All Blacks 15 Lions 15

There's not going to be any escaping the final minute of the final test, sparking a lingering sense of confusion and frustration about a decision that was categorically wrong even if it had an emotional justification.

Such a wonderful series, such a brilliant game now has the taint of controversy attached. Human error ultimately, reluctantly found a way to separate the teams in the last minute when Lions hooker Ken Owens was offside. And yet it was human error of a different kind that intervened to re-write history and deliver a drawn series.

The All Blacks know they didn't take their chances in the first half.

Advertisement

They will be disappointed their handling was poor at critical times. Frustrated they were knocked off their stride by the rush defence and maybe the enormity of the occasion.

But for all that they were the architects of their own fate to a huge extent, they had their get out of jail card cancelled by a referee who seems to have an incredible ability to make rotten calls at Eden Park.

It shouldn't have come down to the last play of the game but the fact that it did, doesn't actually change the law or the right of any official to re-interpret it in a way they see as more fitting for the occasion.

Players and coaches all say they never want the referee to decide the outcome, but nor do they want them to walk away from making the right decision the way Romain Poite did when Owens was offside.

Poite gave the penalty. Then Poite panicked, decided he needed to review it and he and TMO George Ayoub talked it through and opted to reverse the decision.

No one really knows why and in this, there lies another, wider issues with test football and this series and third test in particular.

Referees have been guilty of losing their nerve at times, holding at others and having inconsistent thinking around when to listen to the TMO and when to ignore him.

It's the coaching lament that all they want is consistency and that simply didn't happen. It didn't happen in Wellington and it definitely didn't happen in the third test.

Poite could and probably should have backed his initial call as it seemed that neither he nor Ayoub really knew why they cancelled the penalty, and as harsh as it would have been on Owens and the Lions to have lost their grip on the series through a random event, isn't that sport?

Didn't Charlie Faumuina suffer the same fate late in the second test when he was penalised for tackling Kyle Sinckler in the air? That was an emotion-less, but entirely correct call last week so why not observe the same protocol this time round?

Sport isn't fair. Tests are regularly won on the back of moments that are technical, annoying and not fitting of the occasion.

The particularly annoying part for the All Blacks was that Anton Lienert-Brown had scooped up the ball after Owens had thrown it away and looked like he was away.

If he hadn't scored, then probably someone else would have so to have been denied the advantage because the penalty was called and then have that taken away, well that's a shocker.

It will feel like a shocker for a while yet, magnified by the laughable scenario of seeing Kieran Read and Sam Warburton be jointly presented the series trophy.

The only upside from seeing that oddity was that it trumped the horrid 2011 three-way handshake between Richie McCaw, John Key and Bernard Lappasset as the most awkward trophy presentation of all time.

But as much as it will rankle and niggle, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was in no mood to offer it up as an excuse or play down the quality of rugby played by both teams.

"It has been a wonderful advertisement for rugby," he said. "A few things haven't gone our way with injuries and other things but the boys didn't quibble.

"We didn't score the points when we created the opportunities. We always said we would come out of the series having learned something about ourselves and we have.

"Tribute to the Lions. Their defence is built on the edge. They came with a lot of linespeed. There is a lot of pressure and we didn't cope the way we wanted."