NORTHWICH won the national acclaim their season and Twickenham performance deserved on sundrenched Sunday.
It was a glorious day in more ways than one.
They were the better side. Adam Bown had scored the crucial second try and it seemed the momentum of a magnificent campaign was to sweep them up and whisk them to the greatest victory of all.
But then their grip started to be prised from the EDF Senior Vase finger by finger before referee Andrew Taylorson blew the whistle on Bradford's brave comeback and the trophy became Northwich's.
Oh, but it seemed like the second half was never going to end. The clock showed 52 minutes at the finish and North-wich skipper Jon Simpson said: 'They had us worried. I could hardly keep my eyes off the time.'
Northwich were in control at 18-6 when the game was held up for seven minutes while Salem skipper Simon Davies was treated for a neck injury.
In the break Bradford found fresh reserves of energy to launch a final surge.
On they came and scored a try three minutes into injury time through Chris Luxton and a conversion by Paul Drake.
Back they came again and pressure from a scrum and line-out 10 yards from the line needed to be repulsed before Mr Taylorson allowed Northwich's celebrations to start.
Simpson added: 'We have played better, but given the occasion we did well.
'It was my dream come true. 'Getting the try just before the break was crucial.'
And getting the second try 19 minutes after the restart effectively won the game.
Full back Bown, a Northwich player since the age of 11, was the scorer.
'It's amazing, overwhelming. I can hardly believe it,' he said.
'It was nice to get my hands on the ball early and do something positive and to score... what a feeling. But the lads made space for me to score.'
Northwich looked capable of scoring more, but the Davies injury changed the game.
The 'Blacks' dominated the first half, though Drake opened the scoring with a penalty. Gary Bell responded likewise in the 14th minute.
Drake missed a similar chance, but Salem were pinned back for long periods and David Khanyile touched down for Northwich, only to be hauled back for a forward pass.
In the fifth minute of first-half injury time Gaz Davies kicked forwards and the Salem defence suffered a triple calamity from the bounce of the ball.
It urged Davies on and he would have scored had he not been body-checked.
Bell duly converted the penalty try.
A Davies break also led to Northwich's second try, while Bradford's Jason France was in the sin-bin.
Another Drake penalty had reduced the lead when Davies took Northwich to within striking distance.
The ball was shipped along the backs with Bown storming forward on the overlap. He took a short pass from Khanyile and dived into a little local history.
Bell missed with the conversion and two penalties, but landed one from in front of the posts for illegal binding at a scrum to make the score 18-6.
There was a little drama to be played out still, but Northwich were well on their way.
They were followed to London by 500 fans and the final opened with about 1,500 inside Twickenham. By the finish, supporters for other EDF finals began to arrive and there may have been 7,000 present, including former England hero Rob Andrew, who joined in the applause.
Northwich: Bown, Khanyile, Campbell, Smith, Chubb, Bell, Davies; Cartman (James 80), Hill (Pasiya 50), Brotherton, Farley (Heath 80), Simpson, Heywood, Miratana, Robinson.