CAMP LEJEUNE, NC – On a sunny Fall afternoon on base at Camp Lejeune, the Clayton Bootleggers battled to a hard fought victory over the Camp Lejeune Misfits. The win capped off a strong Fall season for the Bootleggers as they finish with wins in four of their final five matches. The home side didn’t make it easy on the visitors as Lejeune came out and played physical rugby for the entire 80 minutes. Despite holding the lead for the entire match, the Bootleggers were never able to put the match away as the Misfits kept the pressure on.
The match opened with the Misfits stringing together a series of phases that pushed into the Clayton half. After standing strong, the Bootleggers took possession and quickly found some space to run outside. In the 5th minute, the Clayton backs moved the ball wide and found wing Connell Smallwood with room. Smallwood did the rest of the work, scoring from 30 meters out to open up the match account. Ed Dixon added the conversion to continue his strong work off the tee this season and the Bootleggers led 7-0.
Clayton was right back at it from the ensuing kickoff as they found gaps in the Lejeune defense to push the ball deep into home territory. This time, it was flyhalf Nick Russell who found a seam in the defense and raced in for a 9th minute try. The following conversion from Dixon gave the Bootleggers a 14-0 advantage with just over ten minutes played. The Bootleggers aimed to score again quickly as they pushed the ball deep into Lejeune’s territory off of the kickoff. The Bootleggers knocked on a certain try after a nice weak side attack from a strong scrum deep in Lejeune’s half.
Just when it appeared as if the Bootleggers were going to take control of the match, the Misfits buckled down on defense. They increased their pressure which led to a series of mistakes from the visiting Clayton side. In the 17th minute, the Misfits got on the board with a try from their hooker on a nice broken field run to cut the score to 14-5. Feeling the momentum swinging, Lejeune dominated possession over the next 15 minutes and put the Bootlegger defense under constant pressure. Clayton’s defense held strong, but it took a toll as they continued to turn over good possession.
Lejeune cut into the score further in the 33rd minute with a try after a series of phases on the Clayton goal line. The conversion went wide and left the score at 14-10 with just minutes remaining in the first half. Clayton stemmed the tide by forcing a turnover and linking together some nice phases. Team Captain Simon Potter broke the Lejeune line, fended off the fullback and raced in from 40 meters to give the Bootleggers an important score just before halftime. Dixon added the conversion as the Bootleggers increased their lead to 21-10 going into the break.
The two sides opened up the second half hitting just as hard as in the opening forty. They traded possession and hits as neither side looked to give away any ground. The Bootleggers opted to their bench in the 50th minute to bring on fresh legs and it paid off. Some nice work at the breakdown led to a nice offload from Potter to Dixon as he finished it off from 10 meters out to extend the Clayton lead. Dixon added his own conversion and the Bootleggers led 28-10 in the 55th minute.
With less than 20 minutes to play, Lejeune aimed to get back into the match and once again the momentum shifted. After turning away two attacks deep in their own territory, Lejeune finally broke through the Bootlegger defense with a 67th minute try to cut the lead to 28-15. Just as quickly as Lejeune got back into the match, Clayton answered back. On the following kickoff, a nice play from Eric Hile led to a turnover. Bootlegger No. 8 then bashed through the Misfit’s defense to score a try. Another conversion from Dixon, who was a perfect 5 from 5, extended the lead to 35-15 with less than ten minutes to play.
Camp Lejeune continued to pressure the Bootlegger defense and found the end zone one last time in the 75th minute. The conversion left the score at 35-22 which held through until the final whistle.
“It was a battle out there,” said Bootlegger’s Head Coach Rich Munro. “Lejune came out and played hard, but we gave away too much possession today. We’re happy with the win, but there is a lot of room for improvement. We’ll get a little time off for the holidays to heal up some bumps and then we’ll get back at it.”
The win caps a solid Fall season for both the Bootleggers 1st XV and the 2nd XV. The 1st XV sits in solid position going into the second half of their season and is right in the mix for a Carolinas D3 playoff spot. The Clayton 2nd XV finished the Fall with a 3-1 record after winning only one match in the previous two years.
“It’s been a good Fall,” added Munro. “The guys have worked hard and made a lot of improvements. We put in an entirely new system this Fall and the guys bought into it. We’ve added some good talent, built some depth in the squad, and have guys pushing for positions. We’re in a good place, but now isn’t the time to rest.”
The Bootleggers now take a short break for the holidays before returning to training after the New Year. The Clayton RFC currently fields two teams and the club is always looking for new players. New players are welcome to join at any point during the season. Interested players should contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Clayton Bootleggers 35 Camp Lejeune 22
Tries: Smallwood, Russell, Potter, Dixon, Davies
Conv: Dixon 5/5