Category: Match Report

Asheville Ends Clayton’s Playoff Run

ASHEVILLE, NC – This past Saturday, the Clayton Bootlegger’s season ended with a loss to Asheville in the Carolinas Geographic Union D3 Semifinals. Despite the loss, the Bootleggers end the season on a high note having reached the playoffs for the first time in club history. The surprise playoff run came in only their second season in Division III and only their fourth season in existence.

“It’s been a great season and appreciate all of the hard work put in by our players,” said head coach Rich Munro. “Asheville is a strong side and showed us where we need to be. No one expected us to be in the playoffs this season. We’ve shown what we can do and now we face expectations as well look ahead at next season.”

As expected of a playoff match, the match started off fast and furious with both sides using their forwards to commit defenders and then going wide to their back lines. The bruising Asheville pack aimed to control the match, but the two sides traded possession throughout the first quarter of the match. Both squads made trips into the opponents half only to come away without points. Midway through the scoreless first half, Asheville threatened deep in the Clayton half. Bootlegger back Ted Champman was given a yellow card for an intentional knock on. Asheville responded with two tries to stake a 14-0 lead.

With Chapman still in the bin, the Bootleggers recovered the restart from the second Asheville try and slowly moved the ball into scoring position. They were rewarded with a kick-able penalty from 30 meters out. Ed Dixon knocked it through to cut the Asheville lead to 14-3. The Bootleggers took the ensuing kickoff and again moved into scoring possession by controlling possession through their forwards. Clayton was rewarded with another kick-able penalty and Dixon provided the points to cut the deficit to 14-6 with ten minutes to play in the first half.

Off of the kickoff, the Bootleggers strung together an incredible 20+ phase attack to slowly push their way deep into the Asheville half. Clayton showed patience as they went through the phases before lock Jeff Cosgrove broke the Asheville line to score the first Bootlegger try of the match. The conversion from Dixon cut the Asheville lead to 14-13 with just minutes left in the first half.

The extended attack on the Asheville lines left the Bootleggers drained and the home side took advantage as they scored two rapid tries in the final moments of the first half to push their lead out to 24-13. Having finished the first half on a high note, Asheville went to work pounding away against the Bootleggers’ defensive lines. Using their forwards to control the tempo of the match, the second half belonged to the home side. They began to find space as their offense controlled possession and put Clayton’s defense to the task. As the Bootleggers wore down, Asheville answered with tries. Asheville scored five second half tries. The lone second half try from Clayton came through No. 8 Gareth Davies as the Bootleggers fell 59-18 to Asheville.

“There’s no reason to hang our heads,” added Munro. “The guys played hard the entire match and never gave up. Asheville was a better team. No shame in that. I’m very proud of our effort. We’ll learn from it and get better for next season.”

With the end of the 2017/2018 season, the Bootleggers move into the off season for some of their players while others prepare for the start of the Summer 7s Tournament season. The Clayton Rugby Football Club also prepares for their 3rd Annual CottonTown 7s Rugby Festival on July 14th. The tournament brought 30 teams to Clayton last year and they aim to top that number in 2018. All while this is happening, the club has broken ground on their new rugby facility and expect primary site work to be completed in July. The club expects to move into the facility sometime this Fall.


Bootleggers Playoff Bound After Win

CLAYTON, NC – It’s been a short history filled with new highs each year, but this past weekend was something special. For the first time in club history, the Clayton Rugby Football Club have made it to the playoffs. A win by Fort Bragg over Hilton Head coupled with the Bootlegger’s emphatic win over Camp Lejeune pushed Clayton into the playoffs. The Bootleggers now travel to face Asheville on April 14th in the Carolinas Geographic Union D3 Semifinals.

Founded in the Fall of 2013, it was almost exactly four years ago when the Bootleggers conducted their first practice session with just seven men in attendance. The club’s slow and steady progress led to them joining Division 4 in 2015. The following year the club moved up to Division 3 and now in their second season in D3 have advanced to the playoffs. The squad finished in 2nd place in the Carolinas D3 Eastern Division this season with a 5-3 conference record.

“I’m very proud of this group,” said head coach Ruch Munro. “The guys put in a lot of work this year and pushed through some tough patches. We’ve built a little depth in the squad and it has helped us make strides on the pitch. We still have a long way to go, but the pieces are there.”

