The sheer joy that primary school boys and girls get from playing Rippa Rugby was clearly evident at the Bay of Plenty finals at Paengaroa on Wednesday.
Almost 1500 children from 76 schools, in two grades of Year 3-4 and Year 5-6, were involved in three Bay of Plenty regional tournaments over the past three weeks.
The top 12 teams in each grade made it through to Wednesday's showdown with Kawerau South Primary School winning both the Year 3-4 and Year 5-6 finals.
In the Year 3-4 final the Eastern Bay champions defeated Western Bay qualifier Omanu School 5-4 and then made it a double delight for the school when they defeated Western Bay's Papamoa Primary School 6-4 in the Year 5-6 final.
Kawerau South's Year 5-6 team will represent Bay of Plenty at the national Air New Zealand Rippa Rugby Championship in Wellington from August 22-23. Last year Te Akau Ki Papamoa finished third at the tournament.
Western Bay of Plenty junior rugby development officer Brett Johnson said the Rippa Rugby season had been a tremendous success.
"We had 640 students in the Western Bay and about 400 each in Eastern and Central Bay play off and the top 12 teams in each division made it here so we had 240 kids involved," he said.
"This tournament wouldn't be possible without the assistance from Sport Bay of Plenty, and the many number of primary schools across the region who have been involved in not just today but the three qualifying tournaments.
"The Rippa standard has been outstanding, the kids have shown a lot of sportsmanship, there has been some great rugby and that is all because of the good coaching and hard work the parents and kids have put in.
"Most of the comments were so great about the good standard of refereeing for one and how the teams have played. I think it has been a very successful day."
Johnson said Rippa Rugby continued to grow every year in the primary schools.
"The fact everyone is into Rippa Rugby as kids is keeping them active and gets them trying their skills at the game of rugby. It has been amazing to see all the girls getting into the sport. That is a massive growth area and a pathway through to sevens and rugby for the girls.
"The overwhelming feedback we are getting from the sports co-ordinators is that the kids really enjoy it."
Papamoa Primary School's Year 5-6 coach Tiepa Tahana said Rippa Rugby was the ideal sport to get girls and boys competing together.
"It takes away the contact so you have children who won't be as intimidated or scared when it comes to a contact sport. For both boys and girls to be involved in a Rippa where there isn't that contact gives them a chance to showcase their skills."