Santa Fe Beats Depleted Tech Rugby Team

SANTA FE, N.M. April 20, 2015 – A short-handed New Mexico Tech rugby side went down to a 33-10 defeat at the hands of the Santa Fe Rugby Club in the capital city Saturday. The Santos used the occasion to tune up for next weekend’s Southern Pacific Rugby Union regional playoffs in Arizona while a full half of the student team stayed in Socorro to tend to mounting end of semester academic obligations.

A week after claiming the Rio Grande Rugby Union collegiate championship title at home, the Pygmies were able to fill only nine of the traditional 15 playing positions. Thanks to a cordial inter-divisional relationship with Santa Fe, whose deep roster features several former New Mexico Tech players, a loan of two players was negotiated for a game of 11 per side. In recognition of the demands of defending a full, 100 by 70 meter rugby field, halves were shortened from the traditional 40 minutes to 20.

The Santos drew first blood after only three minutes of play when former Pygmy Enrique Koerdell bolted through a gap in Tech’s defense to score a five-point try from 40 meters out. Rob Harrison, another Tech graduate, booted the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

But the students weren't going to go quietly and capped a protracted period of attacking pressure with a picture book try taken by backs captain John Mark Stiles. The score came from a lineout (inbounds play) initiated by hooker Blaine Trujillo’s accurate throw to scrumhalf Brian Arko, deputized as lineout jumper in the absence of Tech’s customary lineout specialists. After a running and passing attack by the back line of Stiles, freshman Geno Palermo, Santo-on-loan Jonathan Schell, and Javier Koerdell, Stiles got the ball back to score on the opposite side of the field. Palermo’s conversion kick attempt fell to the side and the teams went to the five-minute halftime with Santa Fe nursing a 7-5 advantage.

Things opened up for Santa Fe in the second half as the more experienced team concentrated on stealing the ball in tackles. The tactic paid off with three successive tries for the Santos, two of them converted for a 26-5 bulge. Sandwiched between these scores and Santa Fe’s last try came a characteristic score by graduating senior and head captain Jason Lee, who showed strength and speed in stripping the ball from an opponent at the halfway line and outpacing the cover defense to score. Freshman prop Nigel Ruckhaus added the two-point conversion kick to account for Tech's 10 points.

Immediately following the shortened “official” game the two clubs exchanged players to create two teams more evenly matched in playing experience. Over the course of two additional 20-minute periods the squad wearing Santa Fe's red and gold jerseys again came out on top, scoring 34 points against 27 for the team clad in the Tech black and blue. Six Pygmies tallied points during these last 40 minutes. Javier Koerdell and Matt King scored tries for the red team while Nigel Ruckhaus and Tanner Graham each bagged their first career tries (Graham with two) for the blue side. Geno Palermo scored his first career points via a two-point conversion kick after one of Graham’s tries and scrumhalf Brian Arko made a long run in support to score from a pass by Ruckhaus before adding the conversion kick.

Nigel Ruckhaus was selected Man of the Match by captains Lee and Stiles. Ruckhaus, who is pursuing an engineering degree, hails from Anchorage, Alaska.

The New Mexico Tech Rugby Club will field a seven-man team to compete in the Celtic Sevens Rugby Tournament on May 16, competed annually in conjunction with the Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival at Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta Park. The tournament falls one week after the end of the academic semester at Tech.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director