The Hurricanes admit they melted when it counted in the Super Rugby final, casting a long shadow over a record-breaking season.
Coach Chris Boyd struggled to hide his disappointment following Saturday's 21-14 loss to the Highlanders in Wellington.
They had beaten the southerners twice in emphatic fashion this year on the way to the competition's best regular-season record of 14 wins.
Their attacking brand lifted them 13 points clear of the rest of the field and a maiden title appeared well within their grasp when they crushed the Brumbies by 20 points in the semi-finals.
"It's a massive waste of an opportunity," Boyd said.
"We've played pretty reasonable football for most of the year and probably didn't get the game going that we wanted to.
"We made too many mistakes, didn't respect the ball.
"Some was forced and some was unforced, so disappointing."
Boyd said his team didn't change their approach that had served them so well - they just didn't execute well enough in the face of the relentless visitors.
"We wanted to play at tempo because we thought their legs would go at the back end of their season," he said.
"But we just couldn't quite hang onto the ball."
Captain Conrad Smith said his team became flustered against the Highlanders' unpredictable style which affected their rhythm and confidence.
"We allowed their style to frustrate us and it's something we talked about to not let happen," Smith said.