Last weekend, Kent Roller Girls headed to Southend’s Garon Park Leisure Centre for a bout that had plenty of speed, physicality and above all, a healthy dose of nostalgia. The Seaside Sirens had hosted KRG’s very first contest as a league; the home team then named the Heartless Beaches and the away team cloaked in black, the predecessor to their current shiny gold majesty.
Whilst KRG were looking to build on their performance at Tattoo Freeze in January, the Sirens had spent 2013 in transition and headed into their first clash of the new season looking to open this year with the proverbial ‘bang’.
The All Stars dominated the first period. With three KRG skaters sitting in the penalty box during the first jam, Force Ten Gail took deadly advantage, weaving past her beleaguered opponents to score. In the blink of an eye, the home team had opened up a 24-0 lead.
Kent’s jammers faced fierce resistance in the pack over and over again; even some sublime sideways skating from Fleetfoot Mac not enough to earn lead jammer status, the talented Ella Gnaw posting more points for the Sirens. In the end, it took sheer persistence from April O’Steel to put KRG on the scoreboard, absorbing a barrage of hits whilst the Kent pack superbly pinned the opposition to the outside. The Sirens still led 39-13.
After tremendous recycling from Whizz Skid kept the hosts at bay and a spirited power-jam defensive series looked like sparking a recovery, yet more penalty troubles led to Force Ten Gail stealing a grand slam before the whistle.
Make no mistake however, there was still plenty of fight from the girls in gold, including wonderfully aggressive jamming from Diagnosis Maul’er to earn well-fought points, but dreaded penalties were proving their undoing. The trio of Force Ten Gail, Ella Gnaw and the effervescent Killer Bite each added to what was quickly becoming an unassailable margin.
Although Force Ten Gail deservedly broke the century-mark for the hosts, the first period did end on a positive note for Kent. First Acid Trip’s explosive combination of upper-body strength and solid skating yielded results, before the nippy April O’Steel clawed back a few more points. The break followed KRG’s most tactically satisfying jam, Whizz Skid’s excellent offence from within the pack allowing Demi Lition to punish with an omniscient dart to the inside. The Sirens led 124-41 at the half.
As we resumed for the second period, the bout hit a curious lull, with the Sirens adding to their lead in tiny increments and KRG searching for their second wind. Force Ten Gail was proving a danger every time she took to the track, and although Acid Trip again dominated with a physical jam for Kent, the jammer in blue was hitting the pack like a hurricane.
Despite her outstanding play and the stoic nature of the Sirens’ pack, momentum slowly began to shift in the direction of the determined away side and belief steeled their every effort. Demi Lition capitalised on a power-jam opportunity, shortly followed by the duo of Acid Trip and Boot’em Khamun using their varied jamming skill-sets to scythe away at the margin before them. Alas, a comeback was not to be.
After a jam in which more bodies littered the track than were standing, play centred by Diagnosis Maul’er’s ferocious attacking, the irresistible Force Ten Gail and speedy Killer Bite wrestled back control of the bout.
Events somewhat fizzled out in the closing stages, both teams undoubtedly giving everything they had but perhaps subconsciously accepting the result. There was one bright moment from Ann I Hilate, playing in her final game after three years with KRG, using spider-esque blocking and derby intelligence to force a jamming cut-track. Acid Trip also cemented her exceptional jamming display, piling on more points during a late power-jam for Kent. However, it was left to Killer Bite to bring the curtain down on a 233-125 victory for the Sirens.
For Kent, the vital lessons learned and the valiant second-period display mean far more than the final result; they’ll look to regroup ahead of facing the Dolly Rockits in late March. Meanwhile the Sirens, who fully deserved their victory, will look to carry the confidence that comes from winning into the rest of their 2014 campaign. For this reporter swept by nostalgia, this bout more than anything, showed just how far both leagues have already come.