Pygmies Dominate Top Competition in Flagstaff
Tech Wins Five Times En Route To Tourney Triumph
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Oct. 6, 2009 -- When it comes to 10-man rugby, New Mexico Tech's Pygmies don't care who they face. Playing for the first time in the collegiate open division of the 29th annual Arizona Tens tournament in Flagstaff on October 3 and 4, Tech marched undefeated through four matches before claiming the championship title under stormy skies with a convincing 31-19 victory over hosts and defending champions Northern Arizona University.
|The New Mexico Tech rugby team celebrates its victories at the Northern Arizona Tens Tournament last weekend.|
The challenge for the Tech Pygmies will be to transfer their 10’s dominance to the 15-man game when they next take the field at the 38th annual High Desert Classic Tournament in Albuquerque. The tournament kicks off at Bullhead Park on October 17 and feature two full days of competition in collegiate, women's, and men's open divisions.
Following first-place tournament finishes three of the past four years in the Collegiate ‘B’ Division, Tech combined sublime attacking skills with purposeful defense to set upper-tier opponents reeling and onlookers buzzing. Over two days and five matches, the Pygmies scored 141 points while limiting their opponents to a total of 58.
In breezy fall conditions at an elevation of 7,000 feet, the Pygmies fell behind less than two minutes into their opening match with a tough team of post-graduates from the Thunderbird School of Management in Phoenix. The Pygmies took a 12-5 halftime lead on tries by co-captain Royce Beaudry and wing James Fallt. Thunderbird scored two more tries to take a 15-12 lead midway through the second half before outside center Isaiah Sanchez launched a long-range attack featuring passes to Beaudry and the up-and-coming Mason Timm, who touched the ball down for a five-point try.
Nick Aldalpe (from left), James Chavez and Royce Beaudry of Tech keep a watchful eye on the opposing ball carrier in Flagstaff.
With Thunderbird within range at 19-15 and time winding down, Tech hooker Marcus Chavez made a spectacular steal and pass off the ground to fellow front row forward Jerod Aragon, who steamed 35 meters to score the decisive points. Head captain and scrumhalf Jay Herrera was successful with three of four conversion kicks to bring the final score to Tech 26, Thunderbird 15.
Tech was again sorely challenged in their second match against Arizona State University, which entered three teams in the tournament. ASU scored two quick tries to grab an early 12-0 lead. Tech got on the board late in the first half when Beaudry followed up Herrera's run up the narrow side of a scrum and took a soft pass to score.
In the second half the Pygmy backline of Herrera, Beaudry, Nick Aldape, Isaiah Sanchez, and Fallt began to pick the Sun Devil defense apart with a series of piercing passing attacks. Two more Beaudry tries ensued, sandwiching a heroic stretching score in the corner by hardworking lock forward Graham Payne. Jay Herrera converted two of Tech's four tries for an extra four points and a come-from-behind 17-12 triumph.
In their Saturday nightcap Tech upset defending champions Northern Arizona University 31-12. The Landsharks had no answer to a Pygmy flurry that produced 17 first half points. First-year prop James Chavez took the opening kickoff and transferred the ball to Herrera for a long lateral pass to Beaudry, waiting across field with his speedy backline colleagues.
Jay Herrera looks for an opening to grab the ball during a scrum in Flagstaff.
Several well-timed passes and 80 meters later, Fallt touched the ball down and Herrera slotted the conversion for a 7-0 Tech lead in the first minute. By halftime Sanchez had scored a long try after a prolonged Tech defensive stand and Herrera had assisted Beaudry's fifth score of the day with a clever backhand pass.
NAU converted one of their two tries in the second half but still lost ground as Herrera's drop kick connected following his own try and then again after Aldape's five-pointer.
In a wind-driven Sunday morning rain the Pygmies earned their way into the afternoon championship by blanking the Black Sheep of Embry Riddle University 29-0. First-year lock Joaquin Roibal scored his first try after the ball popped loose near Black Sheep's line, Graham Payne scored on a 25-meter gallop, and Sanchez added two tries, once by supporting Fallt’s counterattack from a kick and again by weaving his way through the defense. Beaudry tallied Tech’s only second half score as the Pygmies let up on the gas in anticipation of the championship match.
As the rain abated Tech again opened with a try on the first touch. This time Beaudry kicked ahead for Sanchez to chase down the ball and pass to Aldape for the try, converted by Herrera. The Lumberjacks answered almost immediately on a quick run from a penalty close to Tech's line to knot scores at 7-2. The Pygmies then put on a show of teamwork that saw the ball re-won through several tackles, culminating in a well-taken try by Beaudry. Sanchez added a try in the corner for a 19-7 halftime lead.
NAU struck first in the second half with a well-worked try, but the conversion kick from the corner was missed, 19-12. Tech put matters out of reach midway through the final period when first strongman center Aldape ripped through the defense for a long try and shortly afterward a desperate goal line stand by the Pygmies was rewarded with a kick downfield by Jay Herrera which was scooped up and carried home by a streaking James Fallt. Herrera's conversion of both tries made it 31-12 in Tech's favor. NAU managed one more anticlimactic try with four minutes remaining, but the Pygmies could justly relish their 31-19 championship victory.
– NMT –
By Dave Wheelock/New Mexico Tech Rugby Director