With a sinewy 31-20 win against the second place Las Cruces Rugby Club (mostly NMSU and USAFA graduates), the Highlands Vatos (12-4-1) mathematically won their eighth Rio Grande Union Men’s Division 3 Championship in 10 years. After two home games in the next two Saturdays against Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the Vatos have qualified for the Regional Playoffs in Tucson against Arizona’s top two teams, Tucson and Phoenix, on April 14 and 15. By sheer distance and demographics, the Vatos will have a challenge.
If the Vatos win both games in Arizona, they again will qualify for the National Sweet 16 (over 300 teams nationally) in San Diego, May 12 and 13. The top four teams advance to the National Championships in Denver on June 2 and 3. The finals will air on ESPN.
“Las Cruces is a quality team,” Coach Greene noted. “Our backs beat Las Cruces. Our forwards were treated as sissy school boys and made to go backwards. You cannot play good teams and prevail while going in reverse in the scrums, lineouts, mauls, and rucks. We have much to improve before we can climb out of being glorified big fish in a very little acequia. Success is not an entitlement. It is earned by balanced work, courage, and focus. As in the past, we happily can compete at the national level, but we need to get fitter, harder, and smarter with our rugby. We have high and implemented standards.”
For his intelligent play and field vision, Captain Scotty Soto from LA was the “Man of the Match” with help from Estevan Martinez of Mora, and Chris Villarreal and Joey Gray, also from the LA region.
Everyone is welcome to this Saturday’s match against the Albuquerque Brujos in Perkin’s Stadium, at 2 p.m.