Rory Best resisted the opportunity to criticise referee Romain Poite after the British and Irish Lions were held to a 31-31 draw by the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Poite sent lock Iain Henderson to the sin bin for a tip-tackle on Jordie Barrett in the final quarter and the home team ran in two tries in his absence.
‘It was obviously touch and go but when you’re being officiated by a quality referee like Romain Poite and he takes his time and goes to the TMO, you’ve got to trust that the guy has got it right,’ Best told Sky Sports.
‘The frustrating thing is that we had a penalty advantage there. Hendy (Henderson) was absolutely fabulous and that small error…. you could tell that he was disappointed, but we’ve got to be bigger than a yellow card costing us that many points.
‘It’s very frustrating. They’re Super Rugby champions and are a very good side. We’ll look back at the mistakes we made that let them back into it and be frustrated.
‘This is potentially the last game of the tour for a few of us, so we have to look at the positives as well.
‘I cannot fault the effort. Maybe we needed to show more composure and be more clinical at times.’
Warren Gatland pointed to Henderson’s yellow card to explain the Lions’ inability to win the match when leading 31-17 with 14 minutes left.
‘The penalties we gave away were a bit soft and they allowed them back into it,’ Gatland said.
‘We felt like we played some good rugby, but that yellow card was a penalty to us and it ends up being a penalty reversed.
We had Henderson off the field for 10 minutes and conceded 14 points. To me that’s the game in a nut shell.’
Gatland revealed he was reluctant to use a bench populated with controversial call-ups because the tour’s late arrivals had been summoned mainly to help prepare the Lions for the Test series.
‘We felt that the players who came in came in for cover. That’s what we’ve done. So we brought George Kruis on for Courtney Lawes and tried to protect those players….’ Gatland said.
‘All along we said it was about those players coming for cover and making sure we gave the 23 as much of a chance to prepare for the Tests as possible.’