To reach the playoffs, the Bootleggers needed a victory over Camp Lejeune and the men didn’t disappoint. Knowing that they needed a bonus point victory and to score extra points in the event they ended up needing a tiebreaker with Hilton Head. The Bootleggers did exactly that in setting a club record with 98 points scored in the match. The home side ran in 16 tries on the way to the lopsided victory. Flyhalf Brian Anderson led the way with three tries as he guided the Bootlegger attack. Flanker Stuart McKenzie added three tries to the total as well. Jonathan Sanyer, Gareth Davies, and Deven Howard each added two tries apiece while Luke Haskins, Jeff Cosgrove, Simon Potter, and Ted Hardy each added solo tries to the effort.

After a shaky start that saw Camp Lejeune with a 19-12 lead twenty minutes into the match, the Bootleggers settled into their game plan and used a structured attack to build the phases and retain possession. Five tries over the next twenty minutes gave the Bootleggers a 48-19 lead going into halftime.

The second half was more of the same as the home side pushed out to a 91-26 lead before Camp Lejeune answered back with two converted tries in the final ten minutes. With time expired, Anderson capped off his hat trick to close out the match. Ed Dixon added nine conversions on the afternoon for the Bootleggers as they strolled to a 98-40 victory.

“We’re excited,” added Club Captain Simon Potter, who was one of a few people that attended the first club practice and is still actively playing. “We’re all here to have fun and this is the best part of the season. We’re going to savor this opportunity to extend our season a few weeks.”

“When we started all of this, we didn’t expect to even be competitive for five years, let alone be in the playoffs,” said Club President Ted Hardy. “We appreciate all of the hard work put in by our admin staff, coaches and players this season. Reaching the playoffs isn’t just for the guys that accomplished it on the pitch this season. It is about all of the guys that helped start this club and stuck through the early years knowing that they were paving the way for others.”

In the second match of the day, the Bootleggers’ 2nd XV took on a combined Wake Tech/New Bern/Lejeune side. After a close opening twenty minutes, the Motley side went on a run scoring 27 unanswered points as they carried a 32-5 lead into the final quarter of the match. The Bootleggers didn’t give up as they added two late tries, but it was too little too late for the 2nds as they fell to the Motleys 37-19. Anthony Crumity scored two tries for the Bootleggers with Kai Saltana scoring his first career try.

The club’s eyes now turn to the playoffs. With three weeks to heal up injured players and prepare, the match against Asheville is poised to be a great one.

“This is a great opportunity,” added Munro. “It’s not every year that you get a chance to extend your season in the playoffs. We’re going to enjoy it, but we’re going to Asheville not to just participate. We want to win.”

Bootleggers Drop Heartbreaker to Cape Fear; 2nds Win in a Rout

CLAYTON, NC – On a gorgeous Carolina Winter afternoon, fans were treated to not one, but two great matches at East Clayton Community Park. All four teams, in play, made the most of the excellent conditions and produced two exhilarating matches. The opener was a heated battle between the 1st and 2nd place teams in the Carolinas D3 Eastern Division. The match was immediately followed by a high scoring affair between the Bootlegger’s 2nds and a combined New Bern/Wake Tech side. The picturesque rugby day was accented with the aroma of food cooking from the back of the end zone and online streaming of the match from a local broadcaster.

From the opening kickoff, it was apparent that Clayton and Cape Fear were going to put forth a cracking match. The two sides traded possession early on as the teams were feeling each other out. Despite having the run of play in previous matches against the Bootleggers, it was obvious that the tune had changed for Cape Fear. Both sides settled in early on into playing field position with the Bootleggers pinning Cape Fear into their half during the early parts of the match. The field position battle produced the first score of the match as Clayton attacked from inside the Cape Fear 40. Bootlegger’s flyhalf Brian Beauregard found a gap in the Fear defense and offloaded to scrumhalf Brian Anderson who appeared on his way in for a try. Cape Fear were able to wrangle Anderson just before he scored, but he was able to offload to lock Ted Hardy who dove over for the first score of the match. Ed Dixon provided the conversion for an early 7-0 lead for the Bootleggers.

Clayton continued to pressure inside of the Cape Fear half, but some strong work at the breakdown by Fear produced a penalty. A nice touch finder gave Fear a line out inside of the Clayton 40 and their first trip into the home side’s half.  Cape Fear found some space to run off of the line out and their inside center carried deep into Bootleggers’ territory. Three phases later, Cape Fear  went weak side and was awarded a penalty try after a high tackle in the corner on the Fear wing. The conversion knotted the match at 7-7 with twelve minutes gone from the clock.

