Pygmy Ruggers Open With Losses in Santa Fe

SANTA FE, N.M. September 3, 2013 – The New Mexico Tech men's rugby club opened their 2013-2014 campaign over the Labor Day weekend with three losses in the 41st annual Santa Fe Tens tournament. This traditional start of the autumn season for Rio Grande Union teams features 10-man teams in place of the usual 15.

New Mexico Tech, New Mexico State University, and the University of New Mexico's two sides competed in the men's open division. By virtue of a dubious draw only one match was played between the four collegiate sides, and UNM A’s 31-7 UNM win over NMSU was the only victory recorded by a college team.

Women's club side Atomic Sisters strolled through three collegiate competitors on their way to an expected title while El Paso's Scorpions captured the men's championship by beating Albuquerque's Aardvarks as rain clouds loomed in the south. The Pygmies were relegated to watching after dropping their three pool matches, to hosts Santa Fe Santos 27-5, the Albuquerque Brujos 36-0, and Tucson's Old Pueblo Rugby Club 17-10.

Tech captains Blaine Trujillo, Isaac Juarez, and Jason Lee went into the tournament committed to finding playing time for six new team members with only two weeks' of practice experience. While arguably costing the team a victory in their third match, the team gave themselves a better chance as vital matches approach against collegiate opponents, University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State.    

While displaying most of the usual beginner's mistakes, Tech's new men also impressed their teammates and onlookers with their evident potential. As evidence 6'4" freshman lock forward John Huckabee of Roswell was selected Man of the Day by the Pygmy captains. Fellow lock Aaron Pudlicki, another "long" freshman, scored his first five-point try, and New Mexico Military Institute transfer John Mark Stiles contributed a perfectly-timed pass enabling a teammate to score.

Among Tech's veterans, Aaron Long scored the season's first try on a trick lineout (inbounds pass) play in the Santa Fe match, while twin brother Ben Long took Stiles's aforementioned pass to touch down Tech's final try of the day. Head captain Blaine Trujillo, Tech's Jeremiah Wright Trophy winner last year, teamed with new captains Isaac Juarez and Jason Lee in providing leadership, while incoming geophysics graduate student Steve Bernsen drew on his years in men's open grade rugby in California and Oregon to begin a renovation of Tech's backs division from his position at fly half (front of the back line). While a more ordered style of play remains a long-term project, Tech's young men showed the spirit and raw potential that will be required to achieve a higher standard of play.

Tech's most inspiring score of the day came in the third match against Old Pueblo, and hinted at the promise within this year's team. Scrum half Aaron Long passed to Jason Lee after a teammate was tackled on Tech's end of the field, and the hard-running Lee broke tackles before dishing off to Huckabee steaming up in support. The 240-pound Huckabee cleared a path of his own as the halfway line was crossed, then executed a textbook pass off the ground to Darien Williams when he was finally dragged down by two tacklers. Williams advanced the ball before passing back to the speedy Lee, who had managed to catch back up with play. With no defenders remaining the captain rewarded the hustling Aaron Pudlicki with a soft pass for the freshman to touch down between the posts.

The Pygmies next see action on September 14 as they host UTEP in a 1 p.m. match. This Saturday, the New Mexico Tech Queens will combine with NMSU’s Lady Chiles against perennial powerhouse University of New Mexico Lady Lobos, also in Socorro. Match time is set for 11 a.m. at the Tech rugby ground.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock /Tech Rugby Director