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Air NZ Rippa Championship 2018

Manawatu have won the 2018 Air New Zealand Rippa Rugby Championship in a high-scoring gold medal match against Bay of Plenty in Wellington.

Manawatu, represented by College Street Normal School, and Bay of Plenty (Te Akau ki Papamoa school), traded tries for much of the final in a highly entertaining match.

Manawatu scored twice early in the second half and never looked back, running out 45-35 winners to secure College Street Normal School’s maiden Rippa Rugby Championship title.

Manawatu co-captain, Jamie Viljoen, said this was the school’s first Rippa Rugby Championship win in four attempts.

“I feel proud, happy and excited. Thank you to our supporters, our team and our coach. It’s our first time winning in four years so it’s really cool.”

In the bronze final, Waikato (Nawton School) defeated North Harbour (Red Beach School) 25-15 in another skilful and enjoyable match.

Wellington-based Black Ferns Monica Tagoai, Marcelle Parkes Jackie Patea-Fereti, Joanah Ngan Woo and Women’s Rugby World Cup winners Kendra Cocksedge and Les Elder attended the tournament to support the teams.

Ngan Woo said she was excited to attend the tournament and watch the next generation of rugby players.

“Today was awesome and some great skills on display out there. The kids are so young and they can do everything that you’d expect older players to do.”

Ngan Woo and her Black Ferns team mates took part in Assistant Referee duties throughout the tournament and the Wellington Pride player admitted to having a soft spot for Manawatu heading into the gold medal match.

“I’ve been assistant refereeing their games and I saw the skills and knew they were going to take it out.”

On Monday evening the 20 teams were surprised with a visit from 13 All Blacks, who are in the capital for their match against South Africa at Westpac Stadium.

The All Blacks served dinner to the 200 Rippa Rugby players and spent time taking photos and answering the players’ questions.

Otago, represented by Arrowtown in their eighth-straight Rippa Rugby Championship appearance, was presented with the team APPLAUD Award for demonstrating outstanding team spirit.

APPLAUD is a New Zealand Rugby initiative which encourages participants and supporters to keep it sweet on the sideline and be good sports.

New Zealand Rugby Head of Participation and Development Steve Lancaster congratulated all of the teams for competing in the Rippa Rugby Championship.