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Tech Ruggers Perfect in Arizona Tournament

Tech Ruggers Perfect in Arizona Tournament

 

Defeat four teams in Flagstaff

 

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The New Mexico Tech Rugby Club showed skill, teamwork, and heart to record four wins against no losses at the 36th Northern Arizona Tens tournament in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Saturday, October 1.

The Tech ruggers had a long but glorious day, starting with a gut-testing encounter at 9 am and finishing with a last-gasp victory at 5 p.m. Along the way the collegians faced one university team and three sides composed of players from both collegiate and open men’s ranks.

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Christian Rode of the New Mexico Tech Rugby Club fields the ball during the team's 22-12 victory over the Tuba City Carp in Flagstaff, Ariz. 

Photo by John Mark Stiles

Ball handling was difficult on Thorpe Park’s four fields following a Friday night rain during Tech’s first match against the Peach Springs Swordfish, a hybrid team based in Flagstaff. Tech took an early lead with a five-point try by Anthony Bernal, and Javier Koerdell kicked the conversion for a 7-0 lead. Midway through the first half NMT team captain Tanner Graham scored a try and Koerdell’s kick made it 14-0.

Peach Springs responded to score an unconverted try to bring halftime scores to NMT 14, Peach Springs 5. Several promising Tech attacks were negated by the slippery ball before a Tech lineout (inbounds throw) went astray midway through the half. A Peach Springs player fell on it for a try, shrinking Tech’s lead to 14-10 after an unsuccessful conversion kick. As the momentum turned the Pygmies had to defend heroically to earn a hard-fought 14-10 victory.

Tech had a much easier time with Embry Riddle in an 11 a.m. match. Four first-year Pygmies scored their first tries in a 64-0 demolition of the Black Sheep: Zack Lepper (two), Chris Bond, Jeremy Hart, and Dillon Cvetic-Thomas. Additional five-pointers were tallied by John Mark Stiles, Tanner Graham (two), Pygmy alumnus Brian Arko, and Sean Reed. Graham added three conversion kicks and Arko connected on four. Critically, Tech’s forwards under co-captain Stephen Albritton raised their performance in set scrums and lineout play during this match.

The Tuba City Carp belied their playful nickname with a no-holds-barred playing style in a 1:40 p.m. matchup. Although Tech prevailed, NMT head captain Tanner Graham would require stitches to the top of his head and was lost for the remainder of the competition. Tuba City drew first blood figuratively also with a try just two minutes into the match, but lock forward Nigel Ruckhaus evened it up with a powerful scoring run from a penalty five minutes later. Strong-running co-captain Javier Koerdell scored after taking a pass from Graham and converted the try to make it 12-5 and then rookie back Josh Jaime took another Graham lateral and wove his way to paydirt to stretch Tech’s lead to 17-5, following Koerdell’s conversion.

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The New Mexico Tech Rugby Club, aka The Pygmies, celebrate their tournament victory in Flagstaff.

 

In the dying stages the Carp used a confrontational attack to cut the lead to 17-12 and seemed a good bet to steal the win. But Koerdell worked a bit of magic by kicking long and out-sprinting the defense to dive onto the ball in City’s try zone and seal the 22-12 win.

Tech faced their third tough hybrid opponent in the Chinle Chubs at the end of a taxing day. The absence of Graham posed a handicap for Tech, while master backline player John Mark Stiles also stood down after being roughed up in the Embry Riddle match.

The Pygmies started well by scoring 17 unanswered points in the first half. With Koerdell taking a first-half rest, Nigel Ruckhaus kicked a 20-meter penalty goal to give Tech a 3-0 lead. Anthony Bernal and Josh Jaime combined in some beautiful back-and-forth passing for a long-range try by Bernal, which Ruckhaus converted for a 10-0 lead.

On the stroke of halftime Ruckhaus took a pass from scrumhalf Isaac Juarez and burst over the line for a try which he then converted for a 17-0 lead.  

The Carp stormed back with two tries in the second stanza to cut Tech’s lead to 17-14. Despite heroic defense led by the omnipresent Ruckhaus, the locals took control and then the lead, 21-17, on a third converted try with just two minutes to play. 

Refusing to panic, Tech marched the ball into Chinle’s territory and, showing outstanding ball retention, made several unsuccessful stabs at the try line. With Tech 10 meters out and the referee glancing at his watch, Koerdell finally found a seam in the defensive line and slipped through for a try that capped Tech’s perfect day with a sensational 24-21 victory.  

Nigel Ruckhaus was named Tech’s Man of the Day for his inspiring play in attack and defense. The Pygmies move their fall record to 7 wins against no losses and 1 tie. They will host the UTEP Miners on the NMT campus at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct 8.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/NMT Rugby Director