A second-half yellow card has left Blues coach Tana Umaga pondering what might have been after the Auckland club's 41-34 loss to the Highlanders.
The Blues were leading 31-24 in the 54th minute when replacement loose forward Antonio Kiri Kiri was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle on Highlanders first-five Lima Sopoaga, and that one play changed the momentum of the match.
Highlanders midfielder Teihorangi Walden scored two tries in the 10-minute period the Blues were down to 14 men, and they didn't look back.
Umaga is trying to take the positives from the match.
"It is obviously disappointing, but we didn't come away empty handed so we are keeping pretty positive on what we can control but we know we need to be better and keep improving," he said.
"They scored 14 points in that 10 minutes when we were a man down. In that kind of game, when it's quite open, you're trying to close down as much space as you can with 15, when you're down to 14 obviously it's even harder.
"We were close enough to get a draw because we were still challenging in the end, and that is a pleasing thing."
Umaga agreed with referee Jamie Nutbrown's decision to give the flanker a yellow card.
"It is a yellow, what can you do? Everyone knows any contact with the head, whether it be hard, light, or an accident, it is what it is and we just leaked too many points in that time."
Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger thought Umaga's assessment was spot-on, saying the Highlanders "made the most" of the one-man advantage.
"We managed that part of the game pretty well and you could see the energy of our group really lift there, and we knew it was an opportunity to get on the front foot and get ahead," he said.
"I felt we gave the Blues plenty of opportunities to stay in the game and they're a team that you can't afford to do that, so they capitalised on those with some outstanding skills and scored some great tries. I thought we did pretty well to work our way back into the game and control that second half."
The match was Mauger's first in charge of the southern franchise.
The Blues face the Chiefs in their next match on Friday, while the Highlanders have a bye.