"This tour wasn't just about results for us. We're trying to develop a style of play and I think we're starting to get there," Gatland said before the team's return to Dublin. "We may not have won the games but we definitely showed that we've got something there to work on."
The Irish won plenty of admirers in Australia after pushing the Wallabies all the way in the second Test in a week, losing by a narrow 32-26 after a record 46-10 defeat in their first meeting. They led the Australians 14-9 early in the second half of Saturday's match before allowing the home side to score 23 unanswered points.
But, just when it looked as though the Australians were about to run away with the match completely, the Irish hit back with two late tries to post their biggest total in a test against Australia and outscore the home side three tries to two.
"We know we let them off the hook, but the good thing was that we came back at them at the end when we could have folded," Gatland said. "It's hard to remember the last time when Ireland did that against one of the big teams from the southern hemisphere."
Gatland said the main objective of Ireland's tour was to prepare for this year's World Cup, where they are drawn in the same pool as Australia.
Ireland opened their tour with a comprehensive win over New South Wales Country, but lost their following matches against the full NSW side and the Wallabies.
The most pleasing aspect of the tour, however, was the emergence of a host of promising backs, traditionally Ireland's weak spot. The Irish have always boasted a strong tight five, but now look to have a back line capable of scoring tries after the arrival of several new faces, including scrum-half Tom Tierney, centres Kevin Maggs and Brian O'Driscoll, and winger Matt Mostyn.
"I think we can take a lot out of this, especially when we play them later this year in the World Cup in Dublin." Gatland said.
The Australian coach, Rod Macqueen, said: "We need to take a look in the mirror because we can play a lot better than that. I only hope this will be the kick up the backside we need."
Australia: Tries Horan, Latham; Conversions Roff 2; Penalties Roff 3, Spooner 3. Ireland: Tries Bishop, Clohessy, Maggs. Conversions Humphreys; Penalties Humphreys 3.
AUSTRALIA: C Latham; J Little, D Herbert, T Horan (all Queensland), J Roff (ACT); N Spooner (Queensland), G Gregan (ACT); G Panoho (Queensland), J Paul, P Noriega, D Giffin (all ACT), T Bowman (NSW), T Kefu, M Cockbain, D Wilson (all Queensland, capt). Replacements: M Burke (ACT) for Latham, 77; N Grey (NSW) for Spooner, 58; T Strauss (NSW) for Kefu, 47; J Williams (ACT) for Cockbain, 74; P Kearns (NSW) for Wilson, 80, D Crowley (Queensland) for Panoho, 29.
IRELAND: G Dempsey (Terenure); J Bishop (London Irish), B O'Driscoll (University College, Dublin), K Maggs (Bath), J Bell, D Humphreys (Dungannon), T Tierney (Garryowen), P Clohessy (Young Munster), K Wood (Harlequins), P Wallace (Saracens), P Johns (Dungannon), M O'Kelly, T Brennan (both St Mary's College), D O'Cuinneagain (Sale, capt), A Ward (Balynahinch). Replacements: D Corkery (Cork Constitution) for Brennan, 76; J Davidson (Castres) for Johns, 67; R Corrigan (Lansdowne) for Clohessy, 71; R Nesdale (Newcastle) for Wood, 56.
Referee: A Watson (South Africa).
n Winger Stephan Terblanche scored five tries in Durban yesterday as South Africa romped home for their first century-plus victory, beating Italy 101-0.Reuse content