Zach Collaros’ 13-yard TD strike against Darvin Adams in extra time gave the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a suspenseful 33-25 Gray Cup win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on a windy Sunday night.
After beating Adams to take possession of the opening half of extra time, Collaros, the CFL’s best player, found Rasheed Bailey to convert two points.
Kyrie Wilson cemented Winnipeg’s second consecutive Gray win by intercepting Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli, whose pass deflected two Bombers defenders before reaching Wilson.
Hamilton forced overtime with Michael Domagala’s 13-yard goal with just four seconds left. It came after Winnipeg’s Deatrick Nichols beat Masoli’s second pass to Jaelon Acklin.
Winnipeg took route 19-10 to a fourth direction but had very strong winds – gusts of nearly 50 kilometers throughout the night. After Castillo’s 20-yard goal, Collaros threw a 29-yard TD to Nic Demski before Castillo’s 95-yard shot pulled the Bombers to the 22-21 round with 5:33 remaining.
Castillo had a three-point match with a 76m-long shot after his fifth goal of the night. He also had two singles.
Masoli entered the contest in the second half with Hamilton leading 7-0. He replaces starter Dane Evans, who suffered an obvious neck injury after falling under two Bombers in a one-meter run.
Masoli completed 25 185-meter passes with two TDs and one interception. Collaros completed 21/32 240-meter passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Last week in the Eastern finals, Evans replaced Masoli and ran two TDs while wrapping up a 16/16 win in Hamilton’s 27-19 road win over Toronto.
The temperature at the start of the match was 5 degrees Celsius but the southwest wind lasted 24 km making it feel like it was 2 degrees at the start.
And it’s clear that early wind will be a factor. Castillo opened the game with a 72-yard, wind-assisted kick before Hamilton punter Joel Whitford’s first warm-up flew 34 yards in the wind.
But the conditions didn’t hurt Tim Hortons Field’s record of gathering 26,324, most of them dressed in black and yellow to cheer on the Ticats for their first home Gray Cup game since 1972.
The last time Hamilton won the Gray Cup was in 1999.
“It’s not pretty. But that’s the football we play,” said Winnipeg defensive midfielder Willie Jefferson. “We play dirty, dirty, ugly football and nine times out of 10 we come out on top.”
Winnipeg became the first CFL team to win the Gray Cup in a row since the Montreal Alouettes (2009-10). Bombers also scored Gray victories in a row for the third time but the first time since 1961-62.
Steven Dunbar and Brandon Banks scored a touchdown for Hamilton. Domagala has three goals and two conversions. Other points are based on safety.
Castillo also added a transition while Marc Legghio added a single.
Domagala’s 10-yard goal at 3:18 in the fourth half gave Hamilton a 22-10 lead.
Castillo made it 10-10 with a goal 15 yards from the wind at 6:26 of the third inning. And after Winston Rose stopped Masoli in a third gamble, Cameron Kelly’s 43-yard interception return gave Hamilton possession at 27-yard Winnipeg.
Masoli took advantage with an 11-yard TD pass to Banks at 10:40 to give Hamilton a 17-10 lead. A safety goal conceded at 14:28 extended the Ticats’ advantage to 19-10.
Masoli’s 12-yard TD hit against Dunbar with 15 seconds left in the second half beat Hamilton to a 10-7 lead at halftime. Masoli entered the match with 7:10 left in the round when Evans was injured after falling under two Bombers on a one-foot run.
Masoli provided a clear spark, completing six of eight passes in 65 meters while dashing for 12 metres.
Masoli helped design a 12-foot, 73-yard march that Domagala overcame with a 13-yard goal at 12:34. Then, after a 31-yard hit from Legghio, Masoli hit Don Jackson at 36 yards before finding Dunbar as Hamilton did the most with his swing for the half-time advantage. TB.
Castillo’s 34-yard goal at 1:54 gave Winnipeg a 7-0 lead.
Collaros said: “Jeremiah had an unbelievable game and an unbelievable final series there. “I thought we had him with the wind and everything but he made a really nice shot and they scored. There’s no doubt about that last shot for us. And then our defense is our defence.”
Winnipeg led 4-0 in the first half. Castillo’s 38-yard goal at 6:44 came after a tackle from Alden Darby. It came after Hamilton had restored Janarion Grant’s inner backstroke.
Then Legghio had a 70-yard single at 12:29 in the opening half that had the lowest scoreline since the Gray Cup ’08. Hamilton also managed just seven yards attacking the net.
This Canadian Press report was first published on December 12, 2021.