New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney added former Wigan hooker Thomas Leuluai to the starting line-up with Isaac Luke dropping to the bench. Greg Eastwood also came in on the bench at the expense of Suaia Matagi.
Steve McNamara made one change to the team that narrowly lost to Australia as Elliot Whitehead made his England debut from the bench. Super League Man of Steel Daryl Clark started at hooker with Josh Hodgson losing his place in the 17-man squad.
It took the Kiwis less than two minutes to open the scoring as a Shaun Johnson bomb evaded Ryan Hall in the enclosed Forsyth Barr Stadium, allowing opposing winger Jason Nightingale to climb above him to score.
The response from England could not have been better as they worked their way down field and following a penalty, scored their first try five minutes later as quick hands allowed Ryan Hall in at the corner to keep up his impressive international try scoring record.
The next 20 minutes was all England and they made that pressure pay as a fantastic cut-out pass from Sean O’loughlin put his Wigan teammate Josh Charnley in space, he used his acceleration to touch down in the corner to put England 8-6 ahead.
That lead didn’t last long as New Zealand hit straight back. Crafty work on the last tackle by Isaac Luke and Shaun Johnson created space on the edges allowing Dean Whare to send Nightingale in for his second try.
With Johnson converting both tries and Gareth Widdop hitting the post with both of his conversion attempts, the Kiwis held a 12-8 lead at half-time.
Just two minutes into the second half and England thought they had scored their third try only for the replay to show Ryan Hall had dropped the ball, video referee Henry Perenara rightly ruled out the try.
Minutes later and it was the ultimate punishment as the Kiwis strolled down the field and after forcing back-to-back sets, created another overlap allowing Manu Vatuvei to power over out wide.
England needed to score next and they did, quick hands and great footwork on the left edge from Dan Sarginson gave Ryan Hall enough room and this time he made no mistake. Widdop’s first conversion of the match meant England trailed 16-14 after 60 minutes.
The next 20 minutes were tight, tense and agonising for England who were unable to find a way through as the Kiwis held on to make it through to the Four Nations final in Wellington next Saturday.
It was a game of millimetres for England with two post hitting conversions, but in the end it was disappointment for Steve McNamara’s men who must rely on Samoa beating Australia by less than eight points to make it through to the final.
New Zealand: Hiku, Nightingale, Kenny-Dowall, Whare, Vatuvei, Foran, Johnson, Bromwich, Leuluai, Blair, Mannering (c), Proctor, Taumalolo. Interchange: Luke, Eastwood, Taupau, Harris.
England: Tomkins, Charnley, Watkins, Sarginson, Hall, Widdop, Smith, G. Burgess, Clark, Graham, Farrell, Tomkins, O’Loughlin (c). Interchange: Ferres, T. Burgess, Hill, Whitehead.