Sir Clive Woodward took stock of the British & Irish Lions’ losing tour after New Zealand condemned his team to a Test series whitewash at Eden Park.
England’s World Cup-winning supremo will head for a new career in professional football with Southampton next month, having failed to inspire the Lions to victory.
They drew a Test series blank for the first time since 1983 – when Woodward visited New Zealand as a player – and conceded a record 107 points, scoring just three tries, while conceding 12.
Confirmation of their demise came amid another one-sided encounter as New Zealand triumphed through touchdowns from skipper Tana Umaga (2), his midfield partner Conrad Smith, wing Rico Gear and lock Ali Williams.
Fly-half newcomer Luke McAlister booted all five conversions and landed a penalty, and the Lions could only respond through a Lewis Moody try and 14 points from goalkicker Stephen Jones.
It was probably the Lions’ best performance during their time Down Under – no mean feat given that they were without injured trio Jonny Wilkinson, Gavin Henson and Steve Thompson.
But once again, they were out-gunned when New Zealand decided to play, finding no real answer as a tide of black shirts again swarmed all over them at crucial moments.
Woodward, though, maintained his positive stance.
"I was very realistic when I took on this job 18 months ago. We’ve come here 11 times and lost 10 (series). I was under no illusions how difficult it was coming here to win a Test series," he said.
"There are not many things I would change. We’ve lost, and I accept that. We came here to win the Test series, and we didn’t achieve that.
"I have done the job to the very best of my ability. Professional sport is professional sport – you have your good days and your bad days.
"The Lions are very special. We’ve tried to uphold Lions traditions but the game has moved on and we were up against the best side in the world. It’s hard when you pick up the injuries we did, including some big names," he said.
"This has been one of the most challenging things I’ve done and I’d like to see how the next guy does it. I will sit down with whoever takes over and give them my views.
"The biggest thing I’ve had to learn is to start with the Test side from day one. I’d also try and squeeze a few more games in."
The All Blacks, even without injured talisman Dan Carter, Aaron Mauger and Richie McCaw, were too strong, despite playing 20 minutes of the match a man short after Umaga and flanker Jerry Collins were sin-binned.
They underlined their status as emphatic 2007 World Cup favourites, although Woodward was guarded in his judgement of a squad that could establish global supremacy by taking the Webb Ellis Trophy from England’s possession.
"The better team won and we hold our hands up to that. I’ve worked with a fantastic group of players on this tour but we just weren’t sharp enough," he told Sky Sports.
"We let in another couple of soft tries and missed a chance to score early on. The All Blacks’ skills levels are better than ours. I don’t think their players are in a different class, their skills are just better.
"I would offer a caution on the New Zealand team. When I see them going through the quarter-finals and semi-finals and win a World Cup, then it is time to celebrate, because it is a very tough tournament."
The Lions’ disappointing performances in the Tests has seen Woodward and his battalion of coaching staff come under heavy fire but the mastermind of England’s 2003 World Cup victory refused to accept New Zealand also had the edge in the backroom.
He said: "I chose the top six coaches from Britain and Ireland that were available and we did everything we could. They were top class, we just couldn’t get it going. But I’m in charge so I’ll shoulder the responsibility for losing."