FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA – On an unseasonably warm and windy Saturday afternoon, the Clayton Rugby Football Club traveled south to take on Fort Bragg in a doubleheader at Bragg’s Towle Stadium. The first match of the day was a Carolinas D3 North Division match up and it was immediately followed by a B-side match. The D3 match was a battle from the opening kickoff with Fort Bragg aiming for revenge after a loss to the Bootleggers in the Fall. The Bootleggers used a 17 point performance from flyhalf Brian Beauregard to overcome an early defecit and push past a game Fort Bragg side to win 37-22. In the second match, Fort Bragg’s B-side dominated an inexperienced Bootlegger’s 2nd side.
The match started off with Fort Bragg on the front foot as they used a bruising attack to push down the pitch. Within the opening five minutes of the match, Fort Bragg pushed their way deep into the Clayton half. After a few phases on the goal line, Bragg pushed over for the first score of the match. The conversion gave Bragg an early 7-0 lead. The Bootleggers answered back a few minutes later when scrumhalf Ted Chapman found a seam at the breakdown and raced in for a score from 20 meters out to cut the score to 7-5.
Bragg extended their lead with another try in the 20th minute to push the score to 12-5. With less than ten minutes to play in the half, the Bootleggers found themselves deep in the Bragg half. Lock Travis Morrison took a pick and go and barreled into the end zone. The conversion knotted the match at 12-12. The Bootleggers took the ensuing kickoff and used a couple penalties from Bragg to move into scoring position. Another Bragg penalty in front of the posts gave Clayton the opportunity to take the lead going into the break. Beauregard slotted the penalty giving the Bootleggers a narrow 15-12 advantage going into the half.
Bragg had controlled the tempo of the first half and focused on cutting off the Clayton backs. A few changes made at halftime paid off for the Bootleggers as they came out and started to make some headway. Within minutes of the second half kickoff, Beauregard lined up another penalty goal to extend the Bootlegger’s lead to 18-12. The restart failed to go ten meters and the Bootleggers used a mid-field scrum to launch another attack. After a nice breakaway and offload by Simon Potter a supporting Nick Taylor scored for the Bootlegger’s. The conversion from Beauregard gave the Bootlegger’s a 25-12 lead.
Within minutes, Clayton was off again with wing Josh Correll scoring a long try down the sideline to extend the lead to 30-12.
With the match steadily going in favor of Clayton, the squad was hit hard with injuries as the Bootleggers lost Captain Simon Potter to a knee injury and flanker Eric Tansey to go along with losing hooker Eric Hile and No. 8 Gareth Davies at halftime.
The momentum swung back in Bragg’s favor as they attempted to get back into the match. With less than 15 minutes to play Bragg scored to cut the lead to 30-17, but the Bootleggers answered right back with Beauregard adding to his point total with a converted try off fortuitous bounce of the ball deep in Bragg’s half. Bragg added a final try just before the match ended to close out the scoring with Clayton holding onto a 37-22 win.
“Bragg came to play,” said Clayton Head Coach Rich Munro. “They took us out of our game plan and we had to make adjustments. Our guys had to dig deep to win this one.”
Clayton D3 Scoring
Tries: Chapman, Morrison, Taylor, Correll, Beauregard
Conv: Beauregard 3/5
Pen: Beauregard 2/2
The 2nds match was all Bragg from the opening kickoff. The Bootlegger’s 2nd XV fielded a very inexperienced side with two players making their rugby debut and eight others that started within the last season. The 2nds put up a solid fight in the first half as they trailed 27-0 going into the break. They came out in the second half and finally had a bit of possession where they showed life. However, the final 20 minutes of the match were all one way traffic for Fort Bragg as they rolled to a convincing shutout victory in the 2nd side match.
The Bootleggers return to action March 11-12 as they travel to play in the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Tournament in Georgia. Next home match is April 1st vs Chapel Hill.