Canterbury survived a thrilling second-half fightback by Northland to win their ITM Cup match 27-23 in Whangarei on Saturday.
The defending champions held a 21-16 half-time lead and extended it by a further three points midway through the second half. But the hosts ran in a converted try late in the match to trail by just a point.
However, Canterbury pivot Stephen Brett coolly slotted a drop-goal with two minutes remaining to put the game out of Northland's reach.
The hosts had a chance in the dying seconds from a penalty in front of Canterbury's post, but scrum-half Rhyan Caine threw a forward pass which ended an exciting contest.
Tries: Murray, Eyre
Cons: Munro 2
Pens: Munro 3
Tries: Fruean, Romano, Ross
Cons: Brett 3
Drops: Ellis, Brett
Northland: 15 Lachie Munro ,14 Mateo Malupo 13 Jared Payne (c), 12 Aden Dewes, 11 Iwi Hauraki, 10 David Holwell, 9 Rhyan Caine, 8 Cam Eyre, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Mark Burman, 4 Pat O'Connor, 3 Matt Wallis, 2 Tim Dow, 1 Bronson Murray.
Replacements: 16 Mikaele Tuu'u, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Roy Griffin, 19 Cam Goodhue, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Adam Clarke, 22 Brock Mustard.
Canterbury: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Telusa Veainu, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Ash Parker, 7 George Whitelock (c), 6 Matt Todd, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Peter Borlase, 2 Steve Fualau, 1 Andrew Olorenshaw.
Replacements: 16 Marcel Cummings-Toon, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Rob Verbakel, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Sam Monaghan, 22 Robbie Flynn.
Referee: Mike Fraser