Umaga sings the Blues after damaging Stormers defeat
WELLINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) - Auckland Blues coach Tana Umaga has conceded the New Zealanders' Super Rugby season is all but over after the side slumped to a 30-22 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town on Friday.
The North Island side's sixth loss of the campaign left them five points adrift of the Otago Highlanders, who hold the third and final playoff berth in the Australasian group and can extend their advantage by beating Western Force in Perth on Saturday.
"We always knew we had to win every game to be in contention," Umaga said in comments published by New Zealand media on Saturday.
"We obviously didn't do that tonight. It's disappointing but we've still got games to play and we want to make sure we finish on the right note.
"If we do get some results go our way you just never know."
The much-criticised playoffs system has also hurt the Blues, with the winner of Australia's conference guaranteed a post-season berth even if they finish lower than New Zealand's worst-performing side.
The Blues have 12 more points than Australia's conference-leading ACT Brumbies, who play the Southern Kings away later on Saturday.
Umaga refused to blame the format for his team's position, however.
"We've created a lot of opportunities to win games against Kiwi teams but we just haven't taken them," he said.
"We've got to make good decisions when we get those chances because you don't get many."
The Blues were punished by the referee for indiscipline and were down to 14 men in the 67th minute when winger Matt Duffie was sent off for a second yellow card.
The visitors were also left fuming after flyhalf Piers Francis was knocked unconscious and concussed in a high tackle by Shaun Treeby.
The New Zealand-born centre Treeby was penalised but allowed to stay on the field.
Umaga said he would seek explanation from referees' boss Lyndon Bray.
"From what's happened in previous games you probably could say (it deserved yellow)," Umaga said, referring to the Francis clash.
"We knew going into this game the South African referees had been giving away a lot of yellow cards, and cards in general, so we talked a lot about being disciplined and we would expect that consistency throughout the whole game.
"I've got to go through the right channels in terms of reporting back -- that's what we'll do to make sure we get some answers to some of the questions we have.
"There were some tough calls that we felt went against us but that's the way it goes." (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by John O'Brien)