We'll come back stronger, vows Bristol Rugby chairman Chris Booy after play-off exit
CHRIS Booy was left to rue the "ten or 15 minutes that cost us our season" as Bristol fell ten points short of a sporting miracle against Cornish Pirates.
But the chairman has vowed to deliver Aviva Premiership rugby in the near future – and believes Bristol will be in a much stronger position to survive in the top flight when they eventually get there.
Bristol beat Cornish Pirates 29-18 in yesterday's Championship semi-final second leg – but it was not enough to overhaul the 21-point deficit they carried into the game from the first leg in Penzance six days earlier.
Bristol, who topped the Championship in the regular season and then won their play-off pool, shipped 19 points in the final eight minutes at the Mennaye Field, leaving them facing a deficit that ultimately proved too great to overhaul at the Memorial Stadium.
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But despite his obvious disappointment and frustration at Bristol's second play-off failure in three years, Booy – who helped attract Steve Lansdown's investment in the club three months ago – is confident about the future.
"That's why I've always been vehemently against this play-off system, because basically our season came down to those final ten to 15 minutes in the first leg," said Booy. "We had a shocking ten to 15 minutes and it has cost us our season – and that cannot be right. Over a full league season, you can afford to have bad days, as we did at Rotherham earlier on – and that's what a league is.
"But we said we'd be top four or five, so we've achieved what we said, and you've got to compare where we are with where we were a year ago, which was eighth and struggling to stay out of the relegation play-offs. Look at where we've moved in 12 months.
"We'll be much stronger next season, too. You've seen the signings we've made and we'll make a couple more signings in the next couple of weeks, so we'll definitely be stronger next year.
"If I want to take something positive out of it, the first is that the guys are good enough – they demonstrated that today – and we will grow and be better, so when we hopefully do get promoted next year, we'll have a better chance of staying in the Premiership.
"If we had gone up, it would have been tough to stay there, and what we want to do is get up and stay up – that's our aim."
Bristol played with great spirit, tempo and character yesterday – but spurned several opportunities to score the tries that would have heaped pressure on Pirates.
But, despite ultimate defeat, the prognosis for Bristol is considerably brighter than it was when they missed out to Exeter in the 2010 final, a defeat that saw many players leave the club after being told they would otherwise have to take significant pay-cuts.
"All the players are contracted and we've signed more, plus we're in a very strong financial position, thanks to Steve Lansdown getting involved," said Booy. "The future is bright.We've got the infrastructure and we will continue to invest in supporting Liam (Middleton) and the coaches.
"We are where we are now and we have to keep going forward. It has been a great season – we will look back at this and say we have come a long way. Next season, we will put ourselves in with a much, much better chance of winning it.
"The supporters of this rugby club deserve better – and we'll give it to them eventually."
Sean Marsden has confirmed his playing days at Bristol are over. The popular full-back, who served Bristol in three separate spells, used his Twitter account to reveal his exit after yesterday's game.
"My playing days at Bris are over," he wrote. "It's been an honour to play for the club I support."