Venues: Varsity Stadium/Lansdowne Park
Locations: Toronto, ON/Ottawa, ON
Dates: November 30/December 7
Winning Coach: Ross Trimble
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were not given a chance to defend their Grey Cup title in 1940, as the Canadian Rugby Union refused to allow the team to compete for the crown because of a rules dispute.
The CRU instead set up a two-game, total points series between Ontario Rugby Football Union champion Balmy Beach and the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union champion Ottawa Rough Riders. It turned out to be a complete bust at the box office, as less than 7,000 combined people paid to watch either of the games.
The Rough Riders won the first game at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium in a blinding snowstorm. With the game tied 2-2 and the Rough Riders on the Balmy Beach four-yard line, Andy Tommy faked a run up the middle and threw a lateral pass to Dave Sprague who busted through the right side of the line for the game-winning major.
Earlier in the game Sprague knocked Balmy Beach’s Bruce Barron out cold on a swinging-straight arm. Twice in the second quarter Balmy Beach had possession in the shadow of the Rough Riders’ goal posts, once on the four-yard line and again on the Ottawa one-yard line. Both times Balmy Beach came away with no major. It may have changed the entire complexion of the series had the Toronto team been able to cross the goal line.
The field conditions didn’t change for the rematch a week later at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park, as the game was played on a snow-covered gridiron. Balmy Beach took a 5-0 lead in the opening seven minutes of Game 2. Ottawa’s Sammy Sward fumbled Don Crowe’s kick at the Ottawa 27-yard line, which was recovered by George Shields. A few plays later, Bobby Porter scored on a three-yard run to cut Balmy Beach’s overall deficit to 8-7.
It was as close as Balmy Beach would get. The Rough Riders added a pair of rouges before Porter’s untimely fumble was recovered by Ottawa’s Rick Perley. Orville Burke threw a lateral pass to Tommy, who in turn passed to Tommy Daley who ran around the right end for the touchdown.
Sammy Sward booted three rouges in the final quarter to seal a 20-7 total-points victory for the Rough Riders.
It was Ottawa’s first Grey Cup championship since the Senators won back-to-back titles in 1925 and 1926. It was Balmy Beach’s fourth and final appearance at a Grey Cup, winning two times in four opportunities.