Former NRL superstar Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored his first Super Rugby Pacific try as the Blues cruised through to the semifinals with a 35-6 win against the Highlanders at Eden Park.
The 2018 Dally M medallist was in sparkling touch and continued to push his case for All Blacks selection, creating a try for Beauden Barrett on 48 minutes before slashing through for his own on 69 minutes.
Despite losing hooker Andrew Makalio to a red card for a no-arms tackle in the 22nd minute, the Highlanders managed to keep the Blues at bay for the first half an hour of the contest, taking a 6-0 lead through two Marty Banks penalties.
Flanker Akira Ioane stormed over the line to get the Blues on the scoreboard in the 31st minute and soon afterwards a bit of magic from All Blacks flyhalf Barrett for a second converted try had the home side 14-6 ahead.
Barrett scored his second eight minutes into the second half after slick play from Tuivasa-Sheck and replacement winger AJ Lam.
Tuivasa-Sheck then used his blistering pace to cross as the Highlanders ran out of gas.
“You can never get comfortable against the ‘Landers, they are a side that always fights for the full 80 (minutes),” captain Barrett told Stan Sport.
“We took a bit of time to find our groove … but it’s great that we finally expressed ourselves and got used to playing our game again.”
The Blues’ semifinal is set for next Saturday night at Eden Park.
Blues 35 (Tries: Akira Ioane, Beauden Barrett 2, AJ Lam, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Cons: Stephen Perofeta 5) Highlanders 6 (Tries: Cons: Pen: Marty Banks 2) HT: 14-6
BLUES: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Beauden Barrett (C), 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Robinson 4 James Tucker, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Josh Goodhue, 21 Sam Nock, 22 AJ Lam, 23 Zarn Sullivan
HIGHLANDERS: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop 14: Fetuli Paea 13: Thomas Umaga-Jensen 12: Scott Gregory 11: Mosese Dawai 10: Marty Banks (C) 9: Folau Fakatava 8: Marino Mikaele-Tu’u 7: Billy Harmon 6: Hugh Renton 5: Josh Dickson 4: Bryn Evans 3: Jermaine Ainsley 2: Andrew Makalio 1: Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Dan Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Mau, 19 Max Hicks, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Liam Coombes-Fabling, 23 Denny Solomona.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keefe, Stu Curran