Once again England turned the screw but could not exploit a considerable advantage, not only in terms of possession but also in numbers as the All Blacks lost three forwards, two of them props, to the sin-bin in the second half. However well the forwards waged war and despite another assured display by Charlie Hodgson, England had no cutting edge in midfield and nobody to match the subtle genius of Daniel Carter.
Martin Corry, the England captain, was crestfallen afterwards. "Everyone is absolutely devastated," he said. "It hurts like hell. We got ourselves in a great position but the final score eluded us. We gave our absolute all and we couldn't quite close it. You've got to expect to win at home."
It was Corry who gave his team a dream start in the third minute. Byron Kelleher had a kick charged down by Matt Dawson, Carter had to scramble the ball illegally to safety, and instead of going for goal England went for the jugular: lineout, driving maul, second push and Corry over the line with the ball. And England hadn't scored a try in their previous three matches against New Zealand.
"We wanted to impose our forward game on them," Corry, bloodied and bandaged, said. "My try wasn't enough. The be all and end all is that England lost at Twickenham." He could barely get the words out.
The All Blacks, who slammed Sir Clive Woodward's Lions 3-0, remain on course for another footnote in history, a Grand Slam of the four home countries. Only Scotland at Murrayfield next Saturday stand between Tana Umaga emulating the feat of Graham Mourie who, in one of the odder statistics, is the only New Zealand captain to lead his country to a triumphant tour of Britain and Ireland. And that was 27 years ago.
Mourie was an outstanding flanker- does New Zealand produce any other kind? - but he and everybody else can only admire the peaks scaled by the class of 2005. Graham Henry, the coach, has said his main goal on this hit-and-run tour is to develop strength in depth for the holy grail of the 2007 World Cup. In the meantime the golden fleece of a British slam awaits, to go with the whitewash of the Lions and a Tri-Nations triumph. Oh, and they've been awarded the 2011 World Cup.
England - the RFU announced beforehand that their World Cup vote had gone to Japan - looked like going the way of Wales and Ireland, both of whom conceded five tries to these All Blacks, when Carter sliced through the Red Rose defence and the ultimate result was a try for the hooker Keven Mealamu.
The All Blacks didn't get their noses in front until the 28th minute when Carter kicked his second penalty to make it 13-10, the half-time score after Hodgson failed with a relatively easy shot.
Hodgson kicked an excellent conversion of Corry's try before Carter imposed on England his first touch of All Black magic. Taking a high pass, he glided past Corry and found Umaga on his right with a try-scoring pass. The fact that it was forward did not enter Umaga's head.
"I hang on Dan's coat-tails to see if I can pick something up," the New Zealand captain said. "We knew this would be not only our hardest game of the tour but of the season and that is what we got."
It might have been even harder had England repeated in the second half what they achieved in the opening minutes. Far from setting up the Kiwis for a second-half onslaught, Mealamu's try brought the best out of the English forwards and that is very good indeed.
The previous Saturday the Australian front row was reduced to rubble with injuries and yellow cards and the All Blacks, although nowhere near as vulnerable as the Wallabies, got themselves into a right pickle when Tony Woodcock got a yellow card for pulling down a maul. England were now playing monopoly: 65 per cent of possession and having to make 16 tackles to their opponents' 38. When the replacement prop Neemia Tialata went to the sin-bin, Hodgson kept chipping away at the deficit and with Chris Masoe also receiving a yellow card, England had a fantastic chance in the dying stages of again going for the throat. They didn't and they lost.
"I'm absolutely distraught," Andy Robinson, the England coach said, seeking a different desperate adjective from Corry. "We had a golden opportunity and we missed it. I'm very proud of our performance. We're looking to play 15-man rugby when we get our combinations right. We're moving forward."
Henry was prouder: "We were under real pressure and the guts we showed, particularly when we were down to 13 and 14 men, was quite remarkable."
Henry didn't name names but wherever you looked one All Black stood out and it wasn't Carter. Jerry "the hitman" Collins, a Samoan who moved to Wellington to work a refuse collector before becoming a dynamo, was as good in attack as he was in defence. You couldn't miss Collins - he was the one who looked as if he had an albino hamster on top of his head.
