Warren Gatland pointed to Iain Henderson's yellow card to explain the Lions' inability to beat the Hurricanes despite leading 31-17 with 14 minutes left.

Referee Roman Poite sent Ulster lock Henderson to the sin-bin for a tip-tackle on Jordie Barrett in the final quarter and the home team ran in two tries in his absence to draw 31-31 in Wellington.

"The penalties we gave away were a bit soft and they allowed them back into it," head coach Gatland said. "It was a big moment in the game, the yellow card.

"We felt like we played some good rugby, but that yellow card was a penalty to us and it ends up being a penalty reversed.

"It was a massive swing in the game.

"We had Henderson off the field for 10 minutes and conceded 14 points. To me that's the game in a nut shell.

"It's disappointing because you're in so much control of it."

However, Gatland said that the Irishman's performance up until the sin-binning had put him in contention for Saturday's second Test.

"Iain Henderson carried fantastically well," he said. "I thought Courtney Lawes carried well as well in the first-half.

"It's a position right from the start where we knew we had a lot of strength.

"It's a toss-up in terms of selection (at lock for the second Test).

"Primarily those two guys (Henderson and Lawes) had really strong games tonight to give us some real food for thought."

Gatland revealed he was reluctant to use a bench populated with controversial call-ups because the tour's late arrivals had been summoned mainly to help prepare the Lions for the Test series.

"We felt that the players who came in came in for cover. That's what we've done. So we brought George Kruis on for Courtney Lawes and tried to protect those players..." he said.

"All along we said it was about those players coming for cover and making sure we gave the 23 as much of a chance to prepare for the Tests as possible."

Gatland insisted he "couldn't give a toss" about the New Zealand Herald mocking him up as a cartoon clown after the newspaper published a second clown caricature of him in six months.

Gatland admitted he was nonplussed by All Blacks boss Steve Hansen calling a radio station to object to the Lions boss criticising New Zealand's "dangerous" targeting of scrum-half Conor Murray.

"I haven't read anything of Steve Hansen's quotes," said Gatland, when quizzed on the clown cartoon.

"The only thing I heard was that he had rung up a radio station.

"I thought that was quite unusual for an international coach.

"But I'm not worried about that, or what any newspaper draws me up as. I just hope it was a happy clown!

"As a Kiwi, you'd like to think you'd come home and it be more positive from one or two members of the media.

"That hasn't happened. But you can't let that get to you.

"There's been a significant campaign against me personally. But that's water off a duck's back.

"I've just got to concentrate on doing my job and not worry about any specific individuals. I couldn't give a toss if that's happening."

Captain Rory Best had no argument's with referee Poite's decision to send Henderson to the bin.

"It was obviously touch and go but when you're being officiated by a quality referee like Romain Poite and he takes his time and goes to the TMO, you've got to trust that the guy has got it right," Best told Sky Sports 1.

"The frustrating thing is that we had a penalty advantage there. Hendy was absolutely fabulous and that small error.... you could tell that he was disappointed, but we've got to be bigger than a yellow card costing us that many points.

"It's very frustrating. They're Super Rugby champions and are a very good side. We'll look back at the mistakes we made that let them back into it and be frustrated.

"This is potentially the last game of the tour for a few of us, so we have to look at the positives as well.

"I cannot fault the effort. Maybe we needed to show more composure and be more clinical at times."