Last-placed Counties-Manukau made leaders Canterbury work for their win as the Air New Zealand Cup defending champs battled to an unimpressive 28-17 victory at Pukekohe on Friday.
The win - Canterbury's eighth from ten matches - means the men in red and black stay atop the Air New Zealand Cup table. But after yet another lacklustre display, coach Chris Penney knows his team have a lot of work to do with just three rounds left to play.
Canterbury butchered many try-scoring opportunities and failed to gain the bonus-point try against a team which fought gallantly but lacked the ability to turn possession into points.
But having lost 22-82 to Canterbury last year, the Steelers' performance against their visitors could be counted as something of a moral victory for Counties-Manukau.
Counties Manukau scored the first points with a cheeky drop-goal kicked by scrum-half Samisoni Fisulau. Canterbury replied when hooker Ti'i Paulo crossed over to score the first try of the match which was converted by Stephen Brett giving the visitors a 7-3 lead.
Brett missed his first penalty attempt but was successful with another chance on the half-time whistle, giving Canterbury a 10-3 advantage at the break.
Canterbury came out in the second half strong with another penalty to full-back Colin Slade. After a near try to Canterbury being pulled up for a forward pass, Counties Manukau went on the attack.
Poor defence from the visitors allowed flanker Mark Selwyn to score for the home side which was converted by full-back Tim Nanai Williams and left Canterbury with only a three-point lead with thirty minutes left on the clock.
Canterbury then got another penalty and then winger Sean Maitland crossed to give his team their second try and an eleven-point buffer.
A committed Steelers team attacked Canterbury's line-out and were rewarded when replacement loose forward Fritz Lee easily broke through the defence to score. The try which was converted by Williams, reducing Canterbury's lead to 21-17.
From the restart Maitland crossed over for his second try of the night which was converted after bouncing off the upright. Canterbury gained more composure but failed to get a bonus point leaving the score at 28-17 and the fans at Bayer Growers Stadium proud of their team's effort.
Tries: Selwyn, Lee
Cons: Nanai-Williams 2
Tries: Maitland 2, Paulo
Cons: Brett, Slade
Pens: Slade 2, Brett
Counties Manukau: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Josh Hall, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Tasesa Lavea (c), 9 Samisoni Fisilau, 8 Waka Setitaia, 7 Mark Selwyn, 6 DJ Forbes, 5 Rees Logan, 4 Jamie Chipman, 3 Tuaefe Palelei, 2 Matt Holloway, 1 Simon Lemalu/Graham Dewes.
Replacements: 16 Ilaisa Maasi, 17 Graham Dewes/Po'aloi Taula, 18 Alepini Olosoni, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Notise Tauafao, 21 Ahsee Tuala, 22 Seremaia Tagicakibau.
Canterbury: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 James Paterson, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 George Whitelock (c), 6 Michael Paterson, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Peter Borlase, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Andrew Olorenshaw.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ash Parker, 19 Matt Todd, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Tim Bateman, 22 Tu Umaga-Marshall.
Referee: James McPhail