Look out America – Brighton rocked as Bruisers hit their stride

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SPORTING conquests always conjure up enduring memories – a glory goal, a wonder try, a derby grand slam against all the odds.

For the clash between Glasgow Roller Derby’s Irn Bruisers and Brighton Rockers it arrived with a crashing thump midway through the first half.

One of the visiting players – Mistress Von Uber Vixen - found herself airborne after a perfectly-timed take-out by Chemikill Hazard – returning to earth, helmet first, in a dazed heap off the track.

If it had been a ‘Tom & Jerry’ cartoon you would have seen bluebirds circling the Rockers’ head.

That in itself would have made Mike Tyson wince, but it’s not what made it such an enduring image - it was what happened next.

Mistress shook her head, took a deep breath and then … rejoined the fray.

Courage, bottle, guts, defiance – call it what you want, it was breathtaking to see, and it encapsulates one of the things that sets derby apart as a sport.

It’s the burning spirit in your core when your back’s against the wall, you and your team against the world – the fire that makes you take hit after hit, pass after pass, block after block – continuing on despite muscles that scream for mercy, when every breath feels like you’re inhaling fire.

Glasgow Roller Derby have got it to a woman and so do Brighton Rockers.

A packed ARC gave the far-travelled English team a rousing Scottish welcome on Saturday – no room for petty parochialism here – and after the buzz of the skate-out, the action was underway.

Jam one saw Marshall Lawless wearing the star for the Bruisers and she and the blockers knew they were in for a game almost right away as Brighton put up a strong wall.

But Lawless has a Terminator-like tenacity, taking hits and keeping going, and when Vixen was sin-binned for Brighton, it was a power jam and a perfect start for the not-so-mellow yellow. The Marshall got the Bruisers off to the perfect start – racking up 20 points.

Into jam two and speedster Hardcore Prawn was on scoring duties, battling Brighton jammer Rose Bleed. Every Rose has its thorns, as the song goes, and the Rocker showed her spiky side as she dodged through the pack despite the attentions of Devil’s Advoskate - taking lead jammer. But Prawn was hard on her heels, forcing Rose to call the jam off with just four scored.

The third saw Rogue Runner jamming for the Bruisers, while Shambolic was aiming to get Brighton back among the points. Rogue took a hefty hit early doors, but was straight back onto her skates and eager to go again – a blur of perseverance and courage.

Good work by Mazzy Chaos and Cara Viola held Shambolic back, allowing Rogue to break free and when Sham was sin-binned, the Bruisers had another power jam. It was down to the Brighton pack to put the brakes on the Runner, but Rogue seemed to just melt her way through their defences – brilliantly adding another 21 points to give the Bruisers a 41-5 lead.

Lawless lined up against the formidable presence of The Mighty Mighty Bash in jam four and wasted no time in claiming lead jammer, brilliantly tip-toeing around the outside despite blocking by an awe-struck Chariots Sophia (great name). The Marshall added another sizzling six before calling it off as the Bash juggernaut bore down on the GRD pack.

Jam five matched Prawn and Rose Bleed in a fascinating clash of lithe athleticism, and neither disappointed as they duelled at high speed. Brighton claimed their first power jam of the game when Prawn was penalised. Chemikill Hazard – aka the Girl with the Giraffe Tattoo - did her best to stop Rose, knocking her off track and then skating back to hold her up and buy Prawn time, with Whiskey Galore and Megan Hyndman also adding steel to the defence.

However, the Brighton Rocker raced around the track – a turbo-charged vision in blue – giving her team nine points before calling off the jam with Prawn still in the bin.

That meant Brighton started with a power jam in the sixth, but when jammer Sophia slammed into the back of Lucky Hateball and Love Hurts, it was Chariot wheeling her way into the penalty box, while an energised Prawn was let loose with a power jam of her own.

