A committed, well- structured and disciplined Bethlehem School side took out the Year 3 and 4 Kiwi Tag final at the picturesque Mitchell Park yesterday afternoon.
The side, which has lost just once during the seven- week interschool competition held each Monday, conceded the first try of the final before rolling through Otumoetai Primary School with a comprehensive team performance.
Bethlehem coach Neville Stuart said the win was testament to the hard work put in by players to learn individual positions and efficient attacking and defensive systems.
"We had one loss this year, one loss last year in the finals and we won it the year before that, so we've been fairly consistent," Stuart said.
"The boys have done heaps, dug in deep and gone hard."
He said about 50 of the school's pupils play the game, which has much to recommend it over its derivative, Rippa Rugby.
"I coach rugby as well for a club, but I guess Kiwi Tag seems to be the in-thing at school at the moment, though most of the boys play rugby as well. It's been really good. The refs get a hard time from everybody when the adrenalin gets going, but it's been really well-run and organised."
The coach singled out flying winger Alex Searle and kick-off king Sean McDonagh as pivotal players in his side's success.
Bunny Nicholas, who began the game in the Bay alongside current rugby league development officer for Sport Bay of Plenty's Coach Force Len Reid 13 years ago, said the game was a valuable recruiting tool for rugby league and praised local primary schools for their support. "It's great that the school's administration get involved. Without their help we would struggle to get teams in and organise," Nicholas said. "I just communicate with them and they come here and know which field they have to be on. They're just so organised because they have teachers running it."
He said thought had been given to holding a final between the winners of the Mitchell and Waipuna Park competitions, but it will not be possible this year due to the compressed nature of the competition.