One man tried to steal the show but in the end class came to the fore.
Riding on the back of a superb individual effort from winger Hosea Gear, the Highlanders ran out a narrow 30-27 winner over the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight.
It was nail-biting stuff right throughout the match with neither side more than one score ahead throughout the 80 minutes.
But the home side just held on when it counted, including a last couple of minutes where the Blues tried to score a try to win the match.
But the Highlanders hung tough when it counted and it was fitting that referee Bryce Lawrence made a ruling at the breakdown to end the match.
For it was his rulings at the breakdown which had a big impact on the game.
Lawrence nailed any infringements in the breakdown and at one stage it just became a rather boring penalty duel.
But Gear finally stole the show, as he set up both side's tries, including the match winner, and looked the most dangerous back on the field.
He broke the line seemingly at will, went round and through defenders, and looked back in the form from a couple of years ago.
But it was a close run thing and the Blues must simply know it is not going to be their year.
Right at the end, the Blues had a lineout 8m from the Highlanders line with time all but up and knocked on the tryline time and again but the home side refused to budge.
Best for the Highlanders apart from Gear was lock Josh Bekhuis, No 8 Nasi Manu and fullback Tamati Ellison.
The Blues never gave up with prop Charlie Faumunia outstanding and first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe did little wrong.
The Blues defence was outstanding on their own line, and managed to slow down the ball to frustrate the home side's attack.
The Blues finally broke the penalty shoot-out early in the second half when Rene Ranger ran on to a short ball from Piri Weepu and charged 5m to score 50 minutes into the match.
The home side though came back and Gear got on the end of the chain, and put through a delightful chip kick, which .Kurt Baker got on the end of to score the try to go ahead.
The Highlanders could probably not have started any worse.
They turned over the ball from a scrum 15m from their line after just three minutes and Ma'a Nonu swooped.
He was lowered just short of the line and it was shifted to the right where fullback Hadleigh Parkes went over.
The Highlanders finally got into the game after that early shock and replied after 11 minutes.
From a scrum new No 10 Mike Delany put on a great inside ball to Gear who broke the line.
He then fed the ball beautifully to Shaun Treeby who ran 30m to score in the corner.
Delany knocked over the conversion from the sideline to put his side in front.
Delany then knocked over a handy penalty on the quarter hour mark and added another shortly afterwards.
But the home team then got on the wrong end of Lawrence's whistle and Anscombe knocked over three quick penalties to put the visiting side in front.
HIGHLANDERS 30 (Kurt Baker, Shaun Treeby tries Michael Delany con 6 pens) bt BLUES 27 (Hadleigh Parkes, Rene Ranger tries Gareth Anscombe con 5 pens) at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Referee: Bryce Lawrence.