Canterbury survived a second-half scare to beat Northland 31-21 at AMI Stadium yesterday and retain the Ranfurly Shield.
The victory also kept Canterbury on top of the Air New Zealand Cup points table but the Red and Blacks had to dig deep against a fired-up Northland side.
The score was 21-all with 20 minutes to go but Sean Maitland's second try of the game and a Stephen Brett drop goal kicked Canterbury out to a 10-point buffer.
Canterbury had got off to a perfect start when after four minutes lock Sam Whitelock expertly caught Brett's cross-kick to dive over. Brett kicked the conversion from the sideline and it was 7-0 to Canterbury.
The Taniwha hit back with a penalty through Lachie Munro but Brett replied with one of his own after a dangerous tackle to make it 13-3 to Canterbury.
Fullback Colin Slade almost scored after a planned move from Canterbury but the ball was spilled and the chance lost.
Northland openside Joel McKenty ran through a big gap to score the first of his two tries and keep his side in it just as Canterbury seemed to be getting on top. Munro converted and it was 13-10.
Brett gave Canterbury some breathing space after Northland's scrum gave up a penalty but McKenty scored his second try right on halftime. He received a perfect pass off the front of an attacking lineout and Northland were right in the match with the score 16-15 at the halfway stage.
Maitland eased Canterbury's nerves straight away with a try after a quick lineout after combining well with Slade.
But Northland were not about to give up and struck back through a Munro penalty - 21-18.
Munro had a chance to square the match with a shot at goal but missed. However, he made no mistake with another shot on the hour and it was all square at 21-all.
Maitland scored his second try of the afternoon following several phases of attack and a nice wide pass from Broadhurst. Brett converted and then the first-five dropkicked a sharply-taken goal to make the game safe for Canterbury.
Canterbury coach Rob Penney said: "We'll be able to tuck the Shield away for a couple of weeks now.
"That was a tough match. They targeted us at the breakdown and we were a bit isolated there at times."
Canterbury locks Whitelock and Broadhurst played well, impressing with their handling skills and general workrate.
Halfback Andy Ellis also had a good game - he was constantly in the thick of the action.
Canterbury's next match is against Counties-Manukau at Pukekohe on Friday night. The next Shield defence is against Manawatu on Friday, October 9.
Canterbury - tries: Sean Maitland (2), Sam Whitelock. Conversions: Stephen Brett (2). Penalties: Brett (2). DG: Brett.
Northland - tries: Joel McKenty (2). Conversion: Lachie Munro. Penalties: Munro (3).
HT: Canterbury 16-15.
1. Wyatt Crockett
2. Corey Flynn
3. Peter Borlase
4. Sam Whitelock
5. James Broadhurst
6. Michael Paterson
7. Matt Todd
8. Ash Parker (18. Nasi Manu 45th min)
9. Andy Ellis
10. Stephen Brett
11. Tu Umaga-Marshall (22. James Paterson 75th min)
12. Tim Bateman (c)
13. Casey Laulala
14. Sean Maitland
15. Colin Slade
Reserves not used:
16. Ti'i Paulo
17. Andrew Olorenshaw
19. Aaron McCoy
20. Tyson Keats
21. Chris Small