Superior Blues organisation got their Rebel Sport Super 14 off to a winning 34-25 start against a game, but defensively fragile Crusaders side, at Eden Park.
It was a game which contained elements of early season rugby, some disappointing defence from the Crusaders, especially in the inside backs, and some impressive Blues pressure play in front of a crowd of 26,300 on a perfect evening.
Typically, even though below the high levels of the past, the Crusaders refused to lie down with first five-eighths Stephen Brett igniting his side with some outstanding play, which was matched, after he was substituted on by Blues second five-eighths Luke McAlister.
Initially, the try fest opened after a superb pick-up by Blues fullback George Pisi.
His accelerated burst down the sideline created the opening try of the season. As the ball was moved back across from the left flank, right wing Anthony Tuitavake broke back in-field, stayed on his feet, and slipped the ball to lock and captain Troy Flavell who put centre Isaia Toeava in for a fine try.
After Crusaders fullback Brent Ward kicked penalty goals in the sixth and 11th minutes, and Isakela Nacewa replied after nine minutes, Nacewa's conversion made it 10-6 to the Blues after 15 minutes.
The Blues went close to scoring after a fine build-up almost saw wing Doug Howlett go in. But from the resulting ruck, Crusaders wing Scott Hamilton stole the ball from the base of the ruck and cleared out 60m downfield only to be pulled down in Nacewa's covering tackle.
Nacewa took toll of Crusaders' indiscipline and landed penalty goals in the 25th, 29th and 32nd minutes.
After nearly 35 minutes on the back foot, a breakout by the Crusaders pinned the Blues on their own line. Halfback David Gibson had his clearing kick rebound off prop John Afoa and from the recoil hooker Corey Flynn went over for the try which was converted by Brett.
Crusaders second five-eighths Casey Laulala, who had an indifferent first half, seized his chance right at the start of the second half and made a 60m break deep into the Blues 22m area.
A promising move broke down and it was the Blues who cleared downfield, and then it was Flavell, again, who was in the middle of the backline to slip a try-creating chance which Tuitavake seized on to race towards the line and feed replacement back Rudi Wulf in for the try.
Ten minutes into the second half, a strong Crusaders scrum in the Blues 22m area created an attacking platform that saw play move back and forward across the park. And while wing Rico Gear almost scored off a Brett in-pass, it was No.8 Mose Tuiali'i who broke back when taking a lock pass to score.
However, the substitution of second five-eighths Sam Tuitupou by McAlister had immediate benefits when the Blues ran the ball from a lineout. He beat the tackles of Laulala and Brett in an outstanding break, and fed inside to Howlett who headed the defence in the 54th minute to score.
A lovely piece of individual play from Brett, when he chipped ahead, regathered and then fired a long, accurate pass to Gear resulted in an easy try which brought the score back to 31-25.
Ten minutes from the end Nacewa landed his fifth penalty goal to give the Blues a nine point cushion.
Despite losing captain Flavell for the last 10 minutes to the sin bin, the Blues side stayed in the Crusaders' half to deny them the chance to pull the lead back.