It was a tale of two halves as the Clayton RFC went 1-3 at the King of the Hill 7s hosted by the Chapel Hill Warriors. During the first half of each game, the Bootleggers battled against even the toughest opposition in the tournament and looked every bit of a competitive 7s team. However, the second half was a different story as the team struggled amidst a combination of fitness, inexperience, and a commitment to getting everyone playing time with the first side regardless of outcome.
Clayton showed up in force at Chapel Hill with more than enough players to field a 15s side, so the club opted to help fill out a combined Clayton/Chapel Hill team in the tournament which would create problems later in the day as players began to fatigue after getting game time with both sides.
The Bootleggers started the day with tournament favorites, the Reapers, a well known and highly competitive 7s side in the region. After giving up a quick score to start the game, Clayton controlled possession on the ensuing kickoff and showed patience in working their way down the pitch. After multiple phases deep in the Reapers’ half, Jared Thomas scored in the corner for Clayton. The squad showed poise and battled a young and fit Reapers side the remainder of the half and trailed 14-5 at halftime. The second half was all in favor of the Reapers as they found more space to run as the Bootleggers fell 33-5.
Clayton followed up against the Spring Hill Badgers in their second game and came out of the gates roaring. Two tries from Ted Hardy and additional scores from Thomas, Nick Zitani, and Jon Ryan stretched the Bootleggers to a comfortable 33-0 lead going into halftime. With a commanding lead, wholesale changes were made in the second half by both sides. The Badgers stormed back in the second half, but ultimately came up short as Clayton won 33-24.
Their win set up a pivotal matchup against Cape Fear in their final pool game. As with the Reapers, Clayton came out very strong and matched up against a solid Cape Fear side during a physical first half. Flyhalf Nick Zitani accounted for Clayton’s only score as the teams went into halftime with Cape Fear holding on to a narrow 10-5 lead. After losing four subs after game two, Clayton showed fatigue in the second half as Cape Fear pulled away in the final few minutes of the game and handed the Bootleggers a 29-5 loss.
The loss dropped Clayton into the Bowl bracket where they faced off against the Duke Grads in the semifinals. The worn down Bootleggers side fell behind early 12-0 to Duke, but bounced back strong with tries from Zitani and Hardy as they pulled the score to 12-10 going into halftime. The second half started in a tight battle, but Duke pulled away with three tries in the final minutes to drop Clayton out of the tournament.
It was a disappointing finish for the Bootleggers who came in looking for a better result at the tournament. However, with having two tournaments now under their belts, Clayton has shown that they are more than capable of hanging neck and neck with some very good 7s teams in the region. A little more polish, some more game time for the less experienced players, and a little depth the Bootleggers could become one of the better social 7s teams around. The foundation is certainly there to build upon.
Now, with less than a month until their first game of 15s, the club’s focus turns to preparing for the Fall 15s season. The summer tournaments enabled the club to make contacts and now a number of teams are lining up to get a piece of the Bootleggers.
2014 King of the Hill 7s
Reapers 33 Clayton 5 (Halftime 14-5)
Clayton 33 Badgers 24 (Halftime 33-0)
Tries: Hardy (2), Thomas, Zitani, Ryan
Conversions: Zitani (2), Hardy (2)
Cape Fear 29 Clayton 5 (Halftime 10-5)
Duke Grads 31 Clayton 10 (Halftime 12-10)
Tries: Zitani, Hardy