Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony tackles Codie Taylor of New Zealand during Saturday's third Test in Wellington
IRELAND made history this Saturday when securing a first series victory over the All-Blacks by scoring a thrilling 32-22 victory in their deciding Test in Wellington.
Andy Farrell's side became the first touring team in the professional era to win a series in New Zealand and are the first side since South Africa 1937 to come from 1-0 down in a Test series to overcome New Zealand.
Ireland produced a near-faultless first half to open up a 22-3 interval lead in Wellington, thanks to tries from Josh Van der Flier, Hugo Keenan and Robbie Henshaw
Three tries in 20 minutes saw New Zealand roar back after the break to reduce the arrears to three points.
However, replacement Rob Herring struck for Ireland's fourth try to help the visitors regain the upperhand.
Members of Ireland’s triumphant squad were pictured in tears at full-time as they savoured arguably the greatest result in their nation’s history, which also moved them top of the world rankings.
Captain Johnny Sexton, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Monday, chipped in with 12 points, becoming the second man to surpass 1,000 in the green jersey.
Ireland only won away to New Zealand for the first time last weekend by bouncing back from a 42-19 drubbing in the Auckland opener to triumph 23-12 in Dunedin and set up the decider.
Head coach Farrell had expressed hope that his side had saved their best performance for the final Test.
The Englishman duly had his wish granted during a phenomenal opening 40 minutes packed with power and intensity before the Irish weathered a second-half storm intensified by the loss of Andrew Porter to a yellow card to take the series 2-1.
The outclassed All Blacks deserved credit for not rolling over but the sensational result piles further pressure on under-fire head coach Ian Foster.
Ahead of kick-off, tears flowed during a rousing rendition of the New Zealand anthem before a stunned Sky Stadium was swiftly silenced.
Farrell described having a sniff of series success on Kiwi soil as “like gold dust” and for the third successive Saturday his side were rewarded for a rapid start with an early try.
Buzzing with intent, the Irish flew out of the blocks, culminating in flanker Van Der Flier crashing over in the fourth minute to claim his eighth international score.
New Zealand made a total of five personnel changes from their dismal display in Dunedin after blindside flanker Ioane was a late replacement for Scott Barrett but initially showed few signs of improvement and often appeared rudderless.
The below-par hosts eventually gained some meaningful territory and reduced the deficit thanks to Jordie Barrett kicking a straightforward penalty, having squandered an earlier opportunity.
Yet Ireland quickly reasserted authority and took control of the scoreboard with some brilliant, free-flowing rugby.
They crossed for a second time in the 28th minute as Keenan burst clear to touch down wide on the left following a fine pass from James Lowe.
Further fine interplay from Dan Sheehan, Sexton and Bundee Aki then allowed Henshaw to gleefully exploit the All Blacks defence just before the break.
New Zealand were lacking leadership and ideas, while being constantly outwitted.
Ireland had no such issues and influential skipper Sexton coolly converted the second and third tries, either side of landing a long-range penalty, as he joined Ronan O’Gara in reaching four figures.
The panicky hosts were 22-3 behind at the break – their biggest half-time deficit in 119 years of Test rugby.
Foster’s side desperately needed a response and were given a lifeline as Savea powered over inside four minutes of the restart, with Barrett slotting the conversion to kick-start a major momentum shift.
Ireland were soon down to 14 men as prop Porter was sin-binned for head-on-head contact with Brodie Retallick, leaving the Kiwis a little aggrieved after Angus Ta’avao was sent off following a similar incident last weekend.
Recalled back-rower Ioane then easily slipped through the Irish defence to claim his maiden Test try and help bring the hosts to within five points in a frantic period.
Sexton briefly settled Irish nerves with a penalty but agonisingly hit the crossbar with another attempt before being outpaced by the electric Jordan, who zoomed clear for a fine solo score to set up a nervy final 20 minutes.
Ireland desperately needed some stability and gained it five minutes later courtesy of replacement hooker Herring superbly stretching for the line to ultimately extinguish Kiwi hope.
The Irish dug in resolutely in the closing stages as they held on for a milestone result which lays down a marker ahead of next year’s World Cup in France.
NEW ZEALAND: Jordie Barrett (Taranaki/Hurricanes); Will Jordan (Tasman/Crusaders), Rieko Ioane (Auckland/Blues), David Havili (Tasman/Crusaders), Sevu Reece (Tasman/Crusaders); Beauden Barrett (Taranaki/Blues), Aaron Smith (Manawatu/Highlanders); George Bower (Otago/Crusaders), Codie Taylor (Canterbury/Crusaders), Nepo Laulala (Counties Manukau/Blues), Brodie Retallick (Hawke's Bay/Chiefs), Sam Whitelock (Canterbury/Crusaders), Scott Barrett (Taranaki/Crusaders), Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty/Chiefs) (capt), Ardie Savea (Wellington/Hurricanes). Replacements: Dane Coles (Wellington/Hurricanes), Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty/Chiefs), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Northland/Blues), Akira Ioane (Auckland/Blues), Dalton Papali'i (Counties Manukau/Blues), Folau Fakatava (Hawke's Bay/Highlanders), Richie Mo'unga (Canterbury/Crusaders), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Auckland/Blues).
IRELAND: Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster); Mack Hansen (Connacht), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster), Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht), James Lowe (Leinster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster) (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster); Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster), James Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Peter O'Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), Caelan Doris (St. Mary's College/Leinster). Replacements: Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht), Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster), Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster), Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster).
REFEREE: Wayne Barnes (England)
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