Hurricanes coach dismisses Trans-Tasman 'gap' after costly Brumbies loss

Pragmatic coach Jason Holland has conceded the Hurricanes blew their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman title hopes with a loss to the Brumbies, but is adamant any “gap” between New Zealand and Australian teams has been overblown.

The Hurricanes needed to score a bonus point win in Canberra on Saturday night to remain on track for the tournament final, but the Brumbies clinched their first 2021 series victory over a Kiwi team with a 12-10 win.

Squandered opportunities – including two late Jordie Barrett penalty attempts – left the stunned Hurricanes to contemplate a tough final round return to Wellington to meet the Reds.

Holland said the tournament format rewarded consistency, and the Hurricanes had come up short.

"The team that does the best, most consistently, will get into the final,'' he said.

"Unfortunately, we weren't able to be consistent enough to get over the line tonight.''

Holland shared captain Ardie Savea's view that the Hurricanes' slip-up was a bitter pill to swallow.

"Obviously, we are massively disappointed. It was vital for us to get over the line [on Saturday] to stay alive, really. So obviously it's pretty gutting and pretty tough to take at the moment.''

Holland was quick to exonerate Barrett from any blame for his penalty misses, saying "Jordie will beat himself up over a couple of kicks'', but the Hurricanes had a number of try-scoring opportunities that "as a collective, we didn't nail''.

The second-year Hurricanes head coach expressed some surprise when a 73rd minute try to prop Alex Fidow was ruled out when match officials ruled captain Savea had knocked on prior to a penalty award.

"I obviously don't know the rules as well as the officials, but I didn't think you could go back to a restart earlier,'' Holland said, claiming he had not known it was possible to "go back to a knock-on before a penalty''.

"But I'll have to go back and have a look and make sure I've got the rules right because obviously the referees will know the rules.''

Holland also had a riposte for critics’ claims about a huge gulf between New Zealand and Australian teams and gave "100 per cent'' support for a full-season Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition next year.

"I don't think you've heard too many players and coaches [talking] around that gap, to be honest,'' he said at the post-match media conference. "I think it's been blown up by you guys.

"It might have taken a week or two for the Aussie teams to get back into it, but she's willing at the moment. You can see from the results at the weekend, there have been some pretty good games.''

The Hurricanes knew it would be tough to get a result against a Brumbies side that were "pretty keen to come home and play in front of their fans'' and were not surprise at the intensity, likened to test match level by Australian commentators.

"And, we've got the Reds next week and that will be absolutely no different,” Holland said.

He claimed New Zealand and Australian teams "need each other to make for a better competition for the fans, the players and the coaches”.

"It's been refreshing to get back into playing Aussie teams. You get a bit sick of just looking at the way the other four Kiwi teams play.''