Their lineout had crumbled towards the end, and they were forced to dig deep, and there was a collective want to secure the win.
There had been no panic stations after their loss to the Brumbies, but they had learned from it.
"Winning's winning. You can win ugly, you can win perfect. At the end of the day, it's one for the books, it's another in the win column," he said.
"It was a pretty good week for the boys, we worked out a few things."
Papali'i said he had seen an improvement in the form of No8 Hoskins Sotutu, who had a powerful game in Wellington.
"Hoskins is a beast, he's got a range of skills around his game and he's getting better every year. It's good to see him growing his game and stuff you could say had been a weakness in his game is becoming a strength."
Coach Leon MacDonald said it had been a tough week with a short turnaround, but they had played smart and put the Hurricanes under pressure in the first half.
However, their second half had faltered due to poor exits, and the Hurricanes took three or four opportunities to gain momentum to put the Blues under the pump.
"Generally, the performance was better than last week and that's what we're looking for. We'll take any win in this competition. Any away win against New Zealand teams are to be treasured."
There were frustrations at lineout time, especially after losing lock Patrick Tuipulotu early in the game. It appeared Tuipulotu had suffered a 'reasonably serious' knee injury.
Hurricanes coach Jason Holland said the last options chosen in the game could have produced a better outcome had they been executed as planned.
"There were a couple of set pieces there, the tap penalty and the scrum where we had some clear pictures of a couple of things we had trained which we didn't quite nail, which is the big moments of these games."
Holland was disappointed with the first-half effort, especially on the discipline front.
"We talked about it, it's massive these days but we spent long sets defending and didn't get our ability to stamp ourselves on the game."
When they did get into the Blues' 22, they secured a lineout and scored a try.
Holland was pleased with first five-eighths Brett Cameron's effort starting for the first time this season and was solid.
The Hurricanes' second-half response had been pleasing, but they needed to address their first-half effort.
Holland said the competition for a top-eight place would be intense this year.
"We're in for a good competition. There will be some good games, some close games and some good footy."