St. Michaels beats Oak Bay to claim Rees Boot

It’s like coming to the birthday party without the cake. Or the Grey Cup game without, well, the Grey Cup.

St. Michaels University School rugby coach Ian Hyde-Lay forgot the Rees Boot at home Wednesday night, but that didn’t stop his team from beating Oak Bay 23-14 in the annual high school matchup between the powers. Hyde-Lay took off one of his own shoes for the presentation to his club.

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Gareth Rees of Victoria is arguably the greatest Canadian rugby player of all-time and played in four World Cups and captained Canada in two of them. His legacy lives on in the Rees Boot Game, in which his alma mater, SMUS, annually takes on cross-town rival Oak Bay with the winner hoisting a bronzed cleated-playing shoe once worn by Rees.

This year’s game, played under the lights before a large and boisterous crowd at Centennial Stadium, was the 20th with SMUS taking a 10-9-1 lead in the series.

These two schools have produced numerous World Cup players for Canada.

“You guys keep Victoria rugby strong,” said Rees, in presenting Hyde-Lay’s substitute shoe to SMUS, which won for the second consecutive year.

The victory continued a banner sporting year for SMUS, which included winning the Colonist Cup in soccer and making it to the B.C. Double-A championship game in boys’ basketball before losing to Lambrick Park in the all-Island provincial final.

Case in point is SMUS fullback Michael Baart, named the 2014 Rees Boot man of the match. He’s headed to play for the University of Victoria Vikes next season. Yet not in rugby, but as a striker in soccer.

“Our school has a very athletic group this season with huge diversity,” said Baart.

“And a lot of the athletes this year are in Grade 11 and they are going to be fantastic next year.”

Although he hopes to be back on the Centennial Stadium pitch in future years in a Vikes soccer jersey, Baart will not soon forget last night in rugby.

“That fan base both sides had out tonight was great and made for a terrific atmosphere. The feeling of being out there on the pitch was unbelievable. That support carried us.”

Baart kicked three penalty goals and two converts and Aidan McCleary and Saeed Shokoya scored tries as SMUS built a 23-0 lead. Oak Bay tries by Nick Dakers and Ryan Harris, both converted by Jack Nyren, cut into that but the Barbs — who just returned from going 3-1 on a tour of Argentina — fell short.

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