DURHAM, NC – Last Friday night, the Clayton Bootleggers travelled to the campus of Duke University to take on the Duke Grads in a Carolinas D4 League match. After starting off their D4 season with a loss to Southern Pines, the Bootleggers needed to bounce back fast if they intend to challenge atop the D4 standings this season.
Played under the lights, the match was closely fought throughout the first half. The Bootleggers were maintaining the bulk of possession and territory, but struggled to finish opportunities which plagued the squad in their loss to Southern Pines. After exchanging possession for the first 20 minutes of the opening half, inside center Stuart McKenzie burst through with a fine run to put the Bootleggers ahead. Scrumhalf Brendan Fitzpatrick added the conversion to give Clayton a 7-0 lead.
Clayton left a few more good scoring opportunities on the table before Duke struck back. Pinned deep in their half, Duke kicked downfield to relieve pressure, but a fortuitous bounce of the ball landed in the hands of a Duke player whom raced 70 meters for a try. The ensuing conversion deadlocked the match at 7-7 with less than ten minutes to play in the half.
The Bootleggers retook the lead minutes later as wing Ryan Crosby crossed over in the corner to give the squad a 12-7 lead going into halftime.
With the bulk of possession in the first half, it was only a matter of converting scoring opportunities standing between Clayton and their first win of the season. Head Coach JG Van Graan made a few changes at half in an attempt to get the side to gel and produce much needed points.
The Bootleggers did just that. After being under pressure from the Duke Grad scrum the entire first half, the Clayton pack turned the tides. Clayton became the aggressors in the scrum and it began to produce huge results. Rookie flanker Elliott Lindley gave the Bootleggers some breathing room with a strong run that produced a try. Lindley became the first Clayton Copperheads alumni to play in a match for the Bootleggers. The youth pipeline in Clayton is expected to produce huge results for the men’s side in the coming years and this was the first step.
Sensing that the match was there for the taking, Clayton then stole a scrum around midfield and No. 8 Ted Hardy picked the ball from the back of the scrum and went 50 meters for the score. The conversion from Fitzpatrick gave the Bootleggers a 24-7 lead and some extra breathing room.
Smelling blood in the water, the Bootlegger pack continued to steal Duke scrums. The forward pack was running hard and the backs were matching them with McKenzie leading the way. The Irishman added his second try of the match late in the second half.
Hardy was the beneficiary of the hard work from the pack. The Bootlegger forwards took two more scrums deep in Duke’s territory. After stealing the scrum, the pack nearly walked the ball into the end zone with Hardy scoring two easy tries.
After starting the Fall season on a low note, Clayton bounced back with a solid victory.
“This is the best I’ve seen the team play since starting the club,” said Head Coach JG Van Graan. “Our extra work on fitness is starting to show.”
Clayton has a couple weekends off before they travel to Charlotte to take on the Charlotte Royals on October 10th in a non-league match.
1: White 2: Bevelacqua 3: Liverman 4: Taylor 5: Cosgrove 6: Hester 7: Lindley 8: Hardy 9: Fitzpatrick 10: Premachandra 11: Rogers 12: McKenzie 13: Smith 14: Crosby 15: Haskins
Subs: Smallwood (35′ for Rogers), Braun (40′ for Crosby), Dixon (40′ for Bevelacqua, Hester to Hooker)
Tries: Hardy (3), McKenzie (2), Crosby, Lindley
Conv: Fitzpatrick 4/7