New Mexico Tech beats UTEP on the road

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New Mexico Tech evened their record in the Rio Grande Rugby Union’s collegiate standings to two wins versus two losses Saturday with a 48 – 12 victory over the University of Texas at El Paso Miners in Anthony, New Mexico. Last fall the Pygmies squeaked past UTEP 19 – 17 at home before losing to New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico. They will face UNM at home March 1 and NMSU in Las Cruces March 15 to determine final seedings in the Rio Grande Rugby Football Union collegiate championship tournament to be held in Socorro on April 5.

Emily Randall — for El Defensor Chieftain: New Mexico Tech’s Steve Bernsen, No. 13, and Jason Lee encounter a loose ball during the second half of New Mexico Tech’s game against the University of Texas at El Paso.

Acclimatizing was an issue after weeks of practices in Socorro’s chilly evening weather, as temperatures Saturday hovered in the low 80s. In a high school curtain raiser El Paso Cathedral High School bowed to that city’s Spartan high school club team 29 – 17.
The Pygmies struck first after five minutes as prop forward Matt Perry scored his first-ever try from a pileup close to the Miner line. Fullback Joe Wilch kicked the two-point conversion for a 7 – 0 lead. Tech got five more points from their forwards after nine minutes when open side flanker Jason Lee scored after a blocked clearing kick. Wilch again connected to make it 14 – 0.
At fifteen minutes blind side flanker Javier Koerdell rambled 30 meters before passing to Lee, who in turn offloaded a pass for wing Dylan Clendenin to complete a long-range try. Center Steve Bernsen added the conversion for a 19 – 0 Tech advantage. Tech got two more five-pointers before the half, with wing John Mark Stiles showing his pace on a long run down the right touchline and Bernsen gliding through the defense after taking a pass from rookie forward Moises Veleta.
With the outcome evident at 31 – 0, UTEP rallied somewhat in the second half. Their big forwards managed a close-range try just two minutes into the half, and added a similar score toward the end of the match. Meanwhile Jason Lee and Matt Perry each tallied their second tries of the day, while Steve Bernsen added a conversion kick. Lee scored on a penalty play engineered by Bernsen and Perry’s short dive came after the Pygmy forwards destroyed a UTEP scrum close to their own tryline. Tech’s final try of the day was a beauty. Number eight and head captain Blaine Trujillo ran from the base of a scrum five meters from UTEP’s try line after lock forward James Chavez blocked an attempted clearing kick. Wing Alex Malone streaked up on the short side to take a pass as Trujillo was tackled and dotted down in the corner.
First-season player and former U.S. Marine Moises Veleta was named Tech’s Man of the Match for his constant presence around the ball. Scrum half Rick Cosentino’s passes provided a steady link between the forward and back units, where John Mark Stiles was a constant threat at the wing position.
NMT will take on the undefeated UNM Lobos at home on March 1. Kickoff is set for 1:00 at the Tech athletic ground.