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This is a long way from the end

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So all good things come to an end. Or let's think of it as a new beginning.

Toulouse missed out on the French semi-finals for the first time in more than two decades, Clermont Auvergne finally lost at home after 77 matches dating back to 2009, Saints managed to break their run against Leicester, and the Tigers missed out on a place in their 10th successive Premiership Final.
Manchester United not only missed out on the league title but also on a place in Europe if you’ve been paying attention to the round-ball game, and Ryan Giggs has retired from playing after 23 years in the top division. In Spain, the league title was won not by Barcelona and not by Real Madrid after a decade of dominance.
It has indeed been the end of something.
The names we’re talking about – Toulouse, Clermont, Leicester Tigers, Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid – are not used to missing out. They do not make a habit of it. They are built of stern stuff. They’ll be back.
There was a defiance in Richard Cockerill’s voice after Friday’s Premiership semi-final defeat when he cast an eye towards next season and promised “We’re Leicester Tigers, we’ll be back”.
It was just what we all wanted to hear, it is just what we all want to believe.
In those glory days of 1999-2002 Tigers ruled supreme, but that didn’t stop them having to go to a Wildcard Final to get a place in Europe twice immediately afterwards after disappointing domestic seasons.
But then they went on a run of 10 successive appearances in the knockout stages of the Premiership season, reached three Anglo-Welsh Cup Finals and got to the last hurdle in Europe twice too. That’s what you call a recovery.
After the all-conquering year of 2002, Tigers had to wait until the Anglo-Welsh Cup of 2007 to lift another trophy. For good measure that year they followed up with a Premiership title and a place in the Heineken Cup Final. That is what you call bouncing back.
The 2013/14 season has ended a fortnight earlier than we’ve been used to over the last decade and now two other sets of players and supporters will enjoy their big day at Twickenham.
It is certainly a disappointment and a shock to the system, but this is where we start again, all of us, and as Cockers says “redouble our efforts” for another push next season. You can bet on it!