12.30pm with the first game whistling off at 1.05pm. We advise early arrival since the first game is Brighton v LRR, which is likely to be the day’s closest match-up and will also set up what the teams in the other two games need to achieve to make Playoffs or avoid relegation. Tickets are available online from the link at the bottom of this piece, priced at £12 adults, £10 students, free for under 12s. There’s also a 4-for-the-price-of-3 offer. Tickets will also be available on the door (same price, but no 4-for-3).
The Dolphin is situated seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath train station (turn left and follow the signs) and has parking out front. Somehow National Rail have forgotten to schedule any engineering work – yay! – but bear in mind that trains will be fewer and a little slower on a Sunday. There’s a Sainsbury’s (with ATMs) halfway between the station and leisure centre. The supermarket itself shuts at 4pm due to Sunday trading laws, so let’s hope the Dolphin has remembered to stock up on booze, grub and soft drinks. The after party is taking place at the
Witch Inn Sergison Arms Savannah Cafe Bar, which is around fifteen minutes walk from the Dolphin; head back to the train station and hang right at the roundabout just past the station – it’s on the left five mins down the road.
Don’t forget to pick up your free copy of our fanzine Turn Left on the door on Sunday (and mentally rewrite any reference to the differential gap between Brighton and PRW as 29, rather than the 30, 31 or 32 we wrongly state on different pages!). It includes interviews with players from all six teams, tables listing the top performing jammers and blockers on each side, a report on last month’s Eastbourne Extreme tournament which featured the Brighton B-team, and much more. We’ll leave you with the thoughts of participants, neutrals and prediction computers on all three of Sunday’s games…
1.05 PM: BRIGHTON ROCKERS V LONDON ROCKIN’ ROLLERS
WHAT TO EXPECT: Although all three of the day’s games are important ones with plenty at stake, this first game is arguably the most important as it sets up what the teams playing later will need to do. The most interesting result would be a Brighton win, as this would then set Bristol a target that they must lose by less than against Windsor (to beat LRR to a playoff place) and also set Portsmouth a target they’ll need to beat Sirens by to survive relegation at Brighton’s expense. This game looks like it could be a close one, with Flattrackstats giving LRR a 57% chance of victory and a predicted differential of 29:27. That would equate to something like a 203-189 win for the visitors, which is super close in derby terms.
DR WHOOLIGAN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS: “Shambolic is back for this one. Straight from her adventures abroad, Sham has dug out (and hopefully Febrezed) her skates and returned to the track. We also have Rose Bleed back in the pack. Skate Bush is back on jamming; she’s had an amazing Champs, jamming straight away from her first game with the Rockers. LRR are very similar to us on and off the track, and we always have a great game. We have no special tricks planned, just the aim of an empty penalty box and super strong walls to stop those slippery LRR jammers.”
MISS N LINK, LONDON ROCKIN’ ROLLERS: “We’ve lost a few skaters this year due to retirement and injury. Our captain Jack Attack is still off skates and will be leading us from the bench. We’ve played the Rockers a few times over the years. Last time was a couple of years ago, where the score was a close one. We always love meeting these ladies on track, so we’ve been really looking forward to this match-up.”
POISIN CHERRY, ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS: “Brighton has some double threats, such as Gin Atomic and Swann, who can rack up the points as jammers or form a solid wall as blockers. However, Rammit was a strong jammer when we played LRR and their walls were tough, so it will be an interesting game to watch.”
ADMIRAL, PORTSMOUTH ROLLER WENCHES: “LRR v Brighton is too hard to call. The predicted outcome is 57% chance of an LRR win. That’s a slim difference, and Brighton will not want to be relegated any more than we do.”
