HAMILTON, Ontario (Reuters) -Zach Collaros found Darvin Adams with a 13-yard touchdown strike as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers scored a 33-25 overtime victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to win the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup on Sunday.
In a thrilling end to the pandemic-hit CFL’s first championship game since 2019, the Bombers and Tiger-Cats delivered a reminder of why the Grey Cup has been one of the country’s sporting treasures for over a century.
The contest was just the fourth Grey Cup decided in overtime.
Trailing 22-10 with 11 minutes to play, Collaros, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player, threw two touchdown passes, including one to Adams in overtime, to defend the title they had won two years ago in Calgary against the same opponents.
Sergio Castillo contributed five field goals to the Winnipeg effort.
“It’s about the team. Look at these guys. It’s been an incredible year,” said Collaros, who completed 21-of-32 passes for 240 and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“I can’t say enough how much everyone means to me. I’ve never been on a team like this.”
The Tiger-Cats had looked poised to win their first Grey Cup since 1999 after Jeremiah Masoli came off the bench midway through the second quarter in place of injured quarterback Dane Evans and threw touchdowns to Steven Dunbar and Brandon Banks.
But the Tiger-Cats, playing at home in from a raucous black and gold clad soldout crowd of over 26,000, were unable to make their 22-10 lead hold and needed a 13-yard field goal from Michael Domagala with four seconds left in regulation just to get to overtime.
First played in 1909, the Grey Cup was once seen as such an important part of the country’s identity that in 1974 parliament introduced the Canadian Football Act to keep the World Football League from setting up shop in Toronto.
However, a sense of crisis has never been far away in recent decades, with a failed expansion into the United States and the specter of the National Football League’s incursion into the north fuelling anxiety.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out an entire season and pushed this year’s championship game into December. The CFL went to the government looking for a loan to help it through the shutdown but was turned down.
CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in his state-of-the-league address during Grey Cup week that he was optimistic they would overcome their problems.
“Winston Churchill says, ‘Never waste a crisis,’ and I’m happy to say we didn’t,” said Ambrosie.
“I’m not going to suggest we don’t have challenges on the horizon. We do.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Hamilton; Editing by Peter Rutherford)