Wayne Bennett accused England of being the architects of their own downfall after their 17-16 loss to New Zealand in their Four Nations opener.
Shaun Johnson’s drop-goal with 15 minutes to go ultimately split the sides, though there were plenty of chances for the host nation to get a positive result in front of a packed John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield.
“Everything was there but the smarts (intelligence),” said Bennett, who replaced Steve McNamara as head coach after last year’s series win over New Zealand.
“I’m disappointed with the result but not the effort. England have got a history of not winning close games and we’ve got to learn how to do it. It’s a part of the process.
“But I thought we were outstanding. It was a quality game of football and we participated in it right to the death.
“We’re on a bit of a journey; it was never going to be a quick fix. But we’ve been together just two weeks and I think we’ve come a long way in two weeks personally.” England now face the daunting task of beating Australia in a fortnight to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Anfield final - but Bennett is looking no further than next week’s match against Scotland, who were comfortably beaten by the Kangaroos on Friday night.
“We always had to play them and play well against them,” he added.
“We just have to get to that game. We have Scotland first and will take one game at a time.
“You’ve got to understand the effort and commitment was here today and we’ve got to maintain that.
“We beat ourselves. We had a try disallowed in the first half and gave a penalty away. The next 12 minutes was where the game was lost.”
New Zealand head coach David Kidwell, who took over from Stephen Kearney ahead of the tournament, was understandably delighted after earning a crucial win as the Kiwis defend the trophy they won in 2014.
He said: “What a Test match. It had everything. That’s what Test matches are meant to be about.
“We had a bit of adversity that we had to overcome and we just covered each other out there today.
“England started like a house on fire and for us to get back in the game like we did was a wonderful effort.
“It’s my first win as New Zealand coach and it’s very humbling. But we know we’ve got a tough match (against Australia) next week.”