Farah Palmer Cup: Champions Waikato, Canterbury continue unbeaten start to premiership campaigns

Defending champions Waikato and Canterbury have extended their winning starts to the Farah Palmer Cup competition, with the former inflicting a first loss on neighbours Bay of Plenty in the process.

The Volcanix took an early lead through winger Olive Watherson, but by halftime, Waikato had a 10-5 lead, through tries by fullback Renee Holmes and prop Tanya Kalounivale. Captain Kennedy Simon extended the margin midway through the second half, before replacement Myracle Monga brought the Bay within a converted inside the dying moments.

Waikato held on for a 17-10 win that keeps them running neck-and-neck with Canterbury, with a grand final rematch looming next Saturday.

Earlier, four-time champions Canterbury - upset in last year's final - barely kept their winning streak alive, rallying from 21-10 down at halftime to prevail 36-31.

Counties dominated the opening 40 minutes and opened the scoring with a penalty try, after winger Ruby Tui chipped behind the tryline and Canterbury lock Stacey Niao knocked the ball dead, also drawing a yellow card to the indiscretion.

The southerners closed within four points with the break in sight, but Tui provided some breathing room for Counties, catching a crossfield kick from fullback Hazel Tubic to score.

Canterbury snatched the lead after the restart, with quick tries to flanker Lucy Jenkins and winger Grace Steinmetz, Counties grabbed it back with a try from replacement Langi Veainu, but winger Martha Mataele and first-five Rosie Kelly responded to put the red-and-blacks clear for good.

Canterbury 36 (Du Plessis, Jenkins, Steinmetz, Mataele, Kelly tries; Cocksedge 3 conversions & penalty, Kelly conversion) Counties Manukau 31 (Tubic, Tui, Veainu tries, penalty try; Tubic 3 conversions & penalty)

Auckland 32 (Demant 2, Bowen, Hufanga, Vaha'akolo, Curtis tries; Demant conversion) Manawatū 5 (Vaughan try)

Waikato 17 (Holmes, Kalounivale & Simon tries; Holmes conversion) Bay of Plenty 10 (Watherston & Monga tries)