Defiant captain Benji Marshall reminded fans New Zealand are still world champions and said senior players deserved the bulk of the blame for the Kiwis' shock rugby league Four Nations elimination on Sunday.
Twelve months after stunning Australia to win the World Cup for the first time, Stephen Kearney's side couldn't reel in an 18-6 halftime deficit and conceded their spot in next Saturday's final to hosts England, 20-12, at Galpharm Stadium.
Replacement Issac Luke said of the mood in the rooms afterwards: "You can't look your mate in the eye and say you've given your all when you know you haven't."
But Marshall said the Kiwis remained deserved World Cup holders and, in the current tournament, from the start, "nobody gave us a chance anyway".
"We were rated third-favourites, a pack of nobodies. We came out first game, drew with Australia which I thought we should have won.
"If we can take something out of this, we brought a lot of young players into the squad and none of them disappointed. It was more the senior players who disappointed.
"We still know (the World Cup) was no fluke. We know in ourselves we had the belief that we could win and that's all that matters."
When the Kiwis will fly home on Tuesday, they will no doubt still be trying to get their heads around how a campaign that began with so much promise finished so suddenly.
England score a try
For the first time in the Four Nations, England managed to score the first try when the impressive Kyle Eastmond dived over after a bust by powerhouse Sam Burgess.
But the Kiwis always looked dangerous when fullback Lance Hohaia chimed into the backline and winger Bryson Goodwin's 25th minute touchdown put them back on course.
Sam Tomkins kick in broken play handed Peter Fox his England try at 37 minutes but what really did the damage was the winger's second, moments from halftime.
NZ debutant Keiran Foran, usually a five-eighth but playing in the centres, was caught in no-man's land defensively as Chris Bridge found his outside man unmarked and man of the match Kevin Sinfield did well to convert from the sideline.
"I put my hand up for that try they scored in the first half - I rushed out of the line," said Fox.
"But I made up for it."
It took the Kiwis only four minutes of the second session to kick-off what had seemed an inevitable comeback, Luke's break laying the foundations for replacement Ben Matulino's four-pointer.
But the game then bogged down into a bruising dogfight.
When prop Adam Blair was pinged for holding down, in front of his own posts, makeshift hooker Sinfield made sure of the upset result.
Explaining his comment about players not being able to look each other in the eye, South Sydney's Luke said: "It's just there were little things during the game we could have done better."
Frank Pritchard reckoned the English wanted it more.
England captain Jamie Peacock gave Australia an early piece of final motivation when he said the Kiwis bare probably a bit more physical than the Aussies and present a different challenge.
Sitting alongside Peacock, coach Tony Smith grinned and rolled his eyes at that but said: "Dare I say it, part of the motivation was to have another crack at the Australians. We felt we didn't do ourselves justice last week.
"It's a real shot in the arm for the game in the northern hemisphere and a real shot in the arm for Super League.
"The southern hemisphere are always the favourites in our sport and to beat them in the final is a feat in itself."