SRDL Assassins vs VRDL Queen Bees, 28th October 2012

Derby on a Sunday morning - it's almost a religious experience, even with the bleary eyes of someone who'd spent a late night after witnessing NSW's first full-length merby bout and a match between H.A.R.D and S2D2 out in Windsor on the Saturday.

Side-effects notwithstanding, it was simply not possible to miss what was to be an energetic duel between Sydney's all-star team The Assassins and the travel team from Victoria, VRDL's Queen Bees, taking place at Sydney Boys' High School in Moore Park.

The echoes of 'Holy-Crap-OMG' still ring in the ears of many who witnessed SRDL immortalise a 3-point triumph over Canberra at The Great Southern Slam finals back in June. Throwing this red and black powerhouse into the pot with the travel team from Australia's champion league, was sure to result in a fiery bowl of derby deliciousness.

First Half

After the usual warm-ups and introductions - which included an entertaining Super Mario Brothers-themed tune for the Assassins - the first half launched with Tiger Tantrum for the Queen Bees weaving around Sideshow Ho for lead. Meanwhile, SRDL's Bacardi Bruiser was briefly held up by Victorian blocker Gilli Pepper, but she soon caught up and put enough pressure on Tiger for her to call it with 0 points on either side. It was the first of many 0 point jams to come!

Several short, snappy jams followed which saw the Assassins Winnie Bruise and then Bomb Jones both take lead jammer status respectively. Each SRDL jammer snatched a quick couple of points before calling it off, opening an early lead of 5 - 0 for Sydney. It wasn't until Tiger Tantrum returned to the jammer line that the Queen Bees put 2 points on the board - but she called it off a little too late, which allowed Jet Lethal to actually take 3 for herself and grow that lead slightly.

Miss Chivas put in an intimidating, aggressive jam to try and catch up early - pushing past Paddy Whack for lead jam, while Winnie Bruise was delayed by some solid blocking by Bebop-a-Lula. The Victorian had her sights set on a 4-point 'hit-and-quit' jam, but only got 3 when a ref called a no-pass-no-penalty.

The packs were rolling along quickly as Bella Bomba got her chance to even the score for the VRDL, but she was sent to the bin for a track cut. Bacardi Bruiser quickly called off the jam after taking 3 points, ensuring the next line-up would begin with a fresh jammer in a power jam immediately. This paid off grandly for SRDL, as Bomb Jones darted beyond the reach of Gilli Pepper and Bianca Sciarretta and wound up with a big 18 points, answered by only 1 point for Bella Bomba after she returned from sitting out her penalty. The score now stood at 29 to 6 for the Assassins, 9 minutes into the first half.

A few quiet jams later, Jet Lethal encountered difficulty from seasoned VRDL blockers Candy Rocks and Bebop-a-Lula who successfully and efficiently pushed her out of bounds on at least one occasion during her power jam. Jet advanced the home team another 9 points to a total of 40. Squeezing in another quick jam, Winnie Bruise added 4 to this before calling it as VRDL's jammer was about to be released.

Although being early days in the game, SRDL had opened with a significant, persistent lead. VRDL would have to re-calibrate and be extra careful to avoid incurring many further penalties, as their blocking contingent were certainly capable of holding SRDL's offense so long as they were on the track. Unfortunately, though, the next jam saw 3 Queen Bees sitting in the box, including jammer Tiger Tantrum, while fresh Assassin jammer Slayher Kinney enjoyed the track almost unopposed, despite best efforts from Gilli Pepper.

Exchanging 5 points to either side in the next two jams, Chivas was rostered on again with the star. She belted into the pack in characteristic aggressive style but met stiff opposition from Heartemisia (formerly named 'Torture') and debut skater Stacy DC who sent her careening out of bounds on a turn and then recycled back into the pack. It was then that SRDL suffered a sudden upset: the referees issued Jet Lethal a penalty and she was off to the bin. The first power jam had opened itself up to VRDL, and Chivas went straight to work, bounding forward with an enormous 20 points that suddenly put the travelling team back in the game at 34 to the Assassins' 57. SRDL quickly called a timeout, perhaps in an effort to stifle any momentum that the Queen Bees might have been experiencing from this opportunity.

