The build up to the 41-16 rout of Australia in the pivotal Test at ANZ Stadium was dominated by the furore over the decision to drop four-time tourist Brian O'Driscoll. Gatland's preference for 10 of his Wales players was also questioned, but his judgement received the best possible vindication with the four-try demolition of pre-match favourites Australia.
However, the Lions' head coach was stung by the reaction to O'Driscoll's omission to the extent it will take weeks for what the 2013 squad has achieved to register. He said: "I was absolutely shocked by what was said. It was vitriolic almost in terms of the criticism."
Gatland added: "We made a tough call and we knew there would be some fallout from it, but there have been other players who have been unlucky on this tour in terms of selection. I haven't taken a lot of pleasure out of this in terms of feeling vindicated. I haven't enjoyed the last 72 hours, it's been tough personally.
"Maybe in a week or two I might get some pleasure out of this, but at the moment there isn't a lot of pleasure because of the amount of criticism that had been personally placed on me.
"That's why you're in the job, to make those tough calls. Every now and again one of them comes through and you get it right. I've always stuck by my guns. In Wales a couple of years ago I made a tough call dropping Martyn Williams for Sam Warburton. Sometimes you have to put your balls on the line."
The 30,000 Lions supporters who had descended on Sydney's sold out Olympic stadium could scarcely believe their eyes as Australia were put to the sword in a manner no one had predicted.
Tries were scored by Alex Corbisiero, Jonathan Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts with three of them arriving in a dominant final half-hour which the Wallabies entered only 19-16 behind. Leigh Halfpenny continued his astonishing form from the kicking tee by amassing 21 points, setting a record for points scored by a Lion in a Test.
It was a stunning climax to a series that had otherwise been impossible to call and Gatland revealed what was said at half-time to inspire the tourists to one of the great victories in their 125-year history.
"We spoke about being prepared to go to a place that not many players go to in terms of pushing your body to the limit. The players did that by running themselves into the ground," he said. "We've played some great rugby on this tour in the lead up games. The first Test was two tries each and it was tight last weekend. We were able to put it together in this game, especially in the second half."
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