Wales were beaten 26-19 by Samoa this evening, their second defeat in a row in the autumn internationals and fifth defeat out of five under Rob Howley's caretaker stewardship.
The heady spring days of Grand Slam triumph now seem something of a different era altogether, and Wales must pick themselves up to face the challenges of New Zealand and Australia over coming weekends.
Howley has described his side's performance as 'not up to international standard' tonight. For the second weekend in succession here, they were outplayed and outfought by a side not considered among the global game's elite, again conceding 26 points. Defeat leaves them with the very real possibility of slipping outside the top eight spots in the world rankings, which could mean a very difficult draw for the 2015 World Cup.
It took Samoa just one minute and four seconds to score their first try. Number eight Taiasina Tuifu'a broke through some poor Welsh tackling and, when the ball was eventually fed out to the right wing, full-back Fa'atoina Autagavaia had the easiest of tasks to touch down.
Leigh Halfpenny got Wales off the mark with a straightforward penalty on the quarter-hour. Samoa were dominating territory but missing too many of their shots at goal, and the Blues full-back slotted another on 28 minutes.
During another foray into the Wales 22, Samoa fly-half Tusi Pisi lofted a telegraphed floating pass, intercepted by Ospreys centre Ashley Beck. He raced away and just about had the pace to stay clear of two covering defenders for his first test try. Halfpenny's conversion and a Pisi penalty with the last kick off the half meant Wales lead 13-10 at the break, a lead they had not deserved.
It didn't take long for Samoa to lead again after the restart. Kahn Fotuali'i, the Ospreys scrum half, spotted an opportunity along the touchline and burst clear, holding off defenders to feed George Pisi - Tusi's brother. Rhys Priestland's tackle nearly forced him into touch in the corner, but he kept his balance to finish superbly. After several minutes deliberating what was a very tight call, the video official awarded the try.
The two sides traded penalties, to leave Wales 21-19 down with 15 minutes to play, and needing some kind of score. Their failure to built a platform to take on the Samoan defence in the closing period was symptomatic of the whole game. Pisi looked to have handed them a lifeline with three minutes to go, missing a simple penalty through what appeared to be simply exhaustion, and setting up a tense finish.
It was still Samoa playing all the rugby though, and when captain David Lemi kicked the ball through, Leigh Halfpenny slipped in the in-goal area, and substitute Johnny Leota touched down. Again the video official had to confirm what the players already knew: Samoa had sealed another famous victory at the Millennium Stadium.
Head coach Warren Gatland returns to take charge of preparations for the game against the world-champion All Blacks, after being away on Lions duty. He will have to contend with a whole raft of injuries - hooker Richard Hibbard and fly-half Dan Biggar added to the list tonight - as well as an alarming dip in form and confidence.