Full of vim and vigour as they cut a swath through the opposition in the first 40 minutes, the Blues succumbed to a bludgeoning Crusaders pack 33-24 at AMI Staidum in Christchurch.
The Blues enjoyed a 21-5 halftime advantage after three outstanding running tries, as the hard-working pack earned important front-foot ball to allow the talented backs to show their wares.
But the home side dug deep in ae second half of trench warfare, finding an advantage in hard driving mauls. They managed four second half tries, all from bruising, driving play close to the line, taking advantage of a more than healthy penalty count.
The Blues were unable to get their hands on the ball, and could not match the tank-like power of the home side who cemented the match and snubbed out a bonus point for the visitors with their final try on fulltime.
It proved the classic game of two-halves. Coach Tana Umaga called for his front five to drive the team forward, confident that with front foot ball his talented runners can thrive. Such was the case in the first half, with powerful work led by the front row, strong runs from Patrick Tuipulotu and Jerome Kaino set the platform.
Augustine Pulu was a constant threat around the base and at the back, somewhat frail last week, the likes of Matt Duffie, Melani Nanai and Michael Collins found space to exploit.
With the ruck-and-run game in place, it was a Duffie return, a strong burst from Pulu before Rieko Ioane put George Moala clear on the right, with Piers Francis converting.
While the Crusaders fought back with a try wide out after 24 minutes, the Blues worked hard for a turnover and after a run sparked by Nanai on the left, it was left to Pulu to burst through a hole to score by the posts, converted for the 14-15 lead after 30 minutes
Five minutes later Duffie picked up the ball in loose play and made ground against the grain before Nanai went forward and from the resulting quick ruck Moala found himself in space for his second try.
It took 10 minutes for the home side to strike in the second half, taking advantage of a penalty to drive over from a 5m lineout. They scored again six minutes later from a driving maul, after three straight penalties conceded by the Blues, although the referee chose not to check on a try that looked far from certain.
The home side took the lead nine minutes from the finish again from a relentless drive and penalty advantage, as their pack dominated.
The Blues made a late mistake under pressure in a desperate attempt to clear from their own line for the Crusaders to cement the victory 33-24.
When the Blues went forward, they were irresistible and spectacular, but when the game moved into the trenches they could not combat the heavy arms at close quarters.
That said it was a much improved effort from the Blues, who brought much to this spectacle, but they were never a serious threat in the second 40 minutes.
Blues 24 (Tries George Moala 2, Augustine Pulu tries; Piers Francis 3 conversions, 1 penalty)
Crusaders 33 (Manasa Mataele, Pete Samu, Ben Fennell, Mitchell Hunt, Mitchell Drummond tries; Hunt 4 conversions)
Halftime 21-5 Blues