By Billy Huntsman
On the same day as the NMSU Aggies lost to Ole Miss, 3-52, the NMSU Chiles rugby team fared no better, losing to the University of Texas – El Paso Miners, 0-54.
The rugby game took place at 1 p.m. in the lower intramural fields, or the rugby pitch, on the NMSU – Las Cruces campus. The Chiles were coming off a previous 31-27 home loss on September 26 to the New Mexico Tech Pgymies.
Unlike in that game, the yellow, red, and green-jerseyed Chiles would not find their goal posts in this game, despite coming very close on a number of occasions.
The Miners, in their black and orange-striped jerseys, had the kickoff to start the game, and following a penalty on the Miners the Chiles were given a lineout, where five players from each team line up in parallel lines at the sideline, and several players from each team hoist up a single player, to try to catch the ball as it is thrown into the field of play once more.
The game’s first scrum, where all the players of both teams interlock their arms and tuck their heads in beside each other, creating a sort of phalanx, saw the rugby ball come out of the Chiles’ end. The ball must be inserted by the offensive team, and the players in the scrum kick at it until it comes out either end of the scrum.
After the ball came out of the Chiles’ end, it was picked up by the Chiles, who tried to carry it down the field but were repeatedly tackled by the Miners. The game is not halted after a tackle, unlike in football, but is continued.
If a player who has the ball is tackled, he must extend the ball away from him, in order for it to be picked up by another player, either from his own team or from the opposition. This is called a ruck.
The referee does not blow the whistle to halt the game, except for particular violations of the game.
After a series of rucks that left the Chiles no closer to their goal post, Number 5 of the Chiles came off the field limping. His ankle was taped up, after which Number 5 went back onto the grass, still limping and getting progressively wearier as the game went on with another scrum.
UTEP was given a lineout, which was caught by the Chiles, who carried the ball nearly to their goal post, the first in a series of almost-scores for NMSU’s team, before the Chile player was tackled and the ball picked up by a Miner, who carried it all the way across the field to the UTEP goal post, scoring the game’s first goal, or try, putting the game at 0-5. A field goal attempt, called a conversion, worth two points was no good.
The Chiles then had the kickoff to restart play. UTEP caught the ball but faced heavy resistance from the Chiles, gaining little distance toward their goal post again. After several rucks, play was stopped by the referee, who then ordered another scrum.
The ball came out of UTEP’s side, and was then kicked across the field into empty space, where it lay waiting to be picked up, by a Chile, and it was at this time many in the bleachers and some on the field were calling for the referee’s attention to Number 19 of the Miners, who had sustained a cut above his eye at some point in the game, and there was a long streak of blood down his cheek.
Number 19 was taken off the field while play continued with a lineout, and he was not out for very long before he came back in, wiping off the blood on his shirtsleeve.
The Miners kicked the ball and it was caught by the Chiles, who were then tackled before the referee called play to stop and for the Miner’s medic to examine Number 19, whose head was swiftly wrapped before play resumed.
On the next scrum, the Chiles picked up the ball but lost it once again to UTEP, who took it all the way to their goal post to set the score at 0-10. This time, however, the conversion was good, making the score 0-12. At this time also, a Chile was taken off the field caressing his shoulder, and was put in a brace. He remained out the rest of the game, though shouted encouragements and instructions from the sidelines.
The Chiles had the next kickoff, which went out of bounds, and play continued with a scrum, coming out on UTEP’s side, and Number 19, bloodied, bandaged head and all carried it to the goal post. The conversion was good, as well, bringing up the score to 0-19.
Halftime started at 2:08. Players came off the field to douse themselves in water, apply sunscreen to their sweaty, bloody, grass-stained skin, and then joined their respective teammates on opposite ends of the field, where their coaches shouted instructions. While UTEP has a older man for a coach, the Chiles’ coach is a student. The Chiles, in fact, are completely student-run.
Halftime ended at 2:16. Goal posts were switched. Bloody Number 19 was still in the game.
The Chiles’ kickoff resulted in the second half’s first scrum, which the UTEP placer tried to roll to his teammates’ feet. The ref called a penalty, giving the Chiles a lineout. Soon after play was resumed, the ball was kicked into empty field, where it lay before being picked up by a Miner, who carried to his goal. This conversion was also good, making the score 0-26.
Amid bleach-talk of how much testosterone there was on the field, the Chiles’ next play featured a fumbled offload, or handoff of the ball, followed by a Miner lineout. A Miner caught the ball and kicked it, and a Chile caught it to bring it agonizingly close to his goal post before being tackled. A Miner picked up the ball and carried it nearly across the whole field to his goal post before getting tackled by a Chile running desperately to stop him.
Though the Chile was able to stop the Miner, the ball remained active and was taken up by another Miner, who then brought in another try and conversion, 0-33.
Both teams charged each other on the field as the heat of the day increased. At one point during play, a Miner bent over the sideline rope and vomited water into the grass. After a scrum, another Miner held the bridge of his nose while people in the bleachers asked aloud, “Is his nose broken?”
Shortly after this, UTEP scored another try and conversion, 0-40. After the Chiles kicked off to start another round, the ball was caught by a Miner, who took it all the way to his goal in one play. Another try, another conversion, 0-47.
The Chiles again kicked off. The ball was caught by a Miner, who was then tackled by a mob of Chiles, and as the collision rolled out and the ball-holder held out the ruck, Number 2 on the Chiles and a Miner got up and started throwing fists at each other.
Both players were restrained by Chiles and the game resumed, eventually resulting in seven more points for the Miners, 0-52, at which point Number 2 in the Chiles and a teammate of his almost started fighting. People in the bleachers and Number 2’s teammates screamed at him to cool off.
On the next play, the kickoff from UTEP was picked up by the Chile with the wrapped ankle, who run-limped to pick up the ball while cursing the Miner for kicking the ball in his direction. The Chile was tackled but not taken down, and he delivered what could have been a punch or a stiffarm to the Miner trying to take him down.
In either case, he was penalized, a lineout given to the Miners, who caught the ball and took it to the goal post to score the game’s final try and conversion, putting the score up to 0-54.
Chiles rugby Club President Brian Toles says players not attending weekly practices affected their gameplay.
“We haven’t been getting guys out to practice,” he says. “We haven’t been working together as a team too much, and we can’t execute in a game when people aren’t showing up to practice. (UTEP) took advantage of our mistakes, and I think if we get back out here, get together as a team and work together we should have a solid rest of the season.”
Toles says the team are going to work on fitness and filling holes, which were created by players “clumping up.”
The Chiles are now preparing for the High Desert Rugby Tournament, which will take place in Albuquerque at the end of October.
If you are interested in watching or playing rugby, the Chiles hold practices Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays 5:30 to 7 p.m