Warren Gatland praises Sam Warburton's role in getting penalty decision overturned

Warren Gatland hailed Sam Warburton's diplomacy skills as crucial to the British and Irish Lions' drawn Test series with New Zealand.

The Lions held the All Blacks 15-15 in the final Test at Eden Park today, edging home after referee Romain Poite opted not to give a penalty against Ken Owens for offside.

The Wales hooker was deemed accidentally offside when he clutched a ball that had rebounded forward off Liam Williams.

Poite initially looked set to award New Zealand the chance to kick at goal and seal victory before Warburton tactfully suggested Owens' intervention was not deliberate.

The French official instead handed the All Blacks a scrum and the Lions held out for the draw, leaving the series locked at one win apiece.

"Initially I thought it was a penalty to us; I thought Kieran Read jumped into Liam Williams," said Lions head coach Gatland.

"I don't think he had any chance of getting his hand on that. I thought he'd hit the player in the air.

"The ball's landed in Ken Owens' arms, and the man next to me (Warburton) has been quite smart and astute in being able to talk the referee from a penalty into an accidental offside.

"We would have been devastated to have lost the game from that kick-off.

"I thought the result was probably a fair reflection of the tour, two quality sides going hard at each other."

Lions skipper Warburton could not fully remember the conversation but conceded the art of captaincy includes knowing when to intervene with officials - and when to stay quiet.

"I just asked (Poite) to check for the accidental offside, I can't really remember what I said," Warburton said.

"It was a shot to nothing, they'd awarded the penalty.

"All game he was quite receptive at looking at things. This series they've been really good at being able to go back and have a look.

"Obviously if you question something 10 to 15 times a game they won't be receptive, but I think less is more.

"It's not a penalty offence in my opinion. So I was glad they had a look."

New Zealand claimed tries from Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett, but the Lions hit back with four Owen Farrell penalties and one by Elliot Daly from his own half.

The Lions ended a Test series in a draw for just the second time in history, following the 1955 South Africa tour, while New Zealand extended their unbeaten run at Eden Park to 40 matches but were left frustrated.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen suggested Owens should have been penalised but refrained from venting any fury in public.

"I know you all want to talk about the last three minutes," said Hansen.

"It's a tough game to ref. We all know what happened, we all know probably what should have happened.

"It's a game and as little kids, we were taught to take the good with the bad; and we have to do that.

"We're accepting of the decisions that were made; whether we agree with them or not, we'll deal with that with the referees ourselves.

"Going back to the World Cup, the same thing happened and Scotland missed out because they didn't use the video. This time they used the video and they had a pow-wow.

"His initial instincts were that it was a penalty, but then he spoke to his team of three and one of them said it was accidental.

"If we'd scored another try ourselves there wouldn't be this conversation."

All Blacks boss Hansen has long been an advocate of simplifying rugby's rule book, and reiterated that desire again in the wake of the drawn Lions series.

"There's too many avenues you can go down, but that's not the ref's fault either," said Hansen.

"The people running the game need to ask themselves should they make it simpler. My answer to that question would be yes."


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