A few seconds after Worcester had completed their lap of honour at Sixways last Wednesday, Chris Pennell broke away from the throng of jubilant team-mates and strode back to the middle of the pitch and towards the advertising hoarding where they had lifted the Championship trophy.
“I put my medal down to pick up the cup and forgot to take it with me,” the 24-year-old confessed. ‘”Thankfully it was still there.”
It was a rare, momentary loss of focus for a player and a club who for 12 months barely let their eyes stray from the prize.
After all Warriors have been the embodiment of methodical this season. Charged with picking a route through rugged Championship terrain, they have done so with admirable precision and deserve their promotion back to the top flight.
However, almost as soon as JP Doyle had blown his whistle for the final time last week, attention turned to the second phase of Richard Hill’s rebuild – one that will be considerably more difficult and one in which they spend most of their time as the preyed upon rather than the preying.
“There have been times when we have been tested, there are some extremely good teams in the Championship,” Pennell insisted.
“We will go into the Premiership next season with some experience of what the intensity will be like.
“But we will have to be prepared to step it up another couple of gears because the top Premiership teams won’t let us off the hook.
“If we go a few points ahead, or do what we have done several times this season and go a few points behind, we won’t come back in those games.
“So we need to make sure we are in top form next season and we really pick it up from where we have left off.”
Which is where? Roughly where John Brain left them as it happens, with a gnarled old pack, strong set-piece and little sign they have the skill to carve up opponents from first phase.
The most notable aspect about Worcester’s play in the last three games has been its narrowness.
When it mattered most they chose to play percentage rugby, indeed against Bedford in the semi-final they seemed utterly unable to do anything outside Andy Goode and it was only when they stopped trying that they gained control of that match.
They were a little more ambitious at stages of their two-leg final, with Miles Benjamin in clinical form but two of their other three tries came from their dominant scrum, albeit scored by Goode and Marcel Garvey. However, when it came to making line-breaks it was the Pirates, their centres and fly-half Jonny Bentley who stole the show and when they were 28 points up and should have been putting on a spectacle, Worcester leaked two late tries and were forced to close things down.
Pennell admitted Hill’s team is very much a work in progress.
“We are probably slightly disappointed with how we played in the last two games but all that put aside we won them and all that matters is we are getting promoted,” he said.
“Obviously we would have liked to have done it in style but winning ugly is winning. That’s what we set out to do and that’s what we have managed to do.
“We are still learning about ourselves. That’s what this year has been about, it’s been about testing the water in certain areas, we can really hone in at the beginning of next season as to what we are about and we can show teams what we represent on the park.
“We have been searching for a balance but it feels like we have more options.”
But for now the talk of emulating Northampton and Harlequins, who both won level two at a canter and returned to the Premiership the stronger for their season out of the firing line, has been replaced with another blueprint - that of the last team to go up through the play-offs.
“A lot of it is going to revolve around our defence, we need to nail that down,” Pennell said. “That’s what Exeter have built their season around, solid defence and their work-rate.
“We have got to do something similar, sort out our defensive plan, stick to it and get really good at it.
“We have been getting there towards the end of the season, we have struggled at times but we are getting used to our system now – that’s the main area,” he said.
What Rob Baxter’s men have also had is a clarity of purpose, a single body of men pulling in one direction. For once Worcester have had that too.
Those personalities who were empowered by Mike Ruddock, perhaps divisively, are back in their box and with Pennell the team’s more benign figurehead more players feel able to contribute – on the field and off it. As a result this Worcester squad is more of a band of brothers than the one which was relegated and when D Day arrives Pennell is confident his troops will have the morale and mental fortitude to survive.
“The squad dynamic has changed a lot,” he said. “We have got a really good group of hard working boys who are all prepared to put their bodies on the line for each other.
“We are extremely tight, which is what you need to succeed at Premiership level. As long as we can keep that unity and excitement, it will only help us. I am extremely proud (of what we have done).
“I came in for the glory at the end, so credit must go to Kai (Horstmann) who has skippered the team for the majority of the season.
“He has done a superb job and it was a real pleasure to lift the trophy with him at the end.”
And a real relief to retrieve his winner’s medal.