Poverty Bay have won the 2017 Air New Zealand Rippa Rugby Championship, defeating North Harbour 25-20 at the national tournament in Wellington this afternoon.
North Harbour, represented by Campbells Bay School, and Poverty Bay, from Te Wharau School in Gisborne, entertained the crowd with a skillful and high-scoring game.
A three-try flurry midway through the first half, and two early tries in the second half, proved the difference for Te Wharau School, securing Poverty Bay’s first Rippa Rugby Championship title.
Poverty Bay Captain, Dante Hihi, said his team had thoroughly enjoyed the tournament and winning the final was the perfect way to end their trip.
“We’ve trained every Friday after school to play in Wellington and it was just an awesome tournament.
“It’s been a great time coming down with my friends and also making new ones with the other schools here,” he said.
Earlier, in the bronze final, Auckland (Holy Cross School Papatoetoe) beat Counties Manukau (Roscommon School) 45-20 to take third place.
Small Blacks Ambassadors, All Black Keven Mealamu and Black Fern Kendra Cocksedge, attended the tournament to support the teams.
Mealamu, whose former school Tokoroa North School (representing Waikato) competed in the tournament, said the highlight of the tournament was seeing the teams work together and enjoy themselves.
“The best thing about the two days was seeing our kids having fun and learning to play alongside each other. During the tournament you saw lots of smiles and laughing and it was awesome to see.”
Cocksedge, who has recently returned from the victorious Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland, was delighted to attend the tournament and bring the trophy with her.
“The teams loved getting selfies with the trophy and I met so many young people who just love playing sport,” she said.
“All of the teams had such high skill levels and it was great to see boys and girls given the opportunity to play rugby together.”
Te Mata School (Hawke’s Bay) and Holy Cross School Papatoetoe (Auckland) were presented with team APPLAUD Awards for demonstrating outstanding team spirit.
APPLAUD is a New Zealand Rugby initiative encouraging participants and supporters to be good sports and to stamp out anti-social side-line behaviour.
Brent Anderson, New Zealand Rugby General Manager Community and Provincial Rugby, praised the Championship for its ability to bring communities together and provide young children with positive sporting experiences.
“It’s a fantastic tournament for the kids and one which we hope reminds them of the enjoyment sport provides. “It’s the seventh year of the tournament and each year we are reminded of why we love sport. Kids from all over New Zealand have represented their provinces and schools with pride, made new friends and had a good time.”
The tournament took place with the support of Air New Zealand, New Zealand Community Trust and New Zealand Rugby’s Principal Partner, adidas