The Blues managed their fourth win of the Investec Super Rugby season with a six tries to four effort over the Rebels at Eden Park.
At 36-18 ahead with 25 minutes remaining, a bonus point victory seemed on the cards, but the visitors fought back, taking advantage of some turnover possession to close within a converted try of what seemed a most unlikely win.
“There were a lot of good things and some great ball movement and excellent tries,” said Blues coach Tana Umaga. “Any win is a good win so we will gladly take the points.
“At the same time there were plenty of learnings for us, about taking our chances and not forcing things too much.”
The best example of that was a superb move after 67 minutes down the short side and scything run from winger Tevita Li to within 7m of the try line. Instead of setting-up the next phase, he tried a forced pass which rolled free, with Rebels replacement Colby Fainga’a picking up the loose ball to run 90m to score under the posts. It brought the Rebels back to 36-30 and required some stern defence from the home side to claim the points.
“These are things to learn. At practice the guys throw those passes and they stick. But when you are tired and against an aggressive opposition, it is a different situation.
“I was pleased that we have continued to move forward. We now head away to a big challenge in South Africa, Australia and then home to the Crusaders with real opportunities f or us.”
The hopeful good start did not eventuate with the Rebels pushing to a 8-0 lead after 10 minutes before captain James Parsons powered over after a 5m scrum, followed quickly with a similar try to Jerome Kaino after a George Moala run.
The home side scored their third try to Charlie Faumuina after an excellent drive from a lineout 15m out, followed by an excellent try to Ihaia West after Steven Luatua caught a Blues kickoff and Patrick Tuipulotu powered his way to 8metres out. West did the rest from the recycled possession before the Blues gave up a try from a lineout to lead 24-18 at the break.
They took 13 minutes of the second half to extend that o 36-18 with a Tevita Li try from a 5m scrum and a superb effort from Lolagi Visinia from a lineout close to the line.
Coach Umaga called the replacements, including a debut for Matt Duffie, and the Blues held on after two late Rebels tries for the win.
Also during the match, Ihaia West brought up his points for the 2016 season to over the century. He now sits at 103.
Blues 36 (James Parsons, Charlie Faumuina, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, George Moala, Lolagi Visinia tries; West 3 con)
Rebels 30 (Jordy Reid, Reece Hodge, Sefa Naivalu, Colby Fainga tries; Jack Debrezeni 2 pen, 2 con)