The Tigers’ homecoming crowd provided a festive atmosphere for both teams’ second ACRL test and, with a handful of players still on the injured reserve roster, the match also served as a debut for new recruits who welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and gain invaluable experience in an open play setting.
The evening’s starting lineup included 7 underclassmen, but the Demon Deacons eventually played as many as 9 freshman at once, 3 of whom have learned to play rugby within the past 5 weeks.
The young club’s eyes were quickly opened to the ACRL frontrunners’ aggressive pace when an unfortunate bounce off the opening kickoff led to an icebreaking Tiger try that set the trend for the next 20 minutes of play. The tenacious Deacons regained their composure and absorbed more of Clemson’s pressure in the closing minutes of the first half, making some strong defensive stands and pushing the game deep into Tiger territory before going into the break at 34-0.
The Demon Deacons started the second half with new intensity, but a steady Clemson defense finally forced a turnover and put them on the back foot. Periodic substitutions gave the Deacons a steady supply of energy and helped them demonstrate commendable fight throughout a gritty battle that ended 68-0.
The Deacons will have another chance to test their mettle when the NC State Wolfpack visits Poteat Field on Oct. 5; Coach Justin Goonan has made it clear that the team will be focused on tactical decision making and providing support on both sides of the ball as Wake Forest looks forward to another opportunity to demonstrate growth.