Te Wharekura o Mauao and Tauranga Girls' College are the 2016 Bethlehem Coachlines Secondary School champions after winning their finals at Blake Park on Saturday.

Tauranga Girls' defeated Rotorua Girls College 29-5 to win the girls' division while Bethlehem's Te Wharekura o Mauao held on grimly in a frantic finale to beat Rotorua's Western Heights 19-18 to take out the boys' division one title.

When Te Wharekura o Mauao captain and hooker Bailey Matoe crossed for his second try within 10 minutes for a 14-0 lead it looked like Tauranga's first full-immersion Maori secondary school might have it all their own way.

But Western Heights have been the team to beat all season for good reason and they stormed back into contention.

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Te Wharekura o Mauao reign supreme at the Baywide secondary schools final against Western Heights First XVs at Blake Park. Photo/George Novak
Te Wharekura o Mauao reign supreme at the Baywide secondary schools final against Western Heights First XVs at Blake Park. Photo/George Novak

Liam Preston kicked a penalty but despite spending five minutes of injury time attacking the line, Western Heights couldn't penetrate the staunch Te Wharekura o Mauao defence and went to the break trailing 14-3.

Te Wharekura o Mauao lost influential rep players in first-five Tatai Proctor and centre Te Aparua Tata at halftime through injury which had a major effect on the second half performance.

Flanker Taituha Waller scored early in the half after another strong break from second-five Kiripa Clark to put Te Wharekura o Mauao up 19-3 but the game then turned Western Heights way.

The second half just showed how big our hearts were. Some of the younger fellahs had to step up and they did to bring the game home.

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Outstanding fullback Brodie Wood ran 60 metres to score and when Preston dived over a minute later it was 19-18 and the tension throughout the good sized crowd was palpable.
To their credit Te Wharekura o Mauao took control over the final minutes to hold on and record the biggest sporting crown for the school that opened in 2012.

"We set out with a particular game plan we have been playing all year and nothing much went wrong for us in the first half," Te Wharekura o Mauao coach Heywood Kuka said.

"The second half just showed how big our hearts were. Some of the younger fellahs had to step up and they did to bring the game home.

"This is five years in the making. It is important for our school. We are a Maori-medium school with 180 students but it shows when you put a lot of belief into our young Maori boys they can produce anything really.

"I am so proud of them."

Tauranga Girls' College scored five tries with Rose Togatogarua and Piatarihingamare Devon nabbing two each and Jade Tuilaepa one.

Coach Jeff Robb says he knew we had the potential to win the Bay competition.

"This is our second year pretty much together with a few sevens players who committed to fifteens and it strengthened up our team.

"Next week we go to play Hamilton Girls' for the Top Four qualifier and we have a good shot at that. We played them previously this year and we beat them 36-34."

Te Wharekura o Mauao will play the top Counties Manukau side next weekend for a chance to contest the Top Four co-ed schools title.