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Pygmies Nudged by Men’s Team in Collegiate Final

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.  October 21, 2009 -- The New Mexico Tech Rugby Club overcame four opponents in the 40th annual High Desert Classic in Albuquerque before bowing to the Clovis Nomads in Sunday's collegiate division championship match, 13-7. The Pygmies fell just short in their second comeback rally of the day after defeating New Mexico State University 12-10 in a collegiate semifinal nail-biter. The Nomads were competing in the nine-team collegiate division by virtue of their first-year status in the Rio Grande Rugby Union. 

New Mexico Tech co-captain Bart Hegarty charges the Clovis try line during his team’s 13-7 loss in the championship match of the 40th annual High Desert Classic in Albuquerque on Sunday. Hegarty was stopped short but teammate Nick Aldape scored seconds later. Photos by Dave Wheelock

It was Tech's first foray back into the traditional 15-man version of rugby since winning five matches and the championship of the Northern Arizona Tens Tournament in Flagstaff on October 3 and 4. The Pygmies are scheduled to host the Tech alumni team, The Ancestors, at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the traditional kickoff of New Mexico Tech’s 49ers celebration.

Denver Black Ice clobbered the Atomic Sisters of Albuquerque 60-6 to win the 13-team women’s championship while Glendale, Colo., beat the University of New Mexico 40-8 for the eight-team men’s premier division title.

The Pygmies overwhelmed the Adams State College Grizzlies 36-7 in their opener Saturday morning on the strength of six five-point tries by their talented backs.

Powerful center Nick Aldape and fleet-footed wing James Fallt each touched down twice while head captain Jay Herrera and utility back Dustin Webb also contributed a try each. Herrera connected on three of six two-point conversion kicks.

The familiar Pygmy pattern of scoring was in effect in an early afternoon pool match against the Vatos Rugby Club of Las Vegas, N.M. With their eight forwards winning the lion's share of ball possession, Tech's skilled backs took full advantage of frequent running opportunities. Aldape, Webb, and wing Mason Timm reaped two tries apiece, and fullback Isaiah Sanchez chipped in one. Herrera kicked three conversions and Dustin Webb added two to complete Tech's 45-12 win.

History was made as Mexico Tech squared off against their first-ever Mexican opponent, Chihuahua Rugby Club, in the Saturday nightcap. Tech led 12-0 at halftime on tries by Aldape and Sanchez as the southerners put up stiff resistance, but the dam burst in the second half, as Matt Kretz and Graham Payne became Tech's first forwards to score, joined by Herrera with two more hustling tries. Herrera was two-for-six on conversion kicks.

New Mexico Tech freshman Enrique Koerdell is tackled by a Clovis defender after making a break Sunday in the championship match of the High Desert Classic in Albuquerque. The Nomads edged the Pygmies 13 to 7.

Sunday morning the bruised-but-game Pygmies staged a dramatic 12-10 win over New Mexico State University in semifinal play. The Chiles led 10-nil at the half on a converted try and a penalty goal kick by massive forward Chad Thompson. Tech clawed back midway through the second half when center Royce Beaudry crashed over the line after a penalty. State paid the ultimate price for indiscipline when they were whistled for an infraction 25 meters from their own line with time winding down. Again Tech ran the penalty, and Dustin Webb scored a sensational try to set up Herrera's winning two-point conversion kick.

In the championship match Clovis fielded a stronger team than that nipped by New Mexico Tech 17-15 in Socorro on September 12. As they had against New Mexico State, the Pygmies struggled for ball possession in scrums and lineouts, yet defended strongly. By halftime Nomads flyhalf Andrew North had thundered two penalty kicks through the uprights for a 6-0 lead, and a strong run early in the second half by Clovis number eight Dean Richards stretched the Nomads’ advantage to 13-0.

Working hard beneath a blazing October sun, Tech finally worked the ball within range with less than 10 minutes remaining. Several battering runs were repelled by the Nomads, until finally Nick Aldape slithered over the try line with a couple of teammates in close support. Herrera’s successful conversion made it 13-7. Suddenly Tech was within one converted try of another shocking comeback. The Pygmies almost pulled off the upset when lock Graham Payne shot through a gap, but his difficult pass to Isaiah Sanchez traveled forward, and the Nomads breathed a sigh of relief a minute later when the final whistle blew.

-- NMT --

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director