Tech Ruggers Fall To Colorado School of Mines

DENVER, Colo., March 1, 2010 -- Dreams of glory only lasted a week for the New Mexico Tech Rugby Club.

New Mexico Tech (left) and Colorado School of Mines scrimmage in Denver Saturday. Mines won handily, 64-7.

After advancing to the Western Rugby Union Collegiate Division Two playoffs with a 34-17 win over New Mexico State University on February 20, the Pygmies were comprehensively beaten 64-7 by Colorado School of Mines on Saturday, Feb. 27, in Denver. With wintry Colorado weather forcing three changes in match location and kickoff time, the Tech team was fortunate to return safely to Socorro in time to prepare for Monday classes.

Tech had hoped to compensate for weaknesses in their eight-man forward pack with the superior back play which had been their hallmark since the autumn 2009 season. Absent from the scrum through injury or prior commitments were captain Jerod Aragon, veteran flanker Marcus Chavez, and hooker Blaine Trujillo. Added to the December graduations of scrum captain Bart Hegarty and Matt Kretz, hopes of containing CSM's big and athletic pack proved futile.

Mines benefited in the first two minutes when Tech fullback James Fallt was tackled close to his own line. Fallt released the ball as required by rugby law and CSM's Zach Mills was there to touch it down for a five-point try. Mines fullback Vittorio Mazzarella began an impressive assault on the goalposts by kicking the first of his nine two-point conversion kicks for a 7-0 Mines lead.

Freshman prop A.J. Ambrose catches a lineout throw in Denver against Colorado School of Mines Saturday. Moving in to support are Max Crowning (left) and Graham Payne. Mines won 64-7.

CSM kicked accurately into open space during the opening stages to keep Fallt and wings Marshal Spradley and Mason Timm scrambling to retrieve, while an aggressive pursuit prevented Tech's usual running counterattack from materializing. After five minutes Mines drove ahead from a lineout near Tech's try line for Jason Harms to touch down, and CSM's lead advanced to 14-0.
Mines notched another try after a penalty against Tech and Mazzarella added a three-point penalty kick to bring the score to 24-0 just a quarter into the match. The hosts rode their forwards' overpowering advantage in set scrums, strong lineouts, and good support of their runners to limit Tech's share of ball possession to scraps.

Tech's best run of play came in the minutes before halftime, when they scored their only try and were disappointed on two occasions when finishing passes went astray. The try came when scrumhalf Dustin Webb ran from a scrum, drew a defender and passed to fly half Royce Beaudry, who advanced the ball before finding Isaiah Sanchez running into a gap. Sanchez scored and Webb tacked on the extra two points to temporarily bolster Tech hopes at 24-7. But Mines counterattacked strongly from a kick a few minutes later to lift the halftime score to a daunting 31-7.

The onslaught continued in the second half and CSM's backs were able to capitalize on opportunities presented by their forwards' dominance. The Miners scored five tries in 33 minutes, with Mazzarella perfect on conversions until his last kick. With few reserves, the Pygmies had little to cheer themselves through countless tackles besides not allowing a score during the last seven minutes. A bright spot in NMT's game was the attacking and defensive play of scrum half Dustin Webb, who was recognized as Tech's Man of the Match.

Division II New Mexico Tech will challenge University of New Mexico at home on March 6. The Division I Lobos were ranked No. 22 among U.S. colleges in a February 18 poll conducted by Rugby Magazine. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. at the Tech athletic ground.

-- NMT --

By Dave Wheelock/New Mexico Tech Rugby Director