A scoring drought and a second-half demolition crushed the Canberra Vikings' grand final dream as they fell short of a maiden National Rugby Championship title.
The Vikings couldn't contain a second-half rampage as the Western Force claimed an emphatic 41-3 victory in Perth on Saturday.
The silver lining to the Vikings' heartbreaking loss is $600,000 will be donated Telethon after mining billionaire Andrew Forrest pledged to donate $100,000 for every try scored by the Force.
The Vikings looked like they were going to take the match down to the wire when they trailed the hosts 7-3 at halftime, but that's where the arm-wrestle stalled.
"It could have been a different story if we had capitalised on a few of our opportunities," Vikings captain Blake Enever said.
"We defended really well in the first-half and they made a few mistakes and a few try opportunities.
"Unfortunately the second-half opened up as they usually do, and they were the team who capitalised, put the points on and they executed really well.
"We're disappointed with our performance but they were quite clinical with their opportunities, so full credit to the Force."
The Vikings spent most of the first half defending with brief interludes of attacking brilliance, including a break through run by Tom Wright which led to a penalty goal.
Force center Nick Jooste tackled Irae Simone off the ball in an effort to take down Tom Wright, who charged towards their line.
Scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan converted the penalty to break the deadlock and hand the Vikings a three-point lead.
The Force rallied but Canberra hung tough and dominated the break down as the hosts struggled to get the ball away.
The hosts changed tactics and their relentless attack eventuated in a Fergus Lee Warner try, after the prop scored off a rolling maul to hand the hosts a four-point lead.
But two tries in the opening five minutes gave the Force the spark they needed to put the result beyond doubt.
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Veteran Heath Tessman burrow through the Vikings' defensive wall seconds after halftime, allowing Lee-Warner to score his second try of the match.
The Vikings' scrum was demolished minutes later, opening the door for the Force to dominate and they took advantage when Nick Jooste scored virtually untouched from close range.
The Vikings struggled to gain possession while a penalty goal and a Tessman try laid the foundations for the domineering victory.
Jonah Placid and Jeremy Thrush rushed the unstoppable Force ahead to a 38-point lead, leaving the Vikings lamenting their third attempt for the championship title.
"We're pretty disappointed. We came over here looking to win and got beaten by the better team on the day," Lonergan said.
"They beat us at pretty much every aspect of the game, starting with their set piece.
"You can't hold that much pressure for a full game of rugby. They were always going to pile on some points.
"But there's positives. We started off as one of the two top teams in the competition and made the grand final. We've played some good footy, maybe not so much [on Saturday], but we've had such a good culture in our group."
There were still plenty of positives in Canberra's campaign with a number of rising stars using the competition to boost their chances for more Super Rugby game time.
The absence of Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, David Pocock, Christian Lealiifano, Henry Speight and Josh Mann-Rea will leave a gaping hole in experience at the ACT Brumbies next year.
The Vikings' grand final charge gave Brumbies selectors plenty of opportunities to oversee players development and formulate a plan to rebuild their Super Rugby roster.
"To get a couple of games under the belt for the boys who will have to step in is really positive," Lonergan said.
"They were surrounded by Brumbies players. We pretty much had a Brumbies back-line and quite a lot in the forwards.
"I think the more games you play, the better you get, the better you know people and the way they play."
AT A GLANCE
NRC grand final
WESTERN FORCE 41 (Lee-Warner 2, Jooste, Tessman, Placid, Thrush tries, Deegan 4 conversions, 1 penalty goal) bt CANBERRA VIKINGS 3 (Lonergan penalty goal)