For the second week in succession, Wales' kickers missed crucial shots at goal.
Last Saturday, James Hook, Leigh Halfpenny and Stephen Jones failed with four attempts between them as France scraped a 9-8 semi-final success.
And today, Hook and Halfpenny blew three chances that ultimately cost Wales the tournament's bronze medal match against Australia at Eden Park, suffering a 21-18 defeat.
While there is no escaping the considerable impact Wales made on this tournament, they will fly home on Saturday rueing losses to South Africa, France and Australia by a combined total of just five points.
"Probably the person upset is Neil Jenkins (Wales kicking specialist)," Wales coach Warren Gatland said.
"At this level, you've got to take your opportunities. Unfortunately, on these big occasions, our goalkicking has been down.
"In the past, we've had reliable goalkickers with percentages in the 80s. For whatever reason, unfortunately, they have missed a couple of crucial ones here.
"The one James missed in front of the posts was pretty important in the scheme of things and was probably what cost us.
"It's something we probably need to look at. It has been pretty costly to us.
"It has been an area that has definitely been one of our strengths, but for whatever reason at this tournament we've missed some critical kicks at goal which have turned out to be quite costly."
Wales wing Shane Williams marked his farewell World Cup appearance with a 58th Test try - although he benefited from a forward pass that referee Wayne Barnes missed - and full-back Leigh Halfpenny claimed a last-gasp consolation touchdown.
Hook and Stephen Jones each kicked a penalty, while Jones converted Halfpenny's effort, but Australia prevailed through touchdowns by Berrick Barnes and Ben McCalman, with Barnes dropping a goal and wing James O'Connor kicking the rest.
Stephen Jones said: "We've lost three games so closely. One of the easiest things to look at then is goalkicking. I would be interested to look at our statistics compared to other teams.
"We thoroughly enjoy working with Neil. He challenges us and he wants us to be the best out there. We set ourselves high standards, and it is frustrating when it doesn't go our way.
"We do put a lot of hours and effort into our kicking game, and it's important that we do because it decides matches."
Wales reserved their least effective display of the competition for last, sorely missing suspended skipper Sam Warburton, plus injured fly-half Rhys Priestland and prop Adam Jones.
"We were not as quite emotionally up for it as we have been for other games, and I think that showed," Gatland added.
"Our performance was probably a little bit down than what we are capable of. But in saying that, Australia are one of the top sides in the world and they are one of the best defensive teams in the competition.
"We are disappointed, but we have to take a lot of positives from the way we have progressed as a team.
"The players would have learnt a massive amount from this tournament, from playing seven Test matches in seven weeks, plus the August warm-up games.
"They have been through a lot, and they will be stronger for those experiences."
Gatland also paid tribute to 34-year-old Williams, who could bow out of Test rugby when Australia arrive at the Millennium Stadium for a quickfire rematch on December 3.
"He is an outstanding performer. He is always trying and going looking for the ball. The try he scored today came out of nothing," he said.
For Australia, their victory came at a hefty price, as fly-half Quade Cooper (knee ligaments) and full-back Kurtley Beale (hamstring) both went off inside the opening 20 minutes.
Cooper now faces a lengthy lay-off from the game - possibly six months - and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said: "I suspect it's a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
"Quade is aware that it is a significant injury, but with technology these days he will come back good to go.
"Obviously that whole experience, that adversity, will challenge him, but I have got no doubt he will come out of that stronger for it."
Deans hailed his players, who bounced back from a comprehensive semi-final defeat against the All Blacks just five days ago to thwart Wales.
"Both sides took to the contest with a lot of pride, and I think that was evident in the way both sides defended," he added.
"It was pretty tiring - we had a high attrition rate - but the boys showed what it meant to them by the way they stuck to their task.
"That is the nature of the World Cup - it's the ultimate event - and there is a lot of pride in that. The adrenaline pumps and players are totally committed."
And Wallabies skipper James Horwill said: "We came here to win it (the tournament). We didn't do that, but we made the best out of a bad situation by coming third.
"I've enjoyed my time here. We would have liked to have won it, but finishing third, we go out of here with our heads held high. We've done each other proud."
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