The Blues salvaged a draw after scoring 10 points in the final 10 minutes with only 14 players against the Reds in Brisbane.
After an enterprising start, the Blues succumbed to a high number of handling mistakes at key moments and were on the wrong side of a 14-7 penalty count, mostly as a the result of a scrum under pressure.
The handling errors proved costly on a number of telling raids with the Reds on the ropes, while the scrum penalties meant they were unable to build momentum, especially in the middle 40 minutes.
A 15-13 halftime advantage evaporated with two tries to the Reds – one from a missed tackle and the other from a counter movement, which saw the Blues down 15-25 midway through the second half.
Coach Tana Umaga called for the replacements in the sapping heat and gradually the Blues fought back when Billy Guyton snuck over following a series of forward drives.
Ihaia West secured the drawing penalty after the visitors thought they had bagged a game-winning try in overtime, but were brought back for a forward pass, playing under an advantage from referee Andrew Lees.
The Blues started the game with confidence and endeavour, Ihaia West scoring after an excellent inside break from debutante Rieko Ioane.
A missed take from the kick-off presented the home side with a try wide out, converted to tie up the scores.
West stretched with an easy penalty before Bryn Hall scored after a superb pass from Charlie Faumuina and a break from Lolagi Visinia to set up the halfback for the 15-7 lead.
The Blues bombed two tries after some exciting running ball and gradually allowed the Reds back into the game with mistakes. A strong scrum platform from the home side lead to two late penalties.
The upside was an excellent Blues lineout, both on their own ball and distrupting the Reds often. Josh Bekhuis was a standout for the Blues, earning his 100th Super Rugby cap during the game. Also prominent was Blake Gibson, who helped the Blues’ aggressive defence lead to a number of turnovers.
The Blues now earn a bye week with much work to do on their scrum before facing the might of the much-vaunted Argentine front five when the Jaguares come to QBE Stadium in Albany on Saturday, 2 April.
Blues 25 (Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Billy Guyton tries, West 2 conversions, 2 penalties), Reds 25.