- 8 Oct 07, 11:56 AM
Paris – The reaction of the Scotland players as the final whistle went at the Stade de France on Sunday night said it all.
Some sank to their knees, others looked blankly into space, Sean Lamont angrily threw his gumshield to the ground.
As the Argentina players and fans started their delirious celebrations, Scotland were left with the feeling that they had just blown their best of chance of reaching the last four of a World Cup since 1991.
Before the match, the kilted hordes had gathered outside the ground in hope more than expectation, fearing that a strong Argentina side, conquerors of both hosts France and Ireland in the group stages, would walk away with it.
Scotland on the other hand had been a cagey lot in the pool. A second-string team had been thumped by New Zealand and the radar boot of Chris Paterson had kicked them to victory over Italy in the rain of St Etienne.
It was always going to be hard for the contest to match the fireworks of super Saturday and the first half is not one that will live long in the memory.
With so much at stake I suppose both sides could be forgiven for concentrating on playing for territory and Argentina, with their “15 back-row players” as Frank Hadden said during the week, strangled the life out of Scotland’s game.
Scotland were only seven points down at the break but after Argentina had increased the lead with a penalty and a drop goal, they had no real choice but to try and give it a lash.
“We could see they were desperately looking for the final whistle with 20 minutes to go and we spread the word that we were going to have to go for it,” said wing Chris Paterson.
And so they did. Hadden brought on four substitutes on 57 minutes and suddenly his side showed what they were capable of. Chris Cusiter went over to put his side back in the game and Scotland sensed that despite an error-strewn display, the game could be theirs.
With the clock ticking down, Scotland threatened near the corner but fly-half Dan Parks opted for a chip over the top rather than keeping it in hand. The ball sailed over intended target Sean Lamont into touch and that was that.
The Scotland fans let out a collective groan – they knew the game was up.
Afterwards the inquest began and it was hard not to come away with the feeling that Scotland would have had more success if they had showed their hand a little earlier.
Paterson though, disagreed. "“There are two reasons that we didn’t open up. Argentina are really good at stopping you play and every team in the first half of a quarter-final wants to keep the opposition as far away from your line as possible.
"I have played in World Cup quarter-finals before and come away feeling really buoyed with how we finished. But against Argentina I genuinely thought we would score at the end. It’s bitterly disappointing not to get over the line.
“I don't like things ending and we are now going home. It is going to be a wrench to watch the semi-finals on telly next weekend.”
But is it all so bad for Frank Hadden's men?
It may not have been the most entertaining of campaigns but the proud record of reaching at least every World Cup quarter-final has been maintained. The achievement is given more weight considering all the strife that has affected the domestic game over recent times.
As Scotland’s players return home on Monday, they will obviously be kicking themselves for missing out on such a glorious opportunity, but there is also a real sense that this young squad can start to make an impact.
Only two of Sunday’s match-day 22 are over 30 with the vast majority likely to feature in New Zealand in four years time.
So let's try and look on the bright side, Monday is depressing as it is, and as Paterson says; "You learn from these experiences. We have the Six Nations coming up and we will try and get a smile back on our faces by doing well in that. We can only get better."
For Scotland's sake, let's hope so.
Mark Orlovac is a BBC Sport journalist based in London. He will be based in Paris for the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.