7th October 2023
The Men’s and Women’s Championship finals for 2023 took place today at West Auckland’s Trusts Arena. The Bay of Plenty Lakers faced off against the Aoraki Eels for a shot at the National Men’s Championship title and promotion to the National Premiership for 2024. The Lakers female counterparts then faced off against the Waikato women in the women’s finals.
National Men’s Championship Final – Bay of Plenty Lakers v Aorangi Eels
Final score: Bay of Plenty Lakers 62-16
The Lakers dominated the men’s match-up after opening scoring with the first two tries in the game from Saxzon Ngaheu and Connor Hohepa. Aoraki replied with a try of their own right under the posts, with Robertson James effectively dummying the defence to put the Eels on the board. Not discouraged, the men from the Bay hit back, with their forward pack charging up the middle of the field and spreading the ball to the right edge for winger Ethan Stuart to score. Although the Aoraki District team struggled to keep the Lakers out, the Eels scored once more before halftime after centre King David Paulo took on 4 defenders to score, bringing it to 28-10 at the half. The second half saw the Bay of Plenty side maintain their scoring momentum, Ethan Stuart scoring a double and Te Mana Te Maari completing a hat-trick. Aoraki’s George Hufanga managed to score once more for the South Islanders just before the full-time whistle, bringing the final score to 62-16. The Bay of Plenty Lakers men claimed the National Championship title and promotion to the Premiership for 2024.
National Women’s Championship Final – Bay of Plenty Lakers v Waikato
Final score: Waikato 22-8
In the subsequent women’s match, the Waikato side came out firing creating an opportunity for winger Katie Corbett to cross for a try on the left edge. In quick succession, her centre Leah-Rhys Toka strong-armed her way through three Bay of Plenty defenders to score another. A third Waikato try by Manirewa Howell put them further in the lead, but the Lakers women successfully put points on the board through Jayleigh Tamati, bringing it to 18-4 halftime. The second half saw a closer contest as strong defensive efforts from the Lakers kept Waikato from scoring until late in the half. The Bay of Plenty women did well to score a second through Kjahn Senior, however Waikato maintained their lead from the first half and scored again, bringing the full-time score to 22-8 in their favour. The Waikato women are now the National Women’s Championship victors and have earned promotion to compete in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership in 2024.