3.20PM: ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS V BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY
WHAT TO EXPECT: As these teams currently place first and second in the group, this game ought to provide the highest overall quality of derby from today’s matches. If LRR lost the opener, then there’s a good chance that these will be the division’s two entrants to Playoffs (battling two teams from Tier 2 North for promotion to the top flight). If LRR beat Brighton, but by less than 116 points, then Bristol will need to beat Windsor here to nip LRR to that second playoff spot. The only way Windsor could miss out on Playoffs is if Bristol beat them by 190+ points, which is highly unlikely. FTS give Windsor 85% chance of the win, and a predicted differential of 50:31 suggests something like a 300-186 win for RWRG.
POISIN CHERRY, ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS: “We are extremely proud of all of our skaters that have taken part in the British Champs and we wouldn’t be where we are now without every single one of them. Bristol have put in a strong performance in Champs and we know that they are going to be just as strong today. Their walls are tight and their jammers determined, so I’m sure they will keep us on our toes.”
SOMEONE, BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY: “Keep an eye out for Lil Miss Bloodlust who has been having a good tournament. We also have a few new players join our squad, so keep an eye out for Rip Tease, Bear Thrills, Hard n Sharpe and Lex Lethal, who may make their tournament debut. We aren’t worrying about individual Windsor players because they’re strong throughout their squad. They are a very well drilled team with strong jammers, solid walls and stinging offence. But so are we. This will be a good game!”
DR WHOOLIGAN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS: “Royal Windsor have been such a dominant team in Champs. Culverhouse is the jammer to watch – she’s so strong and has very agile footwork – and Riley Cyrus is a tough backward blocker. I think Bristol will definitely give them a run for their money though; they are hot on their heels in the table. The Blizzard knows how to run rings around the opposition.”
FORCE TEN GAIL, SEASIDE SIRENS: “Windsor have been incredibly strong in this group and really know how to take advantage with the scoreline, but Bristol have been getting stronger and stronger all year, so it really could go either way.”
5.30PM: PORTSMOUTH ROLLER WENCHES V SEASIDE SIRENS
WHAT TO EXPECT: The opening game will have set Portsmouth a target for this one. If LRR beat Brighton then the Wenches only need to win against Southend’s Sirens to ensure their survival and Brighton’s relegation. If Brighton beat LRR things get more complicated. Add the number of points Brighton won by to 29 (the advantage the Rockers had over the Wenches in the table prior to today). That’s the minimum number PRW must beat Sirens by to finish above Brighton. Seaside, meanwhile, will only stay up if they beat Portsmouth by 430+ points. That’s probably not gonna happen, especially given that FTS have this as 85% chance of a PRW win. Expected differential of 27:16 equals a scoreline such as 243-144 to the Wenches.
ADMIRAL, PORTSMOUTH ROLLER WENCHES: “We’re obviously hoping for a high scoring win today, to secure both three game points and also a good differential, but we know the final outcome will also depend on Brighton’s result v LRR. Sirens have had a tough season, but will come and play to win. We saw their game against Bristol. Despite it being high scoring for Bristol, the game also saw Sirens put 122 points on the board, which means we shouldn’t underestimate their jammers. Force Ten Gail in particular has been a strong performer for them.”
FORCE TEN GAIL, SEASIDE SIRENS: “We played the Wenches last year and I think we just scraped a win last time we met [150-147] but things have changed a lot for us, so we really don’t know what to expect. We’ll be watching out for Duchess and RIP McMurphy. For the Sirens, Who?Rae! has been on great form since returning to us earlier in the year after a tib-fib break followed by a ‘nine month injury’. She has been jamming quite a bit recently, which is great to see. Our priority is to enjoy the game and play our hardest. That’s all we can do.”
DR WHOOLIGAN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS: “Portsmouth v Sirens should be a great match-up. Portsmouth’s team has been working so hard to get to the level they currently play at. RIP McMurphy is always great to watch. The Sirens have been working hard on playing cleaner (they were down to six players when we played them) so it should be a close game!”
POISIN CHERRY, ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS: “Both Portsmouth and Sirens have a good mix of players, with Nina Nunchucks and Force Ten Gail high on the jammer performance tables. There should be a lot of skill displayed with hard hits and maybe even an apex jump or two.”
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[Photos by John Hesse]