The two sides then locked into a defensive battle filled with hard hits and smart positional play. Clayton maintained the bulk of possession, but found themselves in penalty trouble that thwarted a few promising attacks. With the half drawing close, Clayton pushed their way into Fear’s half aiming to break the tie. From a penalty, Bootleggers’ Captain Simon Potter took a quick tap and weaved his way through Cape Fear’s defense. He found Anderson in support and the scrumhalf was over for the second score of the match. Dixon’s conversion gave the Bootleggers a 14-7 as the half drew to a close.

The second half continued much like the first half as the two sides refused to give ground. Both squads put together promising attacks early in the second half only to be denied by stout defensive efforts. Penalty trouble put Clayton on the back foot again as Cape Fear used a penalty to move the ball into the Bootleggers’ half. From a line out on the Clayton 40, Cape Fear spun the ball wide and moved the ball into the red zone. Cape Fear put together a series of phases that ultimately led to a try from a crashing forward. The conversion deadlocked the match at 14-14 as the sides headed into the final quarter of the match.

Clayton aimed to wear down Cape Fear with a strong rolling maul and ate up large chunks of territory. This gave the Bootleggers a couple promising shots at the Cape Fear goal line, but were undone by more penalties. The battled continued back and forth as the intensity increased. In the 70th minute Cape Fear broke the tie after a quick tap off of a Clayton penalty around mid field. After drawing in Clayton defenders, Cape Fear went wide and threatened to score. A Cape Fear player went over the line and appeared to initially have been held up, but a second effort grounded the ball for the tie breaking score. The conversion gave Cape Fear a 21-14 lead with less than ten minutes to play.

With the clock ticking, the Bootleggers drove the ball deep into Cape Fear’s half. The home side strung together a nice set of phases, but were undone again by penalties. Two Cape Fear players were yellow carded in the waning moments of the match which gave the Bootleggers a glimmer of hope. With the ball deep in their own half, Clayton attempted a final push. With some room to run, the Bootleggers went wide, but the scrambling Cape Fear defense was up to the task. A forward pass ended the match and any hope of late heroics from the home side.

“It was a disappointing end to the match, but I’m so proud of these guys,” said Clayton head coach Rich Munro. “Cape Fear is a strong side and we’re not far off. We hate to lose this one, because it was there for the taking, but there is a lot of great things to take away from this.”

Following the exciting opener, the Clayton 2nds took the pitch against a combined New Bern/Wake Tech side. The men were determined to bring home at least one victory for the home side on the day. The two sides locked into a seesaw battle in a first half that produced some great scores. The Bootleggers got off to a quick start with an early try from wing Sharif Nash. The conversion from flyhalf Jesse Rinehart staked the Bootleggers to a 7-0 lead. Minutes later, hooker Jon Sanyer crashed over for a try to extend the lead to 12-0. New Bern bounded back with three consecutive tries to take a 15-12 lead.

The Bootleggers’ regained the lead with a try from Rinehart, but New Bern quickly regained the lead with another try to place the score at 20-17 in favor of the visitors with about 20 minutes played in the first half. A try and conversion from Zane West gave the Bootleggers a 24-20 lead only to see New Bern return fire with another try to take a 25-24 lead. Minutes later Bootleggers’ lock Les Shelton scored his first try. West added the conversion as Clayton took a 31-25 lead into halftime.

The back and forth flow of the first half turned into mostly one way traffic in the second half as Clayton began to find a flow to their play. The Bootleggers’ forwards produced a strong effort which gave the backs plenty of room to run. West added his second try of the match, Nash added his second, Deven Howard scored two second half tries, and Anthony Crumity also crossed over for the home side in the second half. New Bern managed only two second half tries as the Bootleggers pulled away for a 64-35 win to close out the day on a high note.

“The first half was a little shaky,” added Munro. “They settled down in the second half and played some nice rugby. Some of the best rugby we’ve seen from our 2nds yet. It was a great day for our club from top to bottom.”

The Bootleggers return to action on March 10th at home against the Charlotte Barbarians. Despite the loss, the Bootleggers’ 1st XV remained in second place, but now face a must win match up at Hilton Head on March 17th followed by another must win at home against Camp Lejeune on March 24th. Clayton defeated both teams in the Fall, but face stiff tests in against them to reach the playoffs for the first time in club history.