England captain Chris Robshaw said he believes his side must be more clinical if they are to beat New Zealand in future.
In a display of grit and courage in a 30-22 loss at Twickenham on Saturday, England fought back from a 17-3 deficit as tries from Julian Savea and Kieran Read threatened to put the game beyond their reach inside the first quarter.
But a scrappy try from Joe Launchbury and the kicking of Owen Farrell, who landed five penalties and a conversion, established a 22-20 lead to put England in the ascendancy going into the final 20 minutes.
England were outstanding, producing their best rugby of the autumn by some margin as they tore into the All Blacks with a display of indomitable spirit.
But when offered a sniff of the line, New Zealand plundered the decisive try through man-of-the-match Savea with 17 minutes left and closed out the match.
Many positives will come out of the battling defeat to the world champions and Robshaw, sporting a swollen eye for his efforts, believes he has identified the crucial difference between the two sides.
He said: “I think the difference between them and us at the moment is as soon as they get chances, they are clinical. And that’s the benchmark.
“I’m extremely proud of the lads out there. We are going in the right direction. We will keep on moving and keep on learning.”
Responding to a question about the knock to his eye, Robshaw added: “That’s what Test rugby is about. It’s pretty physical.”
His New Zealand counterpart Richie McCaw conceded his side had to work hard for the victory.
“I think Test footy is about taking your chances when they come, whether it is in the first minute or the last minute,” he said.
England coach Stuart Lancaster echoed his captain’s views.
“I thought they were very clinical,” he said. “Clearly there were some areas we did not get right.
“To have come back from 17-3 down to be leading 22-20 and not close out the game, we are frustrated. But I’m proud with the performance. Everyone is very disappointed in the dressing room that we have lost and that shows how far we have come as a team.”
Lancaster said more competition was needed for places in the midfield, adding: “But we have talent coming through.”
McCaw hailed Dan Carter as “one of the greats” after presenting the fly-half with a special silver cap to mark his 100th Test appearance for the All Blacks.
Carter’s day was cut short when he went off injured just 26 minutes into the game.
“Having him in the team certainly makes your job really easy,” McCaw said of the No 10 while he conducted a post-match presentation ceremony in front of the bulk of a crowd of nearly 82,000, including Carter’s father, Neville. “You will go down as one of the greats of world rugby,” McCaw said of Carter, the international game’s world-record points-scorer with 1,433.
Carter, who made his debut against Wales in 2003, became the fifth All Black to make 100 Test appearances, joining McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock — who all played yesterday — and Mils Muliaina.
However, his recent career has seen him miss several matches through injury, including New Zealand’s 2011 World Cup final win over France in Auckland.
He could now be ruled out of next week’s Test against Ireland in Dublin, where the All Blacks will bid to become the first international side in the professional era to enjoy a perfect calendar year as they aim for a 14th straight win in their final match of 2013.
“He’s hurt his Achilles,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. “It’s been rumbling for a while, but it’s not ruptured, I don’t think. It’s disappointing for him again.”
Victory comes at a price for Wales
Wales were hit with fresh injury misery after debutant centre Cory Allen suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder on Saturday during a 40-6 victory over Argentina in Cardiff.
Tries during the opening 25 minutes by scrum-half Mike Phillips and wing George North confirmed Wales’ attacking ambition. Toby Faletau added a touchdown in the second period before Ken Owens’s score completed a miserable afternoon for the Pumas.
Allen’s injury is the latest to hit Wales behind the scrum, with the 20-year-old Cardiff Blues midfielder now joining Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert on the sidelines.
Gatland also revealed that Allen’s centre partner, Scott Williams, had suffered a suspected foot ligament problem.
Wales still have two games left in their autumn programme, facing Tonga on Friday before hosting Australia eight days later.
Italy ensured Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni were winners on their 100th international appearances.
They emerged 37-31 winners, but only after surviving a late surge from a Fiji side that were handed an international record five yellow cards in Cremona.
The visitors were at one stage reduced to 11 men, during which time Parisse went over for his side’s first try, and another Luke McLean five-pointer moments later gave the hosts a 20-5 half-time lead.
Fiji’s ill discipline was ultimately the difference, although they threatened to snatch the most unlikeliest of wins when Napolini Vonowale Nalaga and Timoci Nagusa’s second try in the final 10 minutes set up a tense finale.
Italy held on, though, and, despite being outscored five tries to four, were able to fully celebrate the milestone of their two veterans.
Elsewhere, France defeated Tonga 38-18 in Le Havre and Ireland went down 32-15 to Australia in Dublin.