Ireland turned up the heat in freezing conditions to push NZ all the way, before eventually succumbing to a 22-19 defeat.
Ireland turned up the heat in freezing conditions to push New Zealand all the way, before eventually succumbing to a 22-19 defeat in Christchurch on Saturday.
With the scores level at 19-19 and one minute remaining in the match, All Blacks pivot Dan Carter broke Irish hearts with a last-gasp drop goal to win the game and the series.
It was a valiant effort from the visitors, who led the world champions by one point (9-10) at half-time, but were left playing catch-up following an early try to Aaron Smith two minutes after the break.
But the men in green managed to claw their way back and when All Blacks full-back Israel Dagg was yellow-carded in the 72nd minute, Ireland were presented with a golden opportunity to retake the lead from 49m out.
However, Jonathan Sexton's attempt had the direction but not the distance as the ball fell agonisingly short. From there the hosts put themselves into a position to set up Carter for the match-winning drop.
His first attempt off his right boot, however, clipped an Irish hand and sailed wide. But Carter wouldn't miss the second attempt, and this time – off his left foot – sent the ball between the sticks.
Jubilation for the All Blacks, heartbreak for the brave Irish.
Declan Kidney's troops had promised they would up the intensity after being run off the park a week ago and they were certainly true to their word as the visitors – roared on by dozens of Irish fans – threatened to snaffle their first-ever Test win over the All Blacks in their 26th attempt.
Ireland supporters would have been choking on their Guinness after looking at the scoreboard to see the visitors 10-0 ahead in the opening quarter of the match thanks to an early try from Conor Murray and the boot of Sexton.
Ireland made the most of an early line-out close to New Zealand's line with brilliant effect, mauling the ball superbly before Murray – despite having no blindside support – made a dart to get the ball over for the try. Sexton added the conversion and nine minutes later he added his first penalty.
The All Blacks were able to put their first points on the board through a Carter penalty in the 21st minute. As in the first Test, Ireland went off the boil when the game headed into the second quarter and as New Zealand's intensity grew, the home side forced errors at the breakdown. This allowed Carter to add two more three-pointers that closed the gap even further.
The number ten had a chance to put his team in front on the stroke of half-time, but his fourth penalty attempt didn't have the legs and allowed Ireland to head into the half-time sheds 10-9 ahead.
That lead lasted just two minutes after the resumption before Smith grabbed his first Test try after a burst from Sonny Bill Williams. Williams crashed into the Ireland pack and as the All Blacks piled in, their livewire scrum-half was driven over the line for the try that Carter duly converted.
Any thoughts that the floodgates might open as they did in Auckland seven days ago, were dispelled as Ireland rallied with Sexton adding his second penalty in another strong attacking period that had the All Blacks scrambling to make try-saving tackles.
But with that storm weathered, the momentum again swung the other way and Carter's fourth penalty extended New Zealand's lead to 19-13.
Ireland then came back with two more Sexton penalties levelling the scores to set up a dramatic finale.
Pressure mounted on New Zealand as Adam Thomson joined Kieran Read on the injured list, leaving them only two specialist loose forwards. Dagg's sin-binning for a late charge on Rob Kearney didn't help matters either for the hosts.
But at 19-all and a man down, the All Blacks rallied one last time and fittingly, Carter – a Canterbury local – was there to hold his nerve and seal the outcome.
Man of the match: For New Zealand, Dan Carter was obviously the man of the moment thanks to his match-winning drop-goal. But it's hard to look past the gallant Irish who silenced their critics with a superb effort that came within fractions of the most famous Irish win in history against the world champions. And it's for that reason why we've opted for a collective award to the entire Ireland team.
Moment of the match: With 40 seconds of the match remaining, it has to be Carter's winning drop goal.
Villain of the match: Israel Dagg's brain implosion that so nearly cost his team defeat.
For New Zealand:
Try: A Smith
Pens: Carter 4
Pens: Sexton 4
Yellow card: Dagg, 72 mins (New Zealand, foul play)
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip. 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Declan Fitzpatrick, 18 Donncha O'Callaghan, 19 Peter O'Mahony, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Simon Zebo.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
By Dave Morris