MAN FOR MAN MARKING AT TWICKENHAM By Paul Trow
Star performer: Steve Borthwick 9
Has added bone-rattling tackles and well-worked turnovers to his line-out repertoire. Had Jack on the back foot - the ultimate achievement for a lock
Josh Lewsey 8
Brave and sure under the high ball, willing to run out of defence rather than opt for a negative kick, and quick to spot when to join the line in attack
Mark Cueto 7
Prepared to take the battle to the All Blacks' backs, either by running right at them or trying to kick behind them. Needs quicker service from his centres
Jamie Noon 5
Seems happy to tackle all afternoon - he certainly wasn't disappointed in this respect - but doesn't have many original thoughts when given the ball
Mike Tindall 5
Undid much of Hodgson's good work and struggled with the finer points of back play. Needs greater subtlety and vision to belie battering-ram image
Ben Cohen 7
Continued the outstanding form he showed against Australia. Positioned himself well and tackled with purpose. Ran with the ball whenever possible
Charlie Hodgson 8
Targeted by the New Zealand hitmen, thus underlining the threat he posed. Stood flat and fed his backs with a variety of passes. Missed one key kick
Matt Dawson 5
Produced a few moments of skill and his hoof upfield set up England's last realistic chance. Overall, the pace and intensity proved too much for him
Andrew Sheridan 5
England's scrum was given a far stiffer examination than against Australia. Hayman kept him at bay and his work in open play was somewhat limited
Steve Thompson 6
Kept battering away without often crossing the gain line. Struggled with his throwing , but Borthwick at least gave him a safe option to fall back on
Phil Vickery 5
The irritating wheeling of the England scrum, the All Blacks' main tactic for containment, was largely possible due to Woodcock's excellent scrummaging
Danny Grewcock 7
No quarter asked nor given. Seemed to be on the receiving end of one or two baffling refereeing decisions, but for once took adversity in his stride
Pat Sanderson 7
One dazzling blind-side break after eluding his tackler was one of the attacking highlights of England's day. Deserves an extended run in the side
Lewis Moody 7
Looked more like an open-side flanker as he careered about the pitch in hot pursuit of the ball. Chased everything - restarts, high balls and lost causes
Martin Corry 6
An early try should have given captain and troops the ideal fillip. Toiled away with his usual honesty. Equally honest about his disappointment in defeat
Matt Stevens 6 A late arrival after Sheridan was cut
Lee Mears Not used
Louis Deacon Not used
Chris Jones Not used
Harry Ellis Not used
Olly Barkley Not used
Mark van Gisbergen Not used
Star performer: Rodney So'oialo 9
A dynamic display from a totally committed No 8 who seemed to be everywhere. Invariably first to the breakdown and last to step back
Mils Muliaina 7
Despite dominant All Black possession in the first half, saw very little of the ball. Tackled ferociously when required as the emphasis switched to defence
Doug Howlett 6
Well policed by the England defence and forced into making a number of uncharacteristic handling errors. Was guilty of more than one knock-on.
Tana Umaga 8
Okay, the pass which set up his try was a tad forward and he possibly should have scored himself a bit later instead of feeding Masoe. But what a leader!
Aaron Mauger 6
Fumbled more often than usual and unnecessarily relieved the pressure on the England line with an ill-judged chip in the second half. Tireless in defence
Sitiveni Sivivatu 6
Another who started to struggle in the face of England's relentless power game and defensive pressure. Not so effective when wrestled to ground
Daniel Carter 9
It seems there is no way he can be contained over 80 minutes. Exploited the tiniest of midfield gaps to make the clever breaks that led to both tries
Byron Kelleher 8
Made two majestic breaks following turnovers and showed great strength to shrug off a number of tackles. His delivery is not perfect, but it is brisk
Tony Woodcock 5
Could easily have cost New Zealand the game as his cynical ploys off the ball eventually landed him in the sin-bin. Scrummaged well against Vickery
Keven Mealamu 7
One of the unheralded enforcers of this pack. Claimed the second All Black try under a mound of bodies and was rarely seen far from the breakdown
Carl Hayman 6
Front-row showdown with Sheridan was billed as one of the potential flashpoints of the game. Gave away a few penalties but held his head high
Chris Jack 7
Displayed his versatility with a lot of good work in the loose and with the ball in hand. For once did not have things all his own way in the line-outs
Ali Williams 7
One of several players to sustain a cut to the head during the match, and will see it over the coming days as a badge of honour for his rugged performance.
Jerry Collins 8
Knows only one way to play - on the edge, over the top, in the opposition's faces, and with extreme, muscular prejudice. Turns over almost at will
Chris Masoe 8
Would have run So'oialo close as all-action man of the match had he not dropped a try-scoring pass and seen yellow when pressured near the end
Neemia Tialata 3 Sin-binned after only seven minutes
Jason Eaton 4 On briefly as a blood replacement
Mose Tuiali'i 5 Late arrival to give So'oialo a rest
Piri Weepu 7 Slotted in seamlessly for Kelleher
Joe Rokocoko 6 Had one chance to stretch his legs
Leon Macdonald Not used
Andrew Hore Not usedReuse content