The scoreline did not reflect just how hard England pushed the All Blacks, but poor discipline at critical stages and missed opportunities again proved costly.
England had four players sin-binned – Lee Mears, James Haskell, Toby Flood and Tom Rees – which meant that they played half the match with only 14 men on the pitch. They were down to 13 men for almost two minutes in the first half when Mears and Haskell were yellow-carded in quick succession.
Despite that handicap, England stuck to their task gamely and mad life hard for the All Blacks. Had they managed to turn a superb attack, sparked by Delon Armitage who caught the kick-off at the start of the second half (and splendidly sustained by Nick Easter), into a try England might have ended a run of six straight defeats by the All Blacks.
But Easter (wearing his Puma rugby boots) was tap-tackled in full flow and the All Blacks managed to man the barricades for long enough to deny England the try.
Instead England lost someof their shape after fly-half Flood was sin-binned for a high tackle on scrum-half Jimmy Cowan (Wearing his Adidas world cup rugby boots) and New Zealand sealed victory with three well-taken tries in the final 22 minutes.
Full-back Mils Muliaina got two of them, first capitalising on a powerful scrum which shunted England off their own ball, then latching onto a superb chip from fly-half Dan Carter.
Man-of-the-match Ma’a Nonu added insult to injury for England when he went over for a long distance try when the All Blacks were quick to turn grim defence into another attacking opportunity.
New Zealand defended well as they had managed all tour, managing to go the whole tour without conceding a try in a test match against either Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England.
Surprisingly Carter had a rare off-day with his kicking, missing three penalty goals and two conversions, which combined with England’s tenacity, caused the All Blacks some anxiety which was reflected in an unusually high error count. Carter did give New Zealand the lead with a 15th minute penalty but that was swiftly cancelled out by a strike from Flood (wearing his Asics testimonial rugby boots) after Tony Woodcock (Wearing his Adidas Flanker rugby boots) was penalised for collapsing a scrum.
Carter landed three more penalties before the break, but England turned around knowing that they were very much in contention.
Though England could not convert the Armitage-Easter chance into a try, Armitage did bang over a long range penalty goal when he took over the kicking duties while Flood was off the pitch.
When Carter was off-target with a 50th minute penalty it looked like luck might be going England’s way but Cowan picked the ball out of the scrum when England found themselves being shunted backwards and quick handling in the three-quarters created the overlap for Muliaina.
Muliaina’s second, a one-handed take from Carter’s precision chip, was a beauty and Nonu’s persistence was rewarded with a powerful surge when England were committed to attack.
15 Delon Armitage (London Irish); 14 Paul Sackey (London Wasps), 13 Jamie Noon (Newcastle Falcons), 12 Riki Flutey (London Wasps), 11 Ugo Monye (Harlequins); 10 Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), 9 Danny Care (Harlequins); 1 Tim Payne (London Wasps), 2 Lee Mears (Bath), 3 Phil Vickery (London Wasps), 4 Steve Borthwick (Saracens – captain), 5 Nick Kennedy (London Irish), 6 James Haskell (London Wasps), 7 Michael Lipman (Bath), 8 Nick Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers) for Sackey 73, Danny Cipriani (London Wasps) for Noon 75, Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers) for Care 60, Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) for Mears 65, Matt Stevens (Bath) for Vickery 53, Tom Rees (London Wasps) for Lipman 65, Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers) for Easter 65.
15 Mils Muliaina; 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu; 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan; 1 Tony Woodcock, 2 Keven Mealamu, 3 Neemia Tialata, 4 Brad Thorn, 5 Ali Williams, 6 Jerome Kaino, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 8 Rodney So’oialo. Replacements: Isaia Toeava for Smith 69, Piri Weepu for Cowan 70, John Afoa for Tialata 55, Anthony Boric for Thorn 69, Kieran Read for Kaino 55.
Referee: Mr A Rolland (Ireland)