The Blues faded after a fast start but held on to deny the resurgent Reds for a 31-24 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman win in Brisbane on Friday.
The unbeaten Blues scored four tries to three against the Super Rugby AU champions to vault to the top of the Trans-Tasman ladder.
They edged ahead of the Crusaders, who were frustrated that a late try to the Force in the 29-21 result cost them a bonus point amid a four-way tussle for the two spots in the final on June 19.
“We knew it was going to be tough and physical but we were happy with that,” Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu said.
The Reds, who downed the Chiefs last Saturday to break Australia’s Trans-Tasman duck, had vowed to tighten their defence and better protect the ball against a brilliant Blues attacking outfit.
And Brad Thorn’s game plan paid dividends as the hosts blunted the Blues during an early arm-wrestle.
They forced turnovers and made the favoured Blues pay when a slick pass from Hunter Paisami found the hard-running Harry Wilson, who scored the game’s opening try in the 21st minute.
But their momentum was halted when Brandon Paenga-Amosa received a yellow card and was sent to the bin for 10 minutes.
The ill-discipline proved costly with the Blues capitalising with tries to Dalton Papalii and Mark Telea to lead 17-7 at the break.
The Blues gained a stranglehold after half-time when Tuipulotu crossed over as their aggression wore down the shorthanded Reds, who missed injured star James O’Connor.
A late try from Filipo Daugunu, however, ended any chance for a Blues bonus point.