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Montreal a deserving, albeit lucky, winner Add to ...

sbrunt@globeandmail.com

Sometimes it feels as though there is more than just a single victory, a single championship on the line.

Sometimes, it feels as though it is about legacy.

And sometimes, it takes the worst penalty in the long, storied history of a league to secure that, and break the hearts of an entire province and its vast Diaspora in the process.

Down the road, perhaps, it will be remembered outside of Saskatchewan as simply the Montreal Alouettes' 28-27 victory over the Roughriders in the 97th Grey Cup, allowing the Als to break out of a 1-for-5 funk in the national championship games they have contested since 2000.

Perhaps it will be remembered as the day when a surefire Hall of Fame quarterback at least partly erased the asterisk that would have accompanied his bust to the shrine in Steeltown. Anthony Calvillo, coming off another great season, in which he was adjudged the CFL's most outstanding player at the ripe old age of 37, came through magnificently in the clutch.

But for now and for the foreseeable future, it's going to be awfully tough to get past the Riders were unable to count to 12. How can you explain that after the Als drove the ball to the Saskatchewan 36-yard line in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter, trailing by two points, setting up an eminently makeable field goal for all-star kicker Damon Duval with a strong wind at his back, no one bothered to make sure the Riders had the right number of defenders on the field?

Duval missed - which would itself have gone down as one of the great choke moments in CFL history - and the Saskatchewan players, coaches, and the fans who had painted McMahon Stadium almost entirely green began to celebrate their fourth Grey Cup, and second in three years.

But a flag flew from the back judge, and Duval was taken off the hook because the Riders had 13 men on the field, and no one noticed, no one called a timeout, no one ran for the sidelines.

"It's a disappointment that will be with our entire football team for their lifetimes," devastated Saskatchewan coach Ken Miller said afterwards.

No kidding.

The kick was retaken 10 yards closer following the penalty, the result was as different as it could possibly be, and now how do you like those Alouettes?

Truth is, their comeback began immediately after the halftime break, when the Als returned after hearing Blue Rodeo play their beautiful sad songs, as though they had already read their own obituaries, again.

Saskatchewan led 17-3, the Alouettes had been listless and tentative from the opening kickoff, and a familiar pattern seemed to have emerged, much to the delight of the supporters of the team from Regina.

What emerged instead during the final two quarters, and especially during the final 10 minutes, when the Als, trailing by 16 points, roared back to trail by two (and could have argued with cause that an interference penalty uncalled on a two-point convert attempt had robbed them of a late game tie) was a great team finally calling the shots.

In the game's dying moments, the Montreal defence suddenly returned to its dominant regular season form, and made Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant look young and unsteady and unable to close the show, stuffing the Riders deep in their own end, forcing a punt against the wind. Calvillo took over then, moving them into Duval's field goal range with five seconds left, earning full marks for the victory even given the strange events on the final play, times two.

And if that result suggested that God isn't green after all, if they'll be arguing forever in Regina and Saskatoon and every other place where provincial exiles gather to talk about who was responsible for the colossal gaffe, in Montreal there will be a feeling that it all turned out for the right, that justice in a strange way was done.

Try to see this one from beginning to end and give credit where credit is due. In Saskatchewan - well forget it, there's no point in even pretending to view this rationally. But everywhere else, put aside that underdog sentiment and allow the victor the spoils.

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