Everyone knew the caliber of both teams heading into the clash and it was a game that well and truly lived up to the billing, as the New Zealand side scored a last-second try after some Shaun Johnson magic – leaving England fans stunned and disappointed.
Leading 18-14 with literally seconds on the clock, England may have thought they were home and dry but it was Johnson who would have the final say, weaving and darting his way over the line before converting his own try, to give the Kiwis a 20-18 win.
In what was perhaps one of the games of the tournament so far, England coach Steve McNamara refused to point the blame at any of his players.
“I don’t think he (Sinfield) has got anything to blame himself for, he worked his socks off. It would be very cruel to blame anyone for anything after that result,” he said.
“I’m not sure what the answer is. You have to move on, there are worse things in life. We are all feeling as though we are as low as we can be, but in reality it’s not.
“Worse things happen and we should be privileged we’ve been part of such a brilliant game. I’m sure we will soon get a reality check and realise we have to move on.”
With McNamara now at the end of his contract as England coach, he is unsure what his future in the top job will hold.
“I’m not sure at this stage, it’s too early,” McNamara said of his prospects of staying in the job.
“I have been focused on giving us the best opportunity (at the World Cup). It’s been a pleasure putting this programme together, I have a brilliant staff and great players and it’s something I am proud of and not something I want to give up easily.”
England put up a fight and fought valiantly, with Sam Burgess having a monumental game despite the loss – he was named man of the match – but despite everything, McNamara knows that the key is that players recover from the loss first.
“We are distraught but great credit to New Zealand. This is high-level sport and high-level sport can be cruel. It was for us,” McNamara said.
“I’m not going to try and pick them up yet. They’ve used every ounce of energy they’ve got. It’s raw and we had a brief chat of how tough we’ve been.
“All of them, every single one, have put their hands up, have prepared brilliantly. They have attacked this tournament. We have dealt with things, maybe other teams haven’t. That’s what this England team is all about and we’ve come through the other side and produced a brilliant performance.”
The nail-biting ordeal was enough to have Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney looking away, though it was the character of his side that pleased him the most.
“I was under the desk so I don’t know,” he said when asked how he dealt with the late drama.
“I was always confident of what we could do if we had a minute to go, had the footy and were down by four. It was the 79 minutes before which were pretty hard.
“We gave ourselves a chance with half a minute to go. If you’re good enough, you’re good enough. If you’re under pressure like we were but don’t open the floodgates, you have a chance.”
Despite the last-gasp win, Kearney knows that they will have to improve if they are to beat a rampant Australian side.
“I’m mindful that a performance like that from us will not be good enough next week,” he added.
“We were gritty and tough and there are a lot of areas we need to polish up on but I know we can improve.”