Inexperienced referee hurts England
There was both pride and frustration at the full-time hooter. Pride in England's excellent effort against the tournament favourites, pride in seeing international rugby league back at Wembley for the first time in 14 years and pride in seeing a thrilling spectacle played out live on the BBC on a Saturday afternoon.
The frustration for England came from being dealt a really bad hand by New Zealand official Henry Perenara, who was officiating only his second Test.
It's not good when officials are blamed for results. You see and hear it from football managers every weekend in the Premier League and you just laugh it off as heat of the moment sour grapes from the defeated party.
England team hit out at New Zealand referee Henry Perenara after he fails to send off Australia's Tony Williams for flattening Ben Westwood and also denying Tom Briscoe a try. PHOTO: Getty
Australia may still have proved too strong over 80 minutes, yet had Perenara sent off Tony Williams for a brutal high shot on Ben Westwood and not wrongly ruled out a Tom Briscoe score when England were in the ascendancy seconds later, the home side just may have had a shot at a famous victory.
We will never know but you can understand why McNamara was enraged by the refereeing decisions and clearly questions need to be asked as to why Perenara was picked.
Was Williams's high shot that much different to Adrian Morley's on Robbie Kearns that famously saw Morley dismissed just 12 seconds into the 2003 international series?
Why on earth not use the video referee to adjudge on the Briscoe “double movement” if you have the technology available?
Enough about that, let's instead focus on what we learned from Saturday.
I stated in the tournament preview blog that England can compete with and beat Australia and New Zealand on any given day and that was proved at Wembley, regardless of the outcome.
Indeed, this was the closest England have got to Australia on the scoreboard for a couple of years. The question was whether they can do it two, or three weeks in a row.
We are set to find that out as England and the Kiwis go toe to toe at the KC Stadium in Hull next weekend for the right to have another crack at Australia in the Elland Road final.
Sam Tomkins proved his brilliance with some sensational handling, especially with his magic Harlem Globetrotters offload to send Ryan Hall away for his second score. Funnily enough, star-man Tomkins wasn't booed by his own fans this time either.
Hall himself showed he is becoming one of the best finishers in the game. Rangi Chase and Kevin Sinfield again looked a surprisingly good half-back pairing, although a few errant moments from the former may place question marks over his inclusion.
The powerful front row built around the buzzing ruck play of James Roby continues to give England real go forward. I like the options off the bench too, although would prefer to see Gaz Widdop used much more. And the more that newcomers like Jack Reed, Chris Heighington and Chase play, the stronger this improving England unit is going to become.
That has to bode well for the 2013 World Cup work in progress.
Injuries may force McNamara's hand at the KC Stadium however, with James Graham and Gareth Ellis both going off against Australia, while warhorse captain Jamie Peacock is playing through the pain of a knee injury.
Such circumstances will really tell us how good an England squad this is, whether we have the strength in depth to compete with the southern-hemisphere superpowers.
With the outstanding Billy Slater seeing his tournament curtailed by a broken collarbone, Australia will have to reshuffle too.
But there were other negatives. As effervescent as Chase is with ball in hand, there are doubts over his defensive capabilities.
He and Heighington were both embarrassed for Williams's bulldozing score and Chase threw an intercept pass later on which led to Darius Boyd crossing for the Aussies.
Reed was caught napping for Greg Inglis's score but he made up for that with a fine touchdown of his own, while Sinfield was uncharacteristically below-par with his kicking.
We have to admit there remains a gulf between England and our antipodean friends. Of the Four Nations, we are number three but on home soil we can compete.
The Wembley experiment also showed there is still an appetite for our game.
The 43,000 inside the gigantic arena may not have looked hugely impressive via some television camera angles but the games they saw should be enough for every one of those fans to want to return to more.
Iestyn Harris's Wales produced a real fight too to prevent the predicted New Zealand juggernaut running riot after half-time. Seeing Lee Briers take on the Kiwis on the big stage with an even bigger smile was uplifting too.
The Welsh were not as out of their depth as many feared – and actually got closer to New Zealand than they did to England last week.
Next weekend will be telling. Wales will need another huge effort to try to tame Australia, who await the winners of England and New Zealand in the final. England have to, as Jamie Peacock puts it, "lick our wounds and bounce back against the Kiwis".