Organisers admitted feeling a smidgen of disappointment during this year's Tux Yarding Challenge in Kaitaia over the weekend, after it was learned two men had come to the grounds late on Friday night apparently with less than honourable intentions.
Fortunately, the two potential rustlers discovered A1 Security on guard protecting the sheep, said event spokesman, Merv Cameron, while their presence also suggested they hadn't had the presence of mind to read the event preview in last week's Age where the news of security was advised.
"A1 parked in the oval with the sheep and the guard was surprised how the sheep congregated around his vehicle all night. Shows sheep are not dumb - they knew the other option was going to someone's freezer," Merv said. "The security required to protect our sheep will no doubt continue in coming years."
Apart from that one incident, Merv Cameron, who spoke on behalf of the hosting club, said this year's challenge went very well with 111 dogs in total competing and quality work coming to the fore.
The trials began on Friday in a cool breeze which meant the sheep were very testing, although they gradually became more settled after lunch as the weather warmed up.
Judge Bob Bruce ensured the early runners got a reasonable start through the first section, including going over the ramp and although this entailed giving some re-runs, the majority delivered a fair attempt at completing the course including the maiden competitors.
The six best runs on Friday were, Leo Jecentho with Cap (from Te Paki) 98 points, Rob Hastie with Dash (Kaiwaka) 96.5, Graeme Northcott (Urenui) 96, L Jecentho with Pet 95, Wallace Hayes with Queen (Te Awamutu) 93.5, and Bernie Gower with Hone (Eltham) 92.5.
The second day, Saturday, had little wind and warmer conditions, allowing the sheep to become much more settled and good work followed. The top five runs came from Barney Strong Sparkle (Turangi) 97 points, Bob Berger with Glide (Putaruru) 96.5, Murray Child with May (Maungakaramea) 96.25, Scott McRae with Skeeta (Wellsford) 96, and M Child with Dice 95.5.
The top five dogs to emerge after the top 11 run-offs were held on Saturday afternoon were Child and Dice 98 points, Jecentho and Cap 97, Jecentho and Pet 94.5, Gower and Hone 92.5, and Strong and Sparkle 91.5.
The top two shepherds in the final run-off on Saturday afternoon dug deep and came up with exceptional efforts, Cameron said, adding, "Both handlers are good stockmen and read the sheep moves and placed their dogs to perfection to high score." No surprise there: Dice is the current national long head champion while Cap placed third in the last North Island heading championships in Kaikohe earlier this year.
Judge Bruce eventually went for Dice over Cap after the latter's sheep at the yard turned back on the dog, a small fault but a punishable one. Jecentho kept the hammer down to also place third overall with his very useful bitch Pet, while Gower and the"aptly named" Hone took fourth and were very pleased they too had won a place in the national final next month (as Child has been chosen to judge the national finals of the Tux challenge in Taupo next month, and Jecentho could only qualify with one dog).
Impressing in the maiden section were Kris Sturge and his little dog Flake from Rangiahua who nearly pulled off a major surprise by just missing the open final, along with runners-up, Jane Davies and her dog Emperor in their first visit to Kaitaia, and Christine Hill with Jimmy.
"These three maiden competitors have all improved out of sight in the past year and are now starting to get rewards for their efforts," Cameron said, adding newcomers Jacqueline Kimber from Sweetwater, and Connor Morgan from Kerikeri, also delivered creditable performances. The hard luck story of the trials went to Nicola Rowlandson from Raglan who put in a fantastic effort with her young dog Dance, only to discover that she had broken the rules and was disqualified. Some other competitors were not up with the latest rules and cost themselves dearly in the final points.
The conclusion of the yarding challenge saw the finals of the Peria A&P; Handy Dog event take place, causing much excitement. The top placings here went to Child and Jimmy 96, Claire Thomson with Rebel 94.5, Tony Hargreaves and Hail 94, L Jecentho and Tahi 93.5, and McRae with Otis, 92.