Deep scars remain but, tonight at least, there will be some sense of satisfaction for the All Blacks. No one more so than Ben Smith.
Nothing the All Blacks did in their World Cup playoff for bronze can erase last week's semifinal failure. That hurt they may never shake. Not for four years, anyway.
But against an admittedly second-string Welsh side, missing six frontline starters through injury, the All Blacks did respond to their test of character.
For Smith and the host of departing All Blacks – Kieran Read, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams along with coach Steve Hansen and Mike Cron – this final test offered a farewell they will appreciate.
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None of them wanted to be here, slugging it out for the minor places one day before the big dance. But they fronted. For that, they can keep their chins up. It's small solace but it's something – all they could do after last week.
Smith's two tries are nothing more than the great southern man deserves as he prepares to depart for France. After being left out of the squad to face Ireland and England, Smith's two tries gave him and his family in the crowd reason to smile.
Smith wasn't perfect – he was caught too far infield by a Rhys Patchell skip-ball for Hallam Amos' try, but he quickly made amends.
His first strike was vintage, cutting back on the angle to leave several defenders flat footed. The embrace he and Highlanders teammate Aaron Smith savoured after their blindside switch move said everything about the emotion on display.
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All evening the veteran chased kicks and came off his wing hunting work. Everywhere the ball went, Smith went. It seemed cruel he had a third try scrubbed out by Rieko Ioane's knock on.
Sam Cane was another to serve a timely reminder of his class. Hansen admitted if he had his time again, Cane would have started against England last week rather than Scott Barrett on the blindside.
In the opening two minutes Cane pulled off a huge hit and turnover and while his hands let him down on one occasion, his engine kept humming in a similar fashion throughout.
After four first half tries, Williams and Crotty got on the act straight after halftime with an offload from the charging second five-eighth to his midfield partner.
In between times Beauden Barrett nonchalantly scooped the ball up with one hand and boosted down the sideline. Richie Mo'unga challenged the line far more and offloaded as we know he can. Brodie Retallick, Read and Joe Moody, the loose head prop charging 20 metres to score the opening try, combined as if they were kicking about the backyard.
Nepo Laulala even did his best Sir Colin Meads impression by carrying the ball in one hand.
If this was boxing, it could be called showboating.
Unburdened by knockout pressure and England's relentless linespeed, the All Blacks played with the freedom and confidence we expect every week.
They weren't at their clinical best – their lineout again fell to pieces and the scrum struggled at times. Mo'unga missed touch from a penalty just before halftime and hit the post with his first, easy penalty attempt but he also had touches of class. His skip to the outside for the final try case in point.
This was not an Ireland level performance. Far from it. But after an immensely emotive week, it was probably the best anyone could expect.
Wales came to play, too. They turned down shots, broke the All Blacks line and flung the ball wide when it was on.
Given the injury toll that robbed them of Liam Williams, Josh Navidi, Tomas Francis, George North, Aaron Wainwright and Leigh Halfpenny, it was a typically gutsy effort from the Six Nations champions but their 66-year wait for victory over the All Blacks rolls on.
Tonight, Warren Gatland was always going to play second fiddle to Hansen as the two highly respected mentors finish their tenures.
In the years to come, few will remember this result. Those All Blacks involved will, though.
If nothing else, they proved how proud men respond to the most devastating of defeats.