The bonus-point win has lifted the Blues to 22 points on the ladder, just two points behind the Crusaders on 24. With a bye next week, the Blues now need the Highlanders to do them a favour and knock over the Crusaders on Sunday to set up a virtual final between the Blues and Crusaders at Eden Park in round 10.
But before the Blues turn their attention to events that will be out of their control, they will take the opportunity to celebrate the return of the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy to Auckland for the first time since 2012.
Gordon Hunter coached both the Blues and Highlanders before passing away from cancer in 2002 and the challenge of reclaiming a trophy which has eluded them for almost a decade was a big motivating factor during the week.
The game was played at break-neck speed throughout the full 80 minutes with the Highlanders giving the Blues a scare in the final 10 minutes. In the end it was the Blues finishing and unrelenting defence which proved the difference. Halfback Finlay Christie was particularly impressive with his support play leading to a brace of tries while Akira Ioane put in another massive shift in the eight jersey.
Highlanders 21 (Shannon Frizell, Ash Dixon tries, Josh Ioane 3 pen, con) Blues 32 (Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie 2, TJ Faiane, Ofa Tuunagfasi tries, Beauden Barrett 2 con, pen)