Auckland’s Blues finished their Super Rugby season on a positive by beating the Waratahs 34-28 at Eden Park in the final round.
The Waratahs earned a losing bonus point from the match and move above the Brumbies who have a game in hand against the Force at home in Canberra.
The Waratahs now lead the Australian Super Rugby Conference and the pressure is on the Brumbies to earn one point or more from their match against the Force.
The result means that for the first time in Super Rugby History Australian sides will finish the regular season without a win in New Zealand. The record stands at 0 wins from 12 matches across the Tasman.
The result means the Blues, who are rebuilding under coach Tana Umaga, have won 14 of their last 16 matches against Australian Super Rugby sides at Eden Park.
The Blues also defeated the Brumbies last week, meaning the bottom placed New Zealand side has defeated the top two Australian sides in the past fortnight.
The Blues were already out of contention for the play offs but will look at the 2016 season as a major step forward as they finish the season with 8 wins from 15 matches. In comparison the Blues won three matches from 15 in 2015.
The Blues eight wins makes 2016 their best season since 2011 when they won 11 matches from 18 played. The Waratahs currently have 8 wins from 15 matches.
The Waratahs were outscored five tries to four as the Blues staunchly defended their lead, bouncing back whenever the Sydneysiders looked like reeling them in.
On average every time the Waratahs scored a try within three minutes the Blues responded by scoring a try of their own.
The Australian conference winner will make the playoffs but the season will be over for the runner-up, with final placings decided when the Brumbies play the Western Force on Saturday.
The loss means the Waratah’s, the 2014 champions, need the Force to spring a massive upset against the Brumbies.
“You never know, stranger things have happened… we’ll wait and see,” captain Michael Hooper said.
Wet conditions hampered the Waratahs’ preferred running rugby style and they initially struggled with turnovers and knock-ons but built pressure through the forwards.
They were rewarded with a penalty try in the 22 minutes after their dominant scrum drew a string of infringement from the Blues.
But the Aucklanders hit back four minutes later when Patrick Tuipulotu latched onto Tevita Li’s pass and crashed over in the corner.
The Blues then took a 12-7 lead with a penalty try of their own when NSW collapsed a driving maul as the Blues were bearing down on the line and poised to score.
Referee Mike Fraser awarded the third penalty try of the match early in the second half, this time to the Waratahs after more scrum woes for the Blues.
But they were able to hit back again almost immediately when Piers Francis went on a jinking run and weaved past five tacklers before touching down.
A penalty extended the Blues’ lead to 22-14 and they looked like running away with the game before Israel Folau burst into open space for the Waratahs third try.
The tit-for-tat scoring continued with Malani Nanai adding a fourth for the Blues, then Angus Ta’avao doing the same for the Waratahs.
George Moala finally sealed it for the Blues in the 76th minute after the Waratahs’ defence was stretched by a lineout drive.
Final Score Blues 34 (12) Waratahs 28 (7)
Tries – P.Tuipulotu, Penalty Try, P.Francis, M.Nanai, G.Moala
Pen – P.Francis
Con – P.Francis 3
Tries – Penalty Try 2. I.Folau, A.Ta’avao
Con – B.Foley 4
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1:Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2:Kane McBride
TMO : Ben Skeen
Sam Prattley, James Parsons ( C ), Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Jerome Kaino, Kara Pryor, Steven Luatua; Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, Piers Francis, Male Sa’u, Matt Duffie, Melani Nanai.
Replacements: Matt Moulds, Nic Mayhew, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Scrafton, Blake Gibson, Billy Guyton, Matt Vaega or George Moala, Lolagi Visinia.
1. Paddy Ryan , 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau , 3. Tom Robertson , 4. Dean Mumm , 5. Will Skelton , 6. Jack Dempsey , 7. Michael Hooper (C), 8. Dave Dennis (VC), 9. Nick Phipps, 10. Bernard Foley , 11. Matt Carraro , 12. Rob Horne , 13. Israel Folau,14. Reece Robinson , 15. Andrew Kellaway
Replacements : 16. Hugh Roach , 17. Jeremy Tilse , 18. Angus Ta’avao , 19. Sam Lousi , 20. Wycliff Palu , 21. Matt Lucas , 22. David Horwitz , 23. Jim Stewart