The Blues bagged five points against the Cheetahs, but were made to work hard for their 29-22 Super Rugby win on Saturday.
The Blues bagged five points against the Cheetahs, but were made to work hard for their 29-22 Super Rugby win at Toll Stadium on Saturday.
The home side were in cruise control and held the ascendancy all around the park for the majority of the match, but poor handling and decision making saw the home team fall short of the whitewash on numerous occasions.
With the Blues in charge at 24-3, the visitors sparked a late comeback with two quick-fire tries from scrum-half Sarel Pretorius that cut the deficit to just seven points with fifteen minutes remaining.
However, Blues full-back Isaia Toeava sealed the deal with a try that gave the Aucklanders their third win on the trot which moves them second in the New Zealand Conference behind the Crusaders.
The bonus point win was also sweet revenge for the Blues whose shock 32-36 loss to the Cheetahs last year cost them a chance to make the semi-finals.
This time they were not to be denied, running in four tries to three against the struggling Cheetahs who languish at the bottom of the table with one win from seven outings.
Despite dominating possession, the Blues were kept scoreless through the first quarter by the close-marking defence of the South Africans and their two first-half tries were both long-range affairs.
Joe Rokocoko opened the scoring when a raking touchfinder by Riaan Viljoen had drilled the Blues back to their own 22.
From the line-out, Jared Payne and Stephen Brett opened up the Cheetahs defence and the move ended with the All Blacks winger scoring in the corner and Luke McAlister added the extra two points.
Keven Mealamu set up the second try when he snapped up turnover ball and sent Stephen Brett and McAlister away on a 50-metre run to the line which resulted in Brett scoring the try and McAlister kicking the conversion.
The Cheetahs, who were denied a try when Wilmaure Louw dotted down after a 70 metre move only to be called back for an earlier infringement -committed by Louw – earned their first points on half-time with a penalty by Sias Ebersohn.
A McAlister penalty and his conversion of a try by hard-working loose forward Peter Saili pushed the Blues to a 21-point lead before the Cheetahs clicked into gear.
Livewire halfback Pretorius scored back-to-back tries with one conversion by Naas Olivier before Isaia Toeava scored the Blues bonus-point try to have the home side ahead 29-15 with six minutes remaining.
With the clock counting down, the Cheetahs fought their way up to the Blues line where prop Coenie Oosthuizen barged over and Olivier's conversion gave the Cheetahs a bonus point for finishing within seven of the Blues.
However, with a draw in sight, the Cheetahs were unable to score again in the final minute.
Tries: Rokocoko, Brett, Saili, Toeava
Cons: McAlister 3
Pens: McAlister 2
Tries: Pretorius 2, Oosthuizen
Cons: S Ebersohn, Olivier
Pen: S Ebersohn
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 James King, 19 Mat Luamanu, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Lachie Munro, 22 Benson Stanley.
Cheetahs: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Phillip Burger, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Wilmaure Louw, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Phillip van der Walt, 6 Kabamba Floors, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp (c), 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Isak van der Westhuizen, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Naas Olivier, Barry Geel.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)