Centre Tom Cheeseman has told his Esher team-mates they have not let anyone down in suffering the Championship drop.
The former Quins and Bath centre was in the team as a 31-26 win at London Scottish on Saturday was not enough to save them from relegation.
Exiles centre Charlie Hayter scored the bonus-point try that sent them down, but Cheeseman insisted the writing had been on the wall since a run of 14 straight league defeats at the start of the
The 26-year-old missed much of the campaign with a shoulder injury suffered in a pre-season friendly at Harlequins, but returned to help Esher to the brink of safety with a post-Christmas revival.
And he insisted the players could have done no more to secure to a third season in the second tier of English rugby.
“We were struggling well before the play-offs. You can’t start a season that poorly and expect to survive,” he said.
“We came close and you have to admire the squad’s courage to take it to the final game but we were always up against it.
“I don’t think we have let anybody down.
“The people who have stepped in because of the injuries have pulled on the shirts and given 100 per cent for the cause.
“The boys have stepped up and given it everything. They gave it their best shot in every game and that is all you can ask.”
A near £400,000 cut in revenue means Cheeseman, who has represented four clubs in the past three seasons and was one of Schmid’s key signings last summer, was among those facing the chop at Molesey
But he has not completely ruled out helping spearhead a National Division One promotion push next year.
“Salaries are going to be affected so the chairman, board and coaching staff are going to have to work very carefully and quickly in identifying the players they want to keep and which ones they
can’t afford,” he added.
“If they can get the balance right, be creative with contracts and show the necessary ambition that Esher are going to give National Division One a real go next season, then a few players might
“People like Ian Kench feel like they can get the club back up next season and I’m sure he wants to stay.
“It depends on who stays and how much backing the boys are going to get.”
Esher’s campaign has been undermined by a plague of injuries, but director of rugby Mike Schmid’s men took their survival fight down to the final day.
“It was one of the most dramatic and nerve-shredding games of rugby I’ve ever been involved with,” said Esher chairman John Inverdale, below.
“We have been catastrophically unlucky with injuries that, if it didn’t cost you so much money and hurt so much emotionally, you would laugh.”