What in effect was the final of Super Rugby Aotearoa, between the Crusaders and the Highlanders, was blighted by the sight of a Crusader player, prop Oli Jager, leaving the field on a stretcher with his neck in a brace, to be taken to hospital by ambulance to see what damage had been done to him.
The Crusaders won the game at Orangetheory Stadium 32-22, and were presented with the tournament trophy, but what happened to Jager cast a dark cloud on a beautiful, sunny, Christchurch Sunday afternoon.
What was stunning was the illegal tackle by Highlander Sio Tomkinson that knocked Jager to the ground was made without using his arms, and when Jager didn't have the ball.
Astonishingly referee Paul Williams and his team didn't award a red card. Tomkinson was given a yellow card, and had to spend just ten minutes on the sideline.
How could any of us who love rugby now look a parent in the eyes and say they can trust the game to protect their son or daughter, when a piece of play outside the rules of rugby left a fit, powerful man like Jager prostrate on the ground, and the punishment is a slap on the wrist?
None of us can know what was in Tomkinson's mind. Let's put the best complexion on the incident - that he didn't intend to knock Jager out - the fact is the vision of the collision remains, and it could hardly be more damaging to the image of the game.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson was very careful with his words after the match. He hadn't performed his usual victory dance because it didn't seem right after "what happened to Oli."
Should the card have been red? "Well, that's what the judiciary is for."
A citing commissioner has the right to carry the matter further.
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There really needs to be further investigation, and further action, by New Zealand Rugby. To pretend nothing happened that needs further examination would amount to a dereliction of duty by the people in charge of the sport.
The game itself was often wildly entertaining.
From the blistering start by the Highlanders, to the enthralling battle between two fearless, gifted first-fives in Richie Mo'unga and Josh Ioane, to the magnificent chase and tackle early in the second half by wing Josh McKay that saved what looked like a try to Bryn Hall, there was so much that was a delight in the match.
But driving back from the ground your mind's eye kept returning to the painfully slow path of the St John Ambulance cart that took Jager off the field.
Thankfully there was nothing as dark in the Saturday game between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs. Here are three talking points from that match.
NO MORE TEARS BEFORE BEDTIME
One of the most entertaining sideshows in All Black rugby has always been the interplay between the Barrett brothers.
In 2017 Jordie, the youngest of the three, said that in backyard rugby games on the farm in Taranaki "I was in tears most of the time, and couldn't really participate. But it's been good just trying to reach those guys."
In the 31-18 dismissal of the Chiefs on Saturday night at Sky Stadium, Jordie showed in athletic, skilled, courageous, detail why he's lauded by All Black selectors from the time in 2017 when they saw him potentially as not just a good, but as a great All Black.
HOW COULD YOU NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH?
The sight of Sam Cane, as grounded and likeable a man as you'd ever find in or out of sport, prone on the field in Wellington was one of those moments you'd hope to never see.
So, as weird as it seems even saying it, the news he was concussed after a mistimed tackle on Barrett was a relief, because it came with the strong suggestion there was no damage to his neck.
Cane has a great store of common sense, which will be vital as he recovers from concussion, an injury for which time sometimes has to be the main healer.
SO WHAT RUGBY DEITY DID THE CHIEFS OFFEND IN LOCKDOWN?
Back in what now feels like the dreamtime before Covid-19, the Chiefs opened their Super Rugby campaign with a 37-29 win over the Blues at Eden Park on January 31, and a week later, I am not making this up, beat the Crusaders 25-15 in Hamilton, coming back from being 12-3 down after 24 minutes.
Looking again at some video of that win over the Crusaders, one thing stayed the same in Super Rugby Aotearoa - the Chiefs didn't lack for backbone. What was different between February and now, and a factor in many of the horror run of eight losses in the Aotearoa tournament, was that in summer the Chiefs clinically nailed chances. In winter, and again in the loss on Saturday in Wellington, that precision, for reasons that might keep a sports psychologist busy for months, has drained away.