In front of a large and partisan crowd, on a glorious spring evening at UVic’s Centennial Stadium, SMUS and Oak Bay contested the 22nd Rees Boot Game.
With the series level at 10-10-1, and given the intense rivalry between the two programs, much was at stake. While the Barbs entered this particular game as definite favourites, recent meetings had gone against the form chart.
Indeed, an upset seemed a possibility as SMUS roared out of the gate, engineering a superb length of the field counterattack try, finished off by Lucas de Vries in the sixth minute. Alas, the right wing then had to leave the field with a hamstring strain, which took away the Blue Jags’ most dangerous attacker.
Nonetheless, with the conversion and then a Hari Ikonomou penalty goal, SMUS led 10-0 in the early going.
However, as expected from an experienced and powerful side, Oak Bay slowly came to life, pressuring hard to earn a penalty goal of its own, before then drawing level.
Just before halftime, a SMUS penalty goal dropped inches short, while a loose pass sabotaged an overlap on a final promising attack.
It was still 10-10 at the break and all to play for!
Unfortunately, from a Blue Jags perspective at least, Oak Bay controlled the second half, notching converted tries in the 41st, 53rd and 58th minutes to win 31-10. Unforced errors crept into the SMUS play, with dropped balls and lost possession at the tackle area ensuring long stretches on defence, many at the wrong end of the field.
A late consolation Blue Jag try wasn’t to be either, as, following a slick buildup, the scoring pass to Quinn Ngawati in the left corner at full time was ruled marginally forward.
Despite the loss, there are many positives for SMUS. The scrum, anchored by tight head Aidan Cole and hooker John Cook, was dominant, and the line-out functioned well. Ngawati put in an all action performance, well supported by Sam and Josh Kahn. Likewise, fly half Jonas Robinson and forwards Pablo Fernandez, Myles Duncan and Josh Graffi all performed well.
Congratulations to Oak Bay on retaining the Boot. The two teams will meet again Saturday, April 30 as part of the SMUS Alumni Weekend celebrations.
Check out more photos from the Boot Game on the SMUS Photo Gallery.
(photos by Kyle Slavin; video by Media One)