Waikato have exacted their revenge.
A year ago, they were pipped for the Farah Palmer Cup title by Canterbury in the dying stages of the final. Now, they're the competition champions.
Waikato dethroned Canterbury, who had won the last four titles, with a 22-20 win in Christchurch after a rather tumultuous week, in which Covid-19 alert level changes in the Waikato forced several changes to their preparation.
The visitors got off to a horrible start as well, as an early error welcomed Canterbury deep into their own territory, and lock Lucy Jenkins scored the opening try with a strong run just moments later.
With a howling wind at their backs in the first half, Canterbury looked to play for territory and kick deep when they had the opportunity. While they were having lineout struggles, Canterbury had the vast majority of possession and in the right half of the field to put pressure on Waikato.
Aside from the opening slip-up, Waikato put up a stoic defensive front and despite being constantly tested, only conceded a further two penalty goals in the half.
While running into the wind, Waikato had their work cut out for them just to make ground, as kicking for distance was not a great option in most situations. Kelsey Teneti was a big factor in Waikato finding brief periods of relief from the pressure, with the dynamic centre breaking the line with strong carries to get her side on the front foot.
Waikato could only manage a penalty in the first half, but they were able to hold Canterbury to just one try – a great result given the strength of the wind.
As was the case in the first half, the second was played mostly at one end of the field; this time it was Waikato putting the pressure on Canterbury.
Drawing penalties, Waikato were able to attack the Canterbury line at will and, while they might have been wondering what they needed to do to force the referee to pull a card out, eventually cracked the line through prop Awhina Tangen-Wainohu.
After a further 10 minutes that saw almost a repeat set of phases and plenty of Waikato advantages, Canterbury finally lost a player to the sin bin for repeated infringements, with Jenkins yellow carded, and Waikato scored from the ensuing lineout drive through hooker Merania Paraone.
Just as they were about to be resorted to 15 players, Canterbury had Stacey Niao sent to the sin bin after another period where they were heavily penalised under significant pressure on their own line, and Waikato scored again – this time through No 8 Victoria Edmonds, with the conversion putting them ahead by nine.
Canterbury had a chance late to close the gap, which was helped when Teneti was sin binned after three Waikato penalties in quick succession. The hosts did get over through Steph Te-Ohaere-Fox at the death, but the whistle was blown after Isabella Waterman's successful conversion, and Waikato claimed a two-point win.
Waikato 22 (Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, Merania Paraone, Victoria Edmonds tries; Tenika Willison 2 cons, Kennedy Tahau pen)
Canterbury 20 (Lucy Jenkins, Steph Te-Ohaere-Fox tries; Isabella Waterman 2 cons, 2 pens)