The Clayton Rugby Football Club played their first-ever tournament this past Saturday as they participated in the State Games of North Carolina in the Men’s Social Division. Having not played 7s together, it was uncertain as to how the team would fare, but expectations were still high.
Played at the Mecklenburg County Sports Complex in Matthews, North Carolina, the tournament was the first time rugby had been played as part of the State Games. Men, women, and youth teams filled the facility to the brim. The Bootleggers opened up the tournament against the Older Toes which was the tournament team name for the Charlotte RFC. They struggled out of the gate and fell behind 21-0 within minutes of starting the game. The Bootleggers settled down as the match got going and outscored Charlotte 17-12 the rest of the match, but the early deficit was too much to overcome as Clayton fell 33-17 in their opening game of the tournament.
The men followed up by taking on the Queen City Jesters and quickly found themselves behind 7-0, but that was as far as it got for the Jesters. The Bootleggers showed patience and confidence as they poured it on the remainder of the game and claimed a 33-7 win over the Jesters. Even though it was 7s, the win was the first official victory for the Clayton RFC.
Clayton entered their third match, against Chapel Hill, as a huge underdog. Chapel Hill rolled through competition in their first two games and were looking to make Clayton another victim. Needing a victory to have a chance at the medal round, the Bootleggers played their best match of the tournament and kept an explosive Chapel Hill team at bay with physical play. Chapel Hill was first on the board and then stretched their lead to 12-0 midway through the first half. The Bootleggers nearly got on the scoreboard just before halftime with a nice chase down of a kick.
Clayton got on the board early in the second half to cut the score to 12-7 as they continued to do battle. With time winding down, Clayton’s last scoring opportunity went left wanting and Chapel Hill struck back with one last score as time expired to claim a 19-7 win. A loss, but a very good effort from a team playing in their first 7s tournament.
Having been eliminated from the medal round, the Bootleggers faced the Southern Kudus in a cross-over game with the other pool. With their fate decided, Clayton opted for a less experienced lineup in order to get guys playing time that may not have gotten as much in the first few games. The Kudus played mercilessly and poured it on and claimed a lopsided victory. Clayton players played hard until the very end despite the score.
The final loss closed out the tournament for Clayton as they finished 1-3 on the day. The team took solace in finding out that all three of their losses came against the teams that won the Gold (Chapel Hill), Silver (Kudus), and Bronze (Charlotte) medals at the State Games.
With the fall 15s season quickly approaching, the Clayton RFC 7s team are looking to possibly play in one more tournament this summer before turning their focus to 15s and the fall season.
Clayton RFC Roster for 2014 State Games of North Carolina/Queen City 7s
Anthony Bevelacqua, Blake Cowan, Jason Niemiller, Ted Hardy, Eric Kile, Justin Reed, Nick Zitani, Connell Smallwood, Manosh Premachandra, JG Van Graan, Rich Munro, Mattia Muller, Dee Dee the Rugby Whore
State Games of North Carolina/Queen City 7s Scores
Older Toes/Charlotte 33 Clayton 17
Tries: Hile (2), Muller
Clayton 33 Queen City Jesters 7
Tries: Reed (2), Zitani, Hile, Muller
Conv: Zitani (2), Reed (2)
Chapel Hill 19 Clayton 7
Southern Kudus 62 Clayton 0