Ireland seal series with epic 32-22 win over All Blacks

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A courageous Ireland held off a fierce All Blacks fightback to claim an epic 32-22 win in Wellington on Saturday and seal a series victory 2-1.

Warhorse captain Johnny Sexton was supreme as the Irish shot out to a 22-3 lead by halftime, stunning the hosts with a string of tries and bone-jarring tackles.

Proud New Zealand, fired by loose forward Ardie Savea and jet-heeled back Will Jordan, clawed their way back to within three points at the hour-mark to set up a tense finish.

But replacement prop Rob Herring grabbed a late try from a lineout drive to steady the Irish, and their stonewall defence held off waves of All Blacks attackers to ensure a famous win.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in,” said winger James Lowe. “A result like that, on the bounce, in New Zealand, who would have thought that? “They’re still the best in the world, we knew the storm was coming. We were able to get the job done, I can’t put into words how I feel.”

Ireland will now shoot to the top of the world rankings a year out from the World Cup, while New Zealand’s defeat will heap further pressure on embattled coach Ian Foster.

Ireland’s win condemned the All Blacks to back-to-back home defeats for the first time in 24 years.

“We’re gutted,” said All Blacks captain Sam Cane.

“We didn’t put out the performance we wanted to but we can’t take anything away from Ireland. They were too good tonight. Massive respect to Ireland, they’ve been class and they deserve their win tonight.”