ENGLAND captain Chris Thorman has spoken of his pride at leading his nation to the brink of glory against mighty New Zealand at Warrington yesterday.
The Giants star's young side were given little chance of beating a Kiwi team which included 12 players who have competed in this season's Tri-Nations competition.
But after an absorbing 80 minutes of action, the tourists were left breathing a huge sigh of relief after scraping a 30-22 win.
Had the result gone the other way, there would have been few complaints from the tourists after England proved more than their match.
Once again, Thorman was at the heart of his country's best attacks.
He set up Mark Calderwood's opening try, put in a magnificent second-half kick which created the position for David Hodgson to score and then worked his magic to send Giants teammate Eorl Crabtree over for England's final score.
It was fitting Crabtree should follow up his tryscoring efforts against France a fortnight ago with another against the Kiwis.
The 23-year-old prop has visibly grown in stature during his time with England, and Thorman believes the experience will stand both of them in good stead.
"We've thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this England squad," said the goalkicking stand-off, whose preparations for the contest were disrupted by a bout of tonsilitis.
"It's been an honour and a privilege to lead what has become a very tight-knit group of players, which is something that was reflected in our performance yesterday.
"This New Zealand team is very, very good and I was proud of the way we ran them so close. Had it not been for one or two errors, we could have been celebrating a famous win.
"But overall, this was a great effort, and the experience of being involved in games such as this can't do any of us any harm."
Also included in the England team was new Giants signing Stephen Wild from Wigan, who was released by Great Britain for the weekend to gain some much-needed match practice.
And second-rower Wild and Crabtree were the first forwards to make an impact as England opened the scoring in the fifth-minute, laying the foundations for Thorman to kick-through for Calderwood to pounce.
Calderwood added a second as the sides were locked at 12-12 at the break, with Thorman also adding two goals to Kiwi tries from Manu Vatuvei and Shontayne Hape and two Lance Hohaia goals.
Jake Webster gave the Kiwis a 42nd-minute lead, but tries from Hodgson and Crabtree gave England a 22-16 lead on the hour.
But in the final quarter, the Kiwis came home strong, with further tries from Henry Fa'afili , Paul Whatuira and Hohaia, with the last score coming off the back of good work from new Giant Robbie Paul.
GREAT Britain forward Adrian Morley is still looking on the bright side of life.
"It was disappointing," said Morley. "The scoreline flattered the Australians. We really had them on the ropes but we didn't have the knockout blow.
"We made a few poor decisions on the last tackle near their line but there were certainly a lot of positives. It was a massive improvement, but we need to find some more. It's a task, but we can still make the final."