Brujos Return Pygmies to Earth

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. March 8, 2011 – The New Mexico Brujos Rugby Club kept New Mexico Tech off the scoreboard for the first 25 minutes in Albuquerque Saturday on their way to a comfortable 41-19 decision. By the time Tech Man of the Match Graham Payne scored the first of his two five-point tries the home team held a 22-point lead the Pygmies could not overcome.

James Fallt is tackled in Saturday’s 49–21 loss to the New MexicoAlbuquerque. In support of the fullback are prop Manny Hernandez (left), loose forward Graham Payne (#8), and wing Alex Malone (#11).
Tech’s Graham Payne (left) Lance Hernandez (background), and Manny Hernandez defend a ruck after a tackle in Saturday’s match versus the New Mexico Brujos Rugby Club.  Photos by Dave Wheelock

The loss comes one week after Tech's four-win, no-loss effort in capturing the Thunderbird Invitational ten-man title in Phoenix. Saturday's return to the traditional 15-man form of rugby appeared to expose a weakness in depth amongst the Tech squad. This week's midterm exams followed by academic spring break means the student athletes will have three weeks to make amends before challenging the Clovis Rugby Club Nomads on the road March 26.

With inspirational co-captain Isaiah Sanchez out with illness, Tech went into the match with only two reserve players. First team scrumhalf James Fallt slotted in for Sanchez at fullback while fellow Coloradoan and first-year player Lance Hernandez manned Fallt's customary position.

In the early going Tech tackled well but could not maintain adequate ball possession in the face of close defensive pressure from the Brujos. In response the more experienced club team kept the ball among eight sturdy forwards featuring former Tech players Thor Creager and Theo Hosemann, occasionally moving it laterally to attack through a competent set of backs. The Brujos scored a converted try after five minutes from a scrum at Tech's 22-meter-line, added a three-point penalty kick at 16 minutes, scored between the goalposts two minutes later on a miss-direction play, and at 21 minutes struck from another well-worked scrum play featuring former Pygmy great Tory Tadano.

Tech's lone first-half response came from a penalty close to the Brujos' line. December 2010 graduate and former captain Royce Beaudry, recruited into the Tech team during a visit to his alma mater, foot-tapped the ball and passed to No. 8 forward Graham Payne, who launched himself into two defenders before forcing the ball to the ground to score a try. Tech placekicker Jordan Fastle added the two-point conversion for a 22-7 halftime score.

The students were unlucky early in the first half when inside center Marshal Spradley's clearing kick was charged down by his opposite number, who then gathered the generous bounce to score unchallenged. Tech collected themselves enough to advance the ball into their opponents' territory, where Hernandez spun the ball wide from the scene of a tackle. The ball came to Payne who made a pinpoint pass to Alex Malone sprinting up the touch line, and the untested wing made no mistake in scoring the first try of his career. Fastle converted from a difficult angle to make the score 29-12.

The home team notched an easy try at 14 minutes from a scrum at Tech's five-meter line when a reversal of field found the left side undefended. Tech's last scoring gasp came three minutes later as Beaudry and Payne staged a reprise of the lanky No. 8's first-half score to bring matters to 36-19. The game's last points were scored by speedy wing Matt Wilder, the youngest in a two-generation line of five standout Albuquerque rugby players, who got away at midfield and wove his way through Tech's cover defense to score in the corner.

Last September 18 New Mexico Tech staged a second-half rally in Socorro to beat Rio Grande Rugby Union newcomers Clovis 34-22. The Pygmies succumbed to the Nomads 22-12 on their lone visit to Clovis in April 2010.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director