FORT BRAGG, NC – The Clayton Bootleggers 1st XV returned to Carolinas D3 play this past Sunday as they took on rivals Fort Bragg on base at Towle Stadium. Every match against Fort Bragg is a hard hitting affair and the host side didn’t disappoint. Fort Bragg’s defensive pressure effectively disrupted the Clayton attack and kept the Bootleggers from ever settling into the match. The pace and intensity of the match also produced a penalty laden affair that saw three players sent to the bin, two of which were Clayton players.
The match started off in fine fashion as the Bootleggers, clad in their new alternate kits, took the opening kickoff and charged down the pitch. Within a couple of phases, flyhalf Brian Beauregard caught the Bragg defense flat and chipped over the top for fullback Cam Grim to recover and score. Grim added a second try about ten minutes later and the squad appeared to be off and running. The conversions from Beauregard staked Clayton to an early 14-0 lead.
Fort Bragg answered back in the 20th minute with the first of three tries from their scrumhalf. The Bootleggers recovered the ensuing kickoff and a Fort Bragg penalty led to a lineout in the corner for Clayton. A perfectly executed maul, off of the lineout, from the Bootleggers led to a try from team Captain Simon Potter.
Just before halftime, the Bootleggers extended their lead to 24-7 when Connell Smallwood bashed his way through the Bragg defensive line to score under the posts. Despite some of the scrappy play in the first half, the Bootleggers took a comfortable lead into the break.
Clayton added onto that lead in the 50th minute when Gareth Davies struck from 20 meters out after a nice run of play from the Bootleggers. The conversion from Ed Dixon gave the visitors a commanding 31-7 lead as they appeared poised to run away with the match.
A yellow card to Potter opened the door for Bragg and they answered with two quick tries to cut the Clayton lead to 31-17. A 60th minute try from Clayton hooker Eric Hile and conversion from Dixon extended the Bootleggers’ lead to 38-17. Beauregard added a score in the corner a few minutes later that pushed the lead to 43-17 with about ten minutes to play.
Hile was sent off with the second yellow of the match for Clayton and Fort Bragg staged one last comeback. The hosts scored 17 points in the final ten minutes to leave the final score at 43-34 in favor of the Bootleggers.
“It wasn’t the prettiest, but it was a win,” said Clayton head coach Rich Munro. “A lot of credit to Fort Bragg for keeping up the pressure. We never got into a groove and we were in penalty trouble the entire match.”
The win ups the Bootleggers’ record in conference play to 4-1 this season and keeps them in 2nd place in their division right behind Cape Fear. Clayton hosts Fear this coming Saturday in a pivotal Carolinas Eastern Division matchup.
“We need to do much better next week if we want to challenge Cape Fear,” added Munro. “We’ll go back to work and aim to fix some of our mistakes from this weekend.”
Following the match, the Clayton 2nd XV took the pitch against Fort Bragg B. The Bootleggers jumped out to an early lead when newcomer Sharif Nash scored on his first touch of the ball in a live match. A few minutes later, Nash scored his second try of the match. The Bootleggers kept up the pressure as Eric Tansey added another score under the posts. Conversions from Ted Chapman staked the Bootleggers to a 19-0 lead late in the first half. Bragg picked up a score just before halftime to cut the lead to 19-7.
Just as the Bootleggers came out firing in the first half, Bragg came out storming in the second half. Bragg scored three tries over the span of ten minutes to take a 24-19 lead over the Bootleggers 2nds.
Clayton then regained the lead when Nash completed his hat trick as he weaved through the home side to score under the posts. Nick Taylor added the conversion and the Bootleggers held a narrow 26-24 lead with just minutes to play. Unfortunately, Fort Bragg had one last charge in them and they scored with no time left on the clock. The conversion gave Bragg’s Bs a 31-26 victory in an entertaining match.
The Bootleggers return to play this coming weekend. The club’s 1st XV takes on Cape Fear in an important Carolinas D3 Eastern Division matchup. The 2nd XV finishes off the day against New Bern.