Martin Johnson hailed England's response to a week of relentless criticism after they went down fighting against New Zealand at Twickenham.
The All Blacks emerged 19-6 winners but England showed enough passion and fire to ease the pressure brought about by dismal displays against Australia and Argentina earlier this autumn.
Jimmy Cowan’s 57th-minute try was the decisive act of the match but Johnson felt his side should have caused New Zealand greater problems in the final quarter.
“I have mixed feelings because we could have been in the game with 10 minutes to go,” he said.
“When they scored it was a little too much for us to peg back but, saying that, we had chances at the end.
“I’m proud of the effort the players and coaches have put in all week and everything they’ve done.
“It’s been a tough week with all the criticism flying around.
“A lot of the guys took knocks but were hanging on at the end despite being injured.
“We could have been in there with a shout with 10 minutes to go. We had plenty of chances to score tries as we spent time in their 22.
“I’m proud of the guys but ultimately it’s an opportunity lost to have a crack at them.”
England have been ravaged by injury yet Johnson, who revealed Joe Worsley picked up a knee injury in the second minute, claims they have made progress.
“As a group we’ve gone forward. We came into the series with a lot of disruption,” he said.
“Only four players who started the Scotland game started the Australia game.
“If it’s not visible on the field at times, then off the pitch this group is a lot further down the line than in the Six Nations.
“The way they’ve handled themselves this week has been tremendous.
“We came into the series with a lot of disruption and that’s been well documented.”