The Hardcore Bruiser lived up to the team’s name as she took bruising hit after bruising hit, never slowing, never giving up. With Love, Hate, Mistress Malicious and Splat running interference and helping to scatter the Brighton defences, Prawn took Glasgow into a 60-14 lead.

Jam seven matched Rogue and Shambolic as the jammers, with the GRD’s femme fatale brilliantly taking the inside line and lead jammer status. Sham was hot on her heels though and when Rogue found herself on the deck she called the jam with one more point in her pocket.

Brighton claimed a trio of points in jam eight thanks to Sophia, with pressure from Lawless forcing her to call it off sharpish – 61-17.

Prawn sported the star for Glasgow in jam nine, with Mistress Von Uber Vixen stepping up for Brighton. She perhaps regretted that decision as Hazard sent her crashing off track right in front of the crowd – eliciting gasps of empathy and admiration.

Mistress later confessed she heard her helmet hit the ground first and you could see her shake her head as if to clear it before returning to the fray, where Hazard promptly knocked her off track twice more – skating back 20 feet on each occasion, with great bridge work by her fellow GRD defenders.

Mistress was probably looking behind her when she was leaving the venue, fearful of continued attention from her highly-skilled nemesis in yellow and black!

Meanwhile, Prawn was taking a bit of treatment herself, sandwiched between Brighton blockers, but squeezing her way through. She was a kinetic blur of star, skates and skill, adding another 16 points to the GRD tally – 76-17.

Jam 10 saw Rogue penalised for the Bruisers, with Rose rocking a power jam. Despite sterling work by Mistress and Viola, Rose dodged and weaved her way around the track to claim 15 points, but by then Rogue was out of the sin bin and among the points herself – 85-32.

‘Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble’ by Ant and Dec was the soundtrack as jam 11 got underway and it was appropriate – both for the title and the fact that the pack quickly hit the deck in a tangle of limbs and skates. Sham escaped the melee and claimed lead jammer for Brighton, but pressure from the ever-excellent Lawless forced her to call it off with just one point scored – 85-33.

Jam 12 saw Glasgow’s Megan line up against the formidable presence that is The Mighty Mighty Bash and the Brighton Rockers were handed a lifeline back into the game when Meg was penalised for cutting track – a power jam for Brighton.

Love, Splat, Mistress and Devil tried to hold back the Brighton jammer, but she was in no mood to slow down – thundering her way through again and again. With Meg back out, Bash called it off with Brighton right back in the mix – 85-56.

Into the 13th and Rogue took the star for Glasgow, while Rose Bleed was trying to keep the Rockers in the hunt. It was Brighton who claimed lead jammer when Rose shimmied her way through the pack, however, good work by Hazard and persistence from Rogue saw her call off the jam with four scored - 85-60.

Jam 14 welcomed Lawless and Sophia back as jammers, with the Marshall spinning through the pack, helped by Splat on pivot. Great work by Lawless saw her call off the jam as she hurtled into the Brighton blockers and claimed her 14th point – 99-64.

Prawn and Shambolic were duelling for points in jam 15. Tough blocking by Hazard and Mazzy kept the Brighton jammer under lock and key, with Prawn ghosting through to take her team to 107 points.

Jam 16 reunited Rogue for Glasgow with Rose for Brighton, with Rogue taking four points, but Rose also scoring for Brighton – 111-68.

Lawless took the star for the Bruisers in the 17th, while Chariot Sophia jammed for Brighton. We all know that a big hit of whisky can knock you legless, but so can a big hit from Whiskey Galore – as Sophia realised as she found herself on the ground and staring at the ceiling of the ARC.

The Marshall takes no prisoners and she showed no mercy as she added another 20 points – 131-68 – before ending the jam in the sin bin.

The final action of the half began with a power jam for Brighton and the jet-heeled Rose claimed a grand slam, before a freshly-released Lawless struck back with three points of her own – making a half-time score of 134-73.

