Wales were left wondering ‘what could have been’ after missing a couple of chances in Sunday’s one-point defeat to South Africa.
Fly-half Rhys Priestland missed a drop goal and James Hook sent a more difficult penalty attempt wide in the dying minutes to hand the Springboks a 17-16 victory.
“For 70 minutes of that game we took it to South Africa,” said Gatland.
“We are proud of the performance, and it is about getting back on the horse and thinking about Samoa next week.
“Good sides take disappointment on the chin and front up the following week. That is what we have got to do now.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the players’ effort in terms of what they delivered out there.
“To get 60 percent of territory and possession against South Africa is a massive step of where we have come as a team, but at the end of the day we weren’t quite clinical enough and South Africa won.”
Wales skipper Sam Warburton delivered a world-class performance and Gatland sang his praises.
“I know a lot of people in the southern hemisphere don’t know a lot about Sam,” said the coach.
“But if you were picking a Lions team now, he would be right up there in contention. He played against a world-class openside today (in South Africa’s Heinrich Brussow) and it was a very good battle.”
“I’m proud of the effort the players put in but we didn’t win the game,” added
“The players will be devastated but we had a chance - a drop goal in front of the posts, Hooky had a penalty.
“It’s all about competing at the highest level and that’s just the little half a percent we’ve got to learn from.”
Full-back Hook, who contributed eleven points, was gutted.
“We’re bitterly disappointed,” Hook told ITV1
“We came so close. We were quite confident all week but we came up just short.”
“We played really well and we didn’t quite get the victory and in a tournament like this, it’s all about getting the win.”
“I think we were good enough to get the result, but I missed a drop-goal myself,” added Priestland
“We’re all disappointed, but we can’t dwell on that and we’ve got to win our next three games. We will improve because of this.”