CLAYTON, NC – The Clayton Rugby Football Club has wrapped up the first half of the 2021/2022 season. After missing out on the entire 2020/2021 Carolinas Rugby Union season, the club welcomed back the return of league play with open arms. A new-look group took the pitch for the Bootleggers this season. With playing membership almost cut in half, the club came into the season with a leaner and much younger roster. Bolstered by a strong group of players that transitioned to the men’s side from the Clayton Youth Rugby Club the club had high hopes, but knew that there would be some bumps along the road. A total of 12 players made their Bootlegger 1st XV debuts this past fall and a handful of others took the pitch for the club’s 2nd XV. The influx of young talent with experience bodes well for the future of the club.
It took a few matches, but the side really settled in in the last few weeks of the season. After opening up the season with a road loss to James River RFC in Virginia, the Bootleggers began their Carolinas D3 play on the road against Cape Fear. A heated exchange, the Bootleggers trailed 33-31 with a few minutes left to play on the clock. A red card and a few lucky bounces later, Cape Fear came away with a 50-31 victory that didn’t nearly reflect how the match went. The Bootleggers followed with a 27-27 draw on the road against Triad in another highly competitive match. The two sides went back and forth for the entire 80 minutes with Triad scoring as time expired to tie the match. Next up was division leaders Onslow County who paid a visit to Clayton. The Bootleggers came out flat and Onslow took advantage by running up the score in the first half. The Bootleggers bounced back to play them even in the second half, but that damage was already done as Onslow earned a comfortable 64-12 victory.
After a rocky start to the season, the side was beginning to show signs of life as players began to gel with each other at practice. The squad finally got into the win column with a 36-29 win over Bragg on the road. Another tense match up, the Bootleggers held off a late surge from Bragg to pick up a much needed victory. The Bootleggers followed that up with an even better performance the next week as they took down Tobacco Road 33-19 in a clinical performance that highlighted the improvements that the side made over the course of the fall.
The club’s 1st XV now sits at 2-3-1 on the season with a 2-2-1 record in Carolinas D3 league play. The two wins to close out the fall were a big boost in keeping the Bootleggers in the playoff hunt in the most competitive top to bottom division that they’ve seen since joining Division 3. With a short break for the holidays, the Bootleggers pick back up after the New Year. They have a warm up match against Raleigh at the end of January then it is right back into league play.
The club’s 2nd XV was decimated by the drop in players coming out of the pandemic. This was something felt by every club throughout the region, so 2nd side play was limited. The Clayton RFC 2nd XV only managed two matches during the fall season. The first was a loss to Onslow County B which was followed by a tie against Tobacco Road B. As numbers continue to rebuild, the club aims to add more 2nd XV matches during the second half of the season.
The Clayton RFC Old Boys also took the pitch for the first time in two years as they hosted their annual Toys for Tots Old Boys Bash just before Thanksgiving. It was a fantastic day out and the club collected two skids worth of toys with help from Deep River Brewing Company. The action on the pitch was a bit slower, but just as exciting as the Bootlegger Old Boys took on the Southern Pines Old Boys. The two sides locked into a high scoring affair with Southern Pines coming away with a 53-41 win. The Bootlegger Old Boys are headed next to Savannah in March for their St. Patrick’s Day tournament.
The club’s in house youth flag rugby program were also in action over the course of the fall. The Wombats, players aged 3-10, played over the course of 8 weeks in October and November. With almost 40 kids in play this fall, the program serves as an excellent introduction to the sport of rugby. The Wombats will be back in play late spring into early summer.
To learn more about the Clayton Rugby Football Club or if you are interested in joining, please contact us at [email protected]. The Clayton RFC welcomes players with or without prior experience.