Leinster came close to completing a thrilling comeback in the Heineken Cup group stage - but ultimately paid the price for a sluggish start to the defence of their European crown.
Joe Schmidt's side knew that nothing less than a victory - at least a four-try bonus point win - from a trip to Sandy Park would be sufficient to give themselves a fighting chance of reaching the last eight - and Leinster delivered against Exeter Chiefs.
It left the defending champions in the second of the two best-placed runners-up spots, meaning Munster needed to score four tries in a victory over Racing Metro to pip Leinster - and that's what they did with a 29-6 win on Sunday.
So where did it go wrong for Leinster?
Well, it can be traced back to a number of failures. They were unable to score more tries, thus securing a bonus point, in an opening 9-6 victory over the Chiefs in October, while managing a 20-15 win against the Scarlets in the following game.
But the most obvious hindrance to reaching the last eight was back-to-back losses to Clermont Auvergne. In France, Leinster were beaten 15-12 despite having chances to win before an even more shocking 28-21 loss at the RDS. It was a real statement from the French side to beat the dominant side in European rugby over the past three seasons.
It left them with a lot of work to do and even an improvement at the end of the campaign was too little too late for Leinster despite being rampant against Scarlets at the RDS and an impressive victory at the notoriously difficult Sandy Park.
Of course, the absence of Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald must be taking into account when assessing Leinster's disappointing defence of their crown. It undermined their chances of reaching the final at the Aviva Stadium in May, while the lack of depth was also exposed.
The 33-year-old deposed Irish captain brings bucket loads of experience, while Kearney was voted European Player of the Year in 2012 after starting all nine matches and scoring six tries in their triumphant campaign.
Missing three key players will affect any team - and Leinster certainly weren't immune. If O'Driscoll, Kearney and Fitzgerald had been present, it could have been a much different outcome.
So what now?
Leinster have a chance to win another trophy - Amlin Challenge Cup - which the likes of O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip are yet to lift, and so, would be another medal in the cabinet to complete the set. They face a trip to London Wasps for a place in the semi-finals.
It also means that the eastern Irish province can focus on their domestic form - they trail rivals Ulster by 12 points in the RaboDirect Pro12.
Finally, another positive is the reaction of the players in the last two Heineken Cup outings. Having won the title in two of the last three seasons, it could be a case of complacency slipping in. But Leinster have ended the rot and can now end the campaign on a high.
And while an emphatic victory over an average Scarlets side at the RDS isn't a mind-blowing achievement, a four-try bonus win at Sandy Park is something of a rarity and there are encouraging signs moving forward towards the season's completion.
In the summer, Leinster will need to tie up deals of Jonathan Sexton - who has been linked with a move to Racing Metro, while they will want to cement the future of Brian O'Driscoll and Rob Kearney to give them the best chance of making amends in the 2012/13 campaign.