And so ends the best June series New Zealand has witnessed. Regret and frustration, both with themselves and the poor officiating, will long linger for the All Blacks. Satisfaction is the prevailing emotion for the Lions. Funny how a drawn series, the first since 1955, evokes such contrasting views.

The comedown will be sharp as we re-enter the shambles that is Super Rugby. Before then, though, pause for a moment to savour an event that, once every 12 years, continues to captivate these shores. Biased maybe, but New Zealand embraces the Lions more than anyone.

This memorable past six weeks has filled stadiums - 342,000 attending the 10 matches - and New Zealand Rugby's coffers. So too hearts and minds. Along the way it gave avid New Zealand rugby followers a refreshing level of competition not seen in recent memory. This was a real test series.

Off the pitch Lions fans brought an atmosphere and enthusiasm Kiwis will never match. Singing and chanting is just not our style. Not like this anyway. Their collective passion and consumption make these tours what they are. Thankfully for the 20,000 tourists and us, with the odd adjustment the Lions future is now safe. Tours are likely to be shortened by two games but, when the Lions return, they can expect to be greeted with open arms once again.


"If you were South Africa you'd be pretty excited about a tour in four years' time," Warren Gatland said.

Gatland made mistakes, but on the pitch the Lions came together better than everyone predicted. Blending four nations into one is always a huge ask. This was, indeed, a quality squad which produced a quality test team.

They showed resolve, character, touches of flair and after five wins, three losses and two draws they leave with respect. But it must be said they were fortunate to walk away with honours shared. That they led for three minutes of the entire series probably best sums up where overall dominance lay.

The Lions' rush defence caused all opponents problems. It is a tactic Kiwi players are not used to; not on such a regular basis. The Lions succeeded by closing down time and space, though the elephant at every ground was how they got away with flouting the offside rules. And there was also some cynical play.

Romain Poite should be sanctioned for his late howler that completely overshadowed the decider. How he deviated so far from his initial, correct instincts is beyond belief. The reality is he bottled it on the big stage, but the All Blacks should have taken him out of the game well before the deflating finish.

Steve Hansen's men blew four tries at Eden Park and made 12 errors in the first 28 minutes alone. During that opening period, it seemed inconceivable the Lions would survive.

The All Blacks missed goal kicks, missed opportunities galore. Such a lack of execution must, of course, be balanced against those absent through injury or suspension. Take Ben Smith, Dane Coles, Ryan Crotty and Sonny Bill Williams, along with Rieko Ioane and Waisake Naholo, out of any team and they would struggle.

Still, the All Blacks hold themselves to exemplary standards and they did not reach those in this series. The previous week in Wellington it was a red card and the failure to attack more that cost them. What will grate the most is they know they were the superior team but must instead settle for sharing the spoils, and banking the performances of Jordie Barrett, a special talent, and Ngani Laumape.


After three engrossing tests, the final combined score-line of 66-54 in the All Blacks' favour was probably a fair reflection.

Yet history will only remember the 1-1-1 result. As Kieran Read and Sam Warburton jointly held the trophy it was difficult not to feel for the former. In his 100th test, he deserved more.

If there is an ounce of good that can be squeezed from such an anti-climactic conclusion it could be a healthy dose of reality for some sections of All Blacks fans. You know who you are. That group who tend to take the remarkable sustained success of this team for granted.

The Lions sure had a helping hand from the officials but they also proved nothing is impossible, and hinted nothing lasts forever.

In the absence of a fourth test or extra time, the wait for them to return starts now.