Dean Richards said frustration rather than relief was the overriding emotion as Newcastle Falcons secured their Aviva Premiership status but fell to a 23-14 defeat at league leaders Saracens.
The Falcons led 14-3 at half-time but conceded three second-half tries, London Irish’s 32-25 home loss to Harlequins ensuring the Falcons remain a top-flight entity for next season.
Richards said: “It is a little bit of a relief I suppose, but we have never looked at it that way. All along it has been about our own performance.
“If we had started the season with the form we showed after Christmas it would have been a different story, we have let points slip in a number of games and we could have been mid-table. But that’s life, they are inaccuracies we have in our game at this moment in time and we have one more chance to show our home crowd what we are about when we play Sale on Saturday.”
Two Marcus Watson tries put the Falcons up against the European Champions Cup finalists, the director of rugby saying: “It was the proverbial game of two halves, and probably summed up where we are as a team.
“We did all the right things during the first half, then at the start of the second half we were a little bit inaccurate and it led to their first try. Those inaccuracies were the story of the first half, but up until that stage we had been pretty much spot-on. Really that has been the story of our season.
“Saracens are a quality squad with depth throughout, they will probably look at themselves and not be satisfied to have only scored three tries from driving mauls. They are a better side than that, they are my favourites to win the title but credit to our boys for taking the game to them.
“We picked 10 academy products in our starting XV and had 22 out of 23 English-qualified players in our squad. I thought they acquitted themselves well, we put a lot of faith in our academy and Mark Laycock and his team do a fantastic job with that. I am delighted with what we have coming through.”
Richards added: “We have finished 11th for three seasons running and this one feels like the worst, simply because we know we should have been higher.
“In the other two seasons we probably deserved it, but this year has been frustrating because we have a really good squad. The players share that frustration because they know what they are capable of, but one thing I will say is they are very critical of themselves in trying to put things right.
“The boys are desperate to get out there and play well, and to string together some good performances. At times they have done that, and we want to use Saturday’s home game against Sale as one last chance to thank our fans for the support they have shown to the squad this season. They are the best supporters in the country in my opinion, without a doubt.”