CLAYTON, North Carolina – After over a month since their last home match, the Bootleggers returned home this past weekend to play host to Bragg Rugby and New Bern. It was a picturesque fall afternoon at East Clayton Community Park with clear skies in temperatures in the 50s. The conditions paved the way for running rugby as both games were high scoring affairs.
The Bootleggers 1st XV opened up the day by taking on Bragg in a Carolinas D3 match. The home side came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Backed by three tries from center Austin Lyons and two from fullback Cam Grim, Clayton took a commanding 39-0 lead into halftime. That lead was extended to 44-0 early in the second half as the Bootleggers appeared poised to run away with the match.
As expected, Bragg came with a fighting spirit. Bragg broke the shutout in the 53rd minute then proceeded to rattle off six tries in the next 20 minutes as the Bootleggers’ defense fell apart. Leading 44-34 with just a few minutes left to play, Clayton got one last try from flyhalf Brian Anderson to finish the match with a 49-34 score line. The victory gives the 1st XV a 4-2-1 record (2-1-1 in conference play).
“It was a fantastic first half,” said head coach Ed Dixon. “The guys played to our structure and controlled the game. The second half was an embarrassingly poor effort. Our first team training has been poor and it showed today.”
The 2nds then followed with a tough outing against New Bern. The visitors started off the match on the front foot with two tries in the opening 10 minutes of play. The Bootleggers got on the board in the 15th minute with a penalty goal from Ed Dixon.
Three more New Bern tries staked the visitors to a 27-3 lead as the match approached halftime. Les Shelton added a try for the Bootleggers in the 35th minute. The conversion from Dixon left the match at 27-10 in favor of New Bern as the sides went into the break.
New Bern opened up the second half with 25 unanswered points before Clayton got a try from Jai Jackson to put the score at 52-17 with less than 10 minutes to play. Ted Hardy added another try for the Bootleggers in the 78th minute that was converted by Dixon. With no time left on the clock, New Bern added one final try to finish with a score of 57-24 in favor of the visitors. The loss drops the 2nds record to 2-3 on the season and 1-2 in Carolinas D4 play.
“New Bern came out and stuck it to us” added Dixon. “Our 2nds are still gaining valuable experience. Wins are great, but the game time is important for this group which is mostly made up of newer players to the club. We want them to start pushing for 1st XV roster spots and part of that is getting the game time. There are a few of these guys that are getting close to breaking into the first team.”
The Bootleggers head off to the 1st Annual Dirt-Bragg tournament this coming weekend. The club’s Old Boys are then hosting an Old Boys Jamboree on November 23rd to benefit Toys for Tots. The club then breaks for the holidays before picking up training again in mid-January.