The Miners Alumni and current players celebrating together after a tough go on the pitch.
Greg Byrd | El Defensor Chieftain photos


It was a fantastic celebration at New Mexico Tech during the 49er’s annual rugby game. Former players from around the country came out to hit the pitch against the new generation of ballers with the current Miners defeating the Alumni 81-29. Prior to this game, the Miners were announced as the number four team nationally for small schools.

“This was excellent being back after a year,” head coach Gearoid Dunbar said. “The first 49ers game I coached was won by only two points so I had a bit of a temper tantrum on the sidelines today because we weren’t playing up to the standards we strive for.”

Before the game, multiple vendors were set up. Coach Dunbar was selling pink jerseys for breast cancer awareness. The goal for him is to sell themed shirts for each month going forward.

Prior to the game, a dunk tank was set up. Students were happy to send their teacher off the plank and Dr. Wesley Cook was sunk multiple times. The ESPORTS team had a multi-screen setup where players could show off their skills. There was also a beer garden, traveling photo booth and competition provided by NMA Cornhole Competition was set up in the parking lot.

In his fourth year, Mechanical Engineering major Eric Schroder was one of the eight participants in the cornhole challenge.

Current Miners players were tearing through the Alumni team’s defense.
Milaan Van Wyk was one of the main perpetrators early for Tech.

“This is very important out here tonight,” he said. “We’ve all been trapped indoors for a year and a half. Being able as students to come out and socialize outside of class or at the cafeteria is great for everybody. This is really great for the morale around campus.”

Everyone was out including senior Tech Student Body President Dallin Sobers selling custom shirts for the 49ers tradition.

“We went with the theme of the roaring ’20s,” he said. “Last year we didn’t get to do anything. But this year, hey, it’s the 20’s again. That was the idea behind this theme. It’s kind of a Gatsby-inspired concept. As a freshman, this event is something you don’t really know about. As a senior you realize this is the most important event here during the fall semester. Especially with Alumni coming back who walked the path before you.”

Before the main game, the Lady Miners were able to put on its first game of the season against the UNM Lobos squad. Coach Dunbar was teaching basic drills before practice as some of the Lady Miners players had never played rugby. The Miners scored fast right off a team scramble before the Lady Lobos came roaring back with a trip to the endzone of its own. UNM won, but it was not a runaway.

Leading into the main event, two popular Tech bands played sets on the stage right in front of the entryway. First off was ‘LAX Idea,’ followed by ‘Technical Differences.’ Senior Seth Sineros is a vocalist and electric guitar player for ‘Technical Differences’, a band that has been together for just under a year

“As a band, we play mostly classic rock. Really, we try to play whatever feels good and we’re always changing it up. Playing tonight was a blast, especially getting to play with “LAX Idea” too. It’s great for the Techies to go out not just because of COVID but also midterms going on. This is a great way to relieve stress and just have fun.”

Then the main event began. Old versus young. Graduates versus students. A spruced-up coach Dunbar led his team onto the pitch ready to get to work. The younger Miners scored twice in a row fast. Milaan Van Wyk broke tackles left and right toward the promised land. That would be part of Wyk’s opening game hat trick of scores. Wyk even assisted on the team’s next score, tossing the ball to Elijah Naranjo to make the lead even more daunting for the Alumni.

Photo by Greg Byrd | El Defensor Chieftain

Things started to get heated with Willie Uhrle yelling to an opposing player, “I will *bleeping* kill you!” resulting in the referee kicking the young man off the field. On the sidelines, Dunbar had a heated word with Uhrle. “What are you doing? I can curse because I’m on the sidelines, not the field. You represent all of us out there on the pitch. Focus!”

Fortunately, the Miners punched it in quickly after the incident, with Gabe Beltran going on a run. The Alumni were only able to score on one simple run before the half. The banter continued with several Alumni yelling “When did Tech lose so much class!”

Once the game was clearly over, the Miners versus Alumni became a friendlier affair. Coach Dunbar was fraternizing with former players on the sidelines and both crews took multiple pictures together in front of the fans.

“This is what we love here,” said Elijah Naranjo, president of the New Mexico Tech Rugby Club. Naranjo is in his final semester at Tech.  “This is tradition for us and being able to see alumni means so much for all of us. People who have gone through this school not just athletically but also academically, it’s great to see them. This is one of the best atmospheres to show both students and parents what we have to offer here.”

After the game, coach Dunbar was able to enjoy the festivities with his team, former students and community members.

“Nobody got hurt, which is the big thing. We got to show the Alumni that this team is in good hands. Seeing the teams improving year to year is the goal. We also wanted to show the previous generation, they bled for this team, it will always be their team, that the future is bright for the Miners. We are a family here at Tech.”