For the first time in the history of the PowerAde State Games of North Carolina, rugby was incorporated into the largest multi-sport festival of the state. At the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex in Matthews, teams from all over the state competed against one another in six divisions of Rugby 7s.
The Clayton Rugby Football Club, along with its youth program, the Copperheads Youth Rugby Football Club, sent three teams to become part of the event and made their presence felt.
The U14 team won the silver medal, the U12 squad placed third with the bronze medal and the newly formed Clayton recorded its first ever official victory.
In the U12 division, the event did not start off well for the Copperheads. Defeats at the hands of the Charlotte Junior Rugby League Southern Shockers and the North Raleigh Redhawks by a combined 35-5 score were understandable for possibly the youngest group of the division.
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Clayton responded well, however, registering wins in two of its final three games of the day. The Copperheads’ first win came over the Fayetteville Griffins in a hard-fought 15-10 victory.
Then, after another loss to the Shockers, Clayton once again bested the Griffins in yet another close contest, 25-20.
For the U14s, a big upset over the Southern Shockers in the semifinals highlighted a runner-up finish for the Copperheads.
The Shockers, an all-star roster made up from several different teams in the Charlotte area, found themselves down four points late in the second half before two late tries pushed them back out in front.
Clayton remained composed, however, and took the ensuing kickoff before matriculating down the field allowing Mason Middleton to score the game-winning points as time expired to advance to the championship game with the 30-29 triumph.
The title game pitted the Copperheads against a familiar rival, North Raleigh, as the Redhawks prevailed for the 29-21 win forcing Clayton to have to settle for the silver medal.
For the newly established men’s team from Clayton that was playing rugby 7s for the first time ever, a top three finish wasn’t in the cards but a historic first-ever team victory over Queen City was worth the trip alone.
Falling behind 7-0 early, the Bootleggers posted 33 unanswered points on the board against the Jesters. Justin Reed paved the way with two tries while Eric Hile, Mattia Muller and Nick Zitani pitched in with tries as well.
A slow start in the first game of the day against Charlotte RFC was too much for Clayton to rebound from. Within a matter of minutes, the Bootleggers were down 21-0 before rallying to outscore Charlotte 17-12 the rest of the way in 29-17 defeat.
Clayton may have been most impressive in a loss to eventual gold medalist Chapel Hill. Trailing by just a 12-7 score late in the contest, the Bootleggers looked to be in position to score before squandering their opportunity and the Warriors added one last score as the clock ran out for the 19-7 win.