Blues coach Pat Lam believes a run of four successive defeats his side suffered shortly before the end of the regular Super 15 season were key in overcoming the Waratahs 26-13 in their play-off at Eden Park on Friday.
The Blues only stopped the rot last week when beating the Highlanders, but Lam said the lessons from that run of results were a weapon in subduing the Waratahs.
"Things that happened out there in the four losses we had, a lot of lessons and things we didn't quite do right before, as a coach it was just so pleasing to see them tidy things up there and emphasise the learning that has happened from those games," Lam said.
"I know everyone thought we were imploding from the four losses but your team culture, systems and structures have to be tested as you go through and it doesn't get tested at nine games undefeated. It gets tested under four losses and that's where you get the growth and that's what I saw out there which was pleasing."
Blues captain Kevin Mealamu hopes the team can now build on the victory, having conquered early nerves against the Tahs.
"We're really happy with the way we're going at the moment," he said. "There was a lot of emotion during the week and that's probably why we didn't get off to as good a start as we would have liked. But after 20 minutes we got back into our work and I was really happy with the team."
Retiring Waratahs captain Phil Waugh felt their failure to accumulate more points during a dominant first quarter put the team under too much pressure.
The Tahs led 5-0 early on but eventually succumbed to 26-13 loss to end their season. By comparison, the Blues had scored points when getting into Waratahs territory and took their opportunities better than the visitors.
"They played smart football. I thought Stephen Brett and [Luke] McAlister controlled the game very well. Once they were under pressure they turned us round and put us under pressure," Waugh said. "It was a difficult night for us. You can't question the guys' character and effort. We just played not the smartest football.
"We could've played down their end a bit more and not put ourselves under as much pressure as we did. In saying that we had a good crack and the guys, in terms of their character, stood up and did as well as we could. I was pretty proud of the guys."