NMT Pygmies finish on high rugby note
New Mexico Tech’s mens’ rugby club won two matches and dropped one in the annual Celtic Sevens tournament on May 17 in Albuquerque.
On the hottest day so far in 2014, the Pygmies defeated Hobbs in a late-morning match before bowing to eventual tournament runners-up Albuquerque Aardvarks. The Pygmies then capped their 2013-2014 campaign with a rousing win over Garden City, Kan.
The Celtic Sevens features seven-player teams and includes competition in age-grade, high school and adult categories. It is run in conjunction with the Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival on five manicured fields at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Park.
One week after graduation at New Mexico Tech, the Queens womens’ club was not able to enter a full team. Several members instead combined forces with extras from other womens’ clubs to enjoy a full day of rugby.
John Mark Stiles, a Pennsylvania-born transfer student from New Mexico Military Academy, had a breakout day for Tech. Combining blistering speed with tireless support of teammates and a rapidly developing eye for defensive gaps, the first-year Pygmy ran in a total of eight 5-point tries for the day. Stiles was also key to Tech’s defensive effort as the Pygmies outscored their three opponents 107 points to 29.
In a 10:30 a.m. Match, Tech swamped the ill-prepared Hobbs Tigers, who had neither the fitness nor skills required to cover a full-sized rugby pitch with seven players. In addition to Stiles’s five tries, Darien Williams, Fritz Hieb, Blaine Trujillo, and Javier Koerdell (two tries) all touched down for Tech. Final score: NMT 60, Hobbs 0.
In stark contrast, Tech was outclassed in a 12:30 p.m. match against Albuquerque’s Aardvarks rugby club, a team of seasoned seven-man veterans. The Aardvarks used patience to open Tech’s defense and score three first-half tries to take a 19-0 lead. The Pygmies appeared to apply lessons learned in the first half to limit their opponents to one second-half try, but could not manage any scores of their own and went down 24 – nil.
As the Aardvarks advanced to the championship semifinals Tech was left to salvage their pride against the Jackalopes of Garden City, Kansas in a 2:30 p.m. contest. The teams appeared to match up well and Garden City took an early 5-0 lead after 2 minutes.
Midway through the first half Tech’s Man of the Day John Mark Stiles sprinted forward to take a pass after Rick Cosentino had broken through the defense. Joe Wilch’s two-point conversion kick (one of 10 two-pointers on the day) took Tech into the lead at 7-5. Stiles made it 14-5 at the halftime whistle as he angled inside his defender to take a short pass from co-captain Isaac Juarez.
The Pygmies reached full cry in the second half as they heaped five additional tries on the shell-shocked Jackalopes. Tyler Fletcher scored after a scrum just 30 seconds into the half and Stiles finished some nice support play by Ben Long and Jason Lee. Stiles soon returned the favor with a pass to Long, who bagged his first try by performing a sensational flip to defeat an attempted tackle. Co-captain Jason Lee scored on a movement featuring numerous passes and finally Joe Wilch finished Tech’s rousing blitz with his tenth conversion kick of the day following Long’s second try. Final score: NMT 47, Garden City 5.
The Denver Barbarians overcame Albuquerque’s Aardvarks in the men’s championship match while Littleton Selects beat Los Alamos in the boys’ high school final.