The Crusaders' 100,000km journey ended in a 65-metre frustration, as Will Genia broke the hearts of Cantabrians around the world.
Picking up a loose ball with quarter of an hour to go, Genia looked one way went the other then put on the afterburners.
It was the softest of tries, as was Digby Ioane's earlier in the half. There is no simpler explanation than this - the Crusaders looked knackered and played like it.
It continued the remarkable run of Queensland, with the Reds first Super rugby title mirroring the achievements of soccer's Queensland Roar, netball's Firebirds and the State of Origin league team.
It was not a great match. There were far too many errors, but it was gripping.
From the start, both teams seemed weighed down by expectation.
Digby Ioane blew a golden opportunity to set up a try after a nifty Quade Cooper kick found acres of space.
Dan Carter muffed a penalty attempt in the 14th minute but aside from that it was slim-pickings for the spectator.
After a strong season highlighted by much-improved lineout throwing, Corey Flynn suddenly lost his bearings, getting pinged three times for not straight with the first half hour.
The visitors' scrum put pressure on the Reds, but it wasn't quite the weapon it was in Cape Town a week earlier.
With handling errors pock-marking the match whenever either team began building pressure, it was a very ugly half-hour.
Cooper got the Reds on the board with a mid-range penalty following some ordinary clean-up work in defence by Robbie Fruean.
That sparked the game into life, most particularly Dan Carter.
There has not been a day go by this past week without somebody weighing in on the Carter-Cooper debate.
Those who believe Carter is still a cut above got ample evidence to bolster their argument when he used his right boot to grubber in behind the Reds, scooped up the bouncing ball and waltzed past Cooper to scored under the posts.
Cooper did not look as sharp when dinking in behind the Crusaders minutes later, but Brad Thorn chose an inopportune moment to commit one of the sillier fouls in his long career, trailing his foot out to trip the Reds' flyhalf.
Cooper kicked the penalty to bring the home team back within one at the half.
Fruean launched a long-range break in the opening minute of the second half, but try-scoring machine Sean Maitland failed to rein in the pass.
Brad Thorn almost certainly scored in the 46th minute, but referee Bryce Lawrence referred the decision upstairs to George Ayoub and he had no chance of ruling on the melee.
Carter kicked a penalty shortly after, but the non-try decision looked brutal when Ioane carved through some poor kick-chase defence to dot under the posts.
Another Carter penalty levelled the scores at 13.
It was then the Reds turn to feel they had been robbed of a try when Rob Simmons raced 45m for an intercept try, but Lawrence already had his arm out for a knock-on.
The Crusaders were hurting themselves with poor tactical kicking and staggered chasing, especially from the base of the rucks. It didn't help, either, that Zac Guildford was having a night to forget after a season to remember.
He fell off the same page as his teammates and the harder he tried the worse it got.
Perhaps his worst error came when he completely misread Genia's pace and left him score in Maitland's cover tackle.
The Crusaders have been adopted as New Zealand's team, a point gratefully acknowledged by chief executive Hamish Riach, who said he had been overwhelmed by the messages of support the team had received "from non-traditional" support areas.
(Digby Ioane, Will Genia tries; Quade Cooper 2 pen, con)
(Dan Carter try; Carter 2 pen, con). Halftime: 6-7.
- NZ HERALD