Toby Smith's try in the closing minutes handed Waikato a 31-22 victory in their opening match of the ITM Cup 2013 against Northland.
A confident debut from Northland first five-eighth Ben Seymour ensured his side was well in the contest with a perfect six-from-six, including a conversion and five penalties, to ensure his side was well in the contest for the whole 80 minutes.
Waikato, however, were able to hold on thanks to tries to Rory Grice and the inspirational Joe Webber. Trent Renata, too, played well and kicked a conversion and four penalties, but it was only for a late try to prop Toby Smith that assured fans the Waikato fans will hold the Ranfurly Shield for a week longer.
Halfback Kylem O'Donnell was superb for Waikato, as was Save Tokula, whose experience proved crucial for the Ranfurly Shield holders.
Waikato's next Ranfurly Shield defence is against a resurgent Otago in a week's time at Waikato Stadium.
The early omens weren't good for Northland, with a knock on from the kick-off a nervous sign for the estimated 2000 travelling fans from Whangarei.
But after Waikato took a 10-0 lead the visitors responded with some stifling defence and, more importantly, through Seymour's boot.
Seymour reduced the deficit to seven before Webber's try gave Waikato some much-needed breathing space.
Seymour and Renata traded penalties as Waikato took an 18-9 lead into half-time to the delight of the cowbell-toting fans at Waikato Stadium.
Any hopes of a smoother second half for the hosts was thrown out when Northland's livewire halfback Sonatane Takalua dotted over almost immediately after half-time to get themselves back in the game.
From there the two sides traded penalties as Waikato held a 24-22 lead with 10 minutes to play. Smith's try with four minutes to go looked to effectively end the contest, but it was only when Renata converted to ensure the hosts had a nine point lead that the champagne could be uncorked.
The ball went loose at the breakdown to the despair of Northland coach Derren Whitcombe as most of the 11,200 in attendance in Hamilton started to chant seconds from full-time.
Northland typically went hard at Waikato for the remaining moments of the match and were almost rewarded with a bonus point try to wing Mateo Malupo after the full-time hooter.
It wasn't to be and Waikato's reign continued with a good old fashioned reality check on Saturday night.
Tries: Grice, Webber, Smith
Cons: Renata 2
Pens: Renata 4
Pens: Seymour 5
Waikato: 15 Trent Renata, 14 Tim Mikkelson, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Kylem O'Donnell, 8 Adam Burn, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Rory Grice, 5 Sam Kilgour, 4 Brian Alainu'uese, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Vance Elliott, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Chris Middleton, 19 Jono Armstrong, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Joe Perawiti, 22 Semisi Masirewa.
Northland: 15 Mathew Wright, 14 Whiria Meltzer, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Mateo Malupo, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Jake Paringatai, 7 Jack Ram, 6 Dan Pryor, 5 Bryce Williams, 4 Tom Murday, 3 Scott Vessey, 2 Ross Wright, 1 Bronson Murray.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Justin Davies, 18 Owen Pihema, 19 William Whetton, 20 Mac Sykes, 21 Daniel Hawkins, 22 Warren Dunn.
Venue: Waikato Stadium