In full: Ulster captain Rory Best pens personal tribute to loyal fans after tough campaign
Ulster captain Rory Best has thanked fans for their support during a difficult season with a heartfelt letter.
The province secured their place in next year's Champions Cup thanks to a play-off victory over Ospreys on Sunday, but off-field controversies seemed to meet them at every turn.
Despite missing out on the Guinness PRO14 play-offs for the second straight year, Ulster again had one of the highest average attendances in the entire league before around 7,000 turned up to watch the finale.
After Ulster finished the season with a run of five unbeaten games, Best penned this letter to supporters:
Rory Best's letter to Ulster supporters in full
"After a challenging season both on and off the pitch, I thought it was appropriate for me, on behalf of the playing group, to share our thanks for your loyal support once again.
As players, we visit clubs, schools and other organisations across the Province on a weekly basis and it is truly humbling to see how much support we have within the community.
I watched yesterday's game from the stands - the atmosphere was brilliant - and the support was really appreciated by all players, especially those who were saying goodbye.
While it would be easy to look back on the season with some negativity, I would like to share some of the positives that I've witnessed.
I would like to pay tribute to my team mates for their fight and spirit throughout. To finish the season unbeaten in our last five games is testament to the character and quality of the players and I couldn't be prouder of them.
It's been pleasing to see so many of my teammates grow and develop as players and leaders over the past 12 months.
As a senior player, it is exciting to see that the future is extremely bright for Ulster Rugby. We've had eight Academy players experience first team rugby this season and we have a record number of players representing Ireland at under-age level.
Having secured Champions Cup qualification, we will start pre-season with enthusiasm and confidence, and we look forward to welcoming some quality players and coaches into the set-up during the summer.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the contribution of some great servants to Ulster Rugby who will bid farewell this summer, in particular Andrew Trimble, Paul Marshall, Robbie Diack, Tommy Bowe, Callum Black and Norman Pollock. I wish them and their families all the best for the future.
Thanks again for standing up for us this season. It's a privilege to continue to represent you.
Captain, Ulster Rugby"