Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says it’ll take several months to get rid of the bitter taste left by a controversial decision that ended their dream of a Super Rugby title in 2016.
But departing skipper Stephen Moore is confident they will find success in years to come.
The Canberra-based franchise were knocked out of the playoffs with a 15-9 quarter-final defeat to New Zealand’s reigning champions, the Highlanders, at a wet GIO Stadium on Friday night.
It leaves Australia without a team in the semi-finals for the first time since 2012.
But it was a no-try ruling in the 75th minute that hurt Larkham and his men the most.
Flying bench winger Lausii Taliauli appeared to crash over the line but was denied by the television match official, whose view of the ball was obstructed.
Taliauli insisted he grounded it and Larkham said it was a clear – and potentially match-winning – try.
Larkham said they deserved to win the match and should be in the semi-finals instead of the Highlanders.
“It’s incredibly bitter and it’s not going to change until we hit Super Rugby next year,” he said.
“This was the last game of the season and there’s nothing you can do about it now.
“You can’t turn up next week and say we’ll put this one behind us.”
It’s the fourth year in a row the Brumbies have fallen before the championship post, having bowed out in the semi-finals in 2015 and 2014 and lost the title decider to the Chiefs in 2013.
Asked how he rated the Australian conference winner’s season, Larkham said “it’s not a success, clearly”.
Whether they can bounce back and have another crack at the trophy next year remains to be seen, with a host of stars leaving the nation’s capital.
Wallabies captain Moore is returning to the Queensland Reds, Matt Toomua heads to English club Leicester, Joe Tomane is off to France and David Pocock is taking a year-long sabbatical.
Larkham said Moore, in particular, will be missed.
“He’s he most passionate leader I’ve been lucky enough to be able to either play or coach with,” he said.
“He’s constantly looking at trying to make this the best program in the world and that’s the legacy that he will leave for this organisation.”
But Moore believes the Brumbies have the foundations to be successful in years to come.
“I’ve played in teams here that have been star-studded and haven’t achieved what we wanted to. And the opposite – a couple of years ago we didn’t really have your so-called big name players and we did probably better than anyone expected,” he said.
“It all comes down to the quality of the program and the culture and I’m confident that there’s players who will be here who will be able to carry that forward and make it a better place.”