Smith calm as Hurricanes blow title shot

As he’s done throughout his career on the field, it was captain Conrad Smith providing the measured voice after more Hurricanes heartbreak.

So often they’ve boasted a glittering roster but the Hurricanes are now the only Kiwi franchise without a title in Super Rugby following their 21-14 loss to the Highlanders in Saturday’s decider.

The heartbreak was most palpable after this seventh visit to the play-offs ended in another failure.

They dominated the regular season playing an effervescent style, heightening expectations it was time to finally deliver on their potential.

Smith was pragmatic after completing his 12th and final season at the Hurricanes.

He and All Blacks Ma’a Nonu, Jeremy Thrush and Ben Franks leave next year for overseas contracts, along with Chris Smylie and Samoa international Rey Lee-Lo.

“It’s all pretty raw at the moment but, at times like this, I always try to keep perspective on things,” Smith said.

“I’ll be trying to get the guys to lift their heads because there’s a lot to be proud of.”

The 33-year-old All Blacks centre didn’t believe one loss undid all the good work of year in which they won 15 games.

“I don’t think it’s a ruined season.

“There will always be a tinge of regret that we didn’t get over the line. To see that full house erupt would have been nice but it’s a game of footy.

“If this is my biggest disappointment in life, I think I’ll be pretty happy when I’m an old man.”

The Hurricanes made much of the play, running for a monumental 680 metres to the Highlanders’ 425.

However, offloads and last passes that have stuck all year simply didn’t and a turnover count of 22 came back to haunt them.

Coach Chris Boyd refused to criticise a pivotal mistake from All Blacks wing Julian Savea when the tryline beckoned five metres away. He spilled a pass that was slightly behind him, spoiling a chance to level the scores entering the final quarter.

“That’s pretty harsh on Julian, I thought the pass was pretty horrible to be honest,” Boyd said.

“It was symptomatic of the whole game for us. For some reason it was all just a little bit off.”

Boyd said Julian’s brother Ardie Savea, who was bracketed at flanker, was a late omission because of a knee injury which had progressed well all week but felt unstable hours out from kick-off.

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