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Canterbury won the ITM Cup title for a third straight time, romping to a 33-13 victory over Waikato in tonight's final at Christchurch.

Canterbury wiped out memories of a 6-26 loss to Waikato in the final round of the regular season by scoring four tries to two.

Waikato put in a strong performance in the first half to stay in contention to win their first national rugby title since 2006 but Canterbury outplayed them in the second half.

The defending champions scored two unconverted tries but had another two turned down by the television match official in the first 40 minutes.

The wintry conditions did not provide ideal conditions but Canterbury were more willing to utilise the power of centre Robbie Fruean and the speed of hardworking fullback Sean Maitland to run the ball at every opportunity.

Waikato preferred to keep the ball close among their forwards and bulldoze their way towards the Canterbury line.

Both methods were effective.

Canterbury opened the scoring, albeit in bizarre fashion.

Fruean chipped the ball ahead and Waikato No 8 Alex Bradley appeared to have the ball covered but duffed his attempt to ground the ball in-goal and allowed Canterbury wing Tu Umaga-Marshall pounce on the loose ball and score after just two minutes and 13 seconds into the game.

Waikato's reply was built around a forwards rumble, the continuous pick and gos finally breaking the Canterbury defence down with prop Toby Smith flopping down to score an unconverted try.

Canterbury almost scored another equally bizarre try after first five Colin Slade's penalty attempt sailed wide only for Waikato wing Henry Speight to lose out in the tussle with Umaga-Marshall for the ball with second five Ryan Crotty dotting the loose ball down.

But the television match official ruled Speight had been tackled without the ball by Umaga-Marshall and awarded Waikato a penalty.

Slade finally opened his account after missing his first three attempts at goal to put his side in front again but Waikato opposite Trent Renata equalised with a penalty of his own.

Canterbury lock Isaac Ross was then denied a try after Canterbury dished out a dose of their forwards power on the Waikato line with lock Isaac Ross carried over by his team mates but no try was awarded because replays were inconclusive on the grounding.

Crotty finally got on the scoreboard after Waikato halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow's kick through came off Slade's shin and Crotty was on hand to retrieve the ball and score.

The arrival of former All Black halfback Brendon Leonard in place of Kerr-Barlow was the spark that briefly ignited Waikato in the second half.

After Slade slotted an early penalty, Leonard help set up his side's third try scored by Speight after a patient buildup and then made a try-saving tackle.

Waikato's spirits sagged when Nasi Manu charged down a Leonard clearance for flanker Matt Todd to grab the ball and score a converted try.

They buckled in the 66th minute when Slade plucked up a loose Waikato kick ahead and galloped through a wrong-footed defence to score beneath the cross bar and convert his own try.

Canterbury substitute Stephen Brett kicked a late penalty to put the issue beyond doubt.

"We were pretty confident coming here even though it is a tough place to come and win but full credit to Canterbury - they showed us how to play finals footy tonight," Waikato skipper Nathan White said in a post-match interview.

"We just couldn't get down there (to the other end) and hold on to the ball long enough. Canterbury relived that pressure straight away."

Canterbury 33 (Tu Umaga-Marshall, Ryan Crotty, Matt Todd, Colin Slade tries; Slade 2 pen, 2 con, Stephen Brett pen) Waikato 13 (Toby Smith, Henry Speight tries; Trent Renata pen). Halftime: 13-8.