A tense match played in appalling conditions ends in narrow 1-0 victory for an unusually aggressive Ramblers team.
The pre-match talk surrounding this high profile clash between two conference rivals, and also contenders for the division title was around which offence was more potent? Who could outscore the other? Which team would be able to damage the other more quickly? The Gale had made an impressive start to their campaign, with victories over Leaping Lizard and the subsequently disbanded skaven outfit, The Cheese Stands Alone, however they had recently suffered a physical mauling at the hands of The Green Tide Titans, and were forced to bring in two freelance players to make up the numbers. Meanwhile, the Ramblers were picking up momentum, with a win over the gutsy Buffalorc Bills, following a narrow win over the excellent Los Pumas and a stalemate against the high elf outfit, Remember the Tyrants.
Both teams knew going in that a win would take them top of the pile of their conference, and also division, so the stakes couldn’t have been higher. The weekly show, MML Talk, pegged the Ramblers as slight favourites on form, but that the Gale had a great chance going in, with More_Shots predicting a 3-2 Ramblers win, and Preach having the Ramblers to take it by a touchdown.
On the day of the game, scrimmage regular Sniut had failed to recover from his broken ribs, so the Ramblers went in with no replacements available. More tellingly, the rain pouring in the Ironwood Grove meant that both team’s visions of a free-flowing passing game were dashed, with the ball behaving like a bar of soap and the ground being soft and slippery. This was going to be an arm wrestle between two teams not ideally suited to play that type of game, with the Ironwood audience looking nervously at the sky – they had seen their team suffer in last weeks physical battle, and whilst the Ramblers were in no way as physical as the Titans, they knew they couldn’t afford any losses. Meanwhile, the travelling Ramblers contingent were as rowdy as ever – they relished the prospect of injuries to their opponents, or indeed their own players!
As both teams lined up for the coin toss, Jim Johnson pointed out that the game would be settled by which star player would have more influence – would it be renowned ball-hawk, and Gale captain CirenCaidath, or would it be the Ramblers’ star gutter runner, Altei the Quick? Bob Bifford was quick to interject, believing the conditions would give Gale treeman Hornwood Yronbeam the chance to do some real damage to ‘those whiskered gits’, but if anybody could even hope to stand up to him, it would be Ramblers captain Rhitzh the Feral.
CirenCaidath correctly called heads, and elected to kick to the Ramblers – they would hope that the weather would break by the time the return kick came to them, and let the rodent team struggle with the ball. Almost immediately, the strategy nearly paid dividends -Skitterdash threw a flashy pass to Altei the Quick, which the latter only managed to receive at the second attempt. Ramblers coach MGiteau immediately barked orders from the touchline to cut the passes out and focus on running the ball, which his players seemed to take notice of. Altei urged his team mates to protect him on the left hand side of the pitch, however, no clear route behind the well-positioned elven defence was clear. The situation improved for the Gale when a two man blitz manoeuvre knocked out Ramblers playmaker Twitch, the knock-on effect of which was to send panic through the Ramblers ranks. A gutsy (And borderline suicidal) break by Altei and Ikit the Elusive switched the play to the right hand side of the pitch, the plan being to rely on both runners’ ability to ride tackles whilst keeping as many of the elves tied up as possible.
The next passage of play ultimately decided the game – the renowned martial artist Torafein managed to wrestle Altei to the ground, spilling the ball into the open, but against all odds, Ikit managed to make a decisive steal. Rookie lineman Lothayne attempted to get into position to funnel Ikit down the wing, but the frenzied lunge of Nizik severed an artery, ending the linesman’s game instantly, and letting Ikit run in unopposed to score in the far right corner.
