Bombers eye rematch

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

REGINA -- There was evidence of yet another successful Labour Day Classic all over the Queen City yesterday morning.

The local media reported that the 4,000 or so Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans who had invaded the city dumped more than $2 million into the local economy.

Blue and gold ribbons littered the entrance area of the Regina Inn, which serves as fan central for the Bomber faithful.

And just a few metres away, Saskatchewan Roughrider fans had used the Prairie dust covering a mini-van with Manitoba plates to inscribe "Honk if you love the Riders" on the back and "Bombers suck" on the side.

Sunday's football game, won 31-26 by the Riders, contradicted one thing on that mini-van: the Bombers don't suck. The 41st Classic lived up to its billing by producing seven lead changes, 936 yards of total offence and Rider quarterback Kerry Joseph's game-winning, 27-yard touchdown run with six seconds left.

If it was a Grey Cup preview, as it was being touted by some, the fans are in for a real treat on Nov. 25 in Toronto.

"That's a definite instant classic," Bombers middle linebacker Barrin Simpson said. "We can't wait to get them at home. That really ticks us off. We let that one get away.

SHOULD'VE WON

"Easily we should've won that game, but they played great. We played a great game, but we just didn't end up with the better score."

"A win would have been huge," added tailback Charles Roberts, "not only because it's Labour Day and we had the so-called best team in the league right where we wanted them, but we had an opportunity to distance ourselves between us and Montreal.

"We had an opportunity to go home with a win and some momentum for the Banjo Bowl."

The Bombers (5-3-1) and Riders (7-2), who lead the East and West Divisions by one point, respectively, go at it again on Sunday afternoon at Canad Inns Stadium in the fourth annual Banjo Bowl, which is close to a sellout.

"The good thing about it is they know they're not going to walk all over us," said Roberts, who became the Bombers' all-time leading rusher on Sunday. "They know when they come into Winnipeg next week it's going to be a game.

"This was one of those games where home-field advantage made you victorious. Next week home-field advantage is going to give us a big edge."

Bomber fans will use the next five days to recover from their hangovers, while the team will assess where it stands at the midway point of the season. The offence is purring, but the defence and special teams have warts.

"We could be a little bit better, maybe not," head coach Doug Berry said. "I think we're getting better. We've been playing some tough teams lately with B.C. and Saskatchewan at their homes. Going down the road here, we're in the middle of a stretch where we're playing three out of four on the road.

"It's tough right here, but if we get through this, the middle part of the season has got to help us get to where we want to be."

That makes Sunday's rematch with the Riders, winners of five in a row, a crucial one. For all the progress the Bombers appear to have made this season, being only one game over .500 this Sunday night would be a major setback.

"We're still in first place, but next week we gotta come out with a win," Simpson said. "Next week's game is huge, so we gotta definitely win that game to keep us in first place and get us back going to where we need to go."


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