A RUGBY revolution that has been quietly brewing at Edgeley Park was finally unleashed on the sporting world at Twickenham on Saturday when Sale Sharks toppled the old order to be crowned champions of England.
A tidal wave of emotion swept across the pitch and through the packed stands as Sharks' long-held dreams of glory were realised after a 141 year wait.
Sharks proved themselves to be not just the masters of consistency, a trait that kept them at the top of the league table for the majority of the season, but also showmen capable of toppling one of rugby's super-powers, Leicester Tigers.
Never before have Sale had such prestigious silverware gracing their trophy cabinet, but Sharks' players taking to the Twickenham turf for the Guinness Premiership final seemed unperturbed by the club's lack of domestic honours.
Despite the wet conditions, Philippe Saint-Andre's side showcased their considerable talents with finesse and accuracy, in stark contrast to Leicester, who failed to get to grips with even the most basic manoeuvres.
Fly-half Charlie Hodgson cleverly engineered two of Sharks' four tries and bagged 23 points, dictating the style of play and keeping Tigers out of title contention almost from the start.
Sharks took the lead through a penalty within the first three minutes and never relinquished their strangle-hold on the game.
As the points difference built in Sale's favour, with tries from Mark Cueto, Magnus Lund, Oriol Ripol and Chris Mayor, Leicester looked like a team starved of oxygen as well as the ball.
Sharks' England duo delivered the first try of the game when Hodgson launched a crossfield kick to his team's top finisher Cueto.
Tigers' full-back Geordan Murphy was positioned to avert the threat but when the ball ricocheted off Cueto's leg and over the try-line, the lightning reactions of the Sale winger secured five points.
Leicester replied almost immediately to score from their first attack of the game. It was a clumsy affair set-up by Shane Jennings who capitalised on a moment's hesitation by Hodgson to charge down an attempted clearance kick.
Ollie Smith tapped the loose ball to Lewis Moody, who touched down to reduce Sharks' lead to a single point.
But with power, the likes of Sebastien Chabal, Chris Jones and Jason White ripped apart their meeker rivals, and creativity in abundance it wasn't long before Sharks were back on the attack.
Young scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth staked his claim for a starting position next season with a dazzling performance.
A late addition to the final squad, as a result of injury to Sililo Martens, Wigglesworth squeezed through a crowded field and chipped the ball forward to set up Lund's try.
Sharks dealt the killer blow just before the interval when Hodgson duped Smith and Alesano Tuilagi to clear the way for Ripol to slip across the whitewash. Hodgson added the conversion to give Sale a 23-10 lead at half-time.
As Leicester's frustration escalated so too did Sharks points tally, with Hodgson boosting his personal haul with four penalties and a drop goal.
Tigers began to panic and flung the ball around erratically leading to Premiership player of the year Tom Varndell, who had looked out of sorts for the bulk of the game, lobbing the ball out to the unpopulated wing and gifting possession back to the dominant Sharks.
Defensively astute Sale smothered Leicester, although substitute James Hamilton did sneak a consolation try for the tiring Tigers.
But Mayor rounded off the convincing win with an interception in Sale's own half and sprinted to the try-line to spark celebrations amid the boisterous blue and white army.
Sale Sharks: J Robinson (capt), M Cueto, M Taylor [C Mayor 71], E Seveali'i [V Courrent 86], O Ripol, C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth [B Foden 81], L Faure, A Titterrell [S Bruno 52], S Turner [B Stewart 52], I Fernandez Lobbe [D Schofield 56], C Jones [S Chabal 81], J White, M Lund, S Chabal [C Day 69]. Tries: Cueto, Lund, Ripol, Mayor. Cons: Hodgson 2. Pens: Hodgson 6. DG: Hodgson.
Leicester Tigers: G Murphy, A Tuilagi [S Vesty 46], O Smith [L Lloyd 64], D Gibson, T Varndell, A Goode, H Ellis [A Healey 52], G Rowntree [M Holford 61], G Chuter [J Buckland 65], J White, L Cullen [J Hamilton 55], B Kay, S Jennings [L Deacon 51], L Moody, M Corry (capt). Tries: Moody, Hamilton. Cons: Goode 2. Pens: Goode 2.
Referee: D Pearson.