It was a game dominated by some stunning defence as both sides pulled off some outstanding tackles to save tries.
Waikato looked to have the game sewn up as they attempted to tie the ball up to deny Canterbury in the final stages.
However, a penalty conceded out from the Waikato line saw Canterbury halfback Kendra Cocksedge take a tap to move the ball wide. Second five-eighths Grace Brooker took the ball to the line and then the big forwards did their work and after another strong run by left-wing Martha Lolohea, it was lock Cindy Nelles who finally broke Waikato's defence, and hearts, when using her power to get over the line.
Both sides conceded more penalties than they would have wanted but that didn't lessen the intensity of the contest that made for a memorable final.
Canterbury felt the full measure of Waikato's efforts during the first half when tries went begging, largely as the result of timely tackles.
Wing Sam Curtis had the line open but she wasn't able to gather it in after strong runs by props Amy Rule and Philippa Love took the ball to the line. However, Waikato were awarded the scrum and cleared the line.
But Canterbury went back onto attack and it took a desperate tackle from wing Stacey Fluhler denied second Brooker a try, and moments later she missed out again when losing the ball over the line.
Then flanker Alannah Bremner broke back inside on the end of the backline then threw a pass back outside where Curtis attempted to ground the ball on the line in the tackle only for Waikato to clear the ball.
Points finally came for Canterbury in the 30th minute when they opted to take a shot at goal from a penalty and Cocksedge converted the chance to take her points to the season to 78.
Waikato had few opportunities to create action in the Canterbury half and were not helped when two penalty goal chances to Waikato captain and second five-eighths Chelsea Alley failed to find their mark.
However, halfway through the second half, Waikato got their chance for an extended spell on attack. Canterbury were put under the pump and conceded more penalties than they would have been comfortable with.
That brought its reward when instead of kicking for goal from a five-metre penalty, Waikato decided to tap and run and finally, in the 64th minute it was No8 Kennedy Simon who forced her way over to score the try which was converted by Alley.
Scorers: Canterbury 8 (Cindy Nelles try; Kendra Cocksedge pen) Waikato 7 (Kennedy Simon try; Chelsea Alley con). HT: 3-0