The Clayton Rugby Football Club officially opened up their Spring season with a gutsy 27-14 win over Duke Grads. Played at the Poole Road Rugby complex, the match capped what was a day filled with rugby. The Clayton Copperheads youth teams played host to North Raleigh and a team from Tennessee for a full day of rugby. Then the Copperheads High School team took on the Charlotte Tigers.
The Bootleggers took the field looking to set the tone early, but it was the Duke Grads that set the tone as they came out and set the tempo and physicality early on in the game. The Clayton defense held strong as Duke maintained pressure and the lion’s share of possession for the first 20 minutes of the match. What little possession the Bootleggers had was turned over.
Midway through the first half, the Bootlegger offense began to show life as the forwards began to retain possession and the backs began to execute Head Coach JG Van Graan’s game plan. Probing counter attacks from fullback Simon Potter opened up some holes in the Duke defense and the pack played to their strengths. With momentum slowly swinging their way, the Bootleggers struck first as wing Chris Crumity found some space on the outside and scored to give Clayton a 5-0 lead.
Just before halftime, Clayton extended their lead to 10-0 as No. 8 Gareth Davies crashed over the line off of a set play ran off of a lineout deep in Duke territory. A yellow card to prop Doug Stillwell left Clayton defending the rest of the half a man down, but Duke was unable to capitalize.
Clayton took a 10-0 lead into the half, but knew that the match was far from over and there was still much work to be done.
The Bootleggers came out looking to build on their lead in the second half and did just that as the squad pushed their lead to 15-0 after a try from inside center Adam Hester. Just when it looked as if the Bootleggers were going to start to pull away, they were hit with another yellow card as Lock Pat Cunningham was sent to the bin for a high tackle.
Duke used the opportunity to get themselves back into the game as they scored two converted tries within a ten minute span to cut the Bootlegger’s lead to 15-14 midway through the second half.
With pressure mounting and momentum in Duke’s favor, Clayton buckled down defensively and slowly turned the tide. Wing Connell Smallwood gave Clayton some breathing room when he cut through the Duke Grad defense to score under the posts. The conversion from Simon Potter gave Clayton a 22-14 lead with less than ten minutes to play.
As Duke looked for another comeback, Clayton took advantage of penalties to push deep into Duke’s half. Looking to put the game away, Potter finished his Man of the Match performance by slicing in for a try to give Clayton a commanding 27-14 lead with just minutes to play.
The score remained the same until the final whistle as the Bootleggers collected their first victory of 2015 and with the win, hopes of a bright future.
“It wasn’t the prettiest, but it was a win,” said Head Coach Van Graan. “There is a big difference between practice and game action.”
“The guys showed a lot of heart playing through two yellow cards,” added Potter.
Fans remaining at the game were treated to more rugby as Clayton players divided up into two teams to play an extra 20 minutes to get the reserves more game time. Clayton White came out on top as they won 20-10 over Clayton Grey.
Clayton 27 Duke 14
Tries: C. Crumity, Davies, Hester, Smallwood, Potter
1: Stillwell 2: Bevelacqua 3: Liverman 4: Cunningham 5: Cosgrove 6: Cowan 7: Hardy 8: Davies 9: A. Crumity 10: Rinehart (Capt) 11: Smallwood 12: Hester 13: Ryan 14: Smith 15: Potter
Subs: Niemiller, Klingenbeck, Williams, Dixon, C. Crumity, Haskins, Tailon, Stephens, Stevens, Baker, Koczanski, Fitzpatrick
The Bootleggers will be back in action on Saturday April 11th as they take on the Tobacco Road Legends at Poole Road. If you are interested in learning more about the Clayton Rugby Football Club or are interested in joining, please contact the club at [email protected].