The Blues withstood a late fight back from the gutsy Cheetahs to prevail 29-22 in a bruising encounter in Whangarei on Saturday night.
The Blues did what they had to do in their venture north - they collected a maximum five points and secured their first hat-trick of victories in Pat Lam’s reign as coach, but they were pushed all the way by a resilient Cheetahs outfit who refused to lie down.
Comfortably ahead 24-3 early in the second half, the Blues took their foot off the pedal to their peril as sniping Cheetahs halfback Sarel Pretorius scored two quick-fire tries to put his team back in the frame.
Isaia Toeava restored the buffer with a try seven minutes from fulltime before bruising Cheetahs prop Coenie Oosthuizen scored with two minutes remaining to make it a seven-point ball game.
But the Blues managed to close out the game and breathe a sigh of relief as they now head into the bye well placed in second position in the New Zealand conference and just one point adrift of the Crusaders.
The Blues threatened from the get-go and looked to have scored within the opening five minutes as Peter Saili crashed over in the corner, but television match official Glenn Newman spotted a foot in touch as he denied the home side a try.
Isaia Toeava once again showed why he leads the competition for the most line breaks as he carved up the Cheetahs defence at will and came close to setting up a number of tries.
But the Blues seemed too urgent to spread the ball wide without going forward as last passes and offloads went astray and they were unable to quite finish off their dangerous attacking movements against a staunch Cheetahs defensive line.
However the Blues managed to open their account after 19 minutes as Alby Mathewson made a darting run before spreading the ball wide to Luke McAlister who put Stephen Brett into space.
Brett then threw a dummy pass, put on the afterburners and offloaded to Joe Rokocoko who went over in the corner for the Blues’ opening try.
The Blues controlled the vast majority of possession and territory and looked like they were about to break the game wide open at any moment, but the Cheetahs almost struck back as wing Wilmaure Louw finished off a sweeping move to score under the posts.
Assistant referee Ben Skeen however spotted Louw holding back Stephen Brett as the try was disallowed and play was brought back down the other end of the field.
Holding back Brett only seemed to delay the inevitable as it was the classy first five-eighths who scored for the Blues after 37 minutes.
Captain Keven Mealamu did an exceptional job to pounce on a spilled ball and make metres, before the ball was sent wide and McAlister hit the line at pace, bouncing off a defender, stepping another and putting Brett away to score.
Saili made amends for not scoring in the first half as he finished off a nice break to put the Blues 24-3 ahead with a try in the corner after 56 minutes.
But just when it seemed the floodgates were about to open and the Blues were poised to run riot, the Cheetahs clawed their way back into the match courtesy of nuggety halfback Sarel Pretorius who scored two tries in the space of seven minutes.
A horror mix-up in attack by Joe Rokocoko and Rene Ranger saw the two wings collide as the ball went flying. Pretorius regathered the ball and started the raid into the Blues half, before finishing off the movement as he dived over the top of a ruck from close range to score.
And when the 26-year-old took a quick tap and got on the outside of his opposite number Alby Mathewson to score with 17 minutes remaining the Cheetahs sensed they were in with a sniff.
Isaia Toeava did his best to snuff out those aspirations as he made light work of the Cheetahs defence to score a brilliant try with seven minutes left on the clock, however the visitors were far from finished as rampaging prop Coenie Oosthuizen crashed over the try line two minutes from fulltime.
Luckily however the Blues were able to close out the game in the dying stages as they now look forward to a well earned week off.
Indeed the bye has come at the perfect time for the Blues as injuries start to mount. Tony Woodcock was forced from the field with a calf strain while Chris Lowrey appears to have hurt his neck.
And in a massive blow, Brad Mika's return to the Blues has been dashed as the number 8 snapped his Achilles tendon playing for club side Papatoetoe this afternoon.