Wales' World Cup campaign ultimately ended in massive disappointment, a bronze medal game defeat by Australia capping a tournament in which several younger players starred.
Coach Warren Gatland's team opened their campaign with a 17-16 Pool D loss to 2007 champions South Africa and then ground out a 17-10 win over Samoa before racking up cricket scores against Namibia (81-7) and Fiji (66-0).
Old Six Nations foes Ireland lay in wait for them in the quarterfinals but Wales produced their best 80 minutes of rugby to seal a 22-10 victory to advance to the last four for the first time since the inaugural 1987 World Cup, also in New Zealand.
However, the semifinal clash against France did not go to plan when captain Sam Warburton was red carded after just 19 minutes for a dangerous tip tackle on French wing Vincent Clerc, whose side went on to record a 9-8 win.
Friday's 21-18 loss to the Wallabies left Wales with a World Cup record of four victories and three losses, two of which came against Tri-Nations teams.
"At the end of the day we haven't beaten a southern hemisphere team down here. It's massively frustrating," admitted centre Jamie Roberts.
Indeed, in Wales' 45 Tests against Tri-Nations countries since the advent of professionalism after the 1995 World Cup, they've managed just one win over South Africa (1999), two against Australia (2005, 2008), and tasted nothing but defeat against New Zealand.
But Gatland insisted that there were positives to take out of a tournament, where youngsters such as Warburton, fellow flank Dan Lydiate, flyhalf Rhys Priestland, No. 8 Toby Faletau, teenage wing George North and fullback Leigh Halfpenny have shone and should all be better for the experience come the 2015 World Cup.
"The youngsters would have learnt and will definitely be stronger for these experiences," the New Zealander said of them playing seven Tests in seven weeks.
Veteran Stephen Jones, who was displaced by Priestland and then James Hook in the pivotal flyhalf role, said the loss to Australia, in which he came on as a replacement, had been disappointing.
"We didn't demonstrate over 80 minutes what we could do. We finished strongly, but that is rugby," the Scarlets playmaker said.
"If I look back on the tournament it has been fantastic. Some of the players played the best rugby of their career.
"It was a fantastic experience and a fantastic group of players that I have worked with. The future looks good for Welsh rugby and we need to kick on and win these games and beat the southern hemisphere teams on a regular basis."
Lock Bradley Davies pinpointed Warburton and Priestland as key players in the coming years for a Wales team where star wing Shane Williams is set to bow out.
"Sam has done an outstanding job as captain," Davies said. "Toby Faletau has been outstanding and Dan Lydiate and Jonathan Davies have shown lots of courage.
"I'd say the best has been Rhys Priestland. The way he stepped up has been a revelation. He was thrown in the deep end against England (in pre-tournament warm-ups) and has shown he has a bright future."
"Before we came out here we talked about going to New Zealand and earning respect. They are quite a savvy nation and only respect you when you have done it. We would have like to have done better, but that is rugby," he added.
Jonathan Davies, who has benefited from playing alongside the destructive Roberts in midfield, said the future for Wales could only be good.
"A lot of the boys gained a lot of experience. A lot of them only made their debuts this year and have 10 or 12 caps. We have to build on that for the future," Davies said.
Roberts added: "I think we'll go away with the feeling we can compete against the best in rugby. If we get things right, we'll put teams like this away.
"To lose to South Africa and France by a point and Australia by three just goes to show the fine lines at this level. One pass here, one kick here, a missed tackle there, little moments in games count."
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