Tech Ruggers swamped by basketball-esque score

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The equivalent of two 10-man rugby matches in Socorro on Saturday resulted in what sounds like a lopsided basketball score: 80 to 50, in favor of the visiting Las Cruces Horny Toads. The Horny Toads are a men’s club composed largely of New Mexico State University alumni ruggers.

Submitted photos by William D. Colburn: Blaine Trujillo advances the ball for the Pygmies Saturday at the NMT rugby ground. Tech went down hard to the Horny Toads of Las Cruces, 80 – 50.

Following a successful season-opening scrimmage in Socorro on Feb. 2, in which the Pygmies the pipped New Mexico State University Chiles by 34 points to 31, the home team surprisingly found themselves with only 12 players to fill 15 positions. The Horny Toads spared the Pygmies some embarrassment by traveling equally short, and the opposing captains negotiated to play four normal halves’ worth of the 10-man version of rugby.

Fortunately for Tech, one of those in attendance was team captain Enrique Koerdell, a Santa Fe native who by day’s end had registered 38 of his team’s 50 points on six 5-point tries and four 2-point conversion kicks. Koerdell was later named Man of the Match by his teammates.

On a bright day with scant trace of the spring winds sure to come, both teams’ play exhibited the unflattering effects of a long holiday break. The more-experienced Toads had a better grasp of their intentions than their young opponents, but struggled throughout with accuracy in passing, squandering numerous scoring opportunities. The Pygmies ‘roster meanwhile featured five new players bound to make mistakes and a few veterans lacking the fitness necessary to play a sport as demanding as rugby. The results included porous defense lines and a general lack of players running in support of whomever had the ball.

Jerod Aragon of New Mexico Tech looks for support as he is tackled.

On the bright side, graduate student Ben Rosendick scored a 40-meter breakaway try in his first 10 minutes in a rugby match. Javier Koerdell, younger brother of Enrique, lived up to the family name with his enthusiastic play, and Socorro native Isaac Juarez also shone in his second-ever rugby game. Brian Molley, another new man, continued his improvement in the back line. Among the few veterans Rick Cosentino stood out with his active play, senior all-rounder Jerod Aragon graciously played several positions as needed throughout the game; Blaine Trujillo unselfishly dished off a scoring pass to younger teammate Darien Williams when he could have easily scored himself; and Lance Hernandez, who founded and then migrated to the NMT Bombers baseball club last year, stepped in to lend welcome help in the Pygmies’ time of numerical need.

The Pygmies’ next formal match will be March 16 in Las Cruces, when they challenge the Chiles during the second weekend of spring break.

Members of New Mexico Tech’s Queens women’s rugby club expect to feature in a New Mexico State Lady Chiles lineup against the nationally-ranked University of New Mexico Lady Lobos on the NMT rugby ground on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.