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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Referee Romain Poite has admitted he got a late call wrong that denied New Zealand a chance of a series victory against the British and Irish Lions in 2017 and that he trashed his Eden Park changing room in anger at his mistake.
The three-test series ended 1-1 following a 15-15 draw in the finale at Auckland after Poite, with two minutes left on the clock, over-ruled his own offside decision against Ken Owens.
Replacement hooker Owens had touched a restart knocked on by team mate Liam Williams but after consulting with the television match official, Poite ruled Owens "accidentally offside" and awarded a scrum to the All Blacks, rather than a penalty.
The decision incensed All Blacks fans and four years later, Poite confirmed their frustrations were well-founded.
"Many people called me after the game and told me, 'That was a mistake, but it was justice, the right decision to make'," Frenchman Poite told Rugby Pass.
"Even the World Rugby staff management gave me this call. But I said that I am paid to make a big decision at the end of the game. That was my concern.
"I can promise you when I went back to the changing room, I destroyed everything, because I was angry at myself."
Poite felt he had let down the entire referee group which included Jerome Garces and Jaco Peyper, saying they had done a "great" job during the series.
"And what will we remember? Just the last decision of the tour," he added.
"I was angry about myself, because I destroyed the feelings of everyone about the refereeing overall.
"It’s a group, it’s a team, it’s a family. In my view, I did wrong for the others. I support my mistake, I am happy to say I made a mistake because I am human."
Steve Hansen, the All Blacks coach during the tour, said he had no problem with Poite making a mistake but was unhappy with the aftermath.
"My beef is not with any mistake the referee has made, my beef is the way it was handled afterwards. And I just think it is disappointing," he told New Zealand's Stuff media.
"The disturbing thing for me is the phone call he gets from World Rugby saying, 'You made a mistake, but it’s justified.'
"That’s the worrying thing. Because the rules are the rules."
The Lions are set to arrive in South Africa later on Monday for a three-test series against the world champion Springboks.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)