CLAYTON, North Carolina – This past Saturday the Clayton Rugby Football Club played host to Camp Lejeune in a rugby double header at East Clayton Community Park. The summer weather broke just in time for the match as temperatures dropped almost 20 degrees from Friday to Saturday. Spectators were treated with two entertaining matches filled with action. In the opening match, the Clayton RFC 1st XV took on Camp Lejeune in the club’s first Carolinas Rugby Union Division III match of the season. That was followed by the club’s 2nd XV taking on the Misfits B side, which was supplemented by Clayton RFC Old Boys.
The opening match was a high scoring affair as the two sides accounted for 101 points. The Bootleggers came out of the gates firing with three tries in the opening 15 minutes. Rookie wing Luis Padua started off the scoring followed by fullback Cam Grim and then another from Padua as the home side took an early 17-0 lead.
The Bootleggers kept the momentum going as they pushed the pace of the match and controlled possession. Rookie Jeffery Felix, who came on as an early injury replacement, added to the total by scoring his first try of the season. Clayton RFC Captain, Gareth Davies added another score a few minutes later to push the score out to 29-0 in favor of the home side.
In the 30th minute, the Clayton pack mauled in a try from five meters out with flanker Simon Potter on the receiving end of the score. Camp Lejeune stemmed the tide with a converted try just before halftime as the 1st XV took a commanding 34-7 lead into the half.
The forwards contributed to the first score of the 2nd half as they put in a drive from a five meter attacking scrum with Davies touching down the try from his position at No. 8. On the ensuing kickoff, flanker Stuart McKenzie broke the line and raced 60 meters for another try. The scoring continued with a long range try from center Austin Lyons, then Grim added his second of the match which was converted by Brendan Fitzpatrick to give the 1st XV a 56-7 lead with 25 minutes left to play.
With a commanding lead, the Bootleggers’ reserves hit the pitch to pick up some valuable experience. Camp Lejeune showed their fighting spirit and turned up the heat. The Misfits rolled off four consecutive converted tries over the course of the next 20 minutes to cut the Bootleggers’ lead to 56-35. With time waning, the home side regrouped and scored two nicely worked tries as Lyons added his second try of the day and flyhalf Brian Anderson finished off the scoring after Trey Eason made a break to set him up.
Final score: Clayton 1st XV 66 Lejeune Misfits 35
Tries: Padua (2), Grim (2), Davies (2), Lyons (2), Felix, McKenzie, Anderson
Conversions: Davies (2), Fitzpatrick
“I’m happy with the way we played,” said Club Captain Gareth Davies. “We came together and played great team rugby. We have a lot to improve on as we take on a tough away schedule in the coming weeks. We’re headed in the right direction and I’m excited to see what this season will hold for us.”
Co-head coach Jason Niemiller added, “Perfecting fundamentals at training is allowing us to use our attack structure to put up points.”
In the second match, the club’s 2nd XV took on the Misfits B side that was aided by Clayton Old Boys. The two teams engaged in a match that was just as entertaining as the opener. The two sides were intent on playing running rugby as they traded territory and possession.
The Bootleggers were first on the board with back to back tries from wing Luis Padua and flyhalf Matt Aronowitz. One of which was converted by 2nd XV Captain Paul Castellana to stake a 12-0 lead. The Misfits answered right back with three tries to take a 19-12 lead. Aronowitz added his second of the match just before halftime as the sides went into the break deadlocked at 19-19.
The Misfits jumped back into the lead early in the second half with a try to take a 24-19 lead, but the Bootleggers’ responded with a score from rookie wing Kane Little that was set up by a long rumbling carry by No. 8 Jeff Barley. The conversion gave the 2nds a 26-24 lead.
Fullback Eoin O’Riada scored another long range try as the Bootleggers attempted to pull away from the Misfits. Aronowitz completed his hat trick a few minutes later as the 2nds stretched their lead to 36-24 midway through the half. The Misfits responded with another try to cut the lead to 36-29, but Little sealed the match with a score from 50 meters out for his second try of the day.
Final score: Clayton RFC 2nd XV 41 Misfits B 29
Tries: Aronowitz (3), Little (2), Padua, O’Riada
Conversions: Castellana (2), Little
“We are truly appreciative that the Misfits stepped up to field a B side,” added Clayton RFC President Ted Hardy. “That used to be common practice, but doesn’t happen often these days. It’s important for us to get playing time for all of our guys and we can’t thank the Misfits enough.”
The Bootleggers hit the road this coming weekend for a doubleheader in Charleston, SC. The 1st XV is taking on the Charleston Outlaws in a big early season Division III match up. The 2nd XV takes on the Charleston Blockage in a Division IV tilt. The Bootleggers’ next home games are on November 9th when the 1st XV takes on Bragg Rugby and the 2nds take on New Bern.