CHICHESTER suffered promotion heartbreak for the third season on the trot - but vowed: We’ll be back to have another go next season.
They missed out on a play-off for a place in the national leagues by the narrowest of margins - ending in a position that in previous years would have earned them a sudden-death stab at promotion.
But they are putting a brave face on the disappointment, reflecting on a season when they have played consistent, fast-running rugby and have entertained their growing number of fans.
With big-spending East Grinstead out of the way after going up to the national divisions as London one south champions, the Oaklands Park outfit now hope they have a clearer run at the title next time.
They know it will again be a difficult, competitive league but as they continue to build up the strength of the club from the first XV through to the burgeoning colts section, they are already looking forward to the challenge.
Chichester kept their end of their bargain on Saturday, earning a bonus-point 29-15 win at fifth-placed Dover.
They thought they might have done enough to clinch second place - only to discover Basingstoke had pipped them with a 17-17 draw away to champions East Grinstead. It was the first game in the season’s 26 league fixtures East Grinstead had not won.
Chichester director of rugby Paul Colley said: “Saturday’s victory was one of the toughest of the season against a well-organised and aggressive team.
“It is testament to the spirit of the side that in this and in many games this season, the team dug so deep and came away with not only the victory but the bonus point as well.
“We have played some outstanding rugby and finish on exactly the same number of points as Basingstoke with two more bonus points.
“In previous years, that would have seen us through to the play-off.
“It is cruel that the bonus-point rule has changed and we are now back to points difference being seen as more important.
“You don’t always get what you deserve but we were so, so close and everyone involved in the club can be rightly proud of the senior playing achievements.
“As if to highlight this, the second team won the Sussex second teams’ cup, beating East Grinstead, whose first XV of course were London one south champions.
“They did this with a huge 37-5 victory at Hastings on Sunday, scoring some scintillating tries. Last year we beat national league outfit Worthing in the final by 20 points.
“We have some very exciting talent coming through – we will be back.”