Saints forward Tom Wood admitted England had squandered a glorious opportunity to record a precious victory in New Zealand following their 28-27 defeat at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.
The All Blacks completed a series triumph but only after conjuring three tries in 11 minutes in response to a dominant first half from Stuart Lancaster’s tourists.
Wing Marland Yarde crossed to help establish a 10-6 interval lead, but England’s superiority was worthy of a more comfortable cushion on the scoreboard.
“It was there for us at half-time, it felt like we had them,” said Wood.
“They’re a dangerous team and after half-time unfortunately we left the door ajar and they kicked it open.
“They’ve got the biggest targets on their head, they are used to teams coming out of the blocks with all guns blazing.
“They weather the storm and back themselves with their fitness to turn up the heat in the second half and blow teams away. They’re used to that feeling.
“The best players in the world also feel the pressure like anyone else, but in this second Test we couldn’t turn it up in time.
“It was about getting our hands on the ball and keeping up the pressure in the third quarter and we didn’t manage to do that.”
Wood praised New Zealand’s ruthlessness with tries from Ben Smith, Julian Savea and Ma’s Nonu lessons in the art of finishing, but insisted England contributed to their own downfall.
“I’m getting fed up of going through the process and having to explain it away. Frankly it just wasn’t good enough,” he said.
“There will be plenty of positives to come out of the game, as there always are. Our intent was good and the platform we built in the first half was pretty good.
“Fair play to them they did turn up the heat and they showed what quality they have.
“A lot of the credit goes to them for being so dynamic, but a lot of the blame lies with us.
“We handed them easy ball, we couldn’t get our hands on the ball and when we did we just forced a pass too often.
“Once you give a team like the All Blacks a sniff they just grow in stature and keep coming wave after wave. They’ve got too many dangerous runners.
“You can sense when they do get that bit of ascendancy, the belief just grows, they go for the jugular and they’re the best at it.
“We can talk about the character and the positives to come out of us weathering that storm to an extent and coming back at them, but it was all a little late in the day.”