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SOCORRO, N.M. February 23, 2011 – The New Mexico Tech men’s rugby club has had all practice and no live action since the spring semester opened January 18. That changed Saturday as the Pygmies finally opened their weather-delayed season with a 33-21 win at home against downstate rival New Mexico State University.
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James Chavez of the NMT Rugby Club drives the ball through New Mexico State University defenders Saturday in Socorro as referee Clint Richardson observes. The Pygmies beat NMSU 33-21.

 

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New Mexico Tech Rugby Club fullback Isaiah Sanchez breaks away for a five-point try against the Chiles of New Mexico State University Saturday in Socorro. Tech won 33-21. Photos by William D. Colburn

The victory was sweet revenge for Tech, who had taken a 39-6 battering in Las Cruces last October. In dry yet windy conditions, a Pygmy team with slim reserves jumped out to a four-try, 26-point lead before the Chiles could manage to crack the scoreboard 14 minutes into the second half. James Fallt led the scoring with two five-point tries while Jordan Fastle kicked four two-point conversions. Energetic center Enrique Koerdell was voted Man of the Match.

The snowstorm that pummeled the state two weeks earlier forced cancellation of an opening scrimmage scheduled with the University of New Mexico Lobos for February 5, and the next weekend was devoted to a pilgrimage by members of Tech’s team to Las Vegas, Nev., where they witnessed South Africa win the U.S. stage of the World Rugby Sevens series.

When it finally came time to play rugby Saturday afternoon, the Pygmies were ready. Ball possession alternated between the teams, but Tech’s ferocious gang tackling and efficient rucking took its toll on their opponents. After nine minutes Tech was awarded a penalty kick 10 meters from the Chiles’ try line. Scrumhalf James Fallt foot-tapped the ball and delivered a short pass to prop forward Emmanuel Hernandez, and the 6’ 2” 275-pound Roswell native scored a try on a thundering run. Fellow forward Jordan Fastle’s conversion attempt kick sailed wide in the wind and Tech led 5-0.

This was Tech’s first match with a line of backs readjusted after the December graduation of head captain Royce Beaudry and injury to scrumhalf Dustin Webb. Fallt stepped in at scrumhalf and new co-captain Brock Romero played flyhalf (first back in the line) with Marshal Spradley and Enrique Koerdell at centers, Jastin Paul and Lance Hernandez at wings and co-captain Isaiah Sanchez at his accustomed fullback position.

Unaccustomed player combinations appeared responsible for at least two first-half scoring chances being missed yet overall Tech looked dangerous with the ball in hand. Sanchez managed Tech’s second try by running between his centers and taking a pass from Koerdell before speeding 40 meters to score. Fastle, ably filling a vacancy at lock forward, nailed the kick and Tech went to the five-minute halftime break leading 12-0.

Three minutes after kickoff a team effort moved the ball to within 25 meters of NMSU’s line, and Spradley broke several tackles to score on an inspired run. Ten minutes later, Fallt touched down the first of his two scores on a 50-meter gallop up the left touchline. After Fastle neatly converted both tries, Tech held a commanding 26-0 lead.

New Mexico State finally scored after 55 minutes when No. 8 Wes Woods got through a rare gap in Tech’s defense to narrow the gap to 26-7. With 15 minutes remaining Fallt muscled into the corner after a nice follow-up of a mass Tech advance, Fastle finished his kicking day with eight points on four of five conversions, and Tech led 33-7.

A lack of match fitness may have allowed NMSU two more scores near full time to make the score respectable at 33-21. The Pygmies will need all their stamina this Saturday when they travel to Phoenix for a 10-man team tournament hosted by Thunderbird School of Global Management.

-- NMT --

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director