A gutsy Ireland held off a fierce All Blacks fightback to claim an epic 32-22 victory in Wellington on Saturday and seal a 2-1 series victory.
Warhorse captain Jonny Sexton was supreme as the Irish raced into a 22-3 half-time lead, stunning the hosts with a flurry of tries and bone-rattling battles.
Proud New Zealand, fired by loose forward Ardi Savea and jet-setting back Will Jordan, clawed their way back to within three points on the hour mark to set up a tense finish.
But replacement prop Rob Herring grabbed a late try from the line to steady the Irish and their steadfast defense held off waves of All Blacks forwards to secure a famous victory.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in,” winger James Lowe said. “A score like that, on the bounce, in New Zealand, who would have thought that? “They are still the best in the world, we knew the storm was coming. We were able to get the job done, I can’t put into words how I feel.”
Ireland will now shoot to the top of the world rankings a year on from the World Cup, while defeat by New Zealand will pile further pressure on struggling coach Ian Foster.
Ireland’s win condemned the All Blacks to back-to-back defeats at home for the first time in 24 years.
“We’re gutted,” All Blacks captain Sam Kane said.
“We didn’t put in the performance we wanted but we can’t take anything away from Ireland. They were too good tonight. Big respect to Ireland, they were class and they deserve their win tonight.”