Many of New Zealand's most elusive rugby players honed their hot-stepping craft playing touch. At the weekend touch enthusiasts had the opportunity to see the next generation of speedsters in Rotorua.
Kiwi kids love touch rugby and at the weekend Rotorua International Stadium hosted some of the best at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Touch Championships.
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Local Bay of Plenty teams Rotorua Boy's High School and Tauranga Boys' College both made the top three in the always competitive boys' division, both losing out to eventual winners Hamilton Boys' High School.
Rotorua Boys' cruised through pool play before meeting Manukura in the semifinal and producing a comfortable 6-1 win. In the final they went up against Hamilton Boys' but had to settle for the silver medal, going down 8-3.
Rotorua Boys' coach Maurice Stone said it was "a pretty good tournament" considering the team is in a rebuilding phase.
"We had a lot of young boys come in at the last minute. We had a few senior boys that left at the end of last term who I thought would've been in the team. We were a bit underdone going into the tournament but grew that period and I thought the young boys came through really well.
"We were really happy to make the finals, to win would've been a bonus. The experience they gained from the tournament will hold us in good stead for the next couple of years - there's nothing like game experience."
Stone, who won the Secondary School Service to Sport Award at the Bay of Plenty Sports Awards recently, said his side missed a few opportunities in the final which came back to bite them.
"It was just the way the game panned out and we didn't get a lot of calls go our way. The nature of the game, being 15 minutes each way, if you don't start well it's quite hard to climb back into the game.
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"Hamilton are always classy, they come every year and they're well coached, they have really fit players with great skills and teamwork. They brought everything we expected from them - we still felt we could match them but we missed a number of opportunities in the first half. We were down 5-1 at halftime but we still felt we were in it, we just didn't have the points on the board."
He said his co-captains Jordan Tuakana-Hudson and Mitchell Clarke, along with Tome Poona, Gregan Maui and Austin Anderson, were the stand out players.
"They were our five middles and Mitchell brought a different sort of style to the game, it was more his leadership and the control he had out on the field. It probably wasn't as startling as if you're looking at the flashier players, he didn't stand out in that sense, but his contribution in terms of leadership was crucial."
Tauranga Boys' finished with the bronze medal which team manager Regan Ward said was the best result the school had ever achieved at the tournament.
They marched to the semifinal where they were beaten 12-5 by Hamilton Boys' before narrowly beating Manukura 9-8 in the play-off for third.
"They played very well, it's the best performance I've seen a TBC team put together at a tournament," Ward said.
"We're really happy. On the field they just played through the middle and linked really strongly, they have a good understanding of the game."
He said the team included five Year 10 players, coming through the school's junior system, for whom the experience of nationals was invaluable.
"The junior boys are strong through rugby and other sports as well so it's just a matter of us managing their time at school and where they can commit - they're really good athletes.
"Hamilton are very good, ruthless in their attack, but we don't get too many opportunities to play against Hamilton Boys' so it definitely helped four us to play that game and go into the third and fourth playoff."
The playoff was all tied up at 8-all at fulltime and went to a drop off, where one player from each team leaves the field every minute until a winning try is scored, it was down to three v three before Tauranga scored the winner.
Rotorua's Gregan Maui, Jordan Tuakana-Hudson and Tome Poona were named in the Boys' Tournament Team alongside Tauranga's Campbell Lucas and Chad-Isaiah Roberts.
There were also Bay of Plenty schools in action in the girls' and mixed grades.
Taupō-nui-a-Tia College and Trident High School finished fourth and fifth respectively in the mixed while Te Wharekura o Mauao were 20th. Trident's Dallas Teepa and Taupō's Te Matauranga Tu Akuhata were named in the Mixed Tournament Team.
In the girls' division, Rotorua Girls' High School finished 10th, Trident High School were 18th and Tauranga Girls' College 22nd. Rotorua's Te Aomihi Paul was named in the Girls' Tournament Team.
Bay of Plenty results at New Zealand Secondary School Touch Championship
2nd Rotorua Boys' High School, 3rd Tauranga Boys' College.
10th Rotorua Girls' High School, 18th Trident High School, 22nd Tauranga Girls' College.
4th Taupō-nui-a-Tia, 5th Trident High School, 20th Te Wharekura o Mauao.