Pygmies Fail to Press Advantage

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. February 8, 2016 – The New Mexico Tech Rugby Club started strongly on the road Saturday but dropped a 32-8 decision to the University of New Mexico at Johnson Field. The Pygmies failed to turn their early advantage in ball possession into points in the first half before their hosts showed how it’s done in the second 80 minutes.

The first half had enough basic elements for a Tech victory. The eight forwards, captained by Fritz Hieb, drove the Lobos backward in the scrums to provide the backs plenty of early runs. Back line captain John Mark Stiles astutely mixed up his play calls to involve all seven backs, and the whole Tech 15 consistently won the battle for possession in the after-tackle situations (rucks).

Tech took the lead after just three minutes on Javier Koerdell’s 20 meter penalty kick. The Lobos were fortunate to take an 8-3 lead five minutes later when a Pygmy lineout (inbounds play) went awry, resulting in an unconverted try by Christian Portilla. Tech’s backs impressed throughout the first half, highlighted by wings Geno Palermo and Kris Ford coming off their blindside positions to crack the defensive line and set up teammates for near scores.

But the Lobos got a reprieve through Tech’s limited use of their ample ball possession. Time and again the Pygmies lacked a rapid follow-up attack after a ruck, allowing the Lobos to reorganize their defense.

The chickens came home to roost in the second half as the Lobos put Tech’s defense under a barrage of follow-up runs (phase play) of the kind lacking in the Pygmy attack. The sheer numbers of required tackles wore Tech down and the tries began to flow for UNM – five in total, with one successful conversion kick to account for the home team’s 32 points. Only in the last three minutes did the Pygmies scratch the scoreboard on a long scoring run by inside center Tanner Graham.

NMT flank forward Isaac Juarez was named Man of the Match for his determined play throughout a physically and emotionally draining match. New Mexico Tech will travel to play the University of Texas-El Paso Miners on February 20.  

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director