Auckland - Tana Umaga celebrated becoming the latest member of the Super 12 one-ton club by leading his Hurricanes to their first-ever win over the Blues with a 22-10 victory on Friday that virtually ensured their semifinal berth.
In an emotion-charged encounter, the Hurricanes were starved of possession until they broke open the game in the third quarter with a three-try blitz in 10 minutes that strengthened their third-placing in the table with one match to go.
The three tries to one win was a fitting outcome for Umaga, the popular All Blacks captain who joins George Gregan, Anton Oliver and Justin Marshall in the exclusive club of players to have racked up 100 Super 12 games.
However, the much anticipated match between two semifinal contenders was far from the expected extravaganza.
The Blues dominated the first 20 minutes, well orchestrated by flyhalf Tasesa Lavea who was delivered good front foot ball by the forwards but they went to the break locked at 3-3 after Luke McAlister landed a penalty for the Blues and Jimmy Gopperth replied for the Hurricanes.
The hosts failed to capitalise on a large territorial advantage and were made to suffer for numerous handling errors and and efficient, scrambling Hurricanes defence.
Umaga played a big role in the Hurricanes' defensive effort and was given a warm ovation from the 45 000 Eden Park crowd when he departed with five minutes left.
The outstanding Hurricanes forward on attack and defence, flanker Ben Herring, scored the first try five minutes into the second spell when he regathered his own kick and chase to score in the corner.
Lome Fa'atau started and finished an 80 metre effort and Luke Kennedy scored from a break by halfback Piri Weepu, and the conversions by Gopperth had the Hurricanes up 22-3 with 25 minutes remaining.
The Blues, with the return of Ali Williams after a six-week suspension, totally dominated the possession and hammered away at the Huricanes line over the final quarter.
But the injury-hit, former Super 12 champions, had only themselves to blame as they saw their title hopes drown in a sea of handling errors.
In a desperate bid to get points on the board they four times passed up penalty shots at goal to go for tries, and four times they failed in the face of a dogged defence.
Their only reward came with 10 minutes remaining when they spun the ball wide and replacement Isa Nacewa scored from a break by Joe Rokocoko.
Injuries again crippled the Blues, with All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina departing with a shoulder problem before halftime and Lavea forced off with a leg injury soon after the break.
Their walking wounded include Carlos Spencer making his final appearance at Eden Park before heading off to English side Northampton, but his farewell was spent sitting in the stands after fracturing a checkbone in training.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, will be assured of a semifinal spot if the Highlanders or Bulls lose on Saturday.
Their final round-robin match next weekend is against the Crusaders while the Blues are away to the table-topping Waratahs.