allblacks.com 17.Sep.2012Getty Images
Counties Manukau, Manawatu and Canterbury shine on day one of Rippa Championship - 17-18 September, Wakefield Park, Wellington
In Pool A, Holy Cross Catholic School Papatoetoe, representing Auckland overcame Poverty Bay, Hawke's Bay and Otago and drew their final match against Waikato, while Manawatu (Riverdale School) - and Southland (Limehills School) tussled for the top in Pool B; with Manawatu narrowly coming out with pool-play honours.
In Pool C, Canterbury (Paparoa Schoo) topped the table and Counties Manukau set Pool D alight with wins over North Otago, Northland, Tasman and Buller.
A total of 200 kids from 20 schools from around the country are in Wellington for the second annual tournament.
NZRU General Manager Community and Provincial Union Rugby Brent Anderson said the first day of tournament provided some compelling match-ups and featured some incredible talent.
"The range of skills on display in Wellington provides me with great confidence that Rippa Rugby provides a perfect pathway for both boys and girls into Sevens and Fifteens. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the children who played today representing New Zealand at the 2020 Olympics.
"With 78,500 kids registered to play in 2012 - 14 per cent more than in 2011, the popularity of Rippa Rugby is going from strength to strength."
Christine Patea, coach of Roscommon School and whose son plays for Holy Cross, representing Auckland said the whole experience has been great for the South Auckland side.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students, some of whom hadn't been on a plane before or even played much rugby. On the field, ensuring all were involved and not relying on the star players made the difference - it's all about the team."
Four teams returning from Rippa World Cup 2011 have qualified for The Rippa Rugby Championship 2012 (Arrowtown (Otago), Roscommon (Counties Manukau), Riverdale (Manawatu) and Richmond (Tasman).
Hundreds of supporters with faces painted and waving homemade flags and banners were at Wakefield Park to cheer on their teams. Many have travelled from as far afield as Northland and Arrowtown.
Finals play kicks off tomorrow at 9.00am with the first of the quarterfinals to be played at 9.40am and the Final kicking off at 1.00pm.
Canterbury v Tasman
Manawatu v Poverty Bay
Counties Manukau v North Harbour
Auckland v Southland