The rookie wideout hauled in two touchdown passes that propelled the B.C. Lions to a 27-24 victory over the host Saskatchewan Roughriders, the second straight win for the Lions over their West Division opponent.
"I knew my day would come eventually," said the first-year receiver, who had four catches for 26 yards. "I’ve been putting in my work, staying ready and it feels good to get my first touchdowns."
Leonard’s second score of the game, a two-yard reception, proved to be the difference as the Riders mounted a late charge to make things interesting.
There were no smiles on the other side of the field, however. The Riders have lost four straight to open the 2015 CFL regular season, with three of those losses coming at home. The Riders remain the league’s lone winless club.
The Lions, meanwhile, improved to 2-1.
Friday’s game was far from a sellout, a rarity in Saskatchewan, as just 26,159 spectators braved a chilly and rainy night at Mosaic Stadium.
"That’s on us. That’s our fault," explained Riders running back Anthony Allen, who rushed for 80 yards and one touchdown.
"It’s rough losing three at home. It’s disheartening for us, it’s really disheartening for our fans. They don’t want to come out to watch us play because we’re not playing good football right now. We need to start playing better and maybe they’re come back."
A low-scoring first half saw just 13 points scored – with the Lions leading 9-4. But Shaq Murray-Lawrence sparked some second-half momentum for the visitors when he took the second half kickoff 66 yards deep into Saskatchewan territory. The very next play saw Andrew Harris burst up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown run to give the Lions a 16-4 lead.
"Shaq made a great play," Harris said after his 94-yard rushing performance. "He’s a good rookie and he’s going to be a great player in this league for years to come. It was definitely a big momentum boost for us to start that half.
"Still, we left some plays on the field and we weren’t able to take advantage of some opportunities, but we have plenty of time to find our groove. It was just one of those games where we had to grind out this win."
Leonard’s second score put things out of reach in the fourth quarter. The Riders made a late rally with 13 consecutive points late in the fourth quarter, capped by a one-yard run from Allen.
Veteran kicker Paul McCallum hit two field goals in the final stanza and had three in the game.
"But we need to start faster," Allen said. "We’re finishing games pretty well, but we’re not starting them at all. We need to come out of the gates and start blowing teams out in the first half instead of waiting for the second half to gets things rolling."
Chris Getzlaf also scored a touchdown for the Riders, a 16-yard reception in the third quarter that brought the home team to within six at 17-11.
Lions quarterback Travis Lulay kept the Riders’ defence guessing all night. He finished the night with 105 yards rushing, in addition to 127 yards passing on 12-of-21 attempts.
"It’s a huge deal for us on a couple of levels to get this win," Harris said. "We got a road win, we win the season series with them and we keep this momentum going for another week. We’ve set ourselves up really well heading into our next one against Toronto."
Weston Dressler made six catches for 125 yards for Saskatchewan, who lost a few more players to injuries. Receiver Rob Bagg, centre Dan Clark and defensive back Tristan Jackson were among the walking wounded.
The Riders (0-4) are at home in Week 5 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, while the Lions will host the Argonauts.