“It wasn’t our best game — we made some mistakes out there. But at the end of the day, we got the win and that’s all we can ask for in a tough game like this,” said linebacker Solomon Elimimian.
Having won their sixth consecutive game, the Riders improved their record to 7-3. They trail the Bombers (8-3) by two points for first place in the West Division standings.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday in Winnipeg.
“It was a dogfight tonight and it’s definitely going to be a dogfight next week. Every yard is going to be a fight,” Elimimian added after his nine-tackle performance.
Brett Lauther’s 26-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Riders to a come-from-behind victory. Lauther kicked three field goals in a game dominated by the defences.
Chris Streveler’s one-yard touchdown run on third down with less than four minutes remaining in regulation gave the Bombers a brief 17-16 lead, their first of the game.
But Cody Fajardo, William Powell and the Riders offence responded with a clutch scoring drive that started on the Saskatchewan five-yard line with 3:18 to go.
Fajardo was 5-for-5 passing for 41 yards on the decisive drive. Powell added 39 yards rushing on four runs, including three runs of 11 yards or more.
Fajardo finished with 300 yards passing and completed 25 of 39 attempts.
“I think it was a good starting point for us, but with that much time left and the way the CFL goes, nobody on our sidelines was going, ‘Oh, the game’s over,'” Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea told reporters.
“When you lose a game by two points, it really boils down to a play. I think they netted out with one more positive play than we did.”
Lauther’s kick was perfect and it sent the sold-out crowd at Mosaic Stadium into a frenzy.
But linebacker Adam Bighill and the Bombers defence, which had shut out the Riders in the second half, weren’t in a celebratory mood.
“If we’re out there and we’re ahead, we expect to win,” Bighill said after recording four tackles and an interception. “We didn’t come away with a win. They came away with some plays in the last minute and we didn’t.
“Defensively, we knew we had an opportunity to win and we put it on our backs and we understand that this is on us.”
The Riders enjoyed a 10-0 lead after the first quarter, with Fajardo’s touchdown pass to Shaq Evans the highlight. Saskatchewan on four occasions drove the ball into Winnipeg territory in the opening 15 minutes. But the Bombers defence forced a punt and intercepted Fajardo to limit the Saskatchewan scoring.
Streveler, starting for the second consecutive week in place of the injured Matt Nichols, rallied the Bombers early in the second quarter with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler to make it 10-7. A 55-yard run from Johnny Augustine, who made his first career CFL start, set up the Winnipeg major.
The Riders enjoyed a 16-10 lead at halftime.
Augustine started in place of the CFL rushing leader Andrew Harris, who served the first of his two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Augustine rushed for a game-high 98 yards on 12 carries.
Streveler added 65 yards rushing. He completed 16 of 24 pass attempts for 161 yards. He was intercepted twice.
Naaman Roosevelt led Saskatchewan with eight receptions for 93 yards.
The Riders are 5-1 at home but just 2-2 on the road this season. A win on Saturday pushes the team into a tie for the division lead.
“We just want to keep the momentum going. We’re feeling good about our team, we’re feeling good about ourselves and, most importantly, we’re feeling good about each other,” Elimimian said.
“We have a special group here. We lean on each other… and we’re going to have to be better next week.”