ENGLAND’S World Cup dream is over in the cruellest of circumstances as they lost to holders New Zealand with the final kick of today’s semi final at Wembley.

Kiwis scrum half Shaun Johnson broke the hearts of a nation as he scored the match levelling try after 79mins and 39secs and then held his nerve to land the conversion for a 20-18 win that sends them to Old Trafford for next Saturday’s showdown with Australia.

England clawed their way back into it in the second half after going 14-8 behind on the back of a penalty pummelling from Australian referee Ben Cummins.

But man of the match Sam Burgess’ score with 13 minutes to go gave England a lead for the second time, having been 8-0 in front in the first half.

And Warrington Wolves’ Ben Westwood was finger tips away from sealing England’s place in the final five minutes later but lost control of the ball in the act of stretching out his arm.

There were other England scoring opportunities but ultimately a relatively simple missed conversion from skipper Kevin Sinfield, who had lost grip of Johnson for the match-winning try, proved decisive.

He had earlier provided defence-splitting passes for tries by Leeds Rhinos clubmate Kallum Watkins and South Sydney Rabbitohs' Sam Burgess to put England in front after they had heroically held out advances from the defending champions during a punishing spell in which they had conceded five straight penalties.

It was a monumental effort from England, with the players giving their all.

England withstood the expected opening surge from the Kiwis, with Sam Tomkins’ boot coming to England’s rescue as he kicked dead just as Issac Luke looked to punce on his own last-tackle short grubber from dummy half.

And then Bryson Goodwin was bundled into touch by Josh Charnley, Kallum Watkins and Tomkins after a shift play.

With confidence building for the home nation, a neat interchange on the right involving Ben Westwood and Tomkins set Super League top try scorer Charnley free on the right but the cover defence was quick to snuff out the threat.

It was first blood to England though after Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was adjudged to have knocked on in the untidy process of attempting to clean up a Tomkins high kick.

On the next set James Graham’s short pass allowed Sam Burgess to bust the tackle of Shaun Johnson and hand on for Shaun O’Loughlin to finish off after 19 minutes, with Kevin Sinfield adding the extras.

England, after a strong spell of possession, stretched the lead by two points after Sinfield booted a penalty awarded for an obstruction on O’Loughlin during a Sam Burgess break, making it 8-0 after 28 minutes.

New Zealand bounced back though, gaining rewards for keeping the ball alive after regaining possession from a Kieran Foran kick to Charnley’s wing.

The ball was shifted to the opposite flank where Dean Whare narrowly avoided putting a step into touch and fired a reverse pass into the hands of Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, who stepped his way over.

Shaun Johnson converted and added a penalty 10 minutes later for an obstruction by George Burgess on Kevin Locke, leaving the sides all square at the interval.

A penalty conceded by Chris Hill for interference gave the Kiwis the opportunity to strike first in the second half.

Johnson’s long pass from deep found Tuivasa-Scheck in space and he had the strength to take Gareth Widdop and Leroy Cudjoe over the line with him for 12-8 after 44 minutes.

Johnson booted over the two points for 14-8 from a dubious penalty decision in the 53rd minute, referee Ben Cummins claiming Widdop had obstructed Locke as he attempted to challenge Tomkins in meeting a high kick.

After conceding five straight penalties, England needed to get out of the rut they were in and the strength of their defence gave them belief.

And a penalty for a high tackle provided the platform for Sinfield to find his Leeds Rhinos clubmate with a scoring pass in the 59th minute. The goal kick was surprisingly missed but England’s tails were up.

A glorious opportunity was wasted from a rarely gifted fresh set of six from a wild Kiwis offload as O’Loughlin knocked on a long pass from Roby in attempting to charge over the line from five metres.

Ryan Hall slipped on a flight down the left flank as he tried to step inside Locke and then Charnley was stopped two metres short by Jason Nightingale as England upped the tempo.

And a few moments later the pressure paid off as James Roby made a sideways dash, found Sinfield and his pass sent Sam Burgess home from 20 metres, barrelling his way over Locke’s last line of defence.

Sinfield’s extras put England 18-14 in front with 13 minutes to play and the Kiwis showed they were rattled as the restart went out on the full.

Westwood was within inches of settling it in the 73rd minute, stretching out to score but losing the ball as a third defender clattered into him.

Then the Kiwis fought back with a succession of wide plays and Hall was close to an intercept but knocked on with 85 metres of clear grass in front of him.

New Zealand piled on the pressure but England’s defence stood firm, the ninside cover preventing Goodwin finding a route to the line in the 77th minute.

But then after a penalty conceded by George Burgess for a high tackle on Sonny Bill Williams England were left floored as Shaun Johnson defied the fast-advancing England defence with a dummy and step out of Sinfield's tackle to cross with 21 seconds remaining on the clock.

England’s players could hardly drag themselves up off the turf for Johnson’s conversion but the New Zealand Warriors scrum half hit the mark with the severest of pressure kicks to send the Kiwis into the final with the last kick of the match.

England: Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Kallum Watkins, Leroy Cudjoe, Ryan Hall; Gareth Widdop, Kevin Sinfield; James Graham, James Roby, Sam Burgess, Brett Ferre, Ben Westwood, Sean O'Loughlin. Subs: Rob Burrow, George Burgess, Chris Hill, Carl Ablett.

New Zealand: Kevin Locke; Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, Dean Whare, Bryson Goodwin, Jason Nightingale; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Issac Luke, Jesse Bromwich, Simon Mannering, Sonny Bill Williams, Elijah Taylor. Subs: Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sam Kasiano, Ben Matulino, Alex Glenn.