PRETORIA: Fly-half Gareth Anscombe scored all the points for the Blues as they triumphed 29-23 against the Bulls on Saturday and put a poor start to the Super Rugby season behind them.
Anscombe scored two tries which he converted and kicked five penalties out of seven attempts at a muted Loftus Versfeld as Blues gained their first win after losses to fellow New Zealand sides Crusaders and Chiefs.
Usually deadly goal kicker Morne Steyn had a rare off day for the South African side, succeeding with only three of seven shots at goal, although he did strike a vital stoppage-time conversion between the posts to earn a bonus point.
Left wing Bjorn Basson crossed the tryline twice and captain and number eight Pierre Spies once for the three-time champions with Steyn landing one conversion and two penalties.
The outcome was a reality check for the Bulls after wins over South African rivals theSharks and Cheetahs, who they scored 51 points against last weekend.
"There was a lot of pressure on us in the first half and we defended well," said Blues hooker and captain Keven Mealamu, who helped the All Blacks win the World Cup on home soil last October.
"We had a lot of belief in ourselves despite those early season losses and it is always great to win at Loftus. The boys will celebrate the win tonight and put their heads down tomorrow and get back to work."
Spies was blunt: "There were too many mistakes in our own half and the Blues punished us. We were neither creative nor clinical and now we must get back on the horse and prepare for our next match."
Blues, who have also won three Super titles, made the perfect start with Anscombe intercepting a Francois Venter pass and sprinting 55 metres for a second-minute try.
His conversion plus a penalty gave the Blues a 10-point advantage that the Bulls halved when Spies barged over in the corner, and a Steyn penalty cut the deficit to two points.
But there was no stopping Anscombe as he landed a penalty and converted his second try to put the visitors 20-8 ahead at half-time despite having veteran lock Ali Williams sent to the sin bin for collapsing a maul.
A couple of penalties from Anscombe and one from Steyn left the Blues 26-11 ahead with 12 minutes to go and the match-winner kicked another penalty between a brace of Basson tries with Rene Ranger of the Blues sin binned after the second.
The New Zealanders now head south to face Western Stormers in Cape Town Friday while the Bulls receive a bye and an automatic four points in the southern hemisphere provincial championship.
BLUES 29 (Gareth Anscombe 2 tries 2 cons 5 pens) bt BULLS 23 (Bjorn Basson 2, Pierre Spies tries Morne Steyn con 2 pens) at Loftus Versfeld. Referee: Steve R. Walsh.