Sportal.co.nz 07.Jul.2013Getty Images
The tourists saved their best performance of the tour for last in a pulsating series decider played in front of an 83,702 crowd at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Saturday, racking up an emphatic 41-16 victory to take the series 2-1.
Gatland’s men ran in four tries to the hosts’ one to claim their first series win in 16 years, but the head coach admitted he was in no real mood to celebrate due to the anger directed at him via social media after he decided to drop Brian O’Driscoll.
"(I was) absolutely shocked by it, it was vitriolic almost in terms of the criticism," he said.
"People are entitled to their own opinions and sometimes you've got to make tough calls and we made a tough call.
"We knew on Tuesday night when we sat down as coaches to name the team that there was going to be some fallout from that, but there's been some other players that have been unlucky on this tour in terms of selection as well.
"I haven't taken a lot of pleasure out of tonight in terms of feeling vindicated. I haven't enjoyed the last 72 hours, it's been pretty tough personally.
"Maybe in a week or two I might get some pleasure out of tonight but at the moment there hasn't been a lot of pleasure out of feeling vindicated with the amount of criticism that's personally been placed on me.
"But that's why you're in the job, you've got to make some tough calls and hopefully every now and again one of them comes through and you get it right."
Asked if he felt his reputation was on the line heading into the clash, Gatland replied: "I've always stuck by my guns and said sometimes you've got to make tough calls ... that's why you're put in the position to put your balls on the line and sometimes you've got to be prepared to do that."
But while he doesn't feel vindicated personally, the New Zealander said the nature of his side's victory was a fitting finish to the tour.
"We came out here with the attitude that we wanted to play some rugby and we wanted to move the ball and we scored a lot of points and a lot of tries," he stated.
"(To score) four tries tonight I think was a vindication of how well we've played overall on this tour."
He added of Saturday's performance: "I thought the guys played exceptionally well.
"I thought we started well and then came under a bit of pressure, it was disappointing to concede that try at half time and then Australia came back at us after half time and the boys kept their composure and finished really strongly, so they deserve a lot of credit those players.
"We spoke about being prepared to go to a place that not many players go to in terms of being able to push your body to the limit and the players did that - they ran themselves into the ground."
Asked about his team’s scrum dominance, the former prop singled out England loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero for special praise.
"I thought the scrum was brilliant and I thought not just scrimmaging but I thought Alex Corbisiero was man-of-the-match," he said.
"I thought around the field he was sensational and justified why we picked him."