But the next jam opened with Jet still in the bin, and Tiger Tantrum was determined not to lose this one. Shooting around Great Bolz O'Fire with her typical agility, she cycled across the track for her scoring pass. Jet Lethal returned, but struggled behind Alex in Chains who was determined to keep her locked down. Tiger ended up calling the jam with 8 points before Jet could score. Bella Bomba followed by outpacing rival 'Bomb' Jones, and soon the board read 57 to 46 - leaving VRDL trailing only 13 points behind. Were we beginning to witness the dawning of a Victorian revenge after a slow start?

The clock began to run down on the first half after jammers on each side slipped through the packs and chased each other for a series of nil-scoring jams. SRDL's Heartemisia, Stacy DC and Sideshow Ho displayed some exceptional strategy for isolating individual VRDL skaters and trapping blockers such as Betty Fight and Perky Nah-Nah from joining their teammates in a wall. Tiger Tantrum was sent off again for another track cut, and the crowd watched the Assassins roll out strategy typical of a power jam, with Bomb Jones juking her way through remaining Queen Bees on multiple scoring passes around a slow pack - ultimately adding another 14 points to the SRDL side. The Assassins would persistently edge further in front with smaller increments until half time arrived, and the score read 79 to 46.

The most resounding fact echoing from the first half was the unabated confidence of the SRDL Assassins. Right from their casual warm-up, one couldn't miss a certain self-assuredness despite all the historical conquests laid down by their adversary. In this concluding bout for 2012 in Sydney, here was a vitalised SRDL with a huge year's lessons under their belt, and a prologue, perhaps, of the pending new year's achievements to come.

As the second half was about to be underway, a penalty-tracking NSO who confirmed this observation, stating his opinion that 'this was like a different SRDL' than seen in recent games. The force and confidence of this team seemed to catch even the locals by surprise, which spoke volumes about just how bad the Assassins wanted this win.

On the flip side, no-one could doubt the formidability of the Queen Bee line-up, considering its veteran players (particularly blocking superstars Betty Fight, 6ft Hussy and captain Bianca Sciarretta) as well as new recruits such as Tiger Tantrum and Perky Nah-Nah who had recently performed superbly in home bouts back in Melbourne. Brand new skater Quick Brown Fox was also proving to be a serious jamming weapon herself. But it was arguably the penalties that were hurting the visiting team, and they were currently on the back foot of some very clever strategic plays by the Assassins who were resetting the line-ups at any opportunity for fresh power jams.

Second Half

The second half kicked off and I'll admit I missed the first few jams due to mutual distraction between myself and the afore-mentioned NSO. Naughty! Fortunately you can catch up on the actual game via the recorded footage that is online. Anyway, what I do know is that the first jam began with no VRDL jammer, yet several short-burst low-scoring jams were introduced before the fourth jam saw Betty Fight and Perky Nah-Nah laying down the law against Bomb Jones. Also during this period, VRDL snatched 9 points, which included a natural grand slam after some efficient work finding gaps in the inside SRDL wall to slide through.

Penalties continued to damage the Queen Bees as Death Biffo enjoyed a good jam after avoiding 6ft Hussy's best efforts. Bomb Jones returned and outpaced VRDL captain Bianca Sciarretta, but collided with Bebop-a-Lula who landed a big hit on the SRDL jammer. As Bomb Jones fell, the referees decided that Bebop had blocked outside of the Engagement Zone and she was sent off. The score stood at 92 - 59. A lot of work would be required of VRDL to close the gap in the next 20 minutes.

After more tense 0 point jam action, Miss Chivas returned to take lead against Great Bolz O'Fire while Perky Nah-Nah was sent off for blocking to the head. Paddy Whack dropped a huge hit on Chivas who had to call it after 2 points. Next up was Winnie Bruise, who shot out past Tiger Tantrum after Sideshow Ho forced the VRDL jammer back behind the pack. Not many points were scored, but plenty of penalties were racked up, and soon we saw a 'micro-pack' of only 2 blockers from each team on the track. This resulted in another slow start to the next jam to use up the clock, and in fact the scores were almost at a stand-still for a while before gradually incrementing a few on either side.

