TIMES were when Gloucester may have viewed a losing bonus-point at Saracens as progress.
Frustrated full-back Rob Cook believes those days are long gone at Kingsholm.
And now he admits the Cherry and Whites are ready to shrug off their nearly-men status.
Cook produced a near-faultless display under constant aerial bombardment in Gloucester's 28-23 Vicarage Road defeat on Sunday.
Saracens' high-ball strategy often bores teams to death – and more importantly errors.
But former Cornish Pirate Cook was able to keep his poise and fend off whatever was thrown at him.
Add in a try-line turnover after Tim Taylor's try-saving tackle, and the 28-year-old once again offered solidity at the back for the Kingsholm men.
Gloucester's three league defeats this term have come against the division's current top three sides.
Past criticisms of Gloucester have included beating the toughest teams and slipping to defeat against unfancied opposition.
While the Cherry and Whites are hitting just about par with their Premiership record, Cook said they will need to start toppling top-end teams with regularity to continue making progress.
Cook explained: "From what Nigel said Gloucester might have been happy last year, with a point here, but we're pretty gutted, especially with what happened at the end.
"We're pretty gutted we didn't come away with more than a point.
"It shows where we are.
"We're playing some decent rugby, but there's definitely more to come.
"We've tested Harlequins and Saracens, and come away with a point, but it's time to take that to the next level.
"We stood up to Saracens very well, they spun it a bit more than we thought they would.
"But I thought we defended really well, although we gave away too many soft penalties.
"That's all part and parcel of the game too though, you've got to adapt to the referee, and it's a bit frustrating that we didn't manage that.
"Everyone was absolutely gutted, sat in the changing rooms everyone was quiet and pretty frustrated."
Pleased with his own personal progress, Cook said that will always come second to team results and performances.
He continued: "I'm happy with my work under the high ball, but maybe I could have done a bit more work in attack.
"But the way they defend, the nature of their game, it's a small pitch and you don't get much room or many opportunities.
"I'm happy with the way I played but the main thing is that we've got to move everything forward as a team and squad now, and that always comes first.
"We should hopefully get a good run at this European situation now, we've got to go hard and push ourselves forward.
"This fortnight will clearly define progress or otherwise in this competition.
"But it can also give us a great deal of momentum and confidence if we can come out of the two weeks in credit.
"We could then go back into the league in good spirits and form, and maybe that could send us into the new year in good shape too."