Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo scored two tries to lift the Crusaders to a 21-13 win over the Auckland-based Blues, keeping alive their bid for an eighth Super Rugby title and snuffing out the Blues' slender playoff hopes.
Nadolo used his immense power to score in the 16th minute, then added the match-winner in the 75th minute.
The Blues took a 13-11 lead to halftime and the outcome of the match hinged on a 10-minute spell in the second half when All Black flyhalf Carter kicked a penalty and Nadolo scored his winning try from Carter's pass.
Carter started the match at inside centre, away from his usual place at flyhalf, and still seems a player seeking his best form. He provided several useful offloads but his best contribution was the short run and pass which led to Nadolo's second try.
Solid Crusaders defence
The Blues struggled throughout the match to break down the Crusaders' defence. They had the possession to do so and the territory in the second half but their only try came from an intercept, against the run of play, in the 19th minute.
Nadolo then crashed over from Carter's pass to win the match. The Blues retain a tiny mathematical chance of reaching the playoffs but, from ninth place with one round remaining, have all but abandoned hope.
"I definitely think the energy and the effort was there but when you're playing a class side like the Crusaders it's about accuracy as well," said Blues captain Keven Mealamu, who played his 150th Super Rugby match.
The Crusaders stayed atop the New Zealand conference and temporarily moved into second place on the overall table.