Waikato have secured a semi-final clash with old foes Auckland after embarrassing Canterbury at Waikato Stadium on Friday night.
The home side kept Canterbury tryless in a 26-6 victory that secured a semi-final berth.
Waikato were however unable to score a fourth try to pick up a home semifinal and will now travel to Auckland on Friday to chase a finals berth.
The last time Canterbury failed to score a try was 12 months ago when they lost the Ranfurly Shield to Southland.
‘‘I thought the effort out there was outstanding,’’ said elated Waikato coach Chris Gibbes after the match.
‘‘We knew all week that we were going to have to be pretty good, because they’re a good side.
‘‘When you play Canterbury you’ve got to dominate up front, really work hard up front, because they don’t give you anything for free. But we stood up and kept on top of it and finally came out on top.’’
It certainly was a powerful forward effort that saw Waikato dominate the scrums, getting one tighthead and twice screwing the Canterbury scrum to win the put-in, as well as take the visitors head on in the area they are so good at the breakdowns.
Behind that and an outstanding defensive effort that kept the Cantabs to just two first-half penalty goals from Colin Slade, young first-five Trent Renata stepped into Stephen Donald’s boots impressively, directing play astutely, running when he had to and kicking six out of seven for a 16-point haul.
‘‘That was a pretty special performance tonight from a young man, when everyone’s been talking about [Donald] and rightly so.
‘‘He’s quietly gone about his work and prepared really well this week and I think he’s shown tonight what he can do,’’ Gibbes said.
There were early signs of Waikato dominance when the home team soaked up the Canterbury ball-in-hand attack and came back to put tremendous pressure on the visitors’ line to establish a 16-6 half-time lead.
Renata made sure of his three penalty opportunities and No8 Alex Bradley capped a combative first 40 minutes with an impressive try, diving over the top of a ruck on the line after halfback Malcolm Barnes had been held up short.
It was a bruising opening stanza with a lot of big defence from both sides and a couple of front row flareups from scrums.
The home side sealed the deal 15 minutes into the second spell when, on the top of constant pressure on the Canterbury line, replacement halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow threw a extravagant no-look pass a massive distance to put fullback Sosene Anesi in for a try, which Renata converted then added a penalty goal for good measure.