- Hooker bitterly disappointed by slow start
- Hartley suggests loss will hurt England until next season
Dylan Hartley says England were simply not alert or accurate enough in the opening stages of Saturday’s third Test at Waikato Stadium and believes a 36-13 defeat to New Zealand will hurt his teammates until next season.
On his first international start at hooker since the final game of the RBS 6 Nations in Italy, Hartley was powerless to prevent the All Blacks running in four tries in a blistering first 33 minutes.
Taking advantage of some defensive uncertainty, mountainous wing Julian Savea and scrum half Aaron Smith each snared braces – putting the result beyond doubt.
Indeed, while the tourists rallied after the break through Marland Yarde’s close-range effort, Savea completed a sublime hat-trick on the final play to bring his tally against England to eight scores in four games.
Looking back on the series finale, Hartley could not even take solace in England’s post-half-time resurgence.
Photo: Getty Images
“It’s been a quiet changing room,” said the Northampton Saint, who won a 57th cap in Hamilton. “In the grand scheme of things as a team, we’re disappointed with how we’ve finished our tour and finished our season.
“We’ve got five weeks to dwell on that loss and we didn’t give a good account of ourselves tonight as we have done in the last two weeks.
“We got caught [early on] – they visited our 22 four times in the first half-hour and scored pretty much every time. They were so clinical. That’s why they’re the best.
“If you flip that on its head, we didn’t come any with anything after we made half-breaks or got field position. We’re bitterly disappointed to finish like that after what I would say was a good tour.”
In the grand scheme of things, England leave New Zealand with plenty to be proud of. An assured win over the Crusaders and two character-filled losses in Auckland and Dunedin demonstrated the squad’s strength in depth ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015.
Still though, Hartley stressed that his side’s standards would have to be higher when a quartet of Southern Hemisphere giants – the All Blacks, South Africa, Samoa and Australia – come to Twickenham in November.
“You’re only as good as your last game,” he added. “That’s what will linger in people’s memory – not the two in which we pushed them to the 80th minute.
“That’s sport and that’s what we’ll have to live with. In the bigger picture we’ll look back and realise we played some good rugby here against the world champions. But we’re a group that wants to get better and better. Tonight, that wasn’t good enough.”