The second period started with Hazard jamming for Glasgow, while Shambolic wore the star for Brighton. The Bruiser battled her way through the pack despite good work by Dr Whooligan, with the long-limbed Glasgow gal claiming a grand slam.

Good defensive work by Mona Rampage, Viola, Whiskey and Mazzy meant the Brighton Rocker couldn’t get rolling and she was eventually sin-binned as frustration crept in.

Hopes that the Bruisers might take their foot off the gas in the second period quickly faded as Hazard broke through the pack again and again, aided and abetted by Whiskey and the other blockers – notching up five grand slams to make the score 159-73.

Marshall Lawless claimed lead jammer for Glasgow in jam two, notching up five points, but the bout came to an abrupt end when Shambolic landed awkwardly after a legal challenge from Splat.

That meant a stoppage to allow Sham to get medical help (latest update, she was released from hospital later that night and was hardcore enough to make it to the after-party – that’s derby).

Major kudos to the skaters, medical staff and crowd for being so patient – and a massive ‘get well soon’ to the talented Sham.

Credit also to Helliverance and Liz Thrilla on mic duties, who kept the crowd entertained throughout the stoppage and during the match (with Liz in particular showing that repeated viewings of ‘Dirty Dancing’ do pay dividends).

Jam three saw a depleted Brighton try to regroup (they were now down to 10 players due to injury) and Dr Whooligan stepped up, with Lawless back as jammer for the GRD.

The Marshall wasted no time, easing past Derby McGee on the inside, putting distance between her and the pack, where Devil, Splat and Mistress ensured Dr Who couldn’t escape. The Doc eventually broke out, picking up four points, but Lawless had already racked up another 13 for Glasgow – 177-77.

Into the fourth and the soundtrack was apt - ‘Danger Zone’ from the ‘Top Gun’ soundtrack – as Rogue and Rose renewed their jamming duel. Rogue squirted through the pack, laying claim to lead jammer and putting down the yards with fluid, flowing skating. Meanwhile, Mazzy, Viola and Hateball formed a ‘Wonderwall’ to keep Rose locked down and Rogue added another eight points – 185-77.

Jam five saw Megan take the star and the challenge of jamming juggernaut Bash for Brighton. Bash’s number is 888 – the old Ceefax number for subtitles – and if she had a subtitle, it would be ‘you best get out of my way’. Sure enough, Bash banked three points to make the score 185-80.

Lawless and Sophia were the jammers for round six of the half and with tiredness and lack of troops playing a factor, Sophia was sent to the sin bin for a cut track violation and Lawless took full advantage of the power jam, escaping Hairy Fairy and Racey to add 15 points and take Glasgow onto 200.

Into jam six and Prawn took the star for Glasgow, with Sophia still in the sin bin. The Brighton Rocker was soon free though and with Bash and Fairy holding back Prawn, she was crowned lead jammer. There were no points scored though as Prawn lived up to the 88mph on the back of her uniform and put on enough pressure for Sophia to kill the jam – 200-80.

Adversaries Rogue and Rose renewed their jamming joust in the seventh, and Rogue came out on top this time, taking lead jammer with Rose blocked by Mazzy. Rogue pocketed another 10 points to put Glasgow onto 210.

Jam eight and Meg stepped up for Glasgow, with Bash jamming for Brighton. And it was the Rocker who took lead jammer and her team onto 86 points. Good pressure by Meg minimised the damage and it was surely a lost cause for Brighton at 210-86.

Nevertheless the far-travelled derby machines from Brighton refuse to throw in the towel – still gamely battling on.

The ninth brought Rose back into the fray for Brighton, with Lawless jamming for the Bruisers. The Marshall edged this round, scoring two more points – 212-86.

Hardcore Prawn reclaimed the star for Glasgow in jam 10 and was anointed lead jammer in short order, calling off the jam after scoring another brace – 214-86.

