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The New Mexico Highlands claimed its second consecutive Penn Mutual NSCRO CRC title with a 31-7 victory over St. Mary’s. The Vatos powered through the field, winning every match by over 20 points.
New Mexico Highlands started quickly in the final and just spun it wide. Last year’s MVP Kevon Williams ran right around the outside of the defense to score under the posts. It was his first of three on the day. With the conversion, the Vatos led 7-0.
The Highlands nearly double its lead three minutes in but St. Mary’s avoided trouble by pulling a streaking Vato into touch. St. Mary’s didn’t keep them off the board for long, however. After the lineout the Vatos turned the ball over at the breakdown, spun it left and Williams scooted into the corner for a 12-0 lead.
New Mexico continued to dominate possession and territory. The Vatos won the ball back on the restart and this year’s MVP Jeremy Misalegalu busted through a tackle for a try under the posts. With less than a minute to play in the first half the reigning NSCRO CRC champs led 19-0.
St. Mary’s finally got on the board, with a try from distance. However, a nifty offload sent Kevon Williams into space and the Denver Barbarian sprinted past the St. Mary’s fullback for the deathblow. With one minute to play, the Vatos led 26-7.
The Vatos added one more score at the death to win 31-7. They were the team to beat coming in and they displayed a high caliber brand of rugby.
“We feel really good. We were not going to surprise anybody this year. Everybody knew who we were so we just had to come in and play good rugby,” said Vatos captain Kevon Williams.
The small school from the Southwest has a number of players that play with Denver Barbarians DI club side, including Williams and Misalegalu. Both players have been making waves on the club scene.
“We have three guys that currently play on the Denver Barbarians A-side that competed for the national championship in the DI 7s. Also two other guys that got looked at to play at the Las Vegas 7s and a lot more people who should be looked at. We are playing at a high level right now and we have the athletes,” Williams added.
With the victory, the New Mexico Highlands has now one back-to-back CRC NSCRO Championships. The Vatos powered through the competition this year and would be a threat in the CRC Men’s Division. The Vatos thought about going to Las Vegas to qualify for the main stage, but it was not in the cards this year. New Mexico will be losing four starters including Williams, so it might be a bit before they feel ready to compete there. Perhaps, the future will give them an opportunity to reload and qualify.
“We thought about that this past year but it might have had to been this year,” Williams said of the LVI. “We have four starters that are not going to be back so it is going to be another rebuilding year. But with a few guys coming back they will be just fine and will be able to play at a high level.”