The Winnipeg Blue Bombers advanced to the Grey Cup with a 20-13 win over the host Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday’s CFL West Division final.
The Bombers meet the East Division’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats in next Sunday’s championship game in Calgary. The Ticats downed the Edmonton Eskimos 36-16 in Sunday’s East final.
Kenny Lawler caught a touchdown pass for Winnipeg and Justin Medlock kicked field goals from 44, 43, 32 and 13 yards for the win.
“I did enjoy it,” head coach Mike O’Shea said. “Look at that finish. That game was wild at the end, so I enjoyed every minute of that.
“It’s easy to believe in our guys. We’re gonna find a way to get it done. I know there was a crossbar and it’s kind of anti-climactic really. If that film traveled across North America — how could anybody not love our game.”
Saskatchewan’s Brett Lauther kicked field goals from 12, 13, 33 and 42 yards in front of an announced sellout of 33,350 at Mosaic Stadium.
Saskatchewan topped the West Division with a 13-5 record, ahead of the Calgary Stampeders (12-6) and the Bombers (11-7).
The Roughriders had a bye week while the Bombers defeated the Stampeders 35-14 in the division semifinal last week.
Winnipeg last played in a Grey Cup in 2011 when the Bombers fell 34-23 to the host B.C. Lions. The Blue Bombers haven’t won the CFL’s championship trophy since 1990.
Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros completed 17 of 25 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown pass.
“I’m pretty excited,” Collaros said.
“It’s a precious thing and you really got to cherish it. And it’s not easy to do. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s just a really exciting feeling. I’m so happy for the guys.”
The West final was his third straight start as a Bomber since he was acquired in a trade Oct. 9 from the Toronto Argonauts.
Saskatchewan starting quarterback Cody Fajardo played Sunday with an injured oblique muscle.
He couldn’t run the football as aggressively as he did in a 611-yard regular season. Fajardo was 27-for-41 in passing for 366 yards.
The one-two punch of Collaros and rushing quarterback Chris Streveler that was so effective in a semifinal win over Calgary was deployed less Sunday perhaps due to Streveler’s injured foot.
Streveler, who rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown against Calgary, threw one incomplete pass in his only appearance in the first half.
Saskatchewan’s defence was ready for Streveler to run in the second half, holding him to 10 yards on four carries.
Down 20-13 at the three-minute warning, Saskatchewan squandered a pair of golden opportunities to score.
On a third-and-goal with four seconds left, Fajardo’s pass to the end zone bounced off the crossbar to end the game.
Winnipeg’s defence denied Fajardo on a one-yard plunge attempt for a touchdown with 2:37 remaining.
Trailing 17-7 to start the fourth, the Roughriders had third-string quarterback Bryan Bennett under centre for a short-yardage scoring play.
A miscommunication cost the hosts a touchdown and Lauther kicked a 12-yard field goal.
Winnipeg’s Winston Rose picked off a Fajardo pass late in the third quarter and ran it back to Saskatchewan’s 34-yard line before he was taken down.
The Roughriders defence held the visitors to Medlock’s 44-yard-field goal to cap the quarter.
Fajardo found his rhythm late in the second quarter with seven passes for 94 yards, but that drive stalled in the red zone.
The ‘Riders settled for Lauther’s 12-yard field goal. Medlock’s 60-yard punt single gave Winnipeg an 11-4 halftime lead.
The visitors led 10-1 after the first quarter.
From their own three-yard line, the Bombers raced downfield on Collaros’s 63-yard pass to Darvin Adams, followed by a Saskatchewan roughing-the-passer penalty that moved them another 15 yards, and Collaros’s 26-yard throw to Lawler in the end zone.
Collaros went down holding his left knee when Saskatchewan defensive end Charleston Hughes flew into the quarterback’s legs, but the Bombers starter remained in the game.
The 107-yard touchdown drive was the longest in the CFL playoffs since the 2011 West final, in which Edmonton went 108 yards versus B.C.
The ‘Riders turned the ball over midway through the first quarter. Winnipeg’s Steven Richardson recovered a William Powell fumble to give the Blue Bombers the ball on Saskatchewan’s 32-yard line.
Tackles by Saskatchewan’s Cameron Judge and L.J. McCray held the Bombers to Medlock’s 32-yard field goal.
Roughrider punter Jon Ryan kicked a 54-yard punt single on Saskatchewan’s opening drive of the game.
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