SOCORRO, N.M. April 10, 2012 – Three women’s and five men’s teams enjoyed near-perfect rugby weather Saturday at the Seventh (Sometimes) Annual Socorro Challenge. New Mexico Tech’s Queens won two of four round-robin matches played in the seven-member team format while the Pygmies won one of their three ten-man contests.

Isaiah Sanchez of the New Mexico Tech Rugby Club prepares to pass against New Mexico State University during Saturday's Socorro Challenge. In support are Rick Cosentino (left) and James Chavez (right). Five men's and three women's teams competed in the daylong event.

Michaela Rempkowski tackles a Northern Arizona University player Saturday during the Socorro Rugby Challenge. Preparing to help is Lisa Sanchez while (L to R) Jade Horton and Lynnae Logan provide support. The Queens beat the Timberdoodles twice on their way to a two win, two loss record for the day.

Photos courtesy of William Colburn

A demanding day of rugby began at 9 a.m. with eventual men’s champions New Mexico Brujos of Albuquerque overcoming the Lobos of the University of New Mexico 12-5. Kicking off at 9:30, Tech’s rapidly improving Queens then put away Northern Arizona University’s Timberdoodles with an exuberant 24-0 display.

The Queens’ seven tackled enthusiastically to continually present themselves with scoring opportunities. Tech scrumhalf Lynnae Logan opened scoring with a five-point try and was soon followed by Andi Buckel, playing in her first match after an injury suffered in fall 2011. Logan’s try was converted by a kick for two extra points by flyhalf Jade Horton.  In the second half, Logan again got over the line and Horton added the conversion for a 17-point lead. As time wound down junior hooker Lisa Sanchez shot through a defensive gap to score a long try and Horton came through with her third conversion kick to account for Tech’s 24-0 victory.

Tech’s Pygmies kept local eyes smiling with a 7-5 squeaker over the Chiles of New Mexico State University.  Sepp Fueirer, new to rugby after growing up on a solid soccer diet, continued his remarkable progress with a first half try converted by Jordan Fastle. State’s Alex Andrews collected a try in the second half but his team fell when his own conversion attempt failed.

Next the NMSU Lady Chiles tuned up their championship run with a 28-0 whitewash of the Timberdoodles. The Brujos beat the Fort Bliss Warriors of El Paso 33-12 and then the Queens squared off against NMSU. The teams went scoreless in the first half before the Lady Chiles scored two unconverted tries to go ahead 10-0. With scant seconds remaining, Horton fielded a kick 60 meters out, broke a tackle, and outsprinted two defenders to score a sensational try. Logan kicked the conversion for the temporarily breathless Horton but time ran out with the final score NMSU 10, NMT 7.

NMSU’s men beat the Lobos 29-7 and then a heavily-substituted Pygmies team took on the surging Brujos. Again Fuierer’s try was the lone score for Tech against two tries and the Brujos prevailed, 12-7.  The Lady Chiles then poured it on the hapless Timberdoodles 43-0 in the day’s biggest thrashing and NMSU soundly beat Ft. Bliss 32-12.

The Lady Chiles shut down Logan, Horton, and Co. in their 2:20 p.m. contest to again defeat Tech, this time by a 12-0 margin. NMSU made it a double in the next match as the Chiles outpointed the Pygmies after a 5-5 halftime knot to win 19-12. Captain Isaiah Sanchez and freshman center Jason Lee accounted for Tech’s tries while Fuierer booted the conversion.

The Queens ended on a high note after trailing a rejuvenated NAU side 5-0 at the half. Logan tied it up with an unconverted try and first-year center Tonya Ross was rewarded for a day of stellar play with her first try, putting Tech over the top at 10-5.

In a captains’ vote, the Queens received the coveted Spirit of Rugby award for the best display of teamwork and sportsmanship. The panel also selected Lynnae Logan as Tech’s most valuable player. NMSU’s Chiles received the Spirit plaque in the men’s division, while Fueirer was named Tech’s most valuable player. Aaron Long was named by the NMT team captains as the Pygmies’ man of the day.

After dropping their first three matches of the spring season, the ascendant Queens have won three and lost two. They are next expected to compete in the Rio Grande Celtic Sevens tournament at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park on May 19, one week after commencement at New Mexico Tech.

The Pygmies will return to 15-man action at home on April 14 against Santa Fe’s Santos before traveling to Albuquerque to close the regular season versus the Brujos April 21. They are also expected to field a seven-man team at the Celtic event.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director