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Pygmies Trounce Downstate Rivals 45-7

LAS CRUCES, N.M. March 19, 2014 – New Mexico Tech's men's rugby club took over second place in the Rio Grande Rugby Union collegiate championship race Saturday with a 45-7 win over New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. The victory avenged a 38-22 loss to the Chiles in Socorro on September 21, 2013.

It was the final match for both teams in a round-robin series also including the University of New Mexico and the University of Texas-El Paso, in which teams play each other twice during the 2013-2014 school term. UNM and UTEP will complete the series in El Paso on March 22, with the undefeated Lobos overwhelming favorites to beat the 1-4 Miners and gain number one seeding in the Rio Grande championship tournament to be held on the New Mexico Tech campus April 5.

The Pygmies, now 3-3 in conference play, wasted no time getting on top when the Chiles mishandled the opening kickoff, allowing flank forward Darien Williams to sweep up the ball and bolt over the try line untouched. Fly half Steve Bernsen's two-point conversion kick nicked one goalpost but fell between the uprights to give Tech a 7-0 lead after just 15 seconds.

The Pygmies kept the early initiative by tackling and rucking strongly and scored again after eight minutes. Flanker and forwards captain Jason Lee ran from a scrum near the Chiles’ 22-meter line before making a short lateral pass to energetic hooker Rick Cosentino who rumbled in for the try. Bernsen again added the extras for a 14-0 Tech lead.

Halfway through the 40-minute half the dynamic Lee scored after another scrum in State's territory, setting up Bernsen's third successful conversion.

Tech completed their first-half shutout as Chile fullback Serge Blanco, pressured by Tech's forwards, muffed a desperate relief kick from his own try zone. Pygmy scrum half Brian Arko fell on the ball and Bernsen completed his perfect kicking day for a 28-0 Tech halftime lead.

Four minutes into the second act Tech fullback Joe Wilch connected with a 30-meter penalty kick to add three points to Tech's lead. A quarter hour later the battered Chiles were whistled for yet another penalty. Arko quickly ran the ball from the point of infringement and Lee took his pass on the left. The big flanker shot into the try zone untouched and Wilch added another conversion to make it 38-0.

The Chiles averted a whitewash 65 minutes into the match when Peter Stringer's 20-meter tap and run after a penalty by the Pygmies caught them napping. Stringer's try was converted but Tech still led 38-7.

Tech wrapped up all scoring ten minutes from full time as Bernsen’s halftime replacement Rourke Nakai took a pass from lock Fritz Hieb and transferred the ball to John Mark Stiles. Stiles’s blistering pace over the remaining 70 meters left would-be Chile tacklers clutching air and the first year wing crossed the line alone. Wilch completed his own perfect day of goal-kicking to bring the final score to 45-7.

Darien Williams, a Hot Spring High graduate studying mechanical engineering, was named Tech's Man of the Match, with honorable mentions going to Javier Koerdell and James Chavez.

Following Tech’s spring break the Pygmies will host New Mexico Highlands University on March 29. Los Vatos have compiled a 6-0 record since September in the National Small College Rugby Organization's Pioneer League, which is otherwise comprised of Colorado collegiate teams.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director