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Tech Runners-up in Rio Grande Rugby Championships

Tech Runners-up in Rio Grande Rugby Championships

EL PASO, Texas – The University of New Mexico swept the Rio Grande Rugby Union’s three-team collegiate championships in Socorro Saturday with wins over the University of Texas at El Paso and hosts New Mexico Tech.

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Freshman center Dillon Mann of the New Mexico Tech Rugby Club looks for someone to pass to in the first round of the Rio Grande Rugby Union college championships Saturday.

 

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Freshman flanker JR Hart goes forward in New Mexico Tech's opening round win over the UTEP Miners in Socorro Saturday.

 

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New Mexico Tech fullback Sean Reed weaves his way through defenders and teammates in Saturday's 29-7 win over UTEP in the Rio Grande collegiate championships.

 

The Lobos claimed the trophy in the last of three round-robin matches by overcoming an early deficit to New Mexico Tech. A late flurry of five-point tries produced an impressive 52-19 championship victory.

New Mexico Tech squared off with UTEP’s Miners at 10:30 a.m. on a cloudless day which would see temperatures reach the low 80s. Tech kept play in the Texans’ end of the field in the opening minutes. Eventually, freshman flank forward Jeremy Hart scored the day’s first try. The two-point conversion kick was missed but Tech led 5-0.

Fellow freshman Chris Bond touched down Tech’s second try in the corner of the try zone after supporting a breakthrough by his backline teammates in the game’s tenth minute. Tech led 10-0 after this kick also was missed.

The halftime scores stood at 10-7 after a UTEP player intercepted a pass and scored a try between the goalposts for an easy conversion.

Eight minutes into the second half Tech freshman and outside center Dillon Mann showed impressive strength, pace, and maneuverability to score from half the length of the pitch. Team captain Tanner Graham came through with the kick for a 17-7 lead.

Seven minutes later Socorro native Julio Peguero, ostensibly nursing a sore hamstring, broke through several would-be tackles to score his first career try from 25 meters. Graham’s kick stretched Tech’s lead to 24-7 and a minute later the powerfully-built back flattened a would-be tackler to complete scoring at 29-7 and make the day’s last match between Tech and UNM the championship decider.

In the 12:30 game UNM scored 10 five-point tries while dispatching UTEP 63-0. 

The home team dominated early ball possession in the championship match. NMT drove the ball deep into Lobo territory and Mann tallied his second try after a scrum won by Tech’s eight forwards. NMT continued to press hard and at 14:00 minutes 250-pound scrum captain Stephen Albritton sliced deep into Lobo territory. The ball came to Tanner Graham after the tackle and the powerful back launched an unstoppable run to score. Tech held a 12-0 lead after Graham’s kick sailed wide of the posts.

Tech conceded a try at the stroke of halftime after a penalty for a high tackle. Shifty Lobo inside center Guero Albright scored a converted try to make it 12-7.

The Lobos served notice of trouble for the home team early in the second half with a long breakaway try to level the scores at 12. Penalties crept into Tech’s game and NMT was forced to play with only 14 men after another illegal tackle. The Lobos scored back-to-back tries to double Tech’s 12 points before being whistled for a foul of their own at 17 minutes. Tanner Graham put the ball into play as the Lobos retreated the required 10 meters and shot through a gap in the Lobo defense to score. His kick brought Tech to within 24-19 but NMT, yet again short of adequate reserves, were out of gas.

Disaster struck the home team as UNM poured on five more tries in the remaining minutes. The final whistle couldn’t come too soon for NMT, as the Lobos and head coach Tom Goslau claimed their second consecutive Rio Grande Collegiate title by a convincing 52-19 margin.

Tech freshman Dillon Mann of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., was named Man of the Day by his teammates. NMT, now 3-3 for the spring season, is scheduled to wrap up with a friendly match against New Mexico Highland University’s Vatos in Socorro on April 29 at 1 pm.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/NMT Rugby Director