A bitter Stephen Larkham believes his Brumbies should be in the Super Rugby semi-finals, despite losing 15-9 to the Highlanders.
The coach questioned some of the refereeing decisions in the closing stages of a see-sawing quarter-final at GIO Stadium on Friday and felt his side deserved to walk away winners.
The ACT franchise were denied a try to replacement winger Lausii Taliauli in the 75th minute after both the on-field and television match officials ruled they could not see the ball being grounded.
If awarded, the Brumbies would’ve been just one point behind and could’ve taken the lead with a conversion.
“It was clearly a try for everyone who saw it,” Larkham said.
“It’s really disappointing that a game comes down to that. We should be in the semi-finals right now.
“I give credit where it’s due and I think the Highlanders played really good football but I thought we played better tonight and I think we deserve that win.”
Larkham was visibly frustrated and emotional, especially given it was the last game for a number of big-name players – including co-captain Stephen Moore, playmaker Matt Toomua and superstar flanker David Pocock.
Moore is heading back to the Queensland Reds next season, while Toomua is joining English outfit Leicester and Pocock is beginning a 12-month sabbatical.
Injured winger Joe Tomane, Michael Dowsett and Michael Wells are also leaving.
It marked the first time the Brumbies haven’t advanced past the opening week of the playoffs since 2012, when they missed the finals altogether.
It also leaves Australia without a title contender, given they were the only team to survive the regular season after finishing top of the local conference.
“It was one of the better games we’ve had this year. It was a see-sawing battle and the guys did everything right to win that game,” Larkham said.
“It’s incredibly frustrating now to know that we lost it that way.”
For the Highlanders it means a chance to win back-to-back titles.
The victory – secured with just two tries via winger Waisake Naholo and No.8 Liam Squire – broke a decade-long losing streak in the nation’s capital.
Coach Jamie Joseph and skipper Ben Smith said they both initially felt Taliauli’s effort was a try but were glad the call went their way.
“It was a real difficult game right from the start,” Joseph said.
“It was a real ding-dong arm wrestle but I’m really proud of the team in terms of how they finished the end.
“It could’ve gone either way really, but we’ve earned another week.”
ESPN.com – RUGBY