SAVANNAH, GA – This past weekend, the Clayton Bootleggers traveled South to play in the famed Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Tournament. One of the largest tournaments in the USA, Savannah brings together about 80 teams each year for a weekend filled with rugby and fun. The Bootleggers were making their first trip to the tournament and came back with 3rd place in the Orange Division. A total of about 20 Clayton players, a combination of the 1st XV and 2nds, made the trip to Savannah and came away with an excellent experience.
The Bootleggers opened up their tournament against North Penn RFC from Pennsylvania. Clayton got off to a strong start and dominated possession for most of the first half, but were only able to cross the goal line twice. First half tries from wing Anthony Crumity and Center Trey Eason along with conversions from Brian Beauregard staked Clayton to a 14-0 lead. North Penn closed the gap with a converted try just before halftime to cut the score to 14-7. The second half proved to be more even with both sides trading possession, but unable to convert territory into points. The Bootleggers extended their lead to 21-7 when Gareth Davies took a offload from Ted Hardy and crashed through the North Penn line for a try. North Penn were quick to respond with another converted try to put the score at 21-14 with less than ten minutes to play. With North Penn pinned deep in their own territory, Clayton charged down a clearance kick and Ed Dixon pounced on it in the endzone for the game clinching try and a 26-14 win for the Bootleggers.
The win placed the Bootleggers in a winner’s bracket match up against the Cherry Point Old Boys, who had won the tournament three times prior. The two squads locked into a hard hitting and physical contest. Cherry Point got off to a strong start with two tries, one of which was converted to stake the Marines to a 12-0 lead. The Bootleggers got one score back before halftime when Crumity snuck around the edge to score and cut the lead to 12-5. The two squads continued their punishing play into the second half. The Bootleggers tied it up when flyhalf Brian Beauregard found a seam and scored. The conversion knotted the match at 12-12 midway through the second half. As the match carried on into the final ten minutes, Cherry Point began to take control of territory as Clayton began to show signs of the physical match. Cherry Point added two tries in the final ten minutes to ice the match and win 24-12. The win placed Cherry Point in the Orange Division Championship while the Bootleggers fell to the 3rd place match.
Clayton regrouped Sunday morning for the 3rd place match against Augusta RFC from Georgia. Showing signs of wear from the weekend, the Bootleggers gave up an early try to Augusta and fell behind 5-0. Undaunted, Clayton showed early dominance over the set pieces, but struggled with handling errors early in the match which cost them good scoring opportunities. The Bootleggers took the lead 7-5 when Anthony Crumity scored his third try of the tournament after a well worked backline move. Another lapse in play shortly after led to another Augusta try which gave the Georgians a 12-7 lead going into halftime. Despite trailing at halftime, Clayton didn’t panic and went to work in the second half on cleaning up mistakes and continuing to pressure Augusta at the set piece. The strategy paid off as Clayton slowly put a strong grip on the match through their dominance at the scrum. The Bootleggers took the lead off of a botched lineout that was cleaned up by Beauregard whom cut through the Augusta defense for a score to tie the match at 12-12. Shortly after, Clayton again pushed their way into the Augusta half. Center Trey Eason rumbled through the defensive line to score and give the Bootleggers a 17-12 lead. With a chance to put the match away, the Bootleggers once again used their set piece, along with penalty trouble from Augusta, to obtain good field position. After a series of phases and multiple Augusta penalties, Gareth Davies took a quick tap penalty and scored giving the Bootleggers a 22-12 lead with just minutes to play. Clayton ground out the final moments of the match and claimed a hard fought victory.
“It was a gutsy performance by the guys,” said Coach Rich Munro. “They showed a lot of heart all weekend, but even more so on Sunday. They didn’t panic and closed out the match when it mattered.”
While the Bootleggers were disappointed not to play for the championship, the tournament was an excellent outing for the young club, who plans to make many more returns to Savannah in the future.
“Getting out to tournaments like this is important for the Club,” said Club President Ted Hardy. “It not only builds team camaraderie, but also allows our players to see different clubs that they wouldn’t normally get to play. It also gives us a chance to network with other clubs and build recognition for our club.”
Clayton returns to action this coming Saturday as they travel to Charlotte to take on the Charlotte Barbarians.
Bootleggers 26 North Penn 14
Tries: A. Crumity, Eason, Davies, Dixon
Conv: Beauregard 3/4
Cherry Point Old Boys 24 Bootleggers 12
Tries: A. Crumity, Beauregard
Conv: Beauregard 1/2
Bootleggers 22 Augusta 12
Tries: A. Crumity, Beauregard, Eason, Davies
Conv: Beauregard 1/4