Rotorua kapa haka group Raukura bought the audience to tears with their waiata-a-ringa (action song) and apakura (lament) dedicated to late Te Arawa leader Mauriora Kingi.

It was these songs along with the group's other performance items that won them first place at the National Secondary Schools Kapa Haka Competition.

Rotorua Girls' High School kapa haka teacher in charge Wai Morrison said through tears of happiness that the whole group was overwhelmed by the news and too speechless to talk.

Raukura, made up of 49 students from Rotorua Boys' and Rotorua Girls' High Schools, was the only Rotorua group to make it through to today's finals.

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Mr Kingi's youngest son Tawharau Mohi opened yesterday's performance with a short speech about how his father's death was still fresh for him and that he was still torn up by his passing.

Tutor Jamus Webster said the speech had everyone in tears and set the tone for the rest of the performance.

Today Tawharau stood forward as Mapihi Kahurangi Tini sung an apakura (lament) around him.

"Today's performance was about us showing our support for Tawharau, showing that we are here for him. For us, the performance isn't an act, the emotions are real, it's all real."

Mr Webster said the students felt good about today's performance, knowing it was a step up from yesterday.

"They were a lot more comfortable on stage, they were relaxed because they had experienced what it was like to perform to the crowd and knew what areas they needed to work on."

Other finalists were Nga Taiatea Wharekura, Te Wharekura o Raakaumangamanga, Nga Puna o Waiorea Te Manawatahi, Te Maurea Whiritoi, Te Kura Maori o Nga Tapuwae, Whakatane High School and Te Piringa

The competition began on Monday with 39 groups from around the country competing in three pools.