Canterbury appear to be getting into a poor habit.
After dropping their opening match of the NPC season to Auckland, Canterbury have won three in a row, but not in overwhelming fashion, after beating Southland 19-16 in extra time in Invercargill on Saturday.
All three of those wins could have turned out differently if their opposition converted late shots at goal to either level the scores or take the lead.
Before the Covid-19 enforced hiatus, Canterbury claimed a 25-22 win over Manawatū in which Turbos No 10 Brett Cameron missed a penalty in the 77th minute which would have levelled the scores. Last weekend, in rather controversial fashion, Waikato's Fletcher Smith missed a conversion to take the lead with the final play of the game and Canterbury took a 20-19 win in Hamilton.
It was a similar script in Invercargill, as Southland's Marty Banks' potential game-winning penalty goal fell on the wrong side of the uprights. Extra time was needed, and Canterbury's Fergus Burke made no mistake from right in front after his forwards earned a scrum penalty.
In a contest that has been rather one-sided over recent years – with Southland hunting their first home win over Canterbury since 2003 – the Stags showed up, scoring the opening try of the game through fullback Josh Moorby. The ensuing conversion gave Southland a 7-3 lead after 15 minutes, with Burke opening the game with a penalty seven minutes in.
It was the only try of the half as the two battled for supremacy. Burke slotted another two penalties while Banks added one to give Southland a 10-9 lead at the break.
Canterbury were helped early in the second half by a one-man advantage, with prop Chris Apoua shown a yellow card for a late shoulder charge, and Canterbury lock Luke Romano scored just two minutes later.
It was the lone try of the half, as the scoring fell to the kickers in the wet conditions. After Burke's conversion put the visitors 16-10 ahead, Banks made two of his four attempted penalties in the final half hour of the game, with a crucial miss late forcing extra time.
In the end, Canterbury were able to capitalise on a handling error deep in Southland territory, earning a penalty at the ensuing scrum which Burke slotted through for the points.
Further north, Manawatū were too strong for Northland in Palmerston North, buoyed by the availability of All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith who guided the side to a 31-19 win.
Manawatū held Northland scoreless for most of the game, with the visitors scoring their first points with just 20 minutes left and already down 26-0.
In the Farah Palmer Cup, a high-scoring affair saw Wellington secure their spot in next weekend's preliminary final, beating Bay of Plenty 41-34.
Wellington only needed a point from the game to move past Counties Manukau into fourth place on the ladder - effectively third place as Auckland were ruled out of the rest of the season due to the city's ongoing Covid-19 issues.
A 41st minute try to Ayesha Leti-I'iga saw Wellington achieve their goal of obtaining at least a bonus point from the match, booking their place in next weekend's clash against Waikato, to see who will take on Canterbury in the final in two weeks.
In other results, Canterbury thrashed Otago 72-24 and Hawke's Bay beat Taranaki 35-19.