No one does heartbreak like Ireland. And this was the king of all heartbreaks.

The physically imposing, inspired Irish side were leading the All Blacks - who had gone the full calender year without losing a game - by five points with time up on the clock in the last game of the international season at Lansdowne Road.

And then, in one of the most thrilling finishes of 2013, the All Blacks pinched it.

With time up New Zealand won a penalty on their 10-metre line and they ran. And they ran. And they kept the ball alive for 80 seconds and multiple phases until, it became a rub the eyes moment because Ryan Crotty was over in the corner.


But the drama was only beginning. The TMO was called in - was it a forward pass from Aaron Cruden to Dane Coles?

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Didn't look like it but the crowd howled, the TMO took an age, the crowd howled some more and no one was sure. Finally, referee Nigel Owens gave it.

Then the kick. Cruden slapped it a bit and it was going to fall short but what would you believe - the Irish had broken rank early with the charge and Cruden was given another go.

He nailed it. Of course he did, and incredibly, so incredibly the All Blacks had stolen the test, coming back from 19-0 down to snatch it.

The Irish didn't care that they were heroic. They didn't care that they won global admiration for their execution, contact work, creativity and crunching defence. It didn't matter one little bit that they went head to head against the All Blacks and led.

Ireland could feel only pain about one minute rather than any joy about 79.

What they said:
Patrick McKendry - APNZ


A test which when it began was all about the All Blacks' quest for the perfect season and which turned into a battle for survival for the visitors.

A converted try to halfback Conor Murray had the majority of the 51,000 at Aviva Stadium shouting to the heavens but the crowd's tone took on a slightly hysterical note once Rory Best and Rob Kearney scored to put Ireland 19-0 up after as many minutes.

Everything was going the home team's way - the bounce of the ball, referee Nigel Owens' decisions, everything. It seemed as though the Irish had decided this was going to be the day to end more than a century of hurt at the hands of the All Blacks and the visitors appeared powerless in the face of that desire.

It was the noisiest test I have been to. The crowd behaved like they realised they were part of history in the making. Once they started on The Fields of Athenry in the second half it appeared Ireland would be swept home on that emotion. And yet... The All Blacks kept chipping away, building on Julian Savea's first-half try, with Ben Franks adding one and Aaron Cruden kicking a penalty. Jonathan Sexton's penalty miss from a relatively easy angle with the score 22-17 wasn't the worst of it from an Irish point of view.

That came soon after with a few minutes left when possession was kicked away. Bizarrely, the crowd's hope evaporated, as if they knew what would happen next. And what happened, eventually, was a magnificent team try finished by Ryan Crotty _ a testament to the All Blacks' belief and skill levels under the most extreme pressure.

The late Cruden dramatics added to it, of course. It was a fitting way to finish a perfect year.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt

"You never feel the taste of it [victory] in your mouth until the final whistle goes and we had to play to the final whistle and they got over in injury time.

"We were in possession with 20 seconds to go and were penalised for off our feet and we had to defend that last phase. You've got to be prepared to defend to the end and we didn't quite keep them out.

"It's a step forward but a missed opportunity. You don't get too many opportunities to play against the All Blacks and you don't get too many opportunities to stop them doing something that was pretty special.

"We were hanging on by a thread and the thread was just a little bit too thin to make sure that we did stop them.

"To be a minute away from history and to have the ball on your hands on their 10-metre line. Yeah, devastating."