The deep, long, frustrated sigh from coach Chris Boyd was more than enough to summarise exactly how an entire city felt after the Wellington Hurricanes were beaten 21-14 by the Otago Highlanders in the Super Rugby final yesterday. The home town Hurricanes had set the pace for the entire Super Rugby season with a clinical, yet breathtakingly exciting style of play that propelled them to 14 regular season wins and a home final in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 36 000.
On several occasions, the Hurricanes won games they probably should not have, but somehow did.
But in the final, only their second in 20 seasons of Super Rugby and the game that counted most, they lost a match they probably should have won given the number of opportunities to score at crucial times, which they squandered.
Passes out of tackles that went to hand during the season, yesterday went instead to a Highlanders player or were spilled forward.
The cleanout and delivery of quick ball at the breakdown, so efficient for much of the season, was lacking.
Time and again yesterday the Highlanders turned the ball over or the Hurricanes were penalised by referee Jaco Peyper for not releasing, or other infringements.
In the end, the totality of those errors was what counted, and the reason Hurricanes coach Boyd could only sigh with a slight shrug and a shake of his head.
“We have played pretty reasonable rugby for most of the year, but probably didn’t get the game that we wanted to get going, made too many mistakes and didn’t respect the ball,” Boyd told reporters.
“The number of mistakes we made, some under pressure from the Highlanders – but mostly the number of execution errors we made – was uncharacteristic.”
While the Hurricanes failed to exert any scoreboard pressure in the first half due to some wayward goal kicking from fly half Beauden Barrett and a missed try by winger Julian Savea in the second half was a microcosm of their entire performance.
Savea was in the clear with the line open in the 62nd