Canterbury remain on track for their ninth NPC title in the past decade, but they will need a smoother display in the final if they are to continue their historic dominance.

A late surge took them to a 35-24 semifinal win over North Harbour, but - compared to their usual standards - it was a performance which was sloppy in extended patches.

That's not to discredit North Harbour's efforts, who gave Canterbury as much as they could handle for 75 minutes. Having not been in the Premiership semifinals since 2005, their steady rise was further documented in a credible semifinal showing.

Yet, with all that said, a familiar sight remains - Canterbury's presence in the final. And, despite not hitting their usual heights, they will surely be favoured to raise the trophy come next Saturday.


They may have to do it without some of their standout players this season. Braydon Ennor and Rob Thompson both failed concussion tests after heavy collisions, while first-five Richie Mo'unga could be a candidate to go on the All Blacks' end of year tour.

However, Canterbury still ground out a victory today without those key members of their backline. Young first-five Brett Cameron stood up with a solid display; guided well by the guile of halfback Mitchell Drummond.

Their cool heads were needed after a fast Harbour start. Ben Volavola opened proceedings by darting through several defenders from an impressive solo try, and Canterbury were struggling to answer as their early play was plagued by turnovers.

Twice they were dragged down centimetres short of the line and couldn't convert the resulting phases, but the hosts slowly built their way back into the contest, with first Drummond and then George Bridge going over to craft a 17-10 halftime lead.

The clash retained a physical, chippy nature, with both teams aggressive at the breakdown and trading critical turnovers. History suggested that Canterbury would pull away in the second stanza, as they did against Harbour earlier in the year, but the visitors weren't going away, and a try to Chris Eves right after half-time tied proceedings.

To and fro the battle went - Canterbury hitting back with a flowing attack; Harbour answering off the back of a sustained spell on Canterbury's line.

The boot of Cameron kept Canterbury a point in front, and as nerves tightened, Canterbury veteran Tim Bateman finished off a patient build-up by flying under the posts, securing yet another trip to the finale for the country's leading rugby province.

Canterbury 35 (M. Drummond, G. Bridge, B. Harmon, T. Bateman tries; B. Cameron 3 cons, 3 pens)
North Harbour 24 (B. Volavola, C. Eves, M. Taramai tries; Volavola 3 cons, pen)
HT: 17-10