With regional and national tournaments quickly approaching in the coming months, New Mexico Tech has scheduled the Rio Grande Championship round-robin tournament Saturday with some of the bigger area colleges to properly prepare itself.
“Everybody has a 100 percent match record just scrimmaging yourself in practice,” Miners coach Gearoid Dunbar said. “You actually need to have guys to play against. It’s a good chance to see what we have. A chance for guys to put their names out there. We’re only bringing 15 guys. We’re cutting half the team so guys will have to fight for that spot so this is a good chance for that.”
The University of New Mexico will face NMT in the opener Saturday, with games involving UTEP and New Mexico State also on tap.
Games are 14 minutes long, with seven-minute halves, and will be played back-to-back-to-back.
“It’s a chance to try things, as well,” Dunbar said. “Things we’ve done unopposed in practice and in theory, they work great, but we will see how offenses react to defenses. And it’s great for teams to play. The only way to get better and grow sport is to play as many minutes as you can. You can watch and practice but unless you get minutes under your belt, you’re not going to get great.”
NMT will head off to the NCR’s 7s West Qualifiers Match April 9 at Cal Maritime in Vallejo, California, with the goal of qualifying for the NCR National Championship on Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans. The Miners have also qualified for the USA Rugby 15s National Championship semifinals and will play April 29 and 30 in Dallas.
Dunbar said he expects a solid showing in the Rio Grande Championship – which is free to spectators, who will have access to food trucks and a beer garden complete with rugby veterans to answer questions.
While virus-related health restrictions squashed the other programs, NMT was able to work out an agreement to continue practicing and playing throughout the pandemic, giving it a significant advantage over other New Mexico schools.
“COVID hit everybody really hard except us,” he said. “We were able to grow and build. We’ve had a jumpstart on everybody else.”