World Cup Day 4: One big upset (no, the USA still won…)

With Team Scotland cheering from the stands, Scottish roller derby was still represented on track on this final day of the tournament. Both of our Scottish referees, Ella Bella Bang Bang and Cherry Fury, were officiating at many of the jams today; Cherry Fury refereeing the semi-final in particular.

First up in the day’s schedule were the semi-finals. With the dominant USA facing a strong Australia, no-one expected the latter team to win; including, apparently, Australia themselves. Playing a roster which didn’t include some of their better players, in order to save them for the 3rd place play-offs, Australia couldn’t compete with a hard fighting USA, losing 532:4; at least partly due to giving away a few too many power-jams.

The second semi-final was always expected to be close, England and Canada both sporting members from teams ranked in the WFTDA Eastern Regionals. Both teams have truly exceptional jammers (Iron Wench,Georgia W Tush,Luludemon for Canada, Stefanie Mainey, Jack Attack and Kamikaze Kitten for England), and the defence in the packs was somewhat heated because of it. With the first period closing at 78-51, with England closing in on Canada for most of the second half of that (team coach Ballistic Whistle has a habit of watching his team for the first third of a period, and then calling a time-out to adjust their strategies for victory), it seemed entirely possible for England to pull out a win. After a tight first 10 minutes, ending with Georgia W Tush leaving the track with what turned out to be a broken clavicle, the second period did seem to be narrowing Canada’s lead once more; only for an unfortunate set of penalty issues for England, culminating in a last-second track cut major for Kamikaze Kitten, handing Canada the perfect chance to pull their lead ahead. While Stef Mainey did take the final jam of the bout, even she couldn’t turn the tide; Canada won, 161:90, proceeding to the final.

In the playoffs for 5th/6th place, favorites Sweden found Finland a surprisingly tough rematch; both teams picking up a significant numbers of penalties. While Finland managed to maintain a small continuous lead, Sweden never really let them extend it, Ankefar and Mad Malooney taking just as many lead jammer calls as the Finns’ Udre and Kata Strofi. Unfortunately, with Sweden’s captain Swede Hurt having to work extra hard in the pack, she fouled out for the final quarter of the second period, and Finland took advantage, slightly extending their lead to a final victory 126:100. So, with the biggest upset of the tournament, the #10 seed took #5th place in the tournament proper, Sweden settling for an almost as impressive #6th place ranking.

The playoff for 7th/8th place was almost as close, France playing New Zealand in a very tight first half that saw the scores even at 46:46 around a quarter of the way through the bout (Axl-Slash-Her and Miss Metal Militia pulling the NZ score up after an initially strong French play). Thanks to some great jamming from Francey Pants and Dual Hitizen (on a power jam), France managed to pull ahead by the end of the first period, 88:62, despite a last minute resurgence by NZ again. In the second period, NZ continued their fight back, almost erasing France’s lead in the first 10 minutes, before a complex power-jam with Axl-Slash-Her and Francey Pants trading places in the penalty area removed their momentum. The second half of the period saw some excellent French pack work and jamming pull their lead ahead again, capping it with a 20-point power jam just outside the final 5 minutes. While NZ never stopped fighting, they couldn’t recover from that disadvantage, losing the game 180:129. So, France ended the tournament ranked 7th, NZ settling for a solid 8th place.

With a pause in proceedings to rearrange the venue, opening up the partition between the two tracks to allow maximum spectating space for the 3rd place playoffs and final, the crowd was entertained by Mens Roller Derby legend Quadzilla demonstrating his famous jumps, managing to leap over 9 prone volunteers in an impressive display of athleticism.

With the track rearranged, it was time for the 3rd place playoffs, England vs Australia. As is usual, England started the first period poorly, Australia managing to score 44pts to England’s 15 before Ballistic Whistle pulled his traditional first time-out restrategising. Armed with a tuned tactical plan, England returned to the track dominant, improved blocking strategies letting Stef Mainey and Kamikaze Kitten take lead jammer almost instantly in their next bouts, while keeping Australia’s ShortStop locked up (and in the sin-bin). All of the English jammers managed to pick up points over the rest of the first period, bringing the score at the end of the first period to a strong 116-62 (even if Vagablond managed to get herself ejected from the bout for gross misconduct). While Australia fought hard in the second half, especially when England started feeling their traditional high penalty rate bite, great work, especially by Kamikaze Kitten, kept their lead intact. England closed out the bout 198:85 to take a well deserved 3rd place spot, Australia taking 4th.

Of course, the big event of the day was the final, with the local crowd hoping that #2 seed Canada might be the one team capable of causing the USA pause. As it was, the USA opened the bout in their typically dominant fashion, Atomatrix taking a 15point jam while Canada desperately tried to break their own jammer through the pack. With Canada feeling the loss of star jammer Georgia W Tush, it was left to Luludemon and Iron Wench to crack the solid US defence; Luludemon finally pulling out Canada’s first score of the bout during a power-jam from Suzie Hotrod – such was the strength of the opposition that she had to fight the entire way just to pick up 5 points. With the demonstration that it was possible, Iron Wench repeated the performance without the assistance of a power-jam; with no more scores from Canada in that period, it ended 178:9 (still the strongest performance against the US from any team in the tournament).

With a second power-jam for Luludemon in the second period allowing the Canadian jammer to show what she’d learned the first time, the Canadian score doubled to 19 points in a single jam, with Iron Wench and Luludemon continuing to pick up points throughout the period. Of course, there was no stopping the USA either, with Suzy Hotrod, Tannibal Lector and a host of other Derby Names pulling out big scores for their team. With the score ending 336:33 to the #1 seed, it was an unambigious win for the home of Roller Derby; but a notable success for Canada too, scoring more points against the US in that one bout than had been scored in the entirety of the World Cup to that point.

So, the final rankings were:

1 USA

2 Canada

3 England

4 Australia

5 Finland

6 Sweden

7 France

8 New Zealand

9 Germany

10 Ireland

11 Scotland

12 Brazil

13 Argentina.

The colour coding of the list is intended to represent the general grouping of ability, based on the closeness of bouts between teams. Within a colour group, if we replayed the World Cup right this moment, I would expect at least some of the teams to change their ranking by one or two.

If a World Cup was held in two to four years’ time, I think the entire field below 4th place would be open to complete rearrangement (Brazil and Argentina’s main issue being their lack of experience, rather than anything else). Within the top 4, I could see the ordering of 2nd,3rd,4th change as Canada, England and Australia all improve over time. I suspect the USA would still win 1st place, but with a significantly reduced majority.

All that remained was the handing out of the medals; Australia obtaining the “Down Under Cup” for best performance in the southern hemisphere, the top three ranked teams all getting their relevant medals. And, of course, the medals for the Team MVPs for the tournament:

Sargentina (Argentina), ShortStop (Australia), Nanda (Brazil), Iron Wench (Canada), Kamikaze Kitten (England), Kata Strofi (Finland), Francey Pants (France), Heavy Rotation (Germany), Zola Blood (Ireland, also not present to pick it up!), Skate the Muss (New Zealand), Marla Mayhem (Scotland, after some exceptional jamming), Swede Hurt (Sweden), Joy Collision (USA)

Tournament MVP went to Canada’s Smack Daddy.

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