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Pygmies Fall in El Paso

SOCORRO, N.M. February 24, 2015 – Carrying just one substitute player, 16 New Mexico Tech Pygmies fulfilled their travel obligation to the University of Texas at El Paso Saturday, but their version of “ironman rugby” fell short in a 39-22 defeat. In a contest between a superior forward pack (NMT) and an ascendant backline (UTEP), the backs carried the day for the Miners, avenging a 28-27 loss in Socorro last September 13.

Whether the Pygmies might have prevailed had they kept the ball closer to their forwards will be food for thought on the practice field.    

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UTEP Miner back D.J. Forbes tries to elude the tackle of New Mexico Tech Rugby Club's Ben Turner on Saturday in El Paso. Scrambling at right is halfback Brian Arko, while fullback Darien Williams (#15) prepares to assist.

Photo by Dave Wheelock/New Mexico Tech

 

Tech kicked off into a light breeze and soon caused a turnover to take possession of the ball. Through a series of run and tackle exchanges the Pygmies solidly controlled the ball for the opening five minutes, but failed to score. Six minutes into the 80-minute match Tech spilled the ball and the Miner backs quickly ran and passed their way half the length of the field for wing Juan Imhoff to score between the goalposts. The conversion kick by Hugo Porta was good for a 7-0 lead.

Seven minutes later Tech scrumhalf Brian Arko’s dropkick restart from Tech’s 22 meter line was fielded by Porta and following another lightning charge by the Miner backs the score stood at 14–0.

The Pygmies finally got on the scoreboard 23 minutes into the half when Arko alertly punched in a try from a penalty mark five meters outside UTEP’s try line. Javier Koerdell’s conversion attempt failed to leave Tech’s deficit at 14-5.

The teams exchanged unconverted tries to close out the first half with the Miner ahead 19-10. First, Tech appeared to have controlled the ball in a set scrum at midfield until the Miner forwards rotated the formation to steal the ball. It was quickly whisked away for UTEP’s backs to make good on yet another accurate phase of running and passing. Just before halftime, the Pygmy forwards mounted a charge of their own and sophomore hooker Carl Peart tunneled through several defenders to touch down.

UTEP recovered their own kickoff to start the second half but turned the ball over close to Tech’s line. Jason Lee’s attempted clearing kick was blocked and fell into the hands of UTEP center Percy Montgomery, who took three running steps and touched down for a 24-10 lead. The middle of the second half was littered with Tech penalties and two more UTEP tries took the Pygmies effectively out of touch at 34-10.

Tech rallied for two tries in the final 20 minutes of play as 6’6” lock Fritz Hieb barreled over on a penalty play and seven minutes later freshman forward Nigel Ruckhaus, playing his second match ever, broke tackles to score from 20 meters. UTEP’s Christian Cullen bagged the Miners’ last score to account for the 39-22 winning margin. 

Forward Tanner Graham, a sophomore transfer student also playing his second rugby match, was named by the Tech captains as their Man of the Match. Co-captain Darien Williams, normally a forward, contributed several strong runs while filling in at fullback. Tech will host the Rio Grande Rugby Union’s collegiate championship tournament on April 4.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/New Mexico Tech