They came expecting to see their beloved All Blacks earn a handsome victory. They got so much more than they bargained for.
For long periods of Saturday night's outrageously-tense clash at the temporary AMI Stadium, it looked as if the rugby-starved fans of Christchurch had braved the sub-zero temperatures only to be captive witnesses to the breaking of a 107-year curse; a low point for New Zealand rugby and the highest of highs for Ireland.
Fitting, then, that it was only the trustworthy left-boot of born-and-bred Canterbury boy Dan Carter that saved the day for the All Blacks, sending most of the 21,000-strong crowd home happy.
After the couple of years they've had, just being there for kickoff was an emotional release for some. "680 bloody days, we've waited", came a voice from nearby in the stand.
In his first All Black Test in the flesh, a young boy seated behind us yelled relentless encouragement throughout the entire game; barring a brief period at halftime where his mother covered his eyes from the sight of a female streaker.
As always, the Irish contingent played their part. Though Christchurch police reported that the visiting fans were far more disorderly than the locals, the many spectators dressed in green that we met were colourful and courteous.
The temperature was unspeakably cold but in the heated atmosphere of Test match rugby - played within the proper confines of a rectangular stadium - it mattered little. And the tremendous spirit and determination of the Irish made it that much more of a spectacle.
Led by a rejuvenated Brian O'Driscoll, it was clear from the outset that they'd learned their lessons from Eden Park. Gone was the aimless kicking to New Zealand's back three and inaccuracy at the breakdown. Instead the forwards hit every ruck hard, scrummed magnificently and the backs barely missed a tackle.
The All Blacks were rattled but, like champion teams always do, they found a way to win even when well below their best. Had Johnathan Sexton's 49m penalty attempt had the distance to put Ireland three points ahead with seven minutes to go, Ireland would surely have held on for an historic victory.
But it didn't have the legs and the All Blacks knuckled down, setting up Carter for his decisive swing of the left leg. A dramatic end to an emotion-charged night.
There's no escaping the temporary nature of the Addington stadium The external concourses are exposed to the elements; everyone and everything got wet. The stadium's exterior facade is mere scaffolding - although the transformation to a seething cauldron of action is dramatic once you're up the stairs and in your seat.
The media are currently housed in a horse stables out the back (some might say that's where we belong). "If you're looking for the toilets, they're right at the back, just past the horse urinals" we were calmly told at the pre-match briefing.
Christchurch should be pleased to have a Test-quality stadium at all, given what it's been through since the Wallabies and All Blacks played out the last Test at the old AMI Stadium in August 2010. And the work that's gone into erecting the temporary structure at short notice is admirable. But a permanent, preferably roofed stadium needs to be high on the city's priority list.
Christchurch should expect to fill a stadium of 40,000 for a Bledisloe Cup or Tri-Nations clash. It's a pity just half that got to see a classic game of rugby - but better than none at all, as any fan who sat riveted through Saturday night's thrilling finale will attest.