An expanded Super 15 rugby season ended with new champions, a resurgence of rugby in Australia and question marks again hanging over New Zealand sides' inability to close out important matches, all of which could have World Cup repercussions.
A record crowd of 52,113 were brought to their feet in Brisbane on Saturday when Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia's 65-yard burst late in the second half gave the Queensland Reds a vital 18-13 lead over the Canterbury Crusaders, which they held on to for their first Super 15 title.
The win by the Reds, a side made up of mostly youngsters, was highlighted by a stirring defensive effort as they tackled themselves to a stand-still.
They also seized what little chances they had and it was hardly surprising the Reds' tries – both of which were sparked by Genia – came from broken play.
The Crusaders dominated territory and were camped in the Reds' 22 for sustained periods, but made far too many errors. Fatigue could be blamed for their failure at the final hurdle – the nomadic Crusaders had travelled over 100,000 kilometres during the season after February's earthquake destroyed their home base of Christchurch.
The Reds' victory could portent what is to come in under two months when the World Cup starts in New Zealand.
Australia's Tri-Nations squad, named yesterday, includes the Reds' Digby Ioane, the mercurial pairing of Genia and Quade Cooper, full-back Kurtley Beale and utility James O'Connor.