England lost their scoring touch and their unbeaten record for 2018 as New Zealand cruised to a 34-0 win at Elland Road to avoid a series whitewash.
Wayne Bennett’s men went into the third Test with high hopes of a fourth-successive win over the Kiwis but a scoreline of six tries to nil accurately sums up an anti-climatic end to the season.
The series of course belongs to England, courtesy of their close-fought wins in Hull and Liverpool, but this was more like the New Zealand side which showed their class with a victory over Australia a month ago.
Scrum-half Kodi Nikorima, who plays under Bennett at club level with Brisbane, was the destroyer-in-chief after scoring one exceptional try and creating three others.
Winger Tom Makinson, England’s newly-crowned Golden Boot winner who was named player of the series, demonstrated his athleticism with two spectacular finishes but had both tries disallowed.
While centre Oliver Gildart was similarly denied by video referee Phil Bentham as the luck ran out for Bennett’s men.
Denied a host of established internationals through injury and suspension, it was still a gallant effort by England in front of a near-capacity crowd of 32,186.
Before kick-off the players stood shoulder to shoulder for the Last Post and a minute’s silence on Remembrance Day but, once the action got under way, the rivalry was as passionate as ever, with referee Gerard Sutton showing remarkable leniency after several early high shots from the Kiwis went unpunished.
The tourists took the lead with prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves squeezing a pass out of a three-man tackle to create the space for full-back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to work winger Ken Maumalo over for the first of his two tries.
England had plenty of possession and most of the territory in the first half, helped by a run of four successive penalties and some intelligent probing from full-back Jonny Lomax, but they failed to turn the pressure into points.
New Zealand demonstrated far more clinical finishing with two tries in the last eight minutes of the first half, with Nikorima creating one for second rower Isaac Liu and scoring one himself after taking a return pass from Shaun Johnson, who kicked a third conversion to extend their lead to 18-0.
Any hope of an England fightback was snuffed out within four minutes of the restart when Maumalo outjumped the diminutive Jermaine McGillvary to claim his second try that extended the Kiwis’ lead to 22-0.
New Zealand were temporarily reduced to 12 men when Waera-Hargreaves was sin-binned for a flop on hooker Josh Hodgson after he had been brought down – just short of the tryline – but their defence stood firm.
Makinson had a second try chalked off after 57 minutes when slow-motion replays revealed he had put a foot in touch shortly before producing a trademark acrobatic finish at the corner.
England also found themselves a man short after McGillvary was shown a yellow card for holding down in the tackle – a harsh penalty in view of what had gone on beforehand – and the Kiwis took advantage to run in two further tries in the last 11 minutes.
Nikorima got prop Jesse Bromwich striding through a gap for their fifth try and the former skipper then supplied a neat pass for substitute Joseph Tapine to go over for his side’s sixth try, with Josh Papali’i adding the goal on his debut to wrap up the scoring.