Exeter captain Gareth Steenson says 'sky is the limit' for impressive Chiefs
Gareth Steenson has predicted an exciting future for Exeter following a season when they confirmed their place at English rugby's top table.
Although the Chiefs' hopes of landing a first Aviva Premiership title just six years after being promoted were dashed by domestic and European double winners Saracens at Twickenham, Steenson believes Exeter are here to stay.
For much of the second half, they had Saracens rattled to the core, recovering from 23-6 down at half-time to just three points behind before Alex Goode's late try halted Exeter's comeback at 28-20.
The Chiefs were also European Champions Cup quarter-finalists this term, beaten by Wasps with the final kick of a pulsating clash, while they finished second behind Saracens across the 22-game regular league season.
"The sky is the limit for this club, and I do genuinely believe that," Exeter skipper Steenson told Press Association Sport.
"It has been our best season by a long way in the Premiership, and it just shows with the squad we are putting together.
"People want to come to the club, and you can see with the support we get, it's a great place to be.
"It is another step on the ladder. There were a lot of young players out there on Saturday who are going to be better for the experience.
"The final was never going to be the be-all and end-all for us. We always talk about being better, and there is no way we are not going to be better for this experience.
"We have jumped forward in Europe, and we have got ourselves a bit further along in the Premiership as well.
"It hasn't been something that has happened overnight. It has always been a steady increase. We have taken the right steps at the right time."
Exeter's first-half struggle suggested that Saracens might enjoy a landslide win, but the European champions were outscored 14-5 after the break by a Chiefs side that dug deep into reserves of skill and character.
"We didn't change anything at half-time - we said we would stick with it," Steenson added. "We just got more territory and held on to the ball more.
"We couldn't put two or three phases together in the first half, but when we did in the second half, we showed we are a hard side to handle.
"We rolled them a little bit, but credit to them, they put the squeeze on us at the end. When a side has a big lead, it is always tough chasing the game. They are a champion team.
"We are disappointed, but when we reflect, we are going to be all right for this experience. We will come back in a few weeks' time and we will reflect and say it was a good season.
"Now, we can say to ourselves there is something tangible from where we can go and be better."
Steenson, meanwhile, paid tribute to Exeter wing Jack Nowell, who scored his team's second try and was arguably the best player on the pitch, showcasing brilliant form as he prepares for England's three-Test Australia tour.
"Jack was magnificent," Steenson said.
"Defensively, his covering, his work-rate, his try - he was outstanding. He would be right up there as one of the best wings in the world at the minute.
"It's a great credit to him that he is getting himself on the plane, as are a lot of our other players, although we are probably a couple of guys short in my opinion, which is a little disappointing."