Warren Gatland said the British and Irish Lions would not get carried away with levelling the test series against the All Blacks after just scraping a win over a side that played nearly three quarters of the match with 14 players.
Well beaten 30-15 in the opening test last week, the Lions were handed a huge advantage when Sonny Bill Williams was red carded in the 25th minute but still needed a late penalty goal from Owen Farrell to secure a 24-21 win.
“It’s a win for us, it keeps the series alive,” the coach said. “Obviously the Sonny Bill Williams red card was a factor but with the number of penalties we gave away we’re not getting too carried away.
“We showed improvements in certain areas, the biggest difference was our physicality in terms of stopping their go forward and momentum.”
They did also score two tries, however, and a steely defensive display prevented the All Blacks from notching up a five-pointer in a test for the first time in three years.
Given they will have to head back to Eden Park next week to try once again to storm New Zealand’s rugby citadel, it was the mental fortitude the team showed to get over the line that he thought might ultimately be most telling.
“At 18-9 down we had to show some courage and some character and there was a huge amount of that, we got ourselves out of a hole and got in front,” he said.
“We showed some great character in coming back and the way we controlled that last 10 minutes was especially significant.”
The recent attacks on Gatland in the New Zealand media had only forged a greater bond in the Lions camp, he added, even if it had been unpleasant for his family.
“The last couple of weeks in terms of criticism and personal attacks has been tough to take, not so much for myself because that’s part of sport but for family members,” he said.
“It has actually been a huge positive in terms of galvanising the group, so whoever’s doing it, keep doing it because it’s not working.”
With no more midweek matches left on the tour, the Lions will only head to Auckland after a couple of days in a ski resort in the south island of New Zealand.
“We’re off to Queenstown for a bit of skiing and recreation stuff,” said Gatland, adding: “That was a joke.”