Saints skipper Dylan Hartley admits New Zealand have landed a telling psychological blow in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup by completing a 3-0 series whitewash over England.
Stuart Lancaster’s men slumped to a 36-13 defeat at the Waikato Stadium in what was comfortably their worst performance of the tour.
The rivals collide again at Twickenham in the opening match of the autumn series and Hartley fears World Cup favourites New Zealand have gained a crucial edge over the hosts.
“There was more to this series than the results, there was also that psychological battle that we’d have liked to have won,” Hartley said.
“The next time the All Blacks come to Twickenham it will be in their favour. That psychological battle ahead of the World Cup is key.
“If we’d picked up a result or had another good performance like we had in the last few Tests, that would have been nice going into Twickenham.”
England’s ambitions of recording only a third Test victory in New Zealand were effectively over by half-time after the All Blacks had built a 29-6 lead.
Wing Julian Savea and scrum-half Aaron Smith helped themselves to two tries a piece, but a more determined England emerged for the second half.
“Unfortunately that last Test is what we’ll be remembered for. The first two Tests don’t count because you’re only as good as your last game,” Hartley said.
“It’s holiday time now and we have four weeks and a whole pre-season to dwell on our last game, which was that.
“In that first half we were just chasing shadows. Every opportunity they took and they played quickly and with intensity.
“All I remember is a wave of intensity and it was quick. I felt like every time we were in our 22 we conceded.
“It’s a disappointing finish to what was otherwise a good tour, a good first two weeks.
“To opt out in the last game, in that style, in that fashion is pretty painful.
“Everyone is carrying different niggles, but that’s not an excuse, especially after the way we have turned up and performed in the last two weeks.
“We can’t suddenly say that this week we’re tired. It just didn’t go our way on Saturday.”