Paddy Wallace admitted Ireland's latest defeat to New Zealand was another chance that got away.
Two years after letting slip golden opportunities in Hamilton and Auckland, the Irish were the bridesmaids again in Wellington on Saturday.
Tied 8-8 at the break after Wallace’s try had cancelled out an earlier effort from New Zealand wing Sitiveni Sivivatu and fly-halves Ronan O’Gara and Daniel Carter had traded penalties, indiscipline from prop Marcus Horan midway through the second half allowed New Zealand to get their noses in front and they were never headed.
Carter’s third penalty in the 60th minute, after Horan was penalised for using a forearm, gave the All Blacks a crucial 14-11 lead.
But it was his gliding run a few minutes later which set up Ma’a Nonu’s charge for the try-line that was the nail in the coffin.
The 26-year-old’s conversion put his side 10 points clear with 15 minutes to go and with a freezing southerly wind and torrential rain, Westpac Stadium was no place to be trying to play catch-up rugby.
Wallace, however, claimed Ireland had never lacked a belief they could win.
“Whenever we were leading up to the game Brian (O’Driscoll) spoke about believing that we would get to 70 minutes and be in touch with the All Blacks and that when we were in touch we didn’t let it slip away,” he said.
“Unfortunately we did (let it slip away). It was a game we will rue the chances missed.
“They are obviously one of the top sides in the world and playing them in their back yard is going to be tough, but we’ll look back on it and it’s a chance lost.”
Wallace, who came into the starting XV when Luke Fitzgerald was ruled out with an ankle injury two days before the game, at least had the consolation of scoring his side’s only try – his second in international rugby.
“It was nice to get a start and get a try and it settled me into the game pretty early so I was very happy.
“It’s something I’ll look back on whenever I finish my rugby but it’s always nice to score tries, especially against the All Blacks.”
Captain Brian O’Driscoll revealed the conditions had not helped either side with both teams being forced to keep it tight and adopt more of a kicking game then open running rugby.
He said: “It was a bit of a liability having the ball at times. It’s not often you get a game like that but you’ve got to play to the conditions to the best of your ability and it turned into just a bit of a kicking game and trying to chase after it.
“They were horrible conditions to play a Test match but sometimes you get them and it’s disappointing to push it as hard as we did, with the intensity we had and to slip up once at that line break and be punished badly for it.
“As much as we fought to the death it’s hugely disappointing because we’ve come so close again after 65 minutes and we don’t seem to be able to finish these games off.”
Ireland had gone into the game with a forward pack – dominated by Munster players fresh from their Heineken Cup victory - that many thought would be too strong for their more inexperienced opposites.
But it was Ireland who found themselves under pressure in the scrums and at line-out time where they lost six of their own throws.
And interim coach Michael Bradley admitted they had been on the back foot at times but could not criticise his players for a lack of effort.
He said: “The effort was fantastic and, in particular, I thought the New Zealand pack put it up to us and we struggled at times.
“But then we got on level pegging and it was a great Test match from that point of view. But it was a very, very difficult game to watch if you’re not a purist.”
Ireland now head to Australia for their final match Down Under, in Melbourne on Saturday.
And despite the fact the players are coming to the end of a long season and must bounce back from the disappointment this weekend, Wallace believes there is plenty to get the players motivated again, not least the fact they have not beaten Australia on their home soil since 1979.
He added: “There are a lot of incentives going into this weekend. There’s a new coach taking over in the next few months and guys are going to be wanting to put their hand up for that.
“There is certainly a carrot to aim for next week and it will not be any trouble for us to get up for it (the game against Australia).”