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Romain Poite is certainly not the most popular man in NZ right now

The French referee has drawn the ire of the New Zealand public and media.

While a draw is not the most romantic or satisfying of outcomes, heading to New Zealand for a test series and emerging all square is certainly something to be lauded.

Today’s final test was an enthralling affair but one where the result left neither side satisfied. A drawn game and a drawn series and shared silverware.

Considering many pundits and bookmakers were predicting a 3-0 test whitewash in favour of the All Blacks, Warren Gatland’s men can go home with heads held high.

However it could have been so different with the most controversial moment of game coming directly from the restart following  Owen Farrell’s equalising kick.

Ken Owens played the ball in front of a Lions knock from Liam Williams. Let us start by saying that it was 100% the correct decision. Whether we like it or not, Owens deliberately played the ball in an offside position. A penalty, no question and a shot at the series for Beauden Barrett.

Maybe the French referee didn’t want to be remembered as the guy who decided a Lions test, maybe he wished he had just called it accidental from the first viewing and went straight for a scrum.

Having awarded a penalty and with the enormity of his decision dawning on him, Poite decided to consult with his TMO. He then changed his mind to award a scrum much to the disbelief of Kieran Read.


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Unsurprisingly, Poite like Wayne Barnes in 2007 has been the focus of the New Zealand media following the game.

Phil Gifford’s report for  ran with the headline of ‘Test descends into French Farce’.

And they got a terrific test match, which did descend into French farce in the last five minutes, when you felt referee Romain Poite was out of his depth and at a level beyond his abilities. At the end of the game the poor guy wasn’t even sure if the game was over.

New Zealand Herald‘s Patrick McKendry also highlighted Poite’s intervention as a critical.

This Lions series deserved a fitting finale, and it has certainly got that, with referee Romain Poite set to feature prominently in the post mortems from here to eternity due to his decision in the final minute to change his mind on a penalty in front of the posts for the All Blacks.

Likewise, so did Liam Napier of the same paper.

Romain Poite’s accidental offside ruling – after first awarding a penalty – was a hugely controversial decision that will long be debated. So, too, will Rhys Webb throwing the ball into a prone Wyatt Crockett – the resulting penalty allowing Owen Farrell to bang over the kick which levelled it up.‘s Mark Reason could not decide between Munster’s Conor Murray and All Black second row Brodie Retallick as his Player of the Tour.

And so the Lions came back into the game and there were so many impossible outcomes to decide. The man of the series? For me a dead heat between Conor Murray and Brodie Retallick. The next All Blacks coach? Warren Gatland won’t get the job, but he can be proud of how his teams have played on this tour.

Gregor Paul of the  New Zealand Herald chose not to mention the referee instead focusing on what had been an immense encounter.

The international game had been crying out for a game like this – one where two high quality teams went at it for 80 minutes, their skills on show, their bravery, commitment and desire to test each other being quite wonderfully obvious.

This was drama with spectacle, the combination everyone wanted and not since there hasn’t been a game quite of this ilk since the All Blacks played the Springboks at Ellis Park in 2013.

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray both received favourable reviews for their performances. Stuff gave both 7/10 while they received 8/10 from the Herald.

Of Sexton it was said:

Can’t fault his bravery after soldiering on for most of the match after a couple of heavy knocks. Neat footwork kept the All Blacks defence guessing. Solid enough on defence.

And Murray:

Another absorbing duel between the two best halfbacks in the world. Missed a couple of tackles on Julian Savea, but who doesn’t? His pass wasn’t as snappy as Aaron Smith’s.

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