VANCOUVER – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers can take solace in going from worst to first in a single season, but came up short in a Cinderella-like effort to win the Grey Cup.
The B.C. Lions defeated Winnipeg 34-23 in a game when the Leos’ defence stifled the Bombers for 54 minutes.
Touchdown receptions by Kierrie Johnson and Arland Bruce buried a Winnipeg club which had managed to remain within comeback distance of the Lions for almost three quarters.
A late rally by the Bombers – quarterback Buck Pierce threw touchdown strikes to Greg Carr and Terrence Edwards – failed to erase the deficit.
The game opened with a score by a Winnipegger, but it wasn’t a Blue Bomber. In the first quarter, B.C.running back Andrew Harris, a Winnipeg-native, scampered 19 yards for a touchdown, while Lions kicker Paul McCallum added a 22-yard field goal with 3:26 left in the first quarter.
Following a 16-yard field goal by McCallum in the second quarter, the Bombers finally got on the scoreboard when Justin Palardy banged a 30-yard field goal off the upright with 2:36 left in the half.
After struggling on offence early, Winnipeg closed out the first-half scoring with a 15-yard field goal to make it 14-6 at the break.
The tight defensive battle continued in the second half. Palardy salvaged a stalled drive with a 33-yard field goal to pull Winnipeg to within five points, before McCallum hit a 22-yarder to push the lead back up to eight.
The game blew open on the last play of the third quarter, when receiver Johnson hauled in a 66-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Travis Lulay. Nine minutes into the fourth quarter, a strike to Bruce widened the B.C. lead.
A late 45-yard bomb from Pierce to Carr clawed back the lead to 31-16. A long punt return by Jovon Johnson then set up a 13-yard Pierce touchdown strike Terrence Edwards.
An ensuing on-side kick attempt failed because the ball failed to travel enough yards.
McCallum kicked another field goal to round out the scoring.
The Bombers came into the contest trying to end a 20-year Grey Cup drought. The club last won the CFL championship in 1990, when they defeated the Edmonton Eskimos in Vancouver.
Winnipeg and B.C. only met in one Grey Cup prior to this one; a 22-21 Winnipeg victory in Ottawa in 1988.
VANCOUVER -- There were no surprises when the two teams in this afternoon’s 99th Grey Cup at BC Place released their game-time rosters Sunday afternoon.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be sitting offensive lineman Kelly Butler, defensive linemen Kenny Mainor and Dorian Smith and punter Mike Renaud -- the same four players who sat for last Sunday’s East Final victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The BC Lions are sitting defensive backs Jerome Dennis and Hamid Mahmoudi, running back Jamal Robertson and receiver Ryan Thelwell.