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Rugby Graduates Triumph in 49ers Homecoming

SOCORRO, N.M. November 3, 2014 – New Mexico Tech’s alumni rugby team, the Ancestors, swept aside an early lead by the undergraduate Pygmies Friday afternoon to post a resounding 65-14 victory to the 49ers record book. This edition of the annual Black and Blue Match was a far cry from the 2013 rendition, which saw the old boys scratch out a 39-36 win in the dying minutes.

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Tech freshman Andrew Duff beats the tackle of Ancestor alumni James Napier during the annual Black and Blue alumni rugby match. From left to right are Pygmy veteran Blaine Trujillo and Ancestors James Chavez and Mark Kelly.

Photos by William Colburn

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 Native Socorroan James Chavez, a veteran of the Tech and Coastal Rugby Clubs of New Plymouth, New Zealand, slams the ball down for a try in the 65-5 Ancestor victory over the student Pygmies Friday evening. Joining in the tackle is fly half / scrum half Brian Arko while Isaac Juarez pursues the play.

 

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 Rob Harrison of the Tech Ancestor alumni rugby team evades the tackle of Pygmy prop Ryan Barnes in Friday evening's 49ers match. At left is Michael Bauer.

Once again the Ancestors fielded a strong side featuring many stars of Pygmy history, many still active for senior clubs from New Mexico and beyond. Making the longest pilgrimage was Dr. Michael Bauer, now a member of the Little Rock, Arkansas Rugby Club. Along the touchline were scattered many Pygmies of more distant eras dating back to the birth of the Pygmies in the early 1970s.

October smiled on the occasion with her most ideal weather conditions. The Ancestors struck first after six minutes when Socorro native James Chavez, a recent member of the Coastal Rugby Club in New Zealand, went horizontal to score a five-point try in the corner. Scrum half Seth Daly (unattached, UNM medical school) missed the two-point conversion kick from a steep angle.

Three minutes later Pygmy head captain Jason Lee broke loose for an all but certain scoring run only to be taken down by the collar. Referee Clint Richardson, professor of environmental engineering and a former Pygmy, correctly called a penalty try for dangerous play, and fullback Joe Wilch's conversion kick made it 7-5 in favor of the students.

The Pygmies kept their more experienced big brothers on their heels for the next 10 minutes with spirited play capped by a stunning try by rising star Brian Arko and Wilch's second conversion. After roughly one quarter of play the Pygmy lead stood at 14- 5.

But an upset by a student team wasn't in the cards for 2014, as the graduates’ superior size and experience began to take their toll. At 23 minutes the giant prop Dylan Merrigan, chairman of the Santa Fe Rugby Club, crashed over the line to start the parade. Daly missed the conversion kick on this try and that of Santa Fe center Royce Beaudry soon afterward, but the Ancestors now led 15-14. Just before halftime Michael Bauer consummated his long trip with a try converted by Rob Harrison, also of the Santa Fe club.

Trailing 22-14, the Pygmies in the second 40 minutes faced a team of veterans shifting into a gear rarely seen on the Tech rugby ground. While the students never backed down, the ball-winning and attacking skills of their elders was simply beyond a 15-man team with six first-year players on board.

The Albuquerque Brujos' Tory Tadano, another Socorro native, scored two tries on punishing runs. Rob Harrison scored from an assisting pass by Beaudry, and Bauer bagged his second try. Brandon Jay Herrera, recently named to the Laguna Tribal Council, scored after one of his many breakout runs, and James Fallt of the Harlequins club in Denver flew down the touchline to pay dirt. Isaiah Sanchez of Mora, N.M., the latest Pygmy legend to join Santa Fe's backs division, scored the last Ancestor try in spectacular fashion, sliding crossways into a goalpost in the tackle of Pygmy fullback Joe Wilch after a high-speed chase. Thankfully the post was heavily padded and after a brief spell of suspense both players arose unhurt.

Rob Harrison converted five of seven tries in addition to his try for a personal haul of 15 points. Tory Tadano was named Man of the Match by the Ancestors while sophomore flanker Carl Peart was honored by the Pygmies.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director