The Blues shook off the three-week break for the international window with an 11-try outing against the Northland Barbarians in Whangarei.
The home side, using the match as the final trial before selection of the Northland side for the Mitre 10 Cup competition, were aggressive on defence and attack until they ran out of gas against the superior fitness of a professional Super Rugby side in the final quarter of the match.
The Blues scored five tries in the first half and six in the second spell, five of them coming in the last 20 minutes. The final score was 73-8.
“That was an invaluable outing for us,” said head coach Tana Umaga. “There’s no substitute for game time and it was ideal for us. I also thought the locals never gave up and there is the basis for a good Mitre 10 Cup side.
“We have also come through with no injuries of note, and I hope we can also get some All Blacks back next week who are not too banged about ready for the important final three games of the season-proper.”
The Blues started with a hiss and a roar with two tries in the first seven minutes to hometown player Kara Pryor and Melani Nanai, both converted by Piers Francis from wide out.
Northland Barbarians fought their way into the game territorially on the back of several penalties against the Blues, with a Peter Breen penalty to reward their endeavours.
The Blues third try came from an excellent line from captain James Parsons who gave the pass to Billy Guyton to score.
Northland Barbarians got across the line as reward for some aggressive driving play upfront when winger Wisea Lawabuca got up from the bottom of the maul.
Blues winger Tevita Li answered before the break after good turnover ball for the 26-8 halftime advantage.
The second half started like the first with Nanai scoring his second try after taking advantage on the short side down the left flank.
They achieved the same after 65 minutes on the other flank with Lolagi Visinia the recipient on the right wing.
After a mass of changes, the flood gates started to open as the Blues’ fitness took full toll as they ran in four tries in the final 20 minutes, including a brace to replacement Matt Vaega.
Pryor returned to bag his second try before Blake Gibson powered over, making a welcome return from five weeks out with a thumb injury.
Bryn Hall finished proceedings with the last try on full time, and also enjoyed five conversions, after missing his first attempt.
The Blues will travel to Wellington next weekend to play their final New Zealand derby match against the Hurricanes before two home games against the Brumbies and Waratahs.
Blues 73 (Melani Nanai 2, Matt Vaega 2, Kara Pryor 2, Billy Guyton, Tevita Li, Lolagi Visinia, Blake Gibson, Bryn Hall tries; Piers Francis 4 cons, Hall 5 cons)
Northland Barbarians 8 (Wisea Lawabuca try, Peter Breen 1 pen)