The Clayton Rugby Football Club’s 2019/20 XVs season will go down as one of the oddest campaigns in club history. It started out on a high note with the club on tour in Scotland. By the end of the season, the club felt the lowest of lows as the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 scare. The early finish to the season cost the club a total of six matches between the 1st and 2nd XV and the club’s Old Boys teams. The unfortunate end to the season marred what was another fun season, on and off of the pitch, for the Bootleggers.
Membership numbers continued to soar for the Clayton RFC as the club notched their highest-ever total. While playing memberships remained relatively unchanged from last season, social memberships increased significantly. Another area of excitement for the club was the increase in U23 playing members which quadrupled from the previous season. This bodes well for the future of the club as this group of young players develop into the next generation of leaders on and off of the pitch.
A new coaching team took over for the Bootleggers at the beginning of the season with Ed Dixon and Jason Niemiller taking over the reigns for Rich Munro, who stepped back into an assistant coaching position. The Bootleggers opened the season in fine fashion while on tour to Scotland. The side picked up a win over Hillhead Jordanhill RFC and a narrow defeat to the Shawlands Sharks while on tour. After returning home, results on the pitch were inconsistent for both the 1st and 2nd XV as the influx of new blood, injuries, and player availability led to continuity issues. As the season progressed, it took on the feel of a re-building year for the Bootleggers. Despite that, the club’s 1st XV was in the Carolinas D3 playoff hunt all the way to when play was shut down in March. The 1st XV finished the season with a record of 5-6-1 (3-3 in D3 conference play).
On the pitch, Gareth Davies Captained the 1st XV for the second consecutive year and tied for the 1st XV lead in tries scored with 11. He was joined by center Austin Lyons in that category and closely followed by fullback Camron Grim with 10 tries scored. Ted Hardy became the first Bootlegger centurion when he played in his 100th match for the club against Cape Fear just before the season was cut short.
The club’s 2nd XV faced a tough slate of opponents during their short season which contributed to their poor results. The side only managed two victories on the season. They were hit hard by the early end to the season. The 2nds had three matches still on the schedule, all three of which were winnable. Paul Castellana stood at the helm as Captain for the 2nds during the season. More important than results was that 16 different players made their 2nd XV debut for the Clayton RFC this season. The 2nd XV finished the season with a record of 2-5.
“I’m gutted to see the season end the way it has,” said Club Captain Gareth Davies. “It wasn’t an ideal situation, but I know that we will bounce back to normal before too long. I’m very proud of the men for the way we played this past season. We added a lot of young guys to the roster and they stepped up to the challenge. I’m excited to get back to rugby and see what’s ahead for this group.”
This past season saw the official introduction of the club’s Old Boys side, which had been discussed for years. The Old Boys took the pitch for the first time in November and had another match planned for May that was cancelled due to the COVID crisis. The side expects to play 3-4 matches per season moving forward.
Off the pitch, the club continued the development of the Johnston County Rugby Park. The parking lot, driveway, and front field were all completed in the fall. The multi-year project continues with the back two pitches planned for completion over the summer.
The club’s annual end of season banquet has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis. Club awards will be announced shortly.