The real challenge for the Ramblers would begin now though – could they withstand the rapid, precise offence of the Gale? Could any of their players summon the bravery to contain the enormous Yronwood? Rhitzh the Feral gathered his players for a pre-kick huddle, and the rodent team scurried into their standard Solid-Solid defence. Upon receiving the kick, the Gale set up an attack down their left hand side, with the plan appearing to be to release CirenCaidath behind the Ramblers line whilst the lineman battery advanced down the pitch to support. In the process of doing this though, they had somewhat overextended. Sensing an opportunity, Rhitzh the Feral gave the signal for a ‘kill-stamp’ play, a three on one assault vs a grounded opponent, with the victim Sorndeorn lucky to escape with only a brief period of being stunned. Angered at the tactics on show from the Ramblers, CirenCaidath launched a vicious kick to the chin of Ramblers stalwart Kwetzh, straining his surgically repaired neck and forcing him to withdraw – sending the normally placid elven crowd into a delirious bout of dancing and gymnastics. The game was quickly becoming a vicious, bad-tempered affair, and the crowd erupted into violence also, with the rabid, warpstone-addled Ramblers fans ripping up seats and throwing objects at their civilised elven counterparts. Taking advantage of the chaos, Twitch and Skitch pushed another of the elven linemen into the crowd, leaving him unconscious under a sea of stamps, punches and spittle.
Gale quarterback Athhenlu signalled for a switch in play – they would form a living shield behind Yronwood and try to overwhelm the Ramblers defence through sheer numbers, however it transpired that the Ramblers’ swarm defence was up to the task, with the Gale running out of time to equalise before half time.
The second half matched the first, with increasingly dirty play from the Ramblers whittling down the Gale numbers, aided by the torrential rain that was making ball play (and player welfare) a secondary factor. Another multirat assault sent Sorndeorn crashing into an advertising hoarding, where a section of frustrated Gale fans beckoned him to get up before an Ogre steward, fresh from decapitating a skaven hooligan, trod on his ankle during his victory jig – instantly crippling the elf with an injury he will carry for the rest of his career. The chatter amongst the Ramblers picked up, they knew they had an almost decisive advantage now – all they needed to do now was focus entirely on crowding Athhenlu, and leverage their numerical advantage by attempting to maim, injure or kill as many elves as possible. A tense half culminated in another of the Gale linemen, Fyala, perishing in a melee to secure a spilled ball. Medics rushed onto the pitch and tried to revive the elf using smelling salts, first aid spray and a bucket of ice cold water – as it turns out, these aren’t adequate remedies for bone fragments being directly embedded into the brain, and his body was hauled off and thrown onto the as the elven section of the crowd fell silent.
With time running out, and total numerical superiority for the Ramblers, the referee called time before any more damage to the players, or scoreline could be done, with a dejected CommieCozy of the Gale accepting the handshake of Ramblers counterpart MGiteau, before storming off the pitch. After the game, he had this to say:
“Once again, we have been undone by a team relying on brawn rather than brains – I know this is Bloodbowl, but the referees have a duty to protect teams like ours. Crowds don’t just come to see violence, they come to see exciting play, they come to see passes and touchdowns, and to be frank, I expected better from the Ramblers. Their coach has a lot to answer for. We tried to play our game today, but Nuffle seemed to only favour one team … We’re devastated, we know we’re the more skillful team, and again, we only have injuries to show for it. Our next game is against Remember the Tyrants, another team we know we’re superior to. We need to bounce back, and we need to find more players from somewhere. We need our luck to change, quickly.”
Meanwhile, Ramblers coach MGiteau was effervescent in his praise for his troops:
“We came into this game wanting to play our usual high speed game, we wanted to put on a show for the crowd. However, once we saw the rain, we had to rethink our plan. We knew the elves were slicker than us, we knew they were just as quick as we were, and man for man, we knew they were stronger than us – the only way we could win was by bending the rules as much as we could. I thought Rhitzh was brilliant today – the whole team followed his lead, whether it was on defence, screening, marking or blocking. We won this game because we were prepared to take it to a place the Gale didn’t want to go – it was all we could do. Next up, we face the Thugz of Wheldrake, a very different challenge. We’ll look to out-manoeuvre them, and we’ll look to get back to Plan A – Touchdowns.”
When asked what he said in the huddle after the only touchdown, Rhitzh the Feral responded by cackling:
“Smash-kill the elf things, no room to breathe, no room to move, no room to throw-pass, no chance to lose-lose. Only numbers, only swarm … kekeke!”
So, a tense, violent and ultimately scrappy win for the Ramblers. They will know they won’t win games long term playing this way, they can’t possibly – expect to see a very different game next week. Meanwhile, the Gale need to find some replacements ASAP, as the Tyrants will show no mercy.
Can the North Grove Gale recover? Can the Roquefort Ramblers maintain their push for the postseason? You can find out next week, live on CabalVision and Twitch TV.