The Blues’ blistering start took the gas out of the Brumbies on Friday night, co-captain Christian Lealiifano says.
Auckland raced out to an early lead, with four tries in the first 21 minutes to the Brumbies’ one and Lealiifano said the constant chase was punishing.
“I think obviously when you're down four tries it takes a bit of wind out of the sails,” he said.
“You're just trying to find something to keep it working.
“There's patches there where, yeah, we were probably a bit tired and I think we didn't manage the game as well as we wanted to.
“We just probably had to work a little bit harder than what we expected.”
The loss leaves the Brumbies in ladder limbo, relying on the Hurricanes to beat the Waratahs on Saturday night to ensure the ACT side stays in the conference lead.
If NSW gleans even one point from the epic matchup at Allianz Stadium, they will overtake the Brumbies in the Australian conference.
With eight days until their final regular season match, Lealiifano said their focus would turn to what they could control - a strong on-field performance.
That extra-long break will be a welcome one, coach Stephen Larkham said.
“If you look at last week, the boys played a Test match on the Saturday and had to play Super Rugby on the Friday so they're might be a fair bit of residual fatigue carried over,” he said.
“The good thing about this coming week is we've played tonight, we don't play until Saturday night next week so an eight-day turnaround which gives a nice weekend off and a full week's prep starting on Monday.
Scott Fardy’s early exit from the match after a head clash looked worrying but Larkham was cautiously optimistic post-match.
“He seems okay,” he said.
“(He’s) pretty battered - he’s got stitches on top of his head, stitches under his chin and a bit of a sore shoulder as well.
“So we'll make a further assessment on Monday there with him."