England coach Stuart Lancaster was left to lament a hugely frustrating performance as his side took three steps back in the final Test against New Zealand after taking two strides forward in previous weeks.
England stayed within six points of the All Blacks in the opening two Tests, earning the plaudits of many, though their final bid for only a third win on New Zealand soil ended in despair.
A classy and clinical All Blacks performance in Hamilton saw the tourists slide to a 36-13 reverse, with winger Julian Savea claiming a hat-trick as well as two tries from Aaron Smith. Four of those scores came before the interval.
Following some stern words from Lancaster, who admitted to laying down some “home truths” at the break, England were rejuvenated and were on top for large periods in the second half.
Marland Yarde scored his second try in as many weeks to give England’s hopes of redemption a shot in the arm, although Savea’s third in overtime ensured the All Blacks ended just as they began; with a flourish.
"We were hugely disappointing in the first half," he told Sky Sports. "It's a high-quality All Blacks side but the first half was poor from us.
“I thought we showed tremendous character to come back in the second half and we created some great opportunities but unfortunately we didn't take them and we were beaten by the better side."
It was a 78th-minute Conrad Smith try that cost England victory in the series opener, a devastating 20-minute spell in the second Test and yet another period of indiscipline cost the tourists dear in Hamilton.
"I'll say I'm proud of the second-half performance and as an England team that's what we need to deliver," Lancaster added as his search for a complete performance continues.
"There's a lot of be proud of and positive about because it was a young side out there.
"We want to be the best in the world and to do that you need to be there for 80 minutes, not 40 or 60. We're a long way towards that and in games like this you find out a lot about your players so I'm not going to emotionally overreact to one game."
Scrum-half Ben Youngs echoed the sentiment of his coach claiming England’s first half, which saw them return to the dressing room 29-6 down, was simply unacceptable.
"We let ourselves down and left ourselves with a mountain to climb," Youngs told Sky Sports on the full-time whistle. "Against New Zealand you can't leave yourself with such a huge chase and we paid the price."
Asked what went wrong, Youngs added: "I really don't know, we'll have to have a look at it. We pride ourselves on defence and spend a lot of time on it but the first half wasn't good enough.
“Whether it was individual mistakes or collectively we'll have to have a look but you can't give them that big a lead and expect to be in the game."
Youngs also admitted some "probably unbroadcastable” words exchanged during the break inspired a much-improved second half performance and the Leicester Tigers No 9 believes the sobering experience will stand England in good stead moving forward.
"They were honest words, this is an honest group," he added.
"The second half things came off a little bit more but the damage was done. We put in great performances before this but you'll remember how we did in the last game... Unfortunately today puts a dampener on what we did in the first games.
"It's just tough lessons against these boys. This is a young squad with a World Cup coming up and it's about getting more and more experience.
"Unfortunately you have to go through these games to get experience."