Beauden Barrett nailed a last-gasp drop goal as the Blues edged the Brumbies in a top-of-the table Super Rugby clash on a weekend that saw All Blacks captain Sam Cane suffer a worrying knee injury.
Barrett’s heroics after the siren earned the Blues a 21-19 win in Canberra, a club record 12th straight victory to reinforce their lead at the top after round 14.
“The boys dug in,” said Blues skipper Dalton Papalii. “That was a gritty win for the lads.”
The Brumbies looked to have done enough when hooker Billy Pollard finished off a rolling maul and Noah Lolesio slotted the conversion to take lead with minutes left.
But the Blues never gave up and created the opportunity for All Blacks’ flyhalf Barrett to steal the win.
The Brumbies flew out of the blocks and led 7-0 lead after Wallaby Pete Samu scored a second-minute try, but they were on the back foot thereafter.
“Brave, very proud of them, how we just hung in there under pressure,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar told reporters. “I’m just shattered. I thought our attitude and effort deserved better.”
With one round left to play, the Blues top the table on 54 points from the Crusaders, six points adrift after they crushed Fijian Drua 61-3 in Christchurch.
The Brumbies are third, four points further back with the Chiefs fourth after they hammered the Western Force 54-21 at home.
The top four teams at the end of the 15-round season earn a home quarter-final.
The Chiefs notched an impressive win in Hamilton, with Quinn Tupaea scoring a hat-trick and Samisoni Taukei’aho grabbing two off the bench in an eight-try blitz.
But the victory was marred by Cane leaving the field early and not returning after his knee buckled under contact from big Force prop Santiago Medrano.
Coach Clayton McMillan told New Zealand media he was optimistic it was not too serious.
“He seems to think it’s okay,” McMillan said. “But every player thinks their injury is not too bad until they wake up the next day.”
The All Blacks skipper is set to undergo scans with a home All Blacks series against Ireland looming in July.
The Crusaders continued their ominous form with a ruthless rout of Pacific newcomers Fijian Drua, who have now lost 11 from 13.
They ran in nine unanswered tries with Fergus Burke kicking eight conversions.
“Since the Waratahs game (that they lost) and even the Blues, we’ve dug deep, looked at ourselves, our game and started to build on the foundation of Crusaders rugby,” captain Scott Barrett said.
TJ Perenara’s Hurricanes remain fifth with an impressive 45-22 bonus point win over the struggling Melbourne Rebels, despite losing several players to flu ahead of the game.
It kept them in the hunt for fourth spot and the home quarter-final that comes with it.
“It’s a credit to the team and the environment that allows us to have a disrupted week and still come out and put in a performance like that,” said Perenara.
Elsewhere, the Reds did enough to beat last-placed Moana Pasifika 34-22 and end a four-game losing streak.
But the win was soured by playmaker James O’Connor’s early exit with an injury, a concerning sign ahead of Australia’s July series against England.
Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images