Ironically, the opposing coach summed it up best.
Technically, you can't write off the Hurricanes' season just yet. Realistically, though, their playoff hopes are shot.
"They are probably not mathematically out of it but it gets a bit tighter from here," Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said.
Four points from next week's bye will be much-needed consolation. Three tough away matches - against the Brumbies, Crusaders and Chiefs - and a lone home clash with the Highlanders suggests the finals are beyond Mark Hammett's side.
Although they have threatened to challenge the contenders, poor execution has let them down too often this season.
Stand-in captain Victor Vito refused to buy into those dire predictions but it would be a minor miracle if the Hurricanes suddenly discovered consistency.
"We've got to keep our season alive; we've got to look at it that way otherwise you might as well go home now," Vito said. "There's a lot of things that can happen in the future. As long as we look after winning the next ones, hopefully the rest will take care of itself."
Friday's costly loss to the Chiefs again highlighted the frustrating nature of the Canes. Here they blew a golden chance to knock over the injury-hit defending champions and build on last week's upset in Bloemfontein. It is shaping as another could have, should have, nearly-men season.
"We're not far off," Hurricanes prop Ben Franks said. "They are the top team and we've beaten some of the top teams. It's just that consistency. This competition, you can't be making those errors.
"It would have been huge to win this game. Those small mistakes are game killers. Penalties let the pressure off at the wrong time."
Without influential captain Conrad Smith the Canes midfield lacked punch. They struggled to get a roll on until Brad Shields was injected from the bench in the second half. For the final 20 minutes they were the better team. Why they left their run so late is a mystery.
"We just ran out of time," Franks said.
The same could now be true of their campaign.
Jeff Toomaga-Allen could, meanwhile, be out for up to six weeks with a knee ligament injury. It's cruel timing for the promising prop, after he was included in the All Blacks wider training squad. The Chiefs' Ben Tameifuna may be called in as a replacement.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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