Santos cannibalize Pygmies

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Strong southerly winds didn’t deter the Santa Fe Rugby Club from traveling to Socorro Saturday to put a thorough whipping on the New Mexico Tech Pygmies. The Santos mounted a 10-try assault to beat Tech 62-12 in the final rugby match on the hallowed ground, known unofficially in rugby circles as Jeremiah Wright Field.

Jeremiah Wright was captain of the NMT Rugby Club when he was tragically claimed in an auto collision with a recklessly driven police vehicle in 2002. A new dormitory will be built over much of the space the rugby pitch now occupies, with demolition of Tech’s athletic fields this week as the first phase in their eventual replacement.

The Santos, beneficiaries of an impressive talent pipeline with New Mexico Tech, fielded seven former Pygmies in their 15-man lineup. The visitors immediately reclaimed their opening kickoff when a collegian failed to field the ball cleanly. The Pygmies defended their try line for the first 10 minutes but eventually the pressure proved too much and Rick McCaw plunged over the line to register the Santos’ first five-pointer.

Former Pygmy Rob Harrison, NMT Rugby’s MVP in 2005, missed the conversion kick and Tech trailed 5–0. The Santos amassed 31 unanswered first-half points via five tries as their superior organization and skill put matters out of reach for the hosts. Harrison was successful with three two-point conversion kicks.

The Pygmies, for their part, could not maintain possession of the ball long enough to disturb the scoreboard. Lineouts (inbound throws) were consistently claimed by 6′ 4″ former Pygmy Matt Kretz, and an initial parity in scrum restarts gradually evolved into a big advantage for Santa Fe as the Pygmy forwards were increasingly driven backward off the ball.

The theme continued in the second half as a fatigued Pygmy team was forced to tackle almost constantly. Yet, as the 50-point barrier fell, the students unaccountably came to life with their most aggressive showing of the afternoon. In the forward pack the active contributions of James Chavez, Jerod Aragon, Tyler Fletcher and Ryan Johnson was evident, as were those of Isaish Sanchez, Brock Romero, Jason Lee and Enrique Koerdell in the back division. Twenty-six minutes into the period the Pygmies managed to work the ball into Santa Fe’s end and Tech’s standout fullback, Isaiah Sanchez, drew two defenders before passing to wing Lance Hernandez, steaming up the right sideline.

Hernandez had plenty of work to do over the remaining 25 meters but skillfully negotiated his way past two defenders to dot down in the corner. Center Jordan Fastle’s conversion attempt sailed wide in the wind but Pygmy supporters breathed a sigh of relief that their team had avoided a whitewash.

Minutes later NMT scrum half Enrique Koerdell chipped a handy kick over the first line of defense and Sanchez raced ahead to claim possession. Koerdell followed up to take Sanchez’s pass and then popped the ball to freshman center Jason Lee as he was hauled down. Lee touched down between the posts for Fastle to add the conversion kick and advance Tech’s bottom line to 12.

The Pygmies battled fruitlessly on for the remainder of the match but only Santa Fe tallied additional points with two more unconverted tries.

The Pygmies will rely on the city of Socorro for a practice field for the final week of the spring season, capped with an April 21 trip to Albuquerque to challenge the New Mexico Tech Brujos.

A team of undetermined composition will represent New Mexico Tech at the annual Celtic rugby tournament and festival at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park on May 19, one week after the term ends.