WHAT a let-down.

Last weekend, the British & Irish Lions salvaged their pride with a hard fought 15-15 draw against the All Blacks in Auckland, to draw the three-test series.

These are the basic facts - but they are not what I refer to in using the term ‘let-down’.

I refer instead to reaction to the result and thus, the squared series, from fans, media and even the players.

The downbeat nature of the latter, particularly in the immediate aftermath, is perhaps understandable. To earn oneself a place in a Lions squad is, if you are a rugby player from these islands, the pinnacle of one’s career.

On that basis, one doesn’t travel halfway around the world not to win a series, no matter what the opposition.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere among Lions players, including captain Sam Warburton, as podium niceties were completed at Eden Park, resembled that of a wake. No-one raised a smile. It was as if the instruction ‘look sullen’ had come down from the coaching team in the stand.

This was of course, the first drawn Test series in 126 years of Lions history, so perhaps no-one knew exactly how to react - and this perplexity was mirrored by media and fans.

Well, here’s how to react - by standing and whooping, and by clapping, long, loud and hard. For make no mistake, this was an incredible achievement.

For months, nay years, rugby administrators, players and fans bemoaned long and hard the schedule facing the squad in New Zealand, not least the preparation time, or lack of it.

Quite right too. It was madness to expect such a disparate group, no matter how talented, to come together at a couple of weeks’ notice - and for just days after arriving in New Zealand - and expect them to do the shirt justice.

Early indications were that this lack of preparation time would be their undoing, and after the First Test defeat, the doom-mongers appeared vindicated. This was simply too good an All Blacks team, and one that was destined to achieve a second successive series whitewash against the Lions.

Then of course, the glorious unpredictability of sport kicked in.

Sonny Bill Williams had a rush of blood to er, his right shoulder, in the Second Test and the Lions, despite struggling with the man advantage, eventually persisted by sheer will with minutes to go, after clinging on to the All Blacks by their proverbial fingertips for much of the match.

Last Saturday of course, was when the wounded All Blacks would bite back and send the Lions home defeated once again.

Not so. This was Test rugby for the ages. Again and again, the Lions showed clawed their way back into a match that at times threatened to run away from them.

Much has been made of the luck the Lions apparently enjoyed in the Second and Third Tests, notably with the ‘simple’ points All Blacks outside half Beauden Barrett wasted through errant kicking in both matches - 14 appears to be the agreed amount.

There was also the question of whether Kyle Sinckler really was taken out in the air towards the end of the Second Test, leading to Owen Farrell’s winning kick.

And how on earth did Ken Owens escape a penalty censure late on last Saturday, to present Barrett with an eminently kickable and likely winning three points?

On all counts, the answer must be, so what? Luck is such a notoriously nebulous concept, the idea one can have it ‘on one’s side’ is ridiculous.

For the sake of argument, had Barrett been presented with the aforementioned ‘penalty that never was’ last Saturday, was there any guarantee he would have kicked it, given his previous profligacy?

Only the facts matter. This was just the second Lions squad to leave New Zealand having not lost a series, and they were:

* The first international team to win in Wellington for 14 years;

* The first international team to leave Eden Park undefeated in 23 years;

* In the Second Test they ended the All Blacks’ eight-year unbeaten run at home;

* In that same match, the All Blacks failed to score a try in defeat for the first time in 19 years;

* Only twice previously, in more than a century, had the Lions come back from 1-0 down in a series.

For some people of course, sport is all about winners and losers. They cannot accept the idea of a draw, be it in a single match or a series.

Time to move on, folks. The Lions may not have won in New Zealand, but given the context in which they plied their bruising and beautiful trade, this was a triumph indeed.