Featured image photo credit: CH Photography and Art
RALEIGH, NC – The Clayton Bootleggers opened up their Summer 7s season account this past weekend as they made the short trip to play in the Raleigh RFC Moonshine 7s. The squad were not only showing off a new set of 7s kit, but also a new look lineup filled with experienced vets and young talent that came up through local youth programs. The squad has a busy Summer ahead of them with four tournaments scheduled over the next month.
“Our sevens season is a different animal because we have players from our fifteens season and players that only do sevens,” said Bootleggers’ 7s head coach and coordinator Jason Niemiller. “We also have future Bootleggers home from college or recently graduated from high school. We have to find the right mixture and field a team that capitalizes on individual strengths while yielding the strongest unit as a whole.”
The Bootleggers opened up the tournament in fine fashion as they rolled past Camp Lejeune 27-7 to open up pool play. University of Mary Washington sophomore, Seamus Brennan scored twice to lead the attack. NC State product Elliot Lindley added another while Matt Aronowitz and Parker Slater each touched down for the Bootleggers. Ryan Niemiller, headed to play at Bowling Green in the Fall, added one conversion to round out the scoring.
The second pool match proved to be a high scoring affair as the Bootleggers took on Blacksburg RFC out of Virginia. The Bootleggers pulled away down the stretch to claim a 34-21 victory. Former University of Delaware standout and USA U20 Eagle Glen Thommes scored his first try as a Bootlegger while Bootleggers’ vet Brendan Fitzpatrick added his first of the season. Brennan, Aronowitz, Slater, and Niemiller each added solo tries in the victory with Fitzpatrick and Niemiller each adding a conversion.
In their final pool match, Clayton faced off against Tobacco Road, a team that the Bootleggers had never previously beaten in 7s or XVs. The Bootleggers ended that streak with a 29-12 win over the Baby Dragons. Aronowitz led the charge with two tries while Brennan, Slater, and Niemiller each added tries for the Bootleggers. Niemiller slotted two conversion to round out the scoring. The win gave Clayton a clean sweep in pool play as they advanced to the Cup Semifinals.
Their semifinal opponent was New Bern, a club that has show massive improvement in the past few years. New Bern showed good pace and patience as they handed the Bootleggers a narrow 17-12 defeat. Aronowitz scored twice with Niemiller adding one conversion in the loss.
The loss to New Bern put the Bootleggers into the 3rd place match against Camp Lejeune. Unlike their opening pool play match, Camp Lejeune put Clayton to the test. The high scoring affair ended with Clayton just edging the Misfits by a score of 33-27. Aronowitz and Thommes each scored twice for the Bootleggers while Brennan added a solo try. Brennan and Niemiller slotted two conversions apiece.
“All in all it was a great first showing,” said Bootleggers’ 7s head coach and coordinator Jason Niemiller. “We look forward to the next few weeks where we will have many of our experienced sevens players able to join us. It will be a successful summer no doubt.”
The men look to improve upon their play this week as they head to Southern Pines, NC for the NAV 7s. The squad follows with a trip to the Cape Fear 7s this first weekend in July and then finish their 7s season at the Clayton RFC’s CottonTown 7s.
Moonshine 7s Tournament Roster: Elliot Lindley, Seamus Brennan, Ryan Niemiller, Victor Matos, Parker Slater, Matt Aronowitz, Glen Thommes, Brendan Fitzpatrick, Jeff Barley, Alex Branoff, Eric Branoff, Jon Vann, Walter Webster
Final Moonshine 7s Tournament Stats