Determined not to be the poor cousins of the football - rugby and league - codes in New Zealand, the NZRL is heartened by the growing support in secondary schools nationwide.
While schools one might expect to dominate do so - Otahuhu College, St Paul's College, Aorere College and Tokoroa High were the top four at last year's national tournament - others, including MAGS, who finished fifth, Mt Roskill Grammar and Rangitoto College all featured at the tournament.
By attracting such schools to their sport, the national body feels it is making progress in breaking down a traditional anti-league feeling.
St Paul's has long been the code's dominant school. The central Auckland school has teams in all three finals of the Auckland SS championships at Mt Smart this afternoon.
The NZRL hopes this added interest will lead to more schools at this year's national tournament, which will again be played at Bruce Pulman Park, Papakura, from September 3-7.
Early-bird entries close on Friday.
With early indications that 20 to 24 schools could take part, as against 16 last year, A and B grades are planned.
The hard work put into the success of last year's tournament was recognised by the NZ Secondary Schools Sports Council's innovation award.
Sky Television will again cover the tournament.
Since last week's story on North Harbour schools' limited participation in league, a five-week North Harbour competition has been confirmed. It will run from August 22 to September 29 with about 25 teams. One game is likely to be televised each week.
AGGS and King's met for the first time on a netball court, attracting plenty of support and an electric atmosphere.
King's high-jumping goalkeep forced the experienced attacking line of favourites AGGS to change tactics.
The AGGS combinations were also tested in defence but in the end it was a one-sided affair, AGGS winning 51-16.
AGGS, with leaders MAGS, McAuley, Baradene and EGGS remain unbeaten after three premier rounds.
It was far from a great spectacle but superb goalkicking from first-five Renata Roberts-Tenana got Auckland Grammar home 18-16 over Kelston BHS in Saturday's feature 1A clash.
Roberts-Tenana landed six penalties to ensure AGS held their unbeaten run and stayed a point clear of St Kentigern at the top of the table.
Despite being far from their best, the visitors still did enough to claim the points and, for the first time since 1990, the coveted Moascar Cup from the world champions.
This match again highlighted the close nature of these games between these two schools. The overall tally between them still favours AGS 24-18 with five draws. For Kelston it was the end of their sixth tenure with the Moascar Cup (the third most by a school behind Palmerston North BHS (9) and Te Aute College (8) in going as far back as the 1920s.
MAGS kept themselves in play-off contention with a solid home 33-18 bonus-point win over St Peter's.
St Peter's battled back from a 19-6 halftime deficit but there would be no denying MAGS their fifth win of the season as they look ahead to the trip to AGS for the first game back and with the Moascar Cup now at stake.
It will also be Sky Television's game of the week.
King's grabbed a much-needed win over neighbours Otahuhu College, clearing out to a 26-0 halftime lead before going on to win 31-0.
Although King's gained a wealth of possession in the second half, the Otahuhu defence was more secure and King's added only one more try when captain Sinclair Dominkovich-Murray dived spectacularly in the corner. This was a much-needed confidence booster and helped King's move away from the bottom of the table.
Now into the business end of the season, Takapuna Grammar were keen to beat the well-structured Rosmini team before a home crowd.
They quickly found it was no easy task as Rosmini's bigger forward pack initiated their game plan of attacking around the ruck's fringes, resulting in an early try to tight-head prop Conor O'Leary and ending with a 39-10 win.
It was evident Rosmini had the advantage in the forwards and continued to kick for field position and use their forwards to give the backs a structured platform to attack from.
As the first half continued, so did Takapuna's realisation that if they spread the ball wide they could make ground and challenge the visitors.
The Rosmini defence held strong though and after regaining field position wingers Daniel Smyth and Daniel Lee capitalised on overlaps near the line to end the half on a high.
In the second half TGS fought back keen to cut into Rosmini's 17-point lead. Captain Cameron McLachlan led from the front in making countless breaks and strong runs in the midfield. Despite their best endeavours, Rosmini fullback Ben Hyatt-Brown scored the first points of the second with a controversially-grounded try.