Jam 11 pitted Hazard against Sophia as both tried to add to their team’s tally. Sophia battled past Viola and was declared lead jammer, but could only score a single point before pressure from Hazard forced the Rocker to hit her hips and call off the jam.

Into the 12th and Rogue continued to juke and dodge, finding gaps that didn’t seem to exist in the Brighton ranks. In one thrilling move she virtually danced her way through the pack with splendid assistance from Splat – 236-87.

Jam 13 saw Lawless on the scoring beat for Glasgow and Rose for Brighton. It was the Rocker who sneaked her way through the pack this time as Lawless was held back by weight of numbers and then sin-binned, with Rose racing her way to two grand slams – 236-97.

Dr Whooligan returned to the track for Brighton for jam 14, which started as a power jam, but Lawless was quickly out of the traps and the Doc could only pinch four points – 236-101.

Jam 15 welcomed Prawn and Sophia back as jammers, with the Brighton skater taking a single for her team – 236-102.

Jam 16 was arguably the best in the whole game as Splat took a bow as GRD jammer, up against Bash for Brighton. It was a masterclass from experienced skater Splat as she carved through the pack – seemingly defying gravity as she wove, twirled and juked her way through the shell-shocked Rockers. She recorded a super six grand slams to take her team onto 266 points – the biggest single score of the day – and all done with a smile on her face.

Hazard wore the jammer star for Glasgow in the 17th, adding another point while Mazzy did great work to hold back Brighton jammer Rose.

The 18th developed into a power jam for Marshall Lawless and she dished out her own brand of derby justice with tough, strength-sapping skating, to add another 25 points to Glasgow’s tally – 292-104.

Jam 19 and Prawn was back amongst the points for Glasgow as Rose false started for Brighton and started at -1 lap. Prawn scored nine for Glasgow, breaking the magic 300 barrier – 301-104.

Rogue Runner was the GRD jammer for the 20th and last jam - ducking, diving, stopping and accelerating to dart through the pack and score another eight for Glasgow.

The final score was 309 to Glasgow and 111 to Brighton.

It was a brave effort by the Brighton Rockers, but the strength in depth of the Irn Bruisers squad is awe-inspiring. Ultimately, their combined experience, stamina and skills were just too strong on the day – a day that saw Glasgow close to their very best.

For Brighton the future is promising. They have a squad of spirited, talented skaters and can console themselves with the knowledge that they never gave in and battled to the last – overcoming the loss of one of their skaters early in the second half.

For the Irn Bruisers, the future is Stateside as they eye up the mouth-watering challenge of the East Coast Derby Extravaganza in Pennsylvania – their next official bouts.

On this form, it will take a very good team to stop the Irn Bruisers, who look ripped and ready for the challenge – just imagine what kind of awesome they will unleash with another two months of practice under their belts…

America, get ready – the girls of Glasgow Roller Derby are preparing to fly the flag for homegrown derby and it’s going to be a joy to behold.

MVP for the GRD was Mistress Malicious, with Hazard crowned best blocker and Lawless best jammer.

MVP for Brighton was The Mighty Mighty Bash, best blocker was Mistress Von Uber Vixen and best jammer was Rose Bleed.

Irn Bruisers:

Very Hungry Splatterkiller, Rogue Runner, Lucky Hateball, Whiskey Galore, Mona Rampage, Marshall Lawless, Hardcore Prawn, Mistress Malicious, Love Hurts, Devil’s Advoskate, Cara Viola, Chemikill Hazard, Mazzy Chaos and Megan Hyndman, with Jackash (bench manager) and Haberbashery (line-up).

Brighton Rockers:

Cake or Death, Chariot Sophia, Derby McGee, Dr Whooligan, Enyo Face, Hairy Fairy, Mistress Von Uber Vixen, Racey Slam Hard, Rose Bleed, Shambolic and The Mighty Mighty Bash, with Mass Janeycide (bench manager) and Maude Fondeo (line-up).

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