It was never going to feel great, but at least the All Blacks felt a little bit good about beating Wales to collect a bronze medal that they may not even bother taking home from Japan.
They felt a little bit good because they did exactly what they wanted. They played with commitment, passion, urgency and freedom.
They played well and they played with the sort of energy and resilience that said they have the character they hoped they did.
They played so well in fact they made it impossible not to have a few what-if moments: the brain unable to help itself from seeing the All Blacks zip the ball about, ran the sharpest angles and wonder where all that was last week.
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Or from seeing them occasionally hit the first runner to crash direct and hard rather than, as happened last week, endlessly passing out the back door.
Or from seeing Ben Smith jig everywhere in a classic performance of confounding footwork and guile, what might have been had he been involved against England.
But of course, only madness lay ahead for those thinking like that. It was an illusion. Different game. Different occasion. Different everything and it wasn't a night to judge the All Blacks for what they didn't do against England but to appreciate what they delivered against Wales.
Only those who have ever played in a dreaded bronze final game would know what it takes to pick up a broken soul and piece it together well enough to front six days later for another test whose entire purpose is to remind those playing that they lost the week before.
It can't be easy. It can't be much fun and no amount of inner positivity can ever persuade the brain, or the heart, that it's fully invested.
But the All Blacks found enough in their emotional tank to purr about as nicely as anyone had any right to expect.
And maybe, more importantly, they played with a sense of joy rather than a sense of obligation. There was a togetherness about them – a spirit that said they were driven by not fear of making a bad situation worse by losing to Wales, but an inherent desire to give themselves closure of sorts at this World Cup.
Closure, too, for those who were playing in the jersey for the last time and what better way to do that than not just winning, but by playing with the sort of creativity and vision that they know is within them and regret so much wasn't accessible last week against England.
It was an adaptation of Shakespeare's thinking that it is better to have lost and loved than to never have loved at all.
Better to have played flowing football in the bronze medal match than to have come to a World Cup and never played it at all.
And better to have finished like that so Kieran Read, a great player, a great captain and a great man, could walk into retirement with a smile on his face.
The skipper has had the week from hell. His heart broken, his pain laid bare for all to see and a career as special as his needed an upbeat ending, however token.
A bronze medal was never going to fix him. Never going to make him whole. But it would at least make him and the rest of the squad feel a bit better. A bit happier and a bit more certain that they are an excellent rugby team.