A sloppy start and finals nerves shattered the ACT Brumbies title dreams on Saturday morning, but a scheduling bungle could prompt a Super Rugby re-think.
The Brumbies were thumped by the Argentina Jaguares in a semi-final demolition, losing 39-7 in Buenos Aires in a frustrating finish to the year.
The challenge of playing against a side boasting 732 Test caps was made more difficult by the fact the Brumbies had to play four days after a 30-hour trek to Argentina.
The travel schedule is the most difficult part about Super Rugby, which is why it's important to finish in the top two spots to secure home finals rights.
But having the Brumbies play on Friday night Argentina time was an extra hurdle to jump over after their journey started with a 6am bus last Sunday.
"We weren't good enough. The Jaguares didn't let us get into the game, they're a very good side," said Brumbies coach Dan McKellar.
"It doesn't help when you're on a bus at 6am on a Sunday morning and playing on a Friday night. You'd hope SANZAAR have a look at that, but it's not an excuse.
"The scheduling of the games is tough, travelling one side of the world to the other and playing within five days is difficult."
Travel aside, the Brumbies were confident they could cause an upset against the international-laden Jaguares after winning their previous seven games in a row.
The game, however, couldn't have got off to a worse start. Three Brumbies players converged on a probing chip kick only to have the ball land between the three of them, hit someone's boot and bounce 20 metres towards their own try line.
Former Brumby Tomas Cubelli was the man to swoop and scored the opening try after just three minutes.
It triggered a relentless Jaguares wave and the home side, riding the momentum of 31,000 vocal fans, powered to a 20-0 lead after 20 minutes.
The game was almost out of the Brumbies hands by that point as their lineout capitulated and they struggled to hold on to the ball long enough to be a serious threat.
"We just turned over too much possession and they played really well," McKellar said.
"They didn't allow us to get going and we turned over a lot of ball at the lineout, which is unlike us.
"But I'm not going to let one game be a reflection on our whole season at all. There are a lot of positives. We turned around our season, we turned around how we play as a club and we've been good. We just weren't good enough [in the semi-final]."
Hooker Folau Faingaa was put under intense pressure by the Jaguares and he missed five of his first seven lineout targets.
It was an uncharacteristic start and clearly shook the Brumbies, who were always playing catch up after an early case of finals nerves.
Faingaa scored a try on the stroke of half-time, but the Jaguares onslaught continued after the break and they punished the Brumbies for every tiny error.
In the end they ran in five tries and strangled the Brumbies out of the contest to book their place in the grand final for the first time.
The Brumbies were left to lick their wounds after their biggest loss of the season and their worst loss in a finals game.
It was a brutal way to come crashing back to earth, especially in Christian Lealiifano's 150th and final game for the club.
"Obviously a very sad time," Lealiifano said. "The Brumbies will always be in my heart forever, they've been a special club to me. Disappointing the way it goes down, but that's the way rugby is.
"It's special to have my brother here and my family supporting at home. "It's going to be sad [to say goodbye], we'll take some time to soak it in and enjoy it now.
"We're disappointed in that one. They were very good tonight, they put us under a lot of pressure, we just couldn't get back on top.
"I felt the game was toing and froing, we got into it late in the first half, but the Jaguares were very good tonight."
It seems almost unfair the Brumbies' campaign ended the way it did because there was so much to like about a running rugby revival this season.
They set a record for the longest single-season winning streak in the club's history, scored some remarkable tries and started to generate new support.
Unfortunately the players will look back and wonder 'what if' after failing to fire in the semi-final and never giving themselves a chance to win.
The Brumbies will now say farewell to Lealiifano (Japan), Henry Speight (Queensland), Sam Carter (Ireland) and Rory Arnold (France) among others.
It's a massive changing of the guard, with David Pocock also finishing his Brumbies tenure.
AT A GLANCE
ARGENTINA JAGUARES 34 (Matias Orlando 2, Tomas Cubelli, Tomas Lavanini, Emiliano Boffelli tries; Joaquin Diaz Bonilla 4 conversions, 2 penalties) bt ACT BRUMBIES 7 (Folau Faingaa try; Christian Lealiifano conversion) at Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires on Saturday morning. Referee: Mike Fraser. Crowd: 31,000