For 60 minutes the Claremont Spartans were the better club.
It was the other 20 that cost the No. 1 seed from the regular season a crack at the Colonist Cup as the Spartans went down 2-1 to St. Michaels University School in one semifinal on a sunny, but blustery afternoon at the University of Victoria turf fields on Monday afternoon.
Glenlyon Norfolk School edged Oak Bay 3-2 in the other semifinal with the victors now slated to meet Nov. 12 at Centennial Stadium.
The Spartans were full marks for their 1-0 lead as Jaxon Bellamy gave Claremont the advantage.
Having lost just once all season — to the SMUS Blue Jags earlier this season — the Spartans carried the play on this day, which Blue Jags head coach Wes Barrett fully agreed with.
“It wasn’t the most just result of all time, no,” a relieved Barrett said afterward. “They came out a lot better than we did in the first half. We came out super flat.
“They worked really hard and I think they were unlucky not to get a couple. But our guys came out of it in the second half and had a similar attitude as Claremont had in the first and bagged one. It was a battle from there in.”
Talented SMUS striker Michael Baart buried the tying goal in the 55th minute and he also had a hand in turning the game on its ear in the waning minutes.
Having pulled down Claremont centre back Nathan Karcher, the two remained entangled in a heap. Baart refused to let Karcher go and the defender lost his composure, racking the opposing striker with his cleat.
The official had no choice but to show Karcher the red card, and Baart a subsequent yellow, in the dying minutes and that’s when Noah Pryce-Baff (who replaced the inured Baart) cashed in the winner on a counter attack with Claremont down to 10 men.
“He was tremendous today,” Spartans coach Will Moore said of Karcher. “A moment of passion. It’s a passionate game.
“I think both teams created chances, in the end they un-did us with that counter-attack. We had a free kick, gave it away in a bad part of the field and they punished us for it,” added a disheartened Moore.
“They have a very good side, two of the best strikers in the league and one of the best players I’ve seen in a while in Michael Baart. Unfortunately, he had a role in getting one of our players sent off, but that’s how it goes.”
And the Blue Jags continued to battle.
“They seem to have our number this year,” admitted Moore, whose Spartans lost 4-2 to SMUS on Oct. 1. “We were leading for a half today, had several chances and they came on in the second half. Full marks to them, they took the chances in the end and did enough to win.”
SMUS advances to the Colonist Cup final against a team the Blue Jags have lost to three times this season.
“We pulled through somehow and now we’ve got one more to go,” said Barrett.
As for their upcoming opponent, GNS will play in its fourth Colonist Cup final in the last five years.
The Gryphons battled back twice against Oak Bay, which received its two goals from Charlie Miller.
Jyotish Khanna had two for the Gryphons, including the winner, while Hunter Watson scored the other.
“Our fourth [Colonist Cup final] appearance in five years. We’re really proud of that,” said GNS coach Hugh Williams, whose Gryphons claimed the single-A Island title last week in a 2-1 win over St. Andrew’s.
“When you’ve beaten a team three times, as we have with SMUS, the pressure is probably going to be on the team which has had the victories,” said Williams. “It’ll be a great game for sure, either way.”