Riders-Bombers prairie rivalry heats up ahead of CFL Western Final

Saskatchewan Roughriders fans aren’t holding back their feelings toward the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when it comes to Sunday’s CFL Western Final at Mosaic Stadium. But the deep-seeded rivalry tends to flow from the stands down to the field.

“(Winnipeg is) another prairie team. That’s like playing your brother and you always want to beat your brother,” said Matt Dominguez, former Rider wide receiver. “There are bragging rights involved.”

Dominguez played with the Green and White for six seasons. He said the Riders-Bombers rivalry stems from the Labour Day Classic.

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“That’s the big game around here. There were times in Rider lore where sometimes that was the only game where Riders were competitive,” Dominguez said. “Everyone comes out, so that’s what makes it the huge rivalry.”

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The rivalry usually culminates on Labour Day, as the two teams have only met eight times in the post-season. The Riders hold a 6-2 record.

Dominguez experienced two of those playoff wins. In 2003, he helped defeat Winnipeg 37-21 in the Western Semi-Final.

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“It was more of a running game. It was kind of a grind—snow everywhere, snow on the sides—and it was a really cold game,” Dominguez said. “We were able to go in and assert ourselves, and when you play that kind of way, it creates a lot of momentum.”

In 2007, Dominguez was sidelined with an injury as he watched the Riders beat the Bombers 23-19 to capture the 95th Grey Cup in Toronto.

Saskatchewan Rough Riders wide receiver Matt Dominguez kisses the Grey Cup after beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 to win the 95th Canadian Football League Grey Cup in Toronto Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007.
Saskatchewan Rough Riders wide receiver Matt Dominguez kisses the Grey Cup after beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 to win the 95th Canadian Football League Grey Cup in Toronto Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/JP Moczulski

“To be able to go there, to complete our journey, to become champions, that’s the main goal,” Dominguez said. “It just happened it was against the Winnipeg team, who hasn’t been able to finish off a season that way.”

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Sunday’s game will be the second time in 43 years that the Riders have hosted the division final—the first in new Mosaic Stadium.

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The last time Saskatchewan and Winnipeg met in the Western Final was 1972.

Regina Leader-Post sports columnist Rob Vanstone was eight years old as he watched from the stands in Winnipeg Stadium.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 1972 CFL Western Final.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 1972 CFL Western Final. G. Helen Vanstone-Mather

At the end of the first half, the Riders were down 24-7, according to Vanstone. He said he thought he team was “doomed.”

“In the second half, I was getting cold and I was miserable,” Vanstone said. “I remember looking at mom and just wondering, ‘what on earth is going on here?’ and she said, ‘Ronnie will find a way.’”

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Sure enough, Ron Lancaster found a way to lead his team to the come-from-behind victory.

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A missed field goal by Rider kicker Jack Abendschan led to back-and-forth punts between the teams—one of the “wackier” plays Vanstone has ever seen.

Eventually, Saskatchewan got the ball back and Abendschan kicked a walk-off field goal.

“There are still some Bomber fans that I’ve heard from in the last 24 hours who are somewhat bitter over the ending,” Vanstone said.

Forty-seven years later, the Green and White look to repeat that Western Final victory to clinch a berth in the 107th Grey Cup.

Kick-off is 3:30 p.m. local time at Mosaic Stadium.

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