Rugby Union: Powerhouse England Must Find Magic to Match Their Muscle; ENGLAND 19 NEW ZEALAND 23 ALL BLACKS HEAD FOR EUROPEAN GRAND SLAM AT TWICKENHAM WORLD CHAMPS LACK KILLER TOUCH AS THEY MISS OUT IN A THRILLER
Byline: Alex Spink
CHARLIE HODGSON emerged from England's heroic failure to beat the All Blacks and admitted: "That was a big opportunity missed".
All around his team-mates received consoling pats on the back and were told how committed, courageous and brave they had been in pushing New Zealand to the brink.
Kiwi captain Tana Umaga described Saturday's titanic encounter as his team's toughest match of the entire year, harder than the Lions series or any part of their Tri-Nations triumph.
Coach Steve Hansen added: "England have got their minds back on the job, their feet back on the floor and they want to be a good team again. They were formidable opponents."
No word of praise was undeserving for a team which, only nine months ago, finished so far down the Six Nations table you needed a search light to find them. Yet so short is time before the start of their World Cup defence that England's players were cursing themselves before the frost had even settled on a chill Twickenham evening.
They will rightly take heart from a performance which exceeded pretty much every expectation and so rocked New Zealand that three of their players were sent to the sin-bin for straying outside the laws to deny England. But so self-critical are they that the post-mortem will focus squarely on how they failed to break down the enemy defence in the last 24 minutes when they had greater numbers on the field.
Hodgson, honest as ever, confessed: "It comes down to us running better lines and better decoys. It was certainly disappointing not to capitalise on them being men down and get that final score.
"The more creative we can get the better it will be for us as a side. We played well in patches but we must build from that and be more consistent. You do have to give a lot of credit to their defence but everyone is devastated to lose."
Nobody more so than captain Martin Corry who started the game with a try in the third minute and ended it with blood seeping from a head wound pulled together by 20 stitches.
"When we denied them space they looked quite ordinary, certainly beatable and not as imposing as they have done," he said. …