Julian Salvi admitted the only thing missing from an "amazing" first year with the Exeter Chiefs was failing to pick up the Aviva Premiership title at Twickenham.
Brought to Devon last summer from Leicester Tigers, the Australian open-side has been a near ever-present for Rob Baxter’s side during a stellar campaign, which finished up at the home of English rugby in Saturday’s showpiece event.
Sadly, though, the Chiefs – playing in their first-ever Premiership final – could not cap what has been a year to remember for them as they went down narrowly to defending champions Saracens 28-20.
Trailing 23-6 at the break, the Chiefs produced a sterling second half fightback to haul themselves to within three points of their rivals, only for the recently crowned European champions to deliver a late sucker punch courtesy of a try from Alex Goode.
Although disappointed to miss out on a second Premiership title, the 30-year-old forward said the Chiefs could take plenty of positives from a season in which they had again created history.
“Look, you never want to lose a final,” said Salvi at the final whistle. “But we went in there with both barrels, played with a lot of heart and a lot of determination, and just came up a little bit short in the end.
“The character we showed, particularly in that second half, to come back to three points with five minutes to go, it underlines the spirit that exists within the squad and how we’ll always keep fighting.
“As I said, we’re bitterly disappointed right now with the outcome, but fair play to Saracens they are a great side and they’ve shown that throughout the course of the season.”
Salvi, along with his Sandy Park team-mates will now take a well-earned break following the rigours of a testing 2015/16 season, but it will not be long before they all report back for duty, looking to build on the success of this term.
“I’ve no doubt we will all learn from the experience,” he added. “Occasions like today are what you play the game for and although we’ve come up a bit short right at the end, it doesn’t take away from what has been an outstanding season for the club.
“The effort and hard work that everyone has put in has been outstanding and come June 29th – when we have to report in again – we’ll all be raring to go again and looking to go that one step further.”
Indeed, the Canberra-born forward is already looking to the new season with great excitement, especially having settled so well to life in the Westcountry this past year.
“It’s been an amazing first year, more than I could ever have hoped for,” continued Salvi, who scored two tries in 27 first team appearances. “The club, it’s culture, the players, the coaches, it’s been terrific.
“Equally, the supporters have been unbelievable. Every week they are there in their numbers, especially on the away games, and their support has been tremendous. Coming into the ground today, the scenes were unbelievable, especially hearing the Tomahawk Chop and the fans lining up as we walked in.
“Yes, we’re disappointed not to have finished the job for them, especially given the support we had, but at the same time it’s made us even hungrier to push on next season and make ourselves number one.”