McLachlan continued to take the ball to the line and with Rosmini conceding a series of penalties in their own 22, loose head prop Metua Tauirarii scored in the corner to get Takapuna's first points.
The lead was cut further with flanker Donald Coleman coming off the bench to score.
But it was not to be for the hosts and Rosmini quickly added three more tries after strong forward play from lock Harry O'Reilly and aggressive ball-running from the Rosmini front row which allowed Smyth to complete his hat-trick. First-five Daniel Hilton-Jones added another to round-out Rosmini's 39-10 victory.
In other 1A fixtures Westlake overwhelmed Mahurangi 103-3 and Massey thumped Rangitoto 47-3. In 1B action Long Bay struggled to edge relegated Northcote 17-13, Orewa comfortably beat the other relegated school Glenfield 37-5 and Westlake 2nd XV eventually beat Birkenhead 25-17.
In the 1C competition, Rosmini 2nd XV comfortably beat Kristin 34-3 and the Massey 2nd XV beat WBHS 3rd XV 24-5. - Danny Drake.
Hamilton Boys High School continued their strong form in this year's Super 8 competition with a 58-5 win away to Rotorua Boys High School.
As that scoreline would suggest, Hamilton dominated most aspects of play, outscoring their opponents eight tries to one. Right wing Isaac Te Tamaki scored three of Hamilton's tries while fullback Te Raina Richards-Coxhead produced another polished display, often in to the backline on attack as well as kicking four conversions and two penalties.
On the local scene, St John's College look likely to be a strong contender for Division One honours next term.
They thrashed Tokoroa High 69-0, scoring nine tries. The big home side pack controlled most facets of the game. Prop Mark Tyrell was their standout, particularly when running with the ball in hand, while first-five Joe Tourelle was another key figure in distributing the ball well and contributing 24 points with his goalkicking.
MAGS upset Kelston's 50th jubilee game with a much-needed 3-1 win in a game in which all the scoring came after the break. There were half chances in the first spell but neither side capitalised on their opportunities
But MAGS did not waste time after the resumption, taking the lead when Cory Adams crossed from the right and Jonathan Quinn headed home.
The visitors doubled their lead in the 64th minute when Fox Slotemaker hit a class through ball for Nayuta Nagai. The Japanese striker outran the Kelston defence to coolly slot the ball into the home team's goal.
The game looked over but as they had done a week earlier at WBHS, the MAGS defenders allowed the opposition back into the game. In the 68th minute, Ollie Rankin took advantage of the slow reaction by the MAGS defence which gave up a penalty with a clumsy tackle. Tom Van Leewen made no mistake from the spot to close the gap.
After Slotemaker was just over the top with a header from a 73rd minute corner, there was more drama when the referee's assistant awarded a penalty kick for a handball by MAGS captain Jonathan Quinn. It appeared a harsh decision in a goalmouth melee from a Kelston corner.
Van Leewen took the penalty, which Cameron Hogg saved. Then more drama. A retake was ordered but Van Leewen this time blew the opportunity by blasting the retake wide.
In the dying minutes Quinn broke down the left and his cross found Cory Adams just outside the Kelston penalty area. Adams collected the cross and played a wall pass with fellow striker Connor Stoton who was inside the Kelston penalty area. Adams gathered the return and blasted it home with only stoppage time to play.
MAGS coach Kevin Fallon said: "It was great to get back into winning ways. We made hard work of it and didn't help ourselves with some poor defending."
Michael Caine, the Kelston coach, said: "We came back well and blew a golden opportunity to equalise with that missed penalty. Let's face it, you have to take your chances when they come and today we didn't."
Led by Dean Shu who won 11 of his 12 singles in his first year at the school, AGS won the seven-round Auckland SS winter championship.
With solid support from Xu Ning, Bill Xie and Chao Guan, Shu led the team to six wins in seven matches. They edged the Macleans B team, who also had six wins, on points.
AGS will now represent Auckland at this year's New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships being held at the Auckland Table Tennis Stadium from September 3-5.
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