Students Top Grads in Annual Rugby Classic

Pygmies 55, Ancestors 32

SOCORRO, N.M. October 26, 2009 -- New Mexico Tech’s student team won a battle of contrasting rugby styles in Friday’s 49ers homecoming match, scoring a 55-32 victory over Tech’s alumni. The Pygmies conceded the edge in size and experience to their elders but made up the disparity with team speed and support play.

While eight of the undergrads’ nine five-point tries were scored by fleet backline players after long breaks involving several passes, all but one of the Ancestors’ five tries resulted from close range surges of power.

Members of the NMT Pygmy (student) and Ancestor (alumni) rugby teams gather Friday after the students' 55-32 victory. Photo by Dave Wheelock

The Pygmies will attempt to conclude their autumn record at 15 wins against 3 losses Saturday as they take on the New Mexico State University Chiles in Las Cruces. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

With a handful of the alumni players committed to Saturday afternoon matches with their current clubs, the late afternoon kickoff allowed the Ancestors scant time for reunion greetings before introductions were broadcast to an enthusiastic 49ers crowd. After four minutes of play the students took advantage of a turnover by their elders to ship the ball to veteran fullback flier Isaiah Sanchez, who crossed the line for the game’s first try. Jay Herrera booted the conversion and the Pygmies took a 7-0 lead.

A physically imposing set of Ancestor forwards featured former Pygmy greats Denny Newell, James Napier, Habib Guerrero, Brendan La Count, Matt Majors, Tory Tadano, and Dylan Merrigan. The Ancestor forwards drove the Pygmies backward in the opening scrums, forcing student scrumhalf Herrera to scramble with his passes to the backline.

However, the Pygmies thrived on what ball possession they could get from Ancestor kicks or lineouts thrown to Matt Kretz and Graham Payne, always striving to lateral the ball wide for their speedsters to advance. After 10 minutes Pygmy flyhalf Royce Beaudry took the last pass to score after a lightning attack by his mates covered the entire length of the field.

Ancestor scrumhalf Seth Daly got the veterans on the scoreboard at 12-3 after 20 minutes with a long penalty kick, but minutes later the Pygmies went up 19-3 when big inside center Nick Aldape spotted a gap and cruised a full 50 meters to score. Merrigan, a graduate student player at Colorado School of Mines, smashed his way to a short range try to pare the students’ lead to 19-8. Then, Beaudry and Sanchez each added tries in the waning minutes before halftime to apparently to suggest a blowout for the Pygmies at 31-8. 

NMT graduate Dylan Merrigan looks for a gap between student players Conrad Peterson (number 17) and Jay Herrera (number 9). At left is former Pygmy Habib Guerrero and referee Dr. Clint Richardson of the NMT faculty. Photo by John Rundberg

The Ancestor’s five-minute halftime strategy session appeared to revive the Ancestors as they dominated ball possession and registered two tries early in the second half. Guerrero, now playing for the San Juan Silverbacks, couldn’t be stopped from short range. Then, Rob Harrison of the Santa Fe Rugby Club scored from a scrum close to the Pygmies’ tryline. Daly converted the second try.

With the Ancestors looming closer at 31-20 with a half hour remaining, the Pygmies responded, first by working the ball to wing Mason Timm, who found glory through a narrow gap in the defense. Outside center Dustin Webb kicked the conversion and less then two minutes later, Beaudry sped 50 meters to touch down between the posts.

The Ancestors answered with a try from Mike Anguti (converted by Daly) to make it 41-27 before the Pygmies’ man of the match Jay Herrera stepped in front of an Ancestor pass and motored 80 meters to claim an intercept try converted by Webb.

Minutes later, Beaudry added his fourth try of the day when he followed up a brilliant breakaway by Herrera. Webb was good with the conversion kick for a 55-27 student lead, but the Ancestors had the last word when outside center Pat Simons, recently returned to the Santa Fe Rugby Club after an extended playing stint in Australia, combined speed, strength, and footwork to score from 30 meters out. Matt Nelson added the conversion points to draw the 49ers curtain for 2009 at Pygmies 55, Ancestors 32.

-- NMT --

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director