Mid-season lapses came back to haunt the Brumbies who pronounced themselves disappointed with a semi-final exit from Super Rugby.
Coach Stephen Larkham identified four losses of three points or fewer as the reason his team fell short of their title-winning goal.
It was the difference between earning a top-two finish and placing sixth, leading to gruelling trips to Cape Town and Wellington in the play-offs.
A 29-9 blitzing from the Hurricanes on Saturday ended a season which promised more in Larkham’s opinion.
“It’s disappointing. Like every team, we set our goal to win the Super Rugby championship,” he said.
“The second-most important goal for us was to finish top-two because we know how valuable that is.
“But those four losses are massive, we fell into a bit of a hole.”
Larkham says winning close games became a habit during their glory years in the early 2000s when – with he and George Gregan dictating terms in the halves – they reached four finals and won two titles.
He is confident they can go a step further next year.
Halfback Nic White and Jesse Mogg are leaving for French club Montpellier but a solid core of experienced players is returning.
“The majority of these guys have been together since 2012 so they’re only going to be better for this.
“We’ll shoot for the same target. What we’ve learned is that those close games are so important.”
Meanwhile, Larkham admitted the Highlanders will have their hands full denying the Hurricanes their maiden title in next week’s final.
“They’re pretty good this year, it’s one of their better years,” he said of the Hurricanes.
“They certainly have some pretty good structures and they’re able to stick to those structures and they’re able to open the game up with some counter-attack and turnover.”
“They’ve got the all-round game to win it.”