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Pygmies Fall to UNM at Home

SOCORRO, N.M. March 4, 2014 – While not thrilled with their 22-10 loss to the University of New Mexico on Saturday, Tech’s rugby men could take a measure of pride in their gritty performance against a team much deeper in numbers and experience.

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Javier Koerdell prepares to fend off a defender in Tech's 22-10 loss to the University of New Mexico on Saturday.

 

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Pygmy veteran forward Darien Williams prepares to launch a long pass versus UNM Saturday. Isaac Juarez is at left and Moises Veleta (#2) at right.

 

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Tech rugby player Moises Veleta looks to pass from the tackle of a UNM defender in Saturday's 22-10 loss.

All photos by William Colburn

The Pygmies turned in a committed mid-afternoon performance against the Lobos, who lead the Rio Grande Rugby Union collegiate standings for 2013-14 with an unblemished record against Tech, NMSU, and the University of Texas-El Paso. It was a marked improvement over their last meeting with the Lobos, a 90-7 shellacking in Albuquerque on November 2.

The home side knew a disjointed performance like their 48-12 win over UTEP two weeks ago would not be good enough to beat UNM. Nevertheless the Pygmies spent most of the first half playing defense as the Lobos took advantage of sometimes-soft Pygmy tackling to score two five-point tries. In the ninth minute of play UNM controlled a scrum five meters from the Tech try line and their forwards engineered a score by maintaining possession through two phases of play (tackles). In the 36th minute UNM center Jeremy Guscott broke tackles to score from 20 meters out. Both conversion kicks were missed to leave the Pygmies within striking range at 10-0.

A cloudy day grew a bit darker for Tech just before halftime when French import Wilfred Juncker swatted away tacklers to score, and at 15-0 it appeared UNM might run away with the contest in the upcoming half.

Tech’s expected second half wind advantage didn’t materialize as the strong southwest winds uncharacteristically abated during the final 40 minutes. With only four substitutes available, most Pygmies soldiered on while UNM was able to reinforce liberally from a deep bench. Nevertheless the home side rallied to outscore the Lobos two tries to one in the closing period. 

UNM remained in the ascendancy in the scrums and lineout restarts but Tech’s defense held firm. Tech’s backs managed their share of penetrating runs, each time falling one connecting pass short of a score. Midway through the action, Tech flanker Jason Lee once again sparked his team with a 40-meter scoring run that blended speed with overpowering might and pure determination. Steve Bernsen couldn’t manage the conversion kick and the score stood at 15-5.

A few minutes later, UNM’s Argentine-American standout Pancho Fluxa effectively iced the match after some clever footwork propelled him through Tech's cover defense. The conversion kick succeeded for a 22-5 lead.

With time winding down the Pygmies were awarded a penalty near UNM’s line. By design the ball came to that man Lee, who obliged with his second try of the day. Once again the kick missed and UNM held their 22-10 advantage.

Lee nearly turned the hat trick on the last play of the match, but couldn’t cleanly pluck the ball from the ground as he raced up on it. Instead the ball fell forward in technical violation of rugby’s law against propelling the ball forward with the hand.

Tech falls to 2-3 in Rio Grande Union collegiate competition. They will try to even up against New Mexico State’s Chiles in Las Cruces on March 15. The Chiles beat Tech in Socorro 38-22 last September 21. 

 

-- NMT --

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director