Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Matt Nichols (15) throws against the Toronto Argonauts during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Thursday, July 13, 2017 (John Woods/Canadian Press)
Running back Andrew Harris had two touchdowns Thursday night to lead the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a 33-25 win over the Toronto Argonauts.
Costly penalties and dropped balls killed several Toronto chances to right the ship after a first half dominated by special teams for both sides. Winnipeg improved to 2-1 in the West and Toronto fell to 2-2 in the East.
Toronto’s Lirim Hajrullahu had six field goals and Winnipeg’s Justin Medlock had four. Both teams had touchdowns on returns.
In the first half, neither Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray nor Winnipeg’s Matt Nichols could get much going before 25,085 fans at Investors Group Field.
Ray easily won the passing contest with 243 yards to Nichols 97 after two quarters but it was Nichols who set up the only offensive touchdown, a four-yard carry by Harris. He combined with Harris for another in the third quarter.
Before the game, Winnipeg coach Mike O’Shea had been looking for more from his kick-return squad and he got it, with Ryan Lankford’s 93-yard opening touchdown just 14 seconds into the game.
Toronto got on the board about six minutes later on a 34-yard field goal from Hajrullaju.
Then it was Toronto’s turn for the big run, a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown at 10:58 by Martese Jackson to give the Argos a 10-7 lead.
The Argos saw a promising drive snuffed to end the first quarter when Ray threw just his second interception of the season to Winnipeg defensive back Moe Leggett.
Winnipeg evened things up at the 3:34 mark of the second on a 45-yard field goal from Medlock.
Ray was sacked to end another drive in the second but Hajrullahu was already in range for a 43-yard field goal to put Toronto ahead again.
Winnipeg’s offence finally scored some points at 9:01 of the second quarter, after Nichols put together a seven-play, 75-yard drive capped by Harris.
Then it was penalty pain again for the Argos as Jackson had a 74-yard return touchdown, but it was called back for an illegal block. Toronto had to settle for a field goal from Hajrullahu.
The Toronto kicker added another at 11:38 to go ahead 19-17.
Medlock scored from 55 yards to give the Bombers a brief lead but Hajrullahu hit from 47 yard to make it 22-20 at the break.
Hajrullahu added his sixth field goal of the evening at the 7:04 mark of the third quarter to extend the Argos’ lead.
Harris scored his second touchdown of the game on a two-yard carry about five minutes later to make it 27-25 for Winnipeg, after Toronto took another costly penalty for clotheslining Winnipeg ball carrier Darvin Adams.
Medlock kicked his third field goal of the evening at 4:09 of the fourth to put the Bombers ahead by five, then kicked his fourth of the game at 11:15 sealing the win.