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Laval Rouge et Or down Western Mustangs 34-20 for 10th Vanier Cup title

Members of the Laval University Rouge et Or celebrate their victory against Western University Mustangs at the Vanier Cup final Saturday, November 24, 2018 in Quebec City. Laval won 34-20. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Rouge et Or quarterback Hugo Richard ended his university football career in style on Saturday, leading his Laval Rouge et Or to a 34-20 victory over the Western Mustangs in the 54th Vanier Cup.

Laval extracted a measure of revenge against the No. 1-ranked Mustangs, who beat the Rouge et Or 39-17 in last year’s national football championship in Hamilton.

This time, in near-ideal November football weather, Richard thrilled the 12,380 hometown fans by completing 23-of-31 pass attempts for 348 yards and two touchdowns.

The fifth-year QB also ran for 60 yards and a score.

READ MORE: Chris Merchant gives the Western Mustangs a chance to defend their Vanier Cup title

Laval has won 10 Vanier Cups in the 26-year history of the program. Western was hoping to add an eighth title and extend its 23-game undefeated streak.

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This was the third time Laval and Western have met in the Vanier Cup. The Rouge et Or won the first match-up in 2008.

PHOTO GALLERY: Vanier Cup

Laval University Rouge et Or's Mathieu Robitaille fails to catch a ball while in the end zone during first quarter action of the Vanier Cup final against Western University Mustangs, Saturday, November 24, 2018 in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Laval University Rouge et Or's Vincent Forbes-Mombleau catches a touchdown pass while Western University Mustangs' Mackenzie Ferguson reaches out, during first quarter action of the Vanier Cup final Saturday, November 24, 2018 in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Western University Mustangs' Alex Taylor dives to the one yard line when tackled by a Laval University Rouge et Or player during second quarter action of the Vanier Cup final Saturday, November 24, 2018 in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Laval University Rouge et Or's quarterback Hugo Richard runs to a first down against Western University Mustangs during second quarter action of the Vanier Cup final Saturday, November 24, 2018 in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Western University Mustangs quarterback Chris Merchant throws a pass during first quarter action of the Vanier Cup final against Laval University Rouge et Or Saturday, November 24, 2018 in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Western QB Chris Merchant completed 26-of-46 passes for 358 yards and one touchdown but was intercepted three times.

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Laval led 10-0 after the first quarter and was up 17-13 at the half before shutting out Western’s offence until the 10-minute mark of the fourth.

Merchant hit Cole Majoros with a 25-yard touchdown with two minutes left to cut the deficit to 14. But the comeback attempt was emphatically halted when a Hail Mary pass from Merchant was intercepted in the final minute.

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Laval had gone up 34-13 when Alexis Cote plunged over the goal-line with just over five minutes left.

The Rouge et Or struck a minute into the game, with Richard hitting receiver Vincent Forbes-Mombleau with a 46-yard pass in the end zone. Merchant also got off to good start with a 26-yard completion to Majoros, but was intercepted by Laval’s Maxym Lavallée with a 31-yard return. Laval’s David Côté notched a field goal on the subsequent drive.

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The second quarter started with Western encroaching on the Laval zone on a 10-yard run by Cedric Joseph. Two completions by Merchant put the Mustangs on the goal line and Joseph strolled into the end zone untouched.

Richard threw a 27-yard pass to Jonathan Breton to gain position on the next drive, then hit Benoit Gagnon-Brousseau with a 22-yard for a score to go up 17-7. Western took over deep in its own zone, gambling on third and inches to prolong the drive before kicker Marc Liegghio then nailed a 36-yard field goal.

Liegghio kicked an 18-yard field goal with one second remaining in the first half, to leave the score 17-13.

Western’s opening drive of the second half sputtered after a loss and incomplete pass. Richard then advanced Laval with his own 11-yard run and charged in for a TD on the next play for a 24-13 lead.

Western botched a chance to shorten the Laval lead late in the third quarter when the Rouge et Or knocked down a field-goal attempt.

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