As the score read 98 to 62, Bella Bomba came out to try and make use of an opportunity while Winnie Bruise was sent to the bin for a back block. She would have to do her best in a full 2 minute power jam as she had not obtained lead status due to minors - but she lost the chance after cutting the track herself. This released Winnie Bruise, who was tackled by Candy Rocks and Bianca Sciarretta, but they could not hold her for long. Slipping past Alex In Chains and Perky Nah Nah, she grabbed 9 points and took SDRL into the century mark at 107, while VRDL trailed at 71.

VRDL upped the ante to try and close that gap as 12 minutes remained. Some quick jams saw Tiger Tantrum and Chivas grab 4 points here and there, but the Assassins jammers such as Bacardi Bruiser, Winnie and Jet were able to keep the pressure on by successfully catapulting past the Victorian defense, thus intermingling those advances with several 0 point jams.

The quiet, slow advance of the VRDL Queen Bees, concluding with a sudden surge by Quick Brown Fox after 6ft Hussy took down Bomb Jones, soon meant that only 17 points stood between the two forces. The local team soon called a time-out to regroup and carefully plan out their next moves, as it had been a while since they'd put any significant points up.

Faces were grim on the players as several intense jammer-on-jammer battles took place, before the strong walls of the Assassins forced a track cut on Quick Brown Fox and another power jam to Slayher Kinney. This was exactly what the Queen Bees didn't want - determined to prevent a runaway conclusion, the blue-and-white blockers steeled themselves in the pack and Slayher decided to call after 5, meaning the next jam would also be a power jam for SRDL as Quick Brown Fox remained in the box.

Bianca Sciarretta did a great job of pushing jammer Great Bolz O'Fire off the track, while Alex in Chains and Betty Fight dragged her all the way to the back of the pack to take more time off the clock. This allowed Quick Brown Fox back into the game, who attempted to race through but was spectacularly intercepted by Stacy DC who sent the VRDL jammer careening almost into the suicide line between the second and third turns.

As Great Bolz O'Fire was issued a high block and her fourth minor, it was up to Quick Brown Fox to try and escape this strong defense and take advantage. As the VRDL jammer tried again, Sideshow Ho delivered the same punishment issued earlier by Stacy DC, and an outside pack ref also almost tasted stadium floor because of it. Time was of the essence! A tired looking Quick Brown Fox pushed herself around the track, and despite continued trouble from Sideshow Ho, managed to collect 10 points. Finally, both teams were over the century mark at 120 to 102. A decent-sized power jam could easily change the conclusion of this game, which was only 1:30 (and probably one jam) away.

Indeed, the final jam began with Miss Chivas on the line and a full VRDL contingent on the track. Great Bolz O'Fire was still in the bin alongside fellow blocker Bomb Jones, but not for long. Chivas scooted past Husky Hellhound and Sideshow Ho and out the other side of a blazingly fast pack in anticipation of a scoring pass. Meanwhile, Great Bolz O'Fire was already back on the track and performed a daring juke around Alex in Chains to be in hot pursuit. Suddenly, as Miss Chivas re-entered the pack for points, she cut the track and was sent off, clearly (and audibly!) frustrated. Heartemisia went to work in an effort to dismantle the Queen Bee pack, as Gilli Pepper scuffled with Bomb Jones. The SRDL team were not going to let an opportunity slide, even right down to the final seconds, and they slowed the pack right down as Great Bolz O'Fire wound up with a solid 14 point power jam. This took the game to a glorious end for Sydney, with a win of 134 to VRDL's 106.

Final Score

SRDL Assassins 134
VRDL Queen Bees 106

What a tense game. There were moments throughout both halves when only a single power jam could have taken this battle to a draw, overtime, or even a down-the-the-wire single-point victory for either team. However, in this case it wasn't to be: the pulse of derby beats to a different rhythm at every single bout. On that Sunday, it was beating in step with what is clearly a rapidly-improving Sydney league who never gave up the lead they obtained. A fierce Victorian line-up, however, ensured that SRDL had to stay vigilant to keep ahead.

See the Queen Bees return to the historical home turf of Puckhandler's Stadium in Reservoir, Victoria, where they'll take on the Perth West Coast Evils on November 3rd! Tickets are on sale now at Moshtix.

These excellent photos were, as always, by Beeetle, and the full album can be found here.

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