Graduate Ruggers Grab 32-22 Comeback Victory

SOCORRO, N.M. October 21, 2015 – The student members of New Mexico Tech’s Pygmy rugby club honored the alumni team Friday evening, without going to the extremes of 2014’s 65-14 drubbing.


2008 New Mexico Tech graduate Taylor Dotson goes down in the tackle of Chuck Thomas in Friday’s 32-22 victory by the graduate Ancestors rugby team. As a current faculty member Dr. Dotson played for the student team. 




New Mexico Tech's Pygmy (dark jerseys) and graduate Ancestors get together following their annual 49ers Black & Blue match. The grads prevailed 32-22.




Former Pygmy Isaiah Sanchez is upended by freshman standout Anthony Bernal in Friday's 32-22 victory by the graduate Ancestors rugby team over the student Pygmies.

All photos by William Colburn



When the sun had faded in the clouds behind the west goal post the Ancestors had scored 20 second-half points to the Pygmies’ three to overcome a halftime deficit and secure victory in the annual 49ers Black & Blue match by a 32-22 score.

The Pygmies opened the match vigorously by dominating ball possession and carrying play into the Ancestor’s end of the NMT rugby pitch. Forward and back units combined effectively for fly half John Mark Stiles’s pass to put freshman sensation Geno Palermo over the line for a five-point try after just three minutes. Center Javier Koerdell’s two-point conversion kick attempt flew wide of the posts.

The students took the subsequent kickoff and again drove into Ancestor territory.

After repeated rushes at the try line prop, Moises Veleta went over from short range for a try. Fullback Joe Wilch made the conversion from an angle and the Pygmies had a 12-nil lead after just five minutes.

The old boys responded positively by working the ball toward the opposite line. At eight minutes former Pygmy fullback legend Isaiah Sanchez benefited from some good work by his teammates to take a pass on the outside and score untouched. Sanchez’s current Santa Fe teammate Rob Harrison made the conversion kick to bring the graduates closer at 12-7.

The Ancestors, many of whom currently play for different teams around the state and beyond, were beginning to mesh, cutting into the students’ early momentum. After a period of go-forward carries featuring Chuck Thomas, Brook Jilek, and their forward teammates, Socorro product James Chavez rammed his way over the try line to score for the Ancestors. Harrison’s kick went astray but the match was even at 12 apiece.

Four minutes later Pygmy flyhalf John Mark Stiles scored on a brilliant solo effort as he chip-kicked the ball forward and ran after it. Stiles nudged it forward a second time as a secondary defender approached, then sprinted on to touch the ball down just as it was about to go dead at the back of the try zone. Wilch’s kick was good for a 19-12 Pygmy lead which held until the halftime whistle.

The first 20 minutes of the second half went scoreless, although the grads enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory. A few players new to the game took to the pitch for the Pygmies, while the Ancestors were able to call upon far more experienced players as subs.

The team play of the match came 24 minutes into the half after the Ancestor forwards won possession in their own half and sent the ball to flyhalf Rob Harrison and an accomplished set of backs. After a dazzling series of passes between Pablo Garibay, Martin Brueggemann, Jay Herrera, Dustin Webb, Tory Tadano, Justin Monroe, and Sanchez, Harrison got it back to score as the students’ line was crossed in the corner. Harrison’s conversion attempt missed and the Pygmies, tiring under the burden of endless tackling, clung to their 19-17 lead.

The Ancestors captured a 20-19 lead, their first of the match, with Harrison’s accurate penalty kick after 74 of the match’s 80 minutes. The Pygmies suddenly seemed out of answers as the Ancestor forwards gained the upper hand and their backs feasted upon an abundance of attacking opportunities. 

At 76 minutes Michael Bauer, who plays wing for national contenders Little Rock Stormers, got the ball with space near the right touch line and showed he still has the blistering long-range pace he was noted for as a Pygmy during the first decade of the 2000s. Harrison’s kick increased the old boy lead to 27-19.

Socorro native Tory Tadano scored the graduates’ last points in his own trademark fashion as he fought his way through tacklers to score. The conversion kick missed.

The students showed their pluck by stealing the match’s last kickoff and forcing their elders into a penalty near their own 22 meter line. Wilch accounted for the 32-22 final score with a 3-point penalty kick as referee Dr. Clint Richardson’s watch signaled the end of play.

William Graham Payne, who received his master’s degree in 2011 and now plays for the Champaign (Ill.) Flatlanders, was chosen by his Ancestor teammates as Man of the Match.

For the Pygmies, the nod went to first-year wing Anthony Bernal. The Pygmies’ season record stands at eight wins versus two losses. They will participate in the 44th annual High Desert Classic tournament at Albuquerque’s Bullhead Park this weekend, Oct. 24-25. The High Desert Pipes and Drum Band will perform a tribute to armed forces members and veterans at noon.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director