Ireland clinched a landmark series win in New Zealand after fending off a second-half comeback to secure a stunning 32-22 victory from an epic encounter in Wellington.
Andy Farrell’s men led by 19 points at the break thanks to a fascinating first-half performance that earned tries from Josh Van Der Flier, Hugo Keenan and Robbie Henshaw.
But the All Blacks advanced to three points thanks to goals from Ardie Savea, Akira Ioane and Will Jordan in a breathless second period before Rob Herring crossed to help the tourists home on a historic night.
Members of Ireland’s triumphant squad were pictured in tears during full-time as they celebrated what is arguably the biggest result in their country’s history.
Captain Johnny Sexton, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Monday, contributed 12 points to become the second man to surpass 1,000 in the green jersey.
Ireland won for the first time away from New Zealand just last weekend, hitting back after drubbing 42-19 in their opener in Auckland to triumph 23-12 in Dunedin to set up the decider.
Head coach Farrell had expressed hope his side had saved their best performance for the final Test.
The Englishman got his wish during a phenomenal opening 40 minutes of power and intensity before the Irish weathered a second-half storm exacerbated by the loss of backbone Andrew Porter to a yellow card to end the series 2-1 to win.
The outclassed All Blacks deserved credit for not falling over themselves, but the sensational result puts further pressure on the under-fire head coach Ian Foster.
Before kick-off, tears shed during a rousing performance of the New Zealand anthem before a stunned Sky Stadium was quickly silenced.
Farrell described it as “like gold dust” to sniff a run of success on Kiwi soil, and for the third straight Saturday his side were rewarded for a quick start with an early try.
The Irishman flew purposefully off the blocks, culminating in flanker Van Der Flier, who rolled over in the fourth minute to earn his eighth cap.
New Zealand made a total of five personnel changes from their dismal performance at Dunedin after blindside flanker Ioane was a late replacement for Scott Barrett but initially showed little sign of improvement and often looked rudderless.
The underperforming hosts eventually gained significant territory and reduced the deficit thanks to Jordie Barrett, who kicked an easy penalty after missing an earlier opportunity.
However, Ireland quickly reasserted their authority and took control of the scoreboard with brilliant, flowing rugby.
They crossed a second time in the 28th minute when Keenan made a clear touchdown down the left after a fine pass from James Lowe.
Another fine interplay from Dan Sheehan, Sexton and Bundee Aki then allowed Henshaw to happily exploit the All Blacks’ defense just before the break.
New Zealand lacked leadership and ideas while being constantly outsmarted.
Ireland had no such troubles and the influential skipper Sexton converted cool attempts on the second and third, both sides to land a distance penalty as he reached a four-figure score alongside Ronan O’Gara.
The panicked hosts were 22-3 down at the break – their biggest half-time deficit in 119 years of Test rugby.
Foster’s side desperately needed an answer and were given a lifeline when Savea switched within four minutes of the restart and Barrett slammed the conversion to start a big momentum shift.
Ireland were soon down to 14 men when Prop Porter was trapped over a direct contact with Brodie Retallick, leaving the Kiwis a bit miffed after Angus Ta’avao was sent off after a similar incident last weekend.
Recalled back rower Ioane then slipped easily through the Ireland defense to take his first Test attempt and help take the hosts to five points in a frantic period.
Sexton briefly calmed Ireland’s nerves with a penalty but hit the crossbar in agony with another try before being passed by electric Jordan, who swished clearly with a fine solo score to set up a nervous final 20 minutes.
Ireland were in dire need of some stability and gained it five minutes later courtesy of substitute hooker Herring, who did an excellent stretch after the line to finally snuff out the Kiwis’ hope.
The Irish pushed hard in the closing stages to achieve a landmark result that sets a milestone ahead of next year’s World Cup in France.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-union/ireland-new-zealand-result-score-all-blacks-b2124657.html New Zealand vs Ireland: Score, result and report after stunning series win over the All Blacks