England fell agonisingly short of registering a famous victory over New Zealand as a narrow second-half lead ebbed away in a 16-15 loss in Dunedin.

Steve Borthwick’s tourists were kept in the first half by their spirited defence as the All Blacks threatened to cut loose and although their blitz system was open to exploitation, they were able to hustle a 10-10 scoreline heading into half-time.

Fly-half Marcus Smith endured a poor day off the kicking tee but his running skills were at the heart of Immanuel Feyi-Waboso’s 47th-minute try that nudged them 15-10 ahead in a gripping series opener at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

England have triumphed on New Zealand soil on only two previous occasions and joining the heroes of 1973 and 2003 was the tantalising prospect before them as they pressed for another score.

England’s players lock arms as New Zealand perform the hakaNew Zealand performed the haka before kick-off (Steve McArthur/AP)

But the All Blacks crept back in front through two penalties from Damian McKenzie to reward their superiority at the breakdown.

England were outstanding in patches and they showed tremendous fight when it was needed to stay in contention, but they finished knowing they had missed a glorious opportunity to upset a side that is rebuilding after the World Cup.

Smith was unable to reward a dominant early scrum penalty by missing a routine kick and when an ugly line-out invited pressure, the All Blacks staged a sustained attack.

Having faltered close to the line because of a knock-on and then conceded a scrum free-kick, they regrouped to claim the opening try with Sevu Reece grabbing McKenzie’s crossfield kick to touch down.

England hit back impressively, their runners flooding through gaps until a line-out provided the platform for Chandler Cunningham-South to power forward before Maro Itoje surged over.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso slides in to score a try in front of a banner reading 'Tries 4 my bday'A fan got their birthday wish as Immanuel Feyi-Waboso crossed for England (Steve McArthur/AP)

But their joy was short lived because they cracked on New Zealand’s next attack, Ben Earl missing a tackle on Stephen Perofeta as part of a disjointed defensive line and a pass later Ardie Savea had scored.

With prop Joe Marler off the pitch due to injury and debutant Fin Baxter on in his place, England’s scrum was struggling and there were worrying signs as the All Blacks showed the confidence to run the ball from their 22.

The tourists were unable to make the most of their own possession, promising moments breaking down by mistimed runs and inaccurate passing.

But they finished the half with a Smith penalty to draw level at 10-10 and the chance to take the lead moments after the interval went begging when the Harlequins fly-half missed with an ugly attempt from the tee.

George Martin attempts to block a kick from New Zealand’s Damian McKenzieDamian McKenzie, right, kicked impressively for New Zealand (Andrew Cornaga/AP)

Redemption then came quickly for Smith, who ignited an attack with a delayed off-load to Cunningham-South and several phases of forward carries later he flung out a long pass for Feyi-Waboso to stroll in.

McKenzie was successful with a penalty as England began to suffer at the breakdown and although the visitors had taken an element of control of the game, New Zealand’s fly-half was able to grab another three points.

The All Blacks had the ball for much of the last 10 minutes yet they blundered when McKenzie allowed the shot clock to run down when lining up another penalty.

As a result England had the opportunity to stage an overtime attack but the last-gasp attempt ended with yet another breakdown infringement.