WARREN GATLAND hit back at critics accusing him of being a “clown” by wearing a red nose to his press conference.
The Lions tied the series with New Zealand after drawing 15-15 with the hosts today.
Kiwi Gatland has been mocked by his home country’s media throughout the tour.
The New Zealand Herald had even drawn up the Lions coach wearing a red nose following the 31-31 draw with the Hurricanes in Wellington.
So Gatland, 53, got his own back by sarcastically playing up to the newspaper’s comparison.
He explained: “It was my idea.
“I had it last week but I didn’t think it was right time to wear it [after the second Test].”
He added: “The New Zealand public and fans have taken us to their hearts.
“It’s been a great series.
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“What was disappointing for me was how much negativity was out there.
“I think we should embrace this concept of the Lions, I think it’s been brilliant. I think a lot of negativity turned the Kiwis off supporting the All Blacks.
“They were very much hoping that we’d do well and that as a team and a tour we’d embrace New Zealand.
“But that’s finished now, so we’ll just enjoy the next couple of days as a squad and reflect back on what this group of players have achieved.
“Some of these players have been on two tours now and are undefeated as Lions players. Those players who have been on two tours should be very, very proud of their achievements.”
Owen Farrell scored a late penalty to seal a controversial draw in Auckland.
The All Blacks should have been rewarded a penalty of their own shortly after Farrell’s kick, when Ken Owens handled a ball Liam Williams had knocked on.
Lions skipper Sam Warburton urged referee Romain Poite to check for accidental offside and the whistler blew in favour of the visitors.
Gatland praised his captain for his quick-thinking.
He said: “I thought it was a penalty to us.
“I didn’t think Kieran Read had any chance of getting his hand on that – that was my initial thought. That he had hit the player in the air.
“I can understand that he is saying he competing for that, and the ball has come [down] and landed in Ken Owens’ arms. In fairness to the man next to me [Lions captain Sam Warburton] he has been quite smart and astute and been able to talk the referee from a penalty into an accidental offside.
“We would have been devastated as a group if we had lost the game from that kick-off.”
The Lions’ only other drawn series came back in South Africa in 1955. New Zealand stretched their unbeaten run at Eden Park to 40 matches, but were left a little nonplussed by the draw.
Lions boss Gatland insisted he would not have wanted any extra-time to be played, and All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen agreed.
Gatland said: “I think those provisions have to be put in place beforehand.
“I spoke to Steve Hansen and he said it feels a bit like kissing your sister.
“For us to come here and draw a series in New Zealand it feels like some achievement, especially considering we were totally written off with the predictions for a three-nil whitewash.
“And this group of players have shown unbelievable character, it’s been a tough tour.”
When New Zealand boss Hansen was asked if he would have wanted extra-time, he said: “There’s no simple answer.
“Look, maybe everyone’s a bit hollow today because of the last three minutes.
“There was some really good rugby played, and maybe a drawn series was fair.
“We played well in the first Test, they played well in the second. We did well enough to win it in the third but they hung in there.
“So rugby’s always had a draw and it’s not a World Cup final; it is a three-match series. So my own belief is probably leave it the way it is.
“If you’re good enough to get a drawn series, both teams will get the credit that comes from it.”