UNM Bests Tech in Spring Rugby Opener

UNM Bests Tech in Spring Rugby Opener

SOCORRO, N.M. – The University of New Mexico Rugby Club beat New Mexico Tech in Socorro Saturday 43–12 in the spring season opener for both teams. The hosts stayed with the Lobos over the first 40 minutes, trailing just 19-7 at halftime, but UNM showed their quality in depth while pulling away in the second stanza. Both teams displayed early-season rustiness but mistakes by Tech proved more costly on the score sheet. The teams had drawn 15 points apiece in Albuquerque last September.


Javier Koerdell of the Tech Rugby Club fends off two UNM taklers in a 43-12 loss Saturday in Socorro.


Sean Reed carries the ball for New Mexico Tech. Teammates Zack Lepper and Nigel Ruckhaus (#8) prepare to support the play.

Photos by William D. Colburn

The home team started strongly by controlling most ball possession in the first 10 minutes, but the Lobo defense held firm. UNM’s fleet of swift backline players looked dangerous on the few occasions their forwards supplied them the ball, yet untimely passing errors stymied their efforts. The Lobos finally got it right after 11 minutes when fly half Cliff Kindred ran into a defensive gap before passing to right wing Sean Maitland, who sprinted to a five-point try. The two-point conversion kick failed.

A pass intercepted by Lobo flanker Sean O’ Brien near Tech’s 22 meter line in the 23rd minute gifted UNM’s next try, which was converted for a 12-0 lead. After the kickoff the Pygmies drove the ball into Lobo territory and were awarded a penalty which offered the choice of an easy three-point kick through the posts or a running play in hopes of a five-point try and possible two-point conversion. NMT opted for the latter but the ball was lost in contact and an immediate counterattack reaped a length-of-field try for the Lobos, which after the conversion made it 19-0.

Tech finally got on the board close to halftime when scrum half Isaac Juarez took a pass from team captain Tanner Graham and forced his way over the line from close range. Javier Koerdell’s conversion kick accounted for the 19-7 halftime score.

UNM built momentum through ball possession early in the second half while the home team’s lack of match fitness opened defensive gaps. The score ballooned to 36-7 from three Lobo tries before the Pygmies were again awarded a penalty close to UNM’s try line. Juarez foot-tapped the ball to put it into play and passed to Zack Lepper, playing the pivotal fly half position in just his second season of rugby. Lepper’s short pass was taken by Sean Reed at pace, and the inside center crashed over the line for Tech’s second score. Lepper was unable to connect for the conversion and the scores stood at 36-12.

Tech drove close to UNM’s line one more time in the match’s dying moments, only to see a pass intercepted and returned 90 meters in the opposite direction by C.J. Stander for the game’s final score, a successful conversion, and a 43-12 defeat.

Tech captains Tanner Graham, Stephen Albritton, and Javier Koerdell named wing Chris Dinelli Man of the Match. Dinelli was playing in his first match after joining the team just three weeks before. NMT will try to break into the win column on the road February 18 against the University of Texas at El Paso. NMT defeated the Miners 59-0 in Socorro last October.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director