The back-to-back world champions proved too strong for their opponents at their fortress Eden Park home, coming out on top 30-15 on Saturday morning.
Gatland admits that the Kiwis' physicality caught his men by surprise in Auckland, but is confident that lessons can be learned heading into the second of their three-match series in a week's time.
"They didn't come out and play champagne rugby," he told reporters. "They were very direct coming really hard off nine and credit to them. They dominated us in that area. We were looking to get the upper hand up front and in fairness to them they got it today.
"We've got no excuses about the result because they deserved to win. But there are things we can work on particularly hard this week and definitely improve on taking the chances and being more accurate at the breakdown."