They were undone for the second time in two years as Southland lifted the Ranfurly Shield in Christchurch today, a rousing 22-19 national provincial championship victory ending Canterbury's tenure at just two matches.
For so long outstanding defence and their individual gamebreakers looked to have been enough for Canterbury but in the end they could not deny a Southland side brimming with grim determination.
Southland, who won the shield off Canterbury in a famous victory two years ago - their first successful challenge in half a century - only looked capable of repeating that feat when a Scott Cowan converted try gave them a 19-16 lead 18 minutes from fulltime.
A third penalty to impressive first five-eighth Tom Taylor levelled the scores in the 68th minute then Southland No 10 James Wilson had the last word with a crisply struck dropped goal with 3min remaining.
The early signs were hardly promising for Southland when very kickable penalties opportunities were squandered by Robbie Robinson and Wilson inside the opening five minutes.
Canterbury owed much to their watertight defence and for one extended period in the second half they refused to bow despite the Southlanders throwing themselves furiously at the line.
Southland camped inside the 22 for close to 10 minutes, using their forwards as human battering rams but Canterbury were up to the task despite a lopsided tackle count which at one stage showed them making 126 tackles compared to the visitors' 36.
For all of their endeavours Southland had just a Wilson penalty to show for their exertions, a 58th minute strike which Canterbury's advantage to 16-12.
But Southland tried their luck again just 4min later and this time broke through as halfback Cowan skipped around the side of a ruck and finally found a way through what to that stage had been an impregnable defence.
Canterbury had led 16-9 at halftime thanks to a pair of classy tries to bruising wing Patrick Osborne and fullback Sean Maitland.
Maitland had a major role in Osborne's seventh minute touchdown, gliding into the backline before piercing a midfield hole.
Once tackled, he offloaded and the ball bounced into the hands of Osborne, who sped close to half the length of the field, using his power and pace to evade Southland's scattered defence.
Maitland then had a try to call his own in the 20th minute when he employed his pace and footwork to confound two defenders en route to the line.
That gave Canterbury a 13-6 advantage and when Taylor added his second penalty 7min later the home side threatened to run away with it.
Southland let themselves down because of poor handling in the first spell, but showed their tenacious side to stay in the contest, with first-five Wilson's third penalty keeping them in touch.
The second half was an entirely different affair as Southland dominated possession and territory to clinically grind down the hosts.
Southland 22 (Scott Cowan try; James Wilson 4 pen, dropped goal, con) Canterbury 19 (Patrick Osborne, Sean Maitland tries; Tom Taylor 3 pen). Halftime: 9-16.