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Canterbury's Ngane Punivai in action against Bay of Plenty. Credits: Image - Photosport, video - Sky Sport

Canterbury continued to gather momentum in their Mitre 10 Cup rugby campaign, with a hard-fought 31-19 road win over Bay of Plenty in Tauranga.

The defending premiership champions looked a little off the pace in an opening-round loss to Tasman, but wins over Wellington and now the Steamers show they're building as the season progresses.

Championship contenders Bay of Plenty came into the encounter unbeaten, with two wins over higher-ranked teams under the belts, and threatened to add a third, as they twice led.

Canterbury opened the stronger and were rewarded with a try to Josh McKay in the seventh minute, converted by Brett Cameron, for an early 7-0 advantage.

But the home side showed plenty of enterprise and gradually swung momentum back their way, with winger Chase Tiatia grabbing a well-deserved try, converted by Mike Delany, to draw even.

They took their first lead, when lock Tyler Ardron plunged over, but that stung Canterbury into response, with prop Daniel Lienert-Brown scoring by the posts for a 14-12 half-time margin.

The visitors had a chance to add to their advantage with a five-metre scrum just before the break, but the Bay forwards steamrolled their opponents off the ball.

When they scored first after the restart - a well-taken try to second-five Terrence Hepetema - the Steamers were 19-14 ahead and seemed to have wrested the initiative.

In reality, that was the last time they were in contention.

Canterbury retook the lead with McKay's second try from Cameron's long overlap pass and moments later, with their forwards now rampant, referee Michael Winter awarded a penalty try, after Bay of Plenty brought down a five-metre scrum.

Now up 28-19, Cameron sealed the result with a penalty and Canterbury held on for victory.

"They're a quality side, so we're really pleased to come up and take the points," said Canterbury captain Mitch Drummond.

"In the end, our big boys fronted up and we got across the line."

Key to the performance was former All Blacks lock Luke Romano, who was named man of the match.

"He's been awesome for us all year," said Drummond. "It's good to have him as part of our environment."    

Canterbury next host Manawatu on Thursday, while Bay of Plenty visit Hawke's Bay next Saturday.

Canterbury 31 (Josh McKay 2 & Daniel Lienert-Brown tries; one penalty try; Brett Cameron three conversions & penalty) Bay of Plenty 19 (Chase Tiatia, Tyler Ardron & Terence Hepetema tries; Mike Delany two conversions)

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