After a slow start in their opening two games, Canterbury showed they are the real deal again in 2010 with a clinical 44-22 ITM Cup victory over North Harbour in Christchurch.
The two-time defending champions moved up a gear by scoring seven tries in a lop-sided match which finished with a scoreline that flattered the visitors. One of Canterbury's try-scorers was centre Robbie Fruean, who snared a hat-trick.
Harbour had first use of a brisk breeze in the first half but an early penalty against their back-line was converted by Canterbury fly-half Colin Slade.
Early nerves from both teams saw set piece possession turned over before Harbour put some quality phases together which ended in a Michael Harris penalty to tie the scores up at 3-3.
Harris then stretched the lead for Harbour to 10-3 when he capitalised on a fumble by Canterbury winger Sean Maitland, and good pressure from Harbour winger Josh York, to score out wide.
Canterbury replied immediately after Isaac Ross won the kick-off superbly to set up a smart move which was finished in the corner by Sam Monaghan.
All Blacks hooker Corey Flynn put in a late hit on Harris after 18 minutes but escaped a yellow card and Harbour were unable to make use of the attacking line-out possession.
Canterbury flanker Matt Todd then cashed in on some defensive errors from Harbour under pressure to score in the corner. Slade slotted the conversion to give Canterbury the lead 15-10.
Harbour struggled to get their hands on the ball and spent most of the half defending until ,with five minutes left in the half, hooker James Parsons intercepted and found himself in the clear but couldn't link up with his team-mates.
Canterbury took the turnover and after some attacking phases down the right touchline, Fruean finally finished off the weight of possession to score the hosts' third try.
Slade added the extras for a useful 22-10 lead at the break with Harbour needing to score first in the second half to get back into the match.
Harris had a difficult 45m penalty kick across the breeze to open the second spell but left it short. Canterbury's tighthead prop sparked a minor scuffle with his opposite Ben Afeaki and was penalised and warned by referee Jonathan White. But it didn't bother Canterbury though as ex-All Black Ross cut through and passed well to NZ U20 winger Telusa Veainu for the bonus-point try.
Down 27-10, Harbour put together an impressive rolling maul from 30 metres out but with the line beckoning the ball was turned over with Ross standing well offside.
Canterbury typically stormed back, retaining possession well, but Harbour's resolute defensive line held until the muscular Fruean capitalised on more turnover ball to score his second try with 15 minutes left to play.
Luke McAlister was starved of attacking opportunities but showed his class with two splendid touches in one movement to give Jack Tarrant space to score near the posts. Replacement pivot Ben Botica converted to make it 32-17 with 10 minutes left to run in the match.
Botica then went on a brilliant 80m run to showcase his talent but he put his foot on the line in the act of scoring to wipe out what would have been one of the tries of the season.
Matt Luamanu also went close to scoring for Harbour, before eventually Josh York crossed for Harbour's third try.
Harbour went chasing the bonus-point fourth try but in the end Canterbury had the last say when Ross crashed over. Fruean finished the game with his third try in the final minute to complete the 44-22 victory for the home team.
Tries: Monaghan, Todd, Fruean 3, Ross, Veainu
Cons: Slade 3
For North Harbour:
Tries: Harris, Tarrant, York
Cons: Harris, Botica
Canterbury: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Stephen Brett, 11 Sam Monaghan, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Takerei Norton, 8 Ash Parker, 7 George Whitelock, 6 Matt Todd, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Pete Borlase, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Paul Ngauamo, 17 Andrew Olorenshaw, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Nasi Manu, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Robbie Flynn, 22 Patrick Osborne.
North Harbour: 15 Jack McPhee, 14 Josh York, 13 Jack Tarrant, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Alipate Fatafehi, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Richard Mayhew, 7 Tom Chamberlain, 7 Matt Luamanu, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 James Parsons, 1 Michael Reid (c).
Replacments: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 Taione Vea, 18 James King, 19 Malakai Ravulo, 20 Nalu Tuigamala, 21 Ben Botica, 22 Brendon Watt.
Referee: Keith Brown