Tech Ruggers Take Tourney Title in Santa Fe

SANTA FE, N.M. September 10, 2011 – The New Mexico Tech Rugby Club captured the Santa Fe Tens Tournament over the Labor Day weekend, winning four of out five matches. The Pygmies defeated the Las Vegas (N.M.) Vatos 15-10 in the championship match. The Atomic Sisters of Albuquerque won the women's championship and the Albuquerque Aardvarks won the men's club trophy.

A happy New Mexico Tech Rugby Club team celebrates their championship of the Santa Fe Tens Tournament on
September 4. The Pygmies won the championship match of the collegiate division 15-10 over the Las Vegas Vatos RFC.

Jerod Aragon of New Mexico Tech motors for a long run at the Santa Fe Tens Rugby Tournament Sunday, Sept. 4. The Pygmies went 4-1 and claimed the championship with a 15-10 win over the Vatos of Las Vegas, N.M.

Tech's triumph was especially rewarding as team captains Isaiah Sanchez, Stefan Marr and Blaine Trujillo invested in the future by getting eight players time on the pitch who weeks earlier had no knowledge of how to play rugby.

“We took a chance in the second match (vs. New Mexico State University) by starting some rookies, and the strategy worked the rest of the day," Sanchez said. "Those kids really stepped up."

That match was the only one the Pygmies dropped all day, and Tech later erased the 17-7 loss with a 24-17 victory over the Chiles in the semifinal round.

The Pygmies started their 2011-12 campaign with a 14-12 win over the Vatos' B side. Marr scored Tech's first try of the semester and Jordan Fastle kicked the two-point conversion for a 7-0 lead. Fastle's second conversion of Enrique Koerdell's second-half try made the difference in an eventual 14-12 win.

In the 17-7 loss to NMSU, Jerod Aragon scored Tech's only try in the first half while the Chiles put up three five-pointers on the rookie-laced Tech side. Brock Romero added the conversion for Tech.

In an early afternoon match played under threatening skies at Santa Fe Municipal Rugby Park, the Pygmies easily outpaced the Moldies, a local side made up of players over the age of 35. Of Tech's five tries – by Fastle, Tyler Fletcher, Marshal Spradley, Aragon, and Marr – four covered more than 60 meters, including Marr's smooth 90-meter counterattack from a kick.

Rain delayed play for an hour before Tech again matched up with New Mexico State. The captains again chose to invest in the future by selecting a starting squad of developing players and rookies. The Chiles smelled blood and jumped to a 17-7 halftime lead before Tech's strongest side came on in the second half. The result was 17 unanswered points by Tech on three tries (Tyler Augster's first, plus two by Sanchez), which together with Marr's first-half effort spelled disappointment for NMSU.

In the final, Tech was dwarfed by the Las Vegas Vatos' physically-imposing A team, featuring a smattering of vastly-experienced players from the South Pacific island nations. Tech, this time fielding their strongest perceived side, surprised a sizable championship audience by jumping out to a 15-0 halftime lead by dominating ball possession. First, Fastle connected on a long penalty kick for three points. Minutes later, Tech's five-man scrum held their ground long enough for scrumhalf Koerdell to pick up the ball and bolt 40 meters up the short side of the pitch for a five-point try. Fastle's conversion attempt from a steep angle failed and Tech led 8-0. Just before halftime, Marr made a sure tackle on an isolated Veto attacker and Brock Romero was there to scoop up and make a finishing pass to Sanchez. Fastle's successful kick brought scores to 15-0 Tech.

The pride of the Vatos showed itself in the second half as they clawed back to score two five-point tries. But the Pygmies didn't make it easy, aggressively gang tackling their much heavier opponents and preventing touchdowns within easy conversion kicking angles. The result was two tries to Vatos, both conversions missed, and a trophy for an exuberant team from New Mexico Tech.

Santa Fe native Koerdell was selected as Tech's Man of the Tournament. Koerdell played every minute of five matches at the pivotal scrumhalf position. The Pygmies hosted University of New Mexico Lobos and New Mexico State University in a three-way round robin Sept. 10. Tech lost both matches. Look for a complete report in coming days.

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director