New Mexico Tech’s Pygmies appeared on track Saturday in their bid to repeat their 2008 championship of the Celtic Sevens Tournament in Albuquerque. Emerging from pool play with three straight wins, they had outscored their opponents 97 points to 12. But an encore was not in the cards, and Tech went down hard 33-0 in their semifinal match.
New Mexico Tech's Pablo Laight puts a hit on an Albuquerque Rugby Club player Saturday, May 16, during a Celtic Sevens semifinal match. The Pygmies finished the day with 3 wins and one loss. At left is Tech's Matt Kretz and at right is Nick Aldape.
Seventeen men’s teams from California, Texas and New Mexico competed in the seven-man team tournament, a featured event of the annual Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival. Separate competitions were held in women’s and high school categories on the expansive Balloon Fiesta Park grounds.
Once again, the tournament was held on graduation day at New Mexico Tech, putting a damper on the Pygmy lineup. Nevertheless the Pygmies got off on the right foot with a 26-12 win over the Clovis Nomads. James Fallt scored two five-point tries for Tech while Dustin Webb was perfect on two-point conversion kicks for a 14-7 halftime lead.
Nick Aldape and Jay Herrera added second-half tries to account for a final score of NMT 26, Nomads 12.
The Pygmies put on a clinic in their second pool match against the Duke City Dragons. Royce Beaudry scored two first-half tries with Matt Kretz and Herrera adding one apiece. Despite a stiff wind, Webb continued his kicking accuracy, hitting all four conversions. Pablo Laight got onto the board in the second half, while Herrera, Aldape, and Bart Hegarty joined in for a 52-0 final score.
The University of California at Riverside slowed the Pygmy juggernaut considerably with aggressive defense in the last pool match. Jay Herrera broke the ice with a try for Tech midway through the first half and fellow captain Royce Beaudry followed suit just before halftime. Beaudry kicked both conversions for a 14-0 lead. Laight’s try was the only score of the second half but Tech’s defense was secure enough to hand UC-Riverside a 19-0 loss.
Somewhere between their storming pool phase performance and the semifinal round, the Pygmies went off the boil. After a lengthy wait to allow for exhibition matches and the completion of play in three other pools, Tech came out flat against the Banditos of the Albuquerque Rugby Club. By halftime the Banditos held a 21-0 lead, and the final score ballooned to 33-0 as Tech fell away from their pattern of play in the second spell.
The El Paso Scorpions narrowly defeated the Banditos to win the men’s championship, the home town Atomic Sisters took the women’s trophy, and Eldorado High School beat St. Pius in the youth division.
Tech next sees action at the Midnight Sevens Tournament on June 20 in Las Vegas, Nev. The club posted a 10-3 record during the spring season and posted 20 victories against nine losses throughout the 2008-2009 academic year.
-- NMT --