'We said it is start of our World Cup year... it's probably bigger than that'
Andy Farrell’s men led by 19 points at the break courtesy of a spellbinding first-half display which brought tries for Josh Van Der Flier, Hugo Keenan and Robbie Henshaw.
But the All Blacks moved to within three points in a breathless second period thanks to scores from Ardie Savea, Akira Ioane and Will Jordan, before Rob Herring crossed to help the tourists home on a historic evening.
Members of Ireland’s triumphant squad were pictured in tears at fulltime as they savoured arguably the greatest result in their nation’s history.
Captain Johnny Sexton, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Monday, chipped in with 12 points, becoming the second man to surpass 1000 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 wished 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 prop Andrew Porter to a yellow card to take the series 2-1.
“This is a special group,” he told Sky Sports. “This is probably the toughest thing to do in world rugby.
“We dusted ourselves down and we came over here with task in hand and we went for it straight from the start, which is great.
“We said it was going to be the start of our World Cup year but, I don’t know, it’s probably a little bit bigger than that.”
with RugbyPass, APP and PA
Join free and tell us what you really think!Join Free