Chris Robshaw has rallied his England team for one final assault on New Zealand by demanding they salvage some pride from their series defeat.
The All Blacks added to their first Test victory with a gripping 28-27 win at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday – made possible by a devastating third-quarter spell that produced tries for Ben Smith, Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu.
Once a midweek fixture against the Crusaders has been negotiated, England will head to Hamilton for the climax to the series in search of that elusive triumph on Kiwi soil.
Although temporarily deflated by their inability to set up a decider, Robshaw insists England will give everything in their quest for a precious All Blacks scalp.
“We’ve come down to win a series and we haven’t done that. We’ve still got one more chance and come close on the last two occasions,” the captain said.
“We’ll throw everything at this last game. It’s a big finale and hopefully we can pull one back.
“I don’t think it’ll be hard at all to lift the team for this match because we still want to win a game down here.
“We all believe that’s still very much obtainable as long as we continue to be professional. There were some upset players in our changing room after the second Test
“We’ll have our sulk, but by Monday morning we’ll be straight back into it.
“All our detail will have been prepared and we’ll have reviewed everything and be ready to go again.”
The score may say only one point separated the rivals, but in truth England were well beaten with late tries from Mike Brown and Chris Ashton offering scoreboard respectability.
For a second successive weekend, they were left mourning a missed opportunity.
A fearless first half bristling with intent hinted that something special was brewing, and it appeared all too easy as a 10-0 lead was posted inside the opening eight minutes.
Try-scorer Marland Yarde and Billy Twelvetrees were influential as England pummelled New Zealand’s defence, but they lacked the points their superiority deserved as chances went begging amid a succession of unforced errors and poor decision-making.
When the third quarter arrived they were being given a lesson in finishing by the ruthless All Blacks.
“Once again it’s gutting. We came out with all guns blazing trying to execute our game plan and couldn’t have started better,” Robshaw said. “It was a great first half from all the guys, but unfortunately in the second half we lost a bit of momentum, lost the ball and struggled to get it back.”
The experiment of playing Manu Tuilagi on the wing failed on this occasion and it is difficult to argue a case for his retention there for the third Test. Isolated and repeatedly targeted with kicks that made him turn, he bore little resemblance to the tackle-breaking giant that roamed Eden Park. A popular decision would be his restoration at outside centre with Ashton starting on the right wing, while doubt also hangs over the underperforming Joe Launchbury, Ben Morgan and Danny Care.
It will take a monumental effort to prevent the All Blacks from amassing a 17th successive victory when the series concludes at Waikato Stadium, but Robshaw is adamant it can be done.
“We want to make sure we get a win before New Zealand come to us in the autumn,” he said.
“It will be a huge challenge to do it down here in their own backyard. But we very firmly believe it’s doable. We’ve shown huge potential over the last few weeks, but that’s not what counts.”