The Blues put in arguably their best performance of the season as they stunned the Brumbies on Friday, winning 40-15 at Eden Park.
An early spell of dominance, which saw Jerome Kaino, James Parsons, Sam Prattley and Matt Duffie all cross the whitewash, had the Brumbies rocked onto their heels and in truth it was what won the game in Auckland.
This result is a serious setback for the visitors as their only five-pointers came via a penalty try and a finish from Matt Toomua, with Kaino and Duffie adding further scores in the second-half in what was a comfortable win.
The Brumbies will now hope the Hurricanes do them a favour in Sydney on Saturday against the Waratahs, who next week head to this very venue where this Blues side will be waiting for them brimming with confidence.
As mentioned, the home outfit shot out of the blocks as the shackles were off due to their play-off hopes having recently been extinguished.
Four crossings, from Kaino, Parsons, Prattley and Duffie inside the first quarter, shocked the Brumbies, with only a penalty try from the Australian conference leaders keeping their heads from dropping. Play-off rivals the Waratahs would have been happy with the 28-7 score.
The early flourish began when Ihaia West picked out Kaino with a cross-kick on three minutes, the flanker adding to his two tries of last week. Piers Francis, who has had a great year, added the extras and was also instrumental in all that was good in the first-half for the Blues.
Three minutes later Parsons was over thanks to a line-out move at the front that saw Steven Luatua feed the hooker. Francis made it 14-0.
But the Brumbies hit back via their trademark rolling maul on 11 minutes and it was a double blow for the Blues, with Kaino deliberately bringing it down just before the line. He went to the sin-bin after referee Ben O’Keeffe had awarded the penalty try, which made it 14-7.
Undeterred by their numerical disadvantage, the Blues in fact kicked on, with a good finish from prop Prattley the perfect tonic to that yellow card before Luatua galloped down the right wing and set up winger Duffie on his inside. The Blues were now cruising at 28-7.
This Brumbies side are strong though and one always felt they would apply the squeeze. So when Toomua crossed late in the half and three points were added by Christian Leali'ifano after the hooter, it was only a 13 point margin, which, with their solid maul, was reachable.
However, it was another bright opening to a half from the Blues as Kaino crashed over from the side of a maul just five minutes in. This was the All Black's second try double in as many weeks as the cushion was up to 20 points, with the bonus point also by their name.
The Blues did have an opportunity to further extend their lead on 52 minutes but opted to go for the corner, looking for a try buffer for the bonus point. But good defence from the Brumbies kept them at bay just before Scott Fardy left the action after a second head clash.
The tempo dipped somewhat at Eden Park coming up to the hour mark, as the Brumbies struggled for any real possession or territory, their only reprieve being replacement centre Matt Vaega having a try chalked off after the busy Duffie's boot was seen touching the sideline.
But fittingly the hosts would have the final say on 72 minutes as that man Duffie strolled over to put the seal on a dominant and confident win.
Tries: Kaino 2, Parsons, Prattley, Duffie 2
Con: Francis 5
Yellow card: Kaino (11 mins – bringing down maul)
Tries: Penalty Try, Toomua
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Male Sa'u, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis/Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Blake Gibson, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt Vaega, 23 Lolagi Visinia
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Tom Staniforth, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Lausii Taliauli
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, Jamie Nutbrown
TMO: Shame McDermott