No matter what happens in the third test at Eden Park on Saturday, Warren Gatland will leave a second successive Lions tour vindicated.
Four years ago in Australia, the British and Irish Lions coach committed the cardinal sin (in Irish eyes anyway) of dropping veteran midfielder Brian O'Driscoll for the third, deciding, test against the Wallabies, an act that created a huge backlash in certain sections of the Lions fanbase.
The fact that the Lions won that match 41-16 in Sydney (after winning the first test and losing the second) means Gatland's decision was the right one. The end justifies the means at this level, although as Ireland's captain famously said afterwards, the Kiwi had fallen off his Christmas card list.
There was less disquiet about Gatland's decision to drop England midfielder Ben Te'o from his starting line-up in Wellington, or flanker Peter O'Mahony, the captain at Eden Park in the first test.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
In Irishman O'Mahony's case he didn't even make the match-day 23 for the second test, a remarkable demotion, but one that reflected Gatland's eagerness to get tour captain Sam Warburton into the fray.
There was a lot of sense in Gatland's changing the mix for the Cake Tin. He needed to put more pressure on the All Blacks' breakdown, and with Warburton, Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau in his loose trio he had the men with the pace to do that.
Moving Owen Farrell to No12 and bringing in Johnny Sexton to first-five was his biggest departure from type. He usually likes a direct style in the midfield but it allowed him a greater kicking presence and the ability to move the ball wide with greater finesse if necessary.
The key thing was that his players fronted for him. They didn't at Eden Park - they were too passive and too error-prone. In the capital, they were connected, committed and in control. And that's a credit to them and Gatland's powers of motivation.
Sonny Bill Williams' red card just after the first quarter of the match was obviously a huge blow for the All Blacks. Despite that they were in the game with three minutes remaining, only to lose a bit of composure - not surprising in the slightest given their fatigue levels - and the test.
Some with a black disposition might say that it took a team of the best players from four nations 77 minutes to beat a 14-man outfit. Those in favour of the tourists would say, with a nod to the early treatment of Gatland who was under severe pressure last week but has stepped back from the brink and is on the cusp of a remarkable triumph, that that's just a sideshow.