Eddie Jones has praised his players’ conduct when England were controversially denied a late try in an enthralling 16-15 defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
Sight of a famous victory appeared in the 76th minute as Sam Underhill grabbed a TJ Perenara clearance charged down by Courtney Lawes and turned Beauden Barrett inside out to cross in the corner.
But referee Jerome Garces disallowed the try following intervention from TMO Marius Jonker, who judged Lawes to be offside in a call that was marginal.
England responded with a late onslaught that failed to produce the winning score and Jones was impressed by the dignity displayed in agonising circumstances.
“It’s difficult to swallow, but you have to and you have to respect the referee. That’s enormously important,” Jones told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.
“The players thought it was a try, but we are happy to follow what the TMO says. I was really proud of our players that they didn’t carry on on the field.
“They just got on with it and tried to win the game again. It’s a real tribute to their character and how they respect the values of the game.
“It’s really important to keep that – we don’t challenge the referee on decisions, we don’t abuse him after the game.
“The referee is referring a difficult game and it’s only getting faster and more difficult, so we have to make sure keep supporting the referees.
“Rugby, golf and cricket – until the Australians did what they did recently – are the sports that have really stuck to their values.
“It’s important in today’s society that we keep that. It gives rugby a point of difference from other sports.”
For a second successive weekend at Twickenham it was the officials who took centre stage at the critical phase of the match.
Against South Africa fortune smiled on England as Angus Gardner decided a no-arms late tackle by Owen Farrell was legal, almost certainly sparing them defeat in the opening Quilter International.
“Sometimes the game loves you, sometime the game doesn’t love you,” Jones said.
“You have got to accept that if you stay in the fight long enough, the game will love you.
“We’re prepared to stay in the fight so we will get some love further down the track, don’t worry.”
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen insisted Lawes was clearly off-side after watching his world champions battle back from slipping 15-0 behind inside the first half hour.
“He’s just about in the half-back’s back pocket. What was going through my mind was are they going to be brave enough to make the right decision? And they were,” Hansen said.
Jones joked that he will take comfort in defeat from the company of his dog, a Papillon named Annie who frequently escapes on to the training pitch at the squad’s Surrey base.
“I am lucky I have a dog that always loves me whether I win or lose,” Jones said.
“I will go back home, see the dog and I am sure she would give me a lick. That’s why they call them man’s best friend.”