The Gareth Rees bronzed boot will live once again at Oak Bay High as the Barbarians handily defeated St. Michaels University School 53-22 on Saturday in the annual senior boys rugby derby known as the Boot Game.
It was the 25th edition of the Gareth Rees Boot Game which dates back to 1995.
Leading the way was Barbarians’ star flyhalf and captain Jack Carson with two tries, five conversions and one penalty kicked. The match was close until the second half when Oak Bay was able to pull ahead.
“It was the first game of the year playing close to turnover-free rugby,” Barbs coach Koji Zolbrod said. “It wasn’t a clean game but it had a lot fewer errors. SMUS is always such a well-coached, well-drilled team, we expected a close game.”
Zolbrod said it was definitely nice for the team to win the game, noting the players were truly up for the ongoing Boot Game rivalry.
Henry Down and Nick Bamford also scored two tries for Oak Bay, with Zach Moncton and Leo Mah each touching down once.
“It’s a thing where the players love it, they get up for it, but when we talk about it as coaches, as far as the scheme of things, it’s another game in the season to try and get better,” Zolbrod said. “The players had 100 per cent focus on this game though the coaches are more looking at the bigger picture.”
The bigger picture of the Barbarians season continues this week with a AAAA league game against St. George’s on Thursday at Wallace Field (UVic).
Then come the city finals next week when Oak Bay will face the winner of SMUS vs. Claremont.
With injuries and other commitments, the Barbs settled for sixth at the recent B.C. High School Rugby Sevens championship. It was a fair result considering the circumstances, though the club had hoped for a top-four finish, the coach said.
As for the Boot Game rivalry, Oak Bay has now won 13 of the 25 trophies while SMUS stands close with 11. There is also one tie. Bragging rights were certainly on the line as the match featured members of the Castaway Wanderers U18 provincial club champions on both sides of the field.
All roads in the Barbs season lead to a faceoff with the Shawinigan Lake Stags in the Island AAAA final on May 23.
Canadian U20 player Quinn Ngawati was the last St. Mikes captain to hoist the Boot in 2017.
Rees, who is often considered Canada’s greatest rugby player and is a member of the IRB World Rugby Hall of Fame (the only other Canadians inducted were Heather Moyse and Al Charron), was in Grade 12 at SMUS when coach Ian Hyde-Lay arrived for the 1984-85 season. The boot is named in honour of Rees, but is not actually his.