Returning to the country where he led the 2005 British & Irish Lions, Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll praised his players for fighting to the end, but claimed the conditions took their toll.
The game was played in near freezing rain and the Irish, who were level at 8-8 at the interval, slipped behind as they faced the elements in the second half.
"I don't think I've played in much colder conditions than that. The last 40 minutes we couldn't finish it off, but we fought to the end," said O'Driscoll.
Ronan O'Gara gave the Irish the lead before a try by Sivi Sivivatu and a Dan Carter penalty hoisted the home side in front.
But no sooner had Sivivatu crossed for the opening try than Ireland hit back from the re-start. Denis Leamy made a dent and then paddy Wallace ghosted over for a try that made it 8-8.
O'Gara's second penalty three minutes after the break gave Ireland new hope as they took the lead for the second time, but that was the end of the scoring for the visitors.
Carter took over from there and he punished errors by Jamie Heaslip and Marcus Horan with two more penalties before making the break that led to a second home try from powerful centre Maa Nonu.
Ireland now move on to Australia to meet the Wallabies next weekend.