Rugby: Ireland outclass All Blacks in decider to secure famous test series victory

Ireland have secured their first series victory over the All Blacks, winning the deciding test 32-22 at Wellington's Sky Stadium.

Level at 1-1 heading into Saturday's decider, the tourist's first-half display left the All Blacks with too large of a deficit to overcome, as coach Andy Farrell's side took arguably the most significant victory in the nation's rugby history.

Ireland are just the third nation to win a three-test series on New Zealand soil, joining Australia and South Africa as the only sides to do so.

Sam Whitelock reacts in the All Blacks' loss.
Sam Whitelock reacts in the All Blacks' loss. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

As they'd done in the opening two tests, Ireland were first to score, catching the All Blacks out - again - with a fast start.

After just six minutes, an Irish lineout drive found the All Blacks with no answer, as flanker Josh van der Flier made the most of a wilting defence to cross for the opener.

The All Blacks hit back with a penalty to Jordie Barrett, but while they seemed content to score in threes, Ireland looked for fives or sevens.

On the half-hour mark, Kiwi-born winger James Lowe sent fullback Hugo Keenan over for Ireland's second try. Captain Johnny Sexton's successful conversion took him past 1000 test points, extending the Irish advantage to 12-3.

Sexton celebrated his milestone with three more points, nailing a long-range penalty from 46 metres out, before Ireland scored a third try before the break to leave the All Blacks looking for answers at halftime.

A forward pass from Nepo Laulala gave Ireland an attacking scrum inside the All Blacks 22, where another Kiwi-born Irishman - Bundee Aki - set up midfield partner Robbie Henshaw.

Needing to make a statement after last week's defeat in Dunedin, the All Blacks found themselves down 22-3, as the halftime whistle went, but were first to strike after the restart, led by Ardie Savea.

Ireland celebrate against the All Blacks.
Ireland celebrate against the All Blacks. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

The influential No.8 was a menace on attack and defence, and was on hand to finish off a try that saw the All Blacks go through 23 phases.

Ireland's cause took a huge hit, when they were reduced to 14 men, as prop Andrew Porter was shown a yellow card for a head clash with Brodie Retallick, after All Blacks prop Angus Ta'avao was sent off a week ago for a similar offence.

With a numerical advantage, they needed no second invitation to fight their way back into contention.

Playing after a late Achilles injury ruled Scott Barrett out of the final test, Akira Ioane produced a staggering solo effort inside Ireland's 22, beating three defenders before scoring, as Barrett's conversion brought the scores back to within a converted try at 22-17.

But Ireland captain Sexton showed all his 37 years' experience, eating away at the yellow card with a shot at goal to move Ireland ahead by eight points at 25-17 and then a few ticks more with a long-range effort that rebounded off the crossbar.

The All Blacks continued to fight, as a spectacular solo effort saw Will Jordan score in the right corner, after a slaloming run that caught Ireland out and closed the gap to just three points.

Back with 15 on the field, Ireland kept the composure that's seen them win three of their last four matches against the All Blacks, as Sexton opted for an attacking lineout, when points were on offer.

Sexton's bravery was rewarded instantly, as Ireland scored from the restart, when a lineout drive put replacement hooker Rob Herring in for their fourth try.

Down by 10, the All Blacks' efforts to score again yielded little and Ireland's defence held to give Andy Farrell's side their greatest rugby victory.

Defeat leaves the All Blacks with questions to answer, after losing four of their last five test matches, dating back to the end of 2022.

And with a trip to face reigning world champions South Africa away from home next month, they will need a marked improvement, if they're to snap a run of results that's seen pressure mount on their leadership.

All Blacks 22 (Savea, A.Ioane, Jordan tries; J.Barrett 2 conversions, J. Barrett penalty)
Ireland 32 (Van der Flier, Keenan, Henshaw, Herring tries; Sexton 3 conversions, Sexton 2 penalties)