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NMT Student Ruggers Finally Beat Graduates

NMT Student Ruggers Finally Beat Graduates

Students Hang On For Dramatic 45-37 Victory

SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech’s student rugby team put their unbeaten record on the line Friday evening in the Black and Blue alumni match, a highlight of Tech’s annual 49ers homecoming celebration.

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Zak Lepper of the student team is held in the tackle of James Fallt as alumni players Royce Beaudry and Brian Arko move in to help. 

 

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NMT graduate Royce Beaudry passes to teammate James Fallt after being tackled by freshman lock Bastian Avila of the Pygmies. Getting off the ground is Sean Reed while Brendan La Counte (center) moves to support Fallt.

 

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Members of New Mexico Tech's student (dark jerseys) and alumni (light jerseys) rugby teams pause after the students’ 45-37 victory Friday. 

 

A stern test was anticipated against a talented team of alumni, many of whom now ply their trade with senior men’s clubs in a variety of states. The student team is 9-1 since September 4, but had not beaten the Ancestors since 2009. Over 80 minutes of often breathtaking play, the youngsters rose to the occasion to post a 45-37 win.

Both teams touched down seven five-point tries but while Javier Koerdell and Zak Lepper combined to successfully kick five two-point conversions, the Ancestor duo of Seth Daly and Dustin Webb could manage just one. As had been the pattern in recent years, the graduates stormed back in the second half. But the students met the challenge with a determined defense and scored two of the game’s last three tries to delight their fans.

After just five minutes of spirited play, referee (and former NMT player) Dr. Clint Richardson called a penalty on the old boys near their own try line. Scrumhalf Isaac Juarez quickly put the ball in play and after a brief tussle loose forward sensation Nigel Ruckhaus barged past two tacklers to score the match’s first try. Koerdell’s kick was good for an early 7-0 lead.

Six minutes later center and team captain Tanner Graham picked off an Ancestor pass and sprinted 70 meters untouched. First-year wing Lepper kicked the conversion for a 14-0 lead.

Ball handling errors produced a series of scrums which tested the four first-year men among the eight forwards. Led by co-captain Stephen Albritton, the youngsters maintained relative parity throughout the match.     The students also did well in lineouts, with freshman Jeremy Hart reliably catching throw-ins throughout the match.

After 23 minutes, center Sean Reed took a backhanded pass from Graham and then passed to Koerdell, who swept in for his team’s third try. Lepper’s kick gave the students a 21-0 lead.

The Ancestors finally got going with a skillful series of passes bringing the ball to wing Tory Tadano. “T n’ T” had one defender to beat and did so handily. Daly’s kick missed to make the score 21-5. Just before halftime hard-working Ancestor center Royce Beaudry bagged another five-pointer to make it 21-10 at the intermission.

Lock forward Dylan Merrigan claimed a short-range try for the elders two minutes into the second half but again the kick failed, leaving the score at 21-15.

Five minutes into the half the student side uncorked a sensational team try featuring a string of passes between forwards and backs, culminating with center Kris Ford’s clutch offload to Ruckhaus as Ford was dragged out of bounds near the try line. Lepper converted Ruckhaus’s try for a 28-15 margin.

Three minutes later, hooker Tim Chavez took a pass from fellow rookie Dillon Mann and showed deceptive speed to score a 30-meter try. Ruckhaus could not connect but the students led 33-15.

The expected Ancestor onslaught started 16 minutes into the half, resulting in three tries in seven minutes. First wing Jake Maxey took a pass from Merrigan to dot down yet another unconverted try. The old boys used long passes to stretch the students’ defense. Five minutes later fullback Isaiah Sanchez wove his way through several defenders to score virtually untouched. Webb finally hit a conversion kick after Tadano scored on a 50-meter run and after 23 minutes the Ancestors were within a point, 33-32.

The final quarter was played at fever pitch with several promising attacks staged by both teams. Ten minutes from full time, Graham took a pass from Isaac Juarez and drew defenders to himself before passing to Mann, playing in his first rugby match. Mann showed no hesitation and crossed in the corner for a try that went unconverted.

Trailing 38-32 yet within one converted try of the lead, the Ancestors pulled out all the stops. The students showed uncommon discipline in defense and counter-attacked with a series of straight-ahead runs capped by a 10-meter dash by Juarez. Koerdell’s conversion put the match out of range at 45-32 with but a minute remaining, the Ancestors engineered a long break after the kickoff and Webb salvaged Ancestor pride by scoring and then converting a try to produce a final score of 45-37 in favor of the students.

Ageless forward Chuck Thomas, a 1990 mining engineering graduate, was named Man of the Match for the Ancestors, while first-year back Lepper won the honor for the student team.

The NMT Rugby Club will face perhaps the biggest challenge of the season October 22-23 as they compete in the 45th annual High Desert Classic in Albuquerque. The HDC is a full fifteen-man team competition as compared to ten-man rugby, in which Tech has gone undefeated over seven matches in tournaments in Santa Fe and Flagstaff, Arizona. The U.S. Air Force Academy’s Zoomies are defending champions of the collegiate division.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/NMT Rugby Director