On Saturday night Warren Gatland masterminded another unbeaten British and Irish Lions series following the third-Test stalemate with the All Blacks at Eden Park – the first time that honours have been shared since the South Africa tour of 1955.
For the last five weeks, sections of the New Zealand media have been mocking Gatty, even portraying him as a clown after a rather less than impressive start to the campaign, but it was he and his charges who eventually had the last laugh.
For those who haven’t seen the post-match press conference, Warren entered the room wearing a novelty red nose in tribute to the Kiwi media – but the smile on his face was genuine, not painted on.
Week by week the Lions team, like the incredible army of some 25,000 travelling supporters, has increased performance levels to such an extent that even the most die-hard of All Black players and fans would concede that a draw was a fair reflection and outcome overall. If only we could have had more matches.
We are not used to tied series in our sport – it’s just not cricket – so the bemusement around the ground, leading to questions such as ‘do we play extra time?’ and ‘who lifts the trophy?’, was justified.
For the duration of the entire tour emotions have been up and down like a bride’s nightie as the momentum swung this way and that. And no matter what anyone tells you of there being a flat feeling in the stadium after final whistle, I personally believe that all involved were just completely wrung out with emotion.
For anyone that was or is questioning the validity of future Lions tours, I suggest you listen to the rugby community as so brilliantly represented in New Zealand, celebrate the best players in the northern hemisphere by allowing them every opportunity to play for its greatest team and, if still in doubt, look back at some of the greats who have played for this wonderful and illustrious club and the nostalgia associated with it.
This was my first tour as a supporter for all three Tests and although I know that my liver and kidneys will be delighted of the break, I’m already counting down the days until 2021 and the next chapter of the Lions journey.