The Chiefs needed a late try to scrape to a 23-16 win over a tenacious Blues team at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.
The result leaves the Blues winless after eight rounds of competition but they will be devastated having held the lead on the hour mark. It's also the Chiefs' ninth-straight victory over the Kiwi conference rivals.
The first half was a stop-start affair with the Blues not playing much rugby and the Chiefs stuttering early on. The hosts progressively got into their stride though and took control of the game.
The hosts enjoyed the lion's share of both territory and possession, so it was no surprise that they led 10-3 at the interval, thanks to a try from in-form winger James Lowe.
The complexion of the game changed drastically after the break however as the Blues came charging back with a Jerome Kaino try drawing them level.
A trademark counter-attacking try from the Chiefs, finished by Tom Marshall, took the wind out of the Blues' sails.
The Chiefs were not helped by Cruden missing his first two shots at goal but the All Black fly-half did finally open the scoring off the tee at the end of the first quarter.
The home side missed a few opportunities but got the first try of the night just before the half-hour mark as Lowe came in on the angle to collect a pop inside from Liam Messam and score from short range.
Cruden added the extras and at 10-0, they were sitting pretty, even if they weren't playing their best rugby.
Blues fly-half Dan Bowden landed a penalty to keep his team in touch just before break but the safe money seemed to be on the Chiefs.
Kaino's try, off the back of a solid Blues scrum, meant that Bowden could level the scores with the conversion and suddenly the Blues had a spring in their step.
Bowden briefly put the visitors ahead with his second penalty but Cruden replied in kind to leave the scores locked at 13-all going into the final quarter.
A great team try put the Chiefs back in front as they forced a turnover inside their own 22 before launching a blistering, 80m counter attack. Michael Leitch started the move with a barnstorming run before Marshall finished off out wide a few phases later.
Cruden's conversion gave the Chiefs a seven-point lead with just over ten minutes left on the clock.
Cruden added a penalty to secure the win while an 80th-minute penalty from Ihaia West saved a bonus point for the Blues.
Tries: Lowe, Marshall
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 3
Pens: Bowden 2, West
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden,9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Pauliasi Manu, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Seta Tamanivalu, 23 Bryce Heem.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattle, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Francis Saili.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson, Shane McDermott
TMO: Ben Skeen