Queens, Pygmies fall in season’s closing matches
New Mexico Tech’s rugby clubs, the Queens and Pygmies, both fell in season-concluding matches in Socorro last Saturday. The Lady Chiles of New Mexico State University upset a beautiful autumn day for the Queens in mixed play, 32-0 and 21-12 before the University of New Mexico Lobos turned back a determined effort by the Pygmies in the nightcap by a margin of 36-30.
The Queens and their southern rivals competed in two separate matches, featuring both the 10- and seven-player alternative rugby formats. In the 10s match, NMSU completely overwhelmed a Tech side whose lack of aggressiveness in contact situations was clinically exposed. The Lady Chiles scored three tries for a 20-0 halftime lead before running in two more in the second half for their total of 32. The Queens fared better in the sevens match. After conceding 21 first half points Jade Horton finally scored Tech’s first try by breaking free on the blind side of a set scrum and sprinting 35 meters to touch down. Freshman Lindsey Rasmussen collected the Queens’ other try with a committed run from a penalty play close to the Lady Chiles’ try line.
The men’s match, played with full 15-player complements over 80 minutes, was a clean yet hotly contested affair that could have gone either way. As with the Pygmies’ 34-26 defeat by the NMT alumni team two weeks prior, the lead repeatedly changed hands.
The Lobos demonstrated overwhelming superiority in numerous scrum and lineout restart plays, but the Tech team tackled enthusiastically to deny frequent running attacks. Six minutes into the match NMT’s Isaiah Sanchez made a long mesmerizing run to carry play into the Lobo end of the field, where his teammates rucked strongly to retain possession throughout several subsequent tackles. Sophomore hooker Ryan Johnson completed the stellar run of play by diving over the line for the game’s first five-point try. Brock Romero’s conversion kick attempt sailed wide from a steep angle and the Pygmies led 5-0.
At 19 minutes Romero connected with a 25-meter penalty kick to give Tech an 8-0 lead. UNM finally got seven points on the scoreboard six minutes later when scrumhalf Gareth Edwards took a short pass after a scrum near the Pygmy line and tallied a try that was then converted by fullback Serge Blanco.
At 31 minutes Brock Romero lofted a kick near the UNM try line and his back line partner Jason Lee pounced for a try when the defender failed to field the ball cleanly. Romero’s conversion kick made it 15-7 in Tech’s favor. Muhammed Musleh returned the favor three minutes later with a breakaway run after the Lobo forwards stole possession by overpowering a Pygmy scrum. Blanco missed an easy kick to leave the score at 15-12 in favor of the hosts.
The Pygmies surrendered the lead when poor tackling allowed John Henry Luna to score an unconverted try just on the halftime whistle: UNM 17, NMT 15.
The Lobos stretched their lead to 24-15 five minutes into the second half when fly half Berrick Barnes slithered through the middle of Tech’s defense to score a try converted by Blanco. Romero then narrowly missed a three-point penalty kick attempt at 11 minutes but came true when the Lobos again infringed three minutes later to cut UNM’s lead at 24-18.
Midway through the second 40 minutes the Pygmies grabbed a one-point lead after a furious bout of play near UNM’s line. Freshman Darien Williams plunged over the line to make it 25-24.
Ultimately the pressure applied by UNM’s driving scrums and frequent runs paid dividends against a tiring Tech side, with tries 24 and then 27 minutes into the half. With time winding down and the Lobos leading 36-25, Brock Romero feinted to one side before slicing through a gap for a long gallop into Lobo territory. As the cover defense closed in Romero made a nifty backhand pass to center Enrique Koerdell, who in turn dished off for wing Hugh Tye Dias to finish the scoring play with a dashing run. Romero’s conversion flew wide as referee Clint Richardson’s whistle put paid on UNM’s 36-30 victory.
The Queens, recently re-established after a multi-year period of idleness, finished the fall 2012 season with a one win, five loss record. The Pygmies finished at six and four, with all their wins coming via the 10-man format. The teams will resume competition during the spring 2013 New Mexico Tech academic semester.