ENGLAND were left shell-shocked and heartbroken after seeing victory slip from their grasp in an epic World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Wembley.
Steve McNamara’s men looked to have done enough to dethrone the world champions after coming from 14-8 down to lead 18-14 with a 67th-minute try from man of the match Sam Burgess.
They were still ahead with just 21 seconds left on the clock but the Kiwis had the last say when scrum-half Shaun Johnson scored with the last play of the match that levelled the scores.
Johnson then kept his nerve to kick the none-too-difficult conversion, his fourth goal of the game, to seal a 20-18 victory and put New Zealand into a third consecutive final at Old Trafford next Saturday and leave England still waiting to add to their 1972 triumph.
Twenty-year-old wing sensation Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had earlier scored two tries, taking his total for the tournament to eight, while tries from Sean O’Loughlin and Kallum Watkins had kept England firmly in contention.
It was the third consecutive time that England have been thwarted by the Kiwis in a World Cup.
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney admitted his side had been lucky. He said: “We thought England had a great game. We kept fighting and hanging in there. We were fortunate today.”
Man-of-the-match Burgess said he would rather trade in the award for a victory.
“Very disappointed,” he said. “I would rather have the win than this medal. We put a lot of hard work into this tournament and we probably did not get what we deserved. It’s going to take a while to get over this one. The lads are very disappointed.”
England coach Steve McNamara said: “It’s a tough way to go out, but high level sport can be cruel at times. We did a lot of things right in this game. We played tremendously well.”
The World Cup final will be a repeat of the 2008 edition as Australia brushed past Fiji to a record a 64-0 win.
The Kangaroos have barely been troubled throughout a pursuit of a trophy they consider their own and this game proved to be no different as they ran in 11 tries.
The Aussies are sure to face a tougher test against New Zealand in next the final.