The Crusaders have kept alive their faint hopes of making the Super Rugby play-offs with a 34-11 bonus-point win over the Blues at Eden Park.
The seven-times champions still have to rely on other results going their way, as well as winning in Canberra next week against Australian conference leaders the Brumbies.
Sitting ninth on the overall table, but coming off a morale-boosting 35-18 win over the competition-leading Hurricanes, the Crusaders ran in two tries in each half on Saturday, with fly-half Dan Carter’s influence key on defence and attack.
The All Blacks playmaker also had a superb night with the boot, sinking six from six.
The 14th-placed Blues led early through two Ihaia West penalties, but the Crusaders hit back after 12 minutes when a pinpoint Carter kick to the corner was superbly gathered in a one-handed take by giant Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo.
Carter added a conversion and penalty to extend the Crusaders lead while the Blues’ injury-plagued season continued when prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi failed a concussion test after 23 minutes.
Lock Luke Romano added a second try for the Crusaders seven minutes before halftime, the visitors’ constant pressure rewarded after inside centre David Havili’s quick throw-in from five metres out caught the Blues defence napping.
Ahead 17-6 at halftime, the Crusaders added another Carter penalty but couldn’t extend their lead until a penalty try on the back of a powerful attacking scrum as the hour mark ticked over.
Six minutes later, Matt Todd dived over for the bonus-point try after a typically efficient Crusaders maul from an attacking lineout.
With five minutes remaining, wing Ben Lam picked up a late consolation try for the Blues after centre George Moala attacked the line with another barnstorming run.