CLAYTON, North Carolina – It was gorgeous day for rugby on Saturday as the Clayton RFC hosted their first home date of the New Year. Unfortunately it wasn’t a joyous homecoming as the Bootleggers’ 1st and 2nd teams both suffered losses on the day.
The 1st XV opened up the day against division rivals Charlotte Barbarians. Both sides were in the mix of the Carolinas D3 playoff race and neither could afford to give ground. The Bootleggers got off to a dream start when fullback Cam Grim struck from deep for a try in the first ten minutes of the match. The conversion was added by Nick Gebrael to stake the home side to an early 7-0 lead. It would be their only lead of the match. Mistakes gave the Barbarians territory which they eventually converted to points. The club’s 1st XV stayed on the wrong side of the ref’s whistle for a good portion of the first half as the Barbarians slowly built a 24-7 lead as the sides went into the half.
Some fresh legs came on for the Bootleggers to start the second half and the Bootleggers mounted a comeback. Tries from Austin Lyons and a second from Grim in the opening 15 minutes of the half left the score at 24-17 in favor of the Barbarians. The momentum was short lived for the Bootleggers as the Barbarians regained their foothold on the match. The visitors added three tries in the final 15 minutes to stretch out to a 41-17 victory.
The loss was disappointing for the 1st XV as it knocked them out of playoff contention. The silver lining is the youth movement within the club’s 1st XV this season as eight U23 players took the pitch for the side this season. The overhaul on the 1st XV was long overdue as the club had relied heavily on veterans the past few seasons.
For the second match, the club welcomed old friend New Bern into town. New Bern has shown steady improvement over the past few seasons and that was evident on Saturday as they easily dispatched the Bootleggers’ 2nd XV. The visitors used their athleticism to take control of the match early and push out to a large lead. The Bootleggers put in a much better effort in the second half as they managed some possession. Their work was rewarded when Ed Dixon crashed over for a short range try after a long series of phases within the New Bern 22.
Final score: New Bern 60 Clayton 2nd XV 7
Despite the losses, it was a great club day for all. The two matches were followed by a wonderful social at Deep River Brewing Company. With membership continuing to rise, a youth movement in effect, and a new facility on the horizon there is a lot to be excited about around the Clayton RFC.
With just a few weeks left in the season, the Bootleggers hope to finish on a high note. After a couple weeks on the road, the club return for their final home date of the season on March 21st as they take on Triad.