The New Zealand shearing team of Dion King and Rowland Smith have kept their country's unbeaten record in annual home test matches against Wales intact with a win by 10pts in the opening match of a new CP Wool Series.
The test, against Welsh shearer Richard Jones and Gwion Evans, was shorn on Saturday at the Rangitikei Shearing Sports in Marton and was the first of five in a three-week series.
Smith was making his only appearance in the series, standing-in for South Island shearer Tony Coster, who was in Australia but will return in time for the second test in Balclutha next Saturday. The two countries, with Coster in the New Zealand team, drew a series 2-2 in Wales last July.
Today's test was shorn over 15 sheep each and after all four were within barely two blows of each other at the end of the first sheep turned into a match-race between King and Evans.
New Zealand Open champion King, who recently moved from Hawke's Bay to buy a property east of Masterton, was the first to the end, taking 12min 55.49sec and beating Evans by five seconds.
It highlighted the continuing improvement year-on-year by the top Welsh shearers, but ultimately it was quality that also carried the day, Smith claiming the best quality points and the best points overall.
Welsh manager Martyn David said it was a fair result and left his team with hope they could become the first Welsh shearers to win a test match in New Zealand.
"It is a huge learning curve coming to New Zealand shearing against the best shearers," he said. "To win on the New Zealand sheep would mean a huge amount."
Jones highlighted a point by also reaching the Rangitikei Shearing Sports Open final, which was won by reigning Golden Shears champion, 2012 World champion, Scottish international and Taranaki farmer Gavin Mutch, just over a point from runner-up Murray Henderson, of Feilding.
Smith, unbeaten in eight finals this season, was a surprise early departure from today's Open championship, eliminated in the heats and just missing a place in the top 12 for the final.
Remaining tests will be shorn at Balclutha, Gore, Apiti and Pahiatua.
Results from the major Open shearing events at the Rangitikei Sports Shears in Marton were: CP Wool International Series (15 sheep) New Zealand 110.231pts (Rowland Smith 13min 9.11sec, 54.589pts; Dion King 12min 55.49sec, 55.642pts) beat Wales 120.83pts (Richard Jones 14min 6.56sec, 58.928pts; Gwion Evans 13min 0.43sec, 61.155pts).
Rangitikei Shearing Championships:
Open final (20 sheep): Gavin Mutch (Whangamomona) 16min 31.95sec, 67.048pts, 1; Murray Henderson (Feilding) 18min 25.7sec, 68.135pts, 2; Aaron Haynes (Feilding) 18min 10.76sec, 72.338pts, 3; Dion King (Hastings) 16minn 33.08sec, 72.904pts, 4; Rikihana Chase (Taihape) 17min 0.79sec, 73.59pts, 5; Richard Jones (Wales) 18min 58.57sec, 74.479pts.Doug Laing is the media officer for Shearing Sports New Zealand.