Tech Ruggers Settle for Draw with UNM

Tech Ruggers Settle for Draw with UNM

Dave Wheelock
NMT Rugby Director

RUGBY UNM 1ALBUQUERQUE -- The New Mexico Tech Rugby Club traveled to UNM's Johnson Field Saturday to take on the Lobos in the traditional fifteen-man format, six days after defeating them in the final match of the Santa Fe Tens tournament, 25-14.

That the Lobos were ecstatic over the eventual 15-15 draw was a measure of Tech's control for most of this match. As disappointing as failing to close the deal was for Tech, it was a far cry from the 53-0 strapping they endured on their own pitch the last time the teams had contested a full fifteens match on April 16. For UNM this was a game of disappointing handling errors while Tech paid dearly for its many penalties.

Four minutes into the match a well-worked play by Tech's backs launched Javier Koerdell on a long run. It appeared the fullback would score a try until he was pulled down by the collar just short of UNM's line. The Lobos arguably dodged a bullet as a potential penalty for dangerous play was not called.

New Mexico Tech got on the scoreboard after eight minutes from a scrum restart 15 meters outside UNM's try line. Scrum half Isaac Juarez ran to his right from the base of the formation of forwards and passed to John Mark Stiles, looping around from his initial position left of the scrum. Stiles in turn passed to wing Josh Jaime running undefended and the rookie dove in for a well-executed try. Koerdell's kick from a difficult angle near the right touchline narrowly missed but Tech had a 5-0 advantage.

RUGBY UNM 2New Mexico Tech kept play on UNM's end of the field in the first half through aggressive defense and repeated breaks through the Lobo defense. But frequent penalties against Tech and timely tackles by the Lobos kept Tech from running up more points.

Halfway through the first half UNM was awarded a penalty during a rare foray close to Tech's try line. This penalty became the pattern for all three of the Lobos' tries in the match, as number eight forward Brad Bedesem managed to get over the line after a spirited but futile defensive stand by Tech. This conversion kick also missed and the scores leveled at 5.

Ten minutes before halftime Tech's backs struck again, and this time Koerdell was not to be denied. This time his conversion kick was good and Tech went into the 5-minute break leading 12 to 5.

The second 40 minutes became an unexpected test of attrition for New Mexico Tech as several of their leading veterans had to retire from the field. First John Mark Stiles came off when he appeared to be tackled well after kicking the ball. Minutes later number eight Blaine Trujillo had to be replaced after bumping his head, and later the hard-working Isaac Juarez sprained both ankles simultaneously. Most concerning was an apparent knee injury to wing Geno Palermo, who thankfully passed a subsequent medical examination. Adding to Tech's woes was a 10-minute sin-binning of Koerdell, along with a UNM co-offender, for "overenthusiastic play".

Koerdell emerged from the naughty chair just in time to boot a vital penalty kick to increase his team's lead to 15-5 with 18 minutes to play. But the Lobos got into scoring range thanks to a dropped kick and were awarded a penalty for another Tech infringement. Another try by Bedesem much like his first was the result, and after an unsuccessful conversion kick UNM trailed 15-10 with four minutes left.

With teammates running on fumes, Bedesem made a long run into Tech territory where the defenders gave away yet another penalty close to their own try line for failure to release a tackled player. Another defensive stand followed but Kyler Gale eventually scored to bring the scores level at 15. With only seconds remaining Tech could only watch as the conversion kick sailed toward the uprights before missing to the right, denying the Lobos a last-minute victory.

Socorro native Isaac Juarez was selected as Tech's Man of the Match for his inspiring play at scrum half. Tech has a free weekend before traveling to Las Cruces to take on the Chiles on September 24.