The Blues took full advantage of the heavy lifting in the first 60 minutes, to secure an impressive six-try victory 38-14 over the Bulls from South Africa at QBE Stadium in North Harbour.
It proved an arm-wrestle for the first half, with the scores locked at 7-7 at the break. But the Blues gained a return from their heavy labour and when the Bulls began to tire, the passes began to stick with three tries in the final 20 minutes.
“We knew that if we stuck to our plan and stuck to our game that they would tire,” coach Tana Umaga said. “I thought our defence was excellent especially with 14 men, and once they began to tire then it presented an opportunity for our running game to show.
“That is what we have been working on and I am pleased with the improvement. We have a long way to go and we have to get back to training on Monday and prepare for the Force who will be a tough challenge.”
The game could not have started more brightly when the Blues scored a stunning try after just three minutes.
From a lineout on their own 10m mark, and three phases of fast ball, Matt Duffie made a break on the short side, with some slick inter-passing with Melanie Nanai, and Duffie again leading to a final pass to Augustine Pulu. Piers Francis converted for the 7-0 lead and the promise of more to come.
They did have two major attacks with Pulu over the line, but a handling error while hot on attack let the Bulls off the hook.
The South Africans worked their way back into the game, and from a lineout 5m out, the initial lineout drive was stopped before prop Lizo Gqoboko power over, with Andre Pollard converting.
The Blues had opportunities but could not convert, to end the half 7-7.
Duffie cut back against the grain to secure an early try in the second half and bagged his second as a recipient of a pin-point cross-kick by Piers Francis.
Just as they were pushing forward, Jimmy Tupou was yellow-carded. However the Blues regrouped upfront and with their replacements providing the fizz, they took the Bulls apart.
It was cemented with a remarkable try to Melanai Nanai, sparked from deep in defence, and the 85m movement resulted in a stunner to the left-winger.
Upfront skipper James Parsons and Jerome Kaino were immense. Augustine Pulu was again influential in the pivot, while the backs prospered from the work upfront to show their skills.
The Blues take on the Force at Eden Park next Saturday at the earlier time of 5.15pm.
Blues 38 (Tries – Pulu, Duffie (2), West, Moulds, Nanai, Conversions – Francis (2), West (2)
Bulls 14 (Tries – Gqoboka, Paige; Conversions Pollard, Schoeman)