Auckland - The Blues gave their semi-final hopes a boost with a stirring 32-17 win over the Bulls at Eden Park on Saturday, ending the Super 14 champions' undefeated six-game streak this season.
Flyhalf Stephen Brett was razor-sharp in front of the posts, slotting six out of seven penalty goals and both conversion chances to amass 22 points and help the Blues win their fourth from seven this season.
The Bulls were undisciplined throughout, conceding 14 penalties and repeatedly falling foul of the referee at the breakdown.
"They beat us at the breakdown and dominated the contact points," Bulls skipper Victor Matfield said in a televised interview.
"We knew it was going to be tough, just on the night we didn't come and we didn't perform."
Trailing 16-14, the Bulls were reduced to 14 men when replacement Pedrie Wannenburg was sent off in the 52nd minute for killing the ball in the breakdown.
Ten minutes later, a quick but wayward pass from the touch line saw Bulls fullback Zane Kirchner dispossessed in the penalty zone.
The Blues swooped and winger Joe Rokocoko duly crossed the line in the right corner after a neatly flicked pass from fullback Isaiah Toeava to give the Blues a 27-17 lead.
Brett's conversion and final penalty goal put the result beyond doubt as the Bulls were held scoreless for the last 25 minutes.
"I think the boys, every single one of us stepped up tonight and it just shows what we can do when we play some good football," Blues captain Keven Mealamu said.
The Blues were wasteful early despite dominating possession in a pulsating first half in which the lead changed six times.
Outside centre Rene Ranger blew a near-certain try about 20 minutes in when he failed to pass to an unguarded Rudi Wulf just short of the goal line.
The Bulls subsequently made the Bulls pay with the match's first try, number eight Pierre Spies collecting a pass speared out from a ruck then deftly placing the ball over the line while lying on his back to give the Bulls an 8-6 lead.
Flyhalf Morne Steyn pressed the advantage with an opportunist drop goal from 30 metres, before a rare mistake by the Super 14 champions allowed the home side to hit back.
The Bulls fumbled a clearing kick allowing the Blues to regain possession and Toeava to jog over the line at the left corner after a neat chain of passes.
Brett's conversion gave the Blues a 16-11 lead at halftime.