A team of year 5 and 6 students were left in tears after scorekeeping errors at a regional rippas rugby tournament led them to believe they'd won and qualified for the national championships.
Their teacher says the youngsters have been treated with contempt and deserve an explanation from Wanganui Rugby bosses.
The local union has acknowledged its role in the "unfortunate situation", which it says has been difficult for the children and their school.
St Joseph's School in Taihape was competing in the Whanganui Rippa Championship in June along with six other local schools.
Teacher Ben Milward said the school's team the Juggernaughts was led to believe they had won the tournament, thereby earning qualification to the national championships that started this week in Wellington.
After each of their five games the team asked the referee the result, and by the end of the day they believed they had won four games and drawn one, Milward said.
"We all thought we'd won the tournament."
But when it came to the prizegiving, the top team announced was the Raetihi Stalkers, which the Juggernauts had been told they had beaten.
Milward said the referee of the match and other schools confirmed this, but the two scorecards kept for the match showed two different results. One said the Stalkers won 7-4, and another 6-5.
"It was all very confusing, especially for the children," Milward said.
A parent said it was the first year her daughter had played rippa rugby, but had been put off ever playing again.
"She loved it and was so over the moon when they won the Taihape grade. She was really excited when she thought they had done the same again at the regional championships.
"Nearly all of the team was in tears. They were gutted. Now she doesn't want to play again.
"Other parents are saying the same thing. One of the boys was playing Saturday rugby but now they were looking elsewhere from Whanganui."
Communication with Wanganui Rugby Football Union, which ran the tournament, had been "shocking", she said.
"They seem to just be making excuses. Nobody from the union has said anything to the children or given an explanation. They just left the dirty to us.
"We had a team of passionate kids, who worked and trained so hard. They earned that, and had it taken away."
The school laid an official complaint with Wanganui Rugby Football Union, which ran the tournament, which referred the complaint to NZ Rugby's Independent Complaints Management Service.
The independent review found errors and some "inexplicable inconsistencies" on the day of the tournament.
"This was an unfortunate situation where human errors created uncertainty about
the results and the ultimate winner of the tournament," the review said.
Despite this finding, the review upheld the original results.
"When there are official scorecards which conflict with a referee or other person's recollection, in my view, the correct response is to rely on the official scorecards," the review found.
"Any other approach runs the risk that all-comers can challenge results. There has to be a consistent approach, and in my view the correct one is that the scorecards are the final word."
Milward said rugby authorities should have taken the referee's account rather than the scorecards, which were "inconsistent".
He had asked Wanganui Rugby Football Union to talk to the children about the mix up, or write a letter, but the union refused, he said.
"The way the children have been treated through the process has been disgraceful. They have been treated with contempt and deserve an explanation from Wanganui Rugby about why this happened."
Wanganui Rugby Football Union chief executive officer Bridget Belsham said the complaint was reviewed both internally and independently.
"It is acknowledged that there were some issues that arose in relation to the recording of the results but which did not affect the outcome of the tournament.
"As a result, we have identified areas for improvement to ensure that any dispute regarding scores does not happen again in the future."
An independent complaints manager supported the decision that the Raetihi Stalkers remain as winners and qualify ahead of St Joseph's Juggernauts, based on the official scorecards, Belsham said.
"We have acknowledged and explained the process, and steps taken in improving our processes for future tournaments to St Joseph's School and appreciate their disappointment that the request to overturn the original decision was declined.
"This has been a very difficult situation for everyone involved, especially the children from both schools. The children have been at the forefront of our minds during this whole process which is the reason for an internal and independent review."
Wanganui Rugby acknowledged its responsibility and role in "this unfortunate situation" and had corresponded directly with the school.