Southland shearer Nathan Stratford will make his second trip to the UK as a New Zealand team member after winning the New Zealand Shears Circuit final in Te Kuiti last night.
Holding the candle for the South Island in a sparse mainland representation among more than 170 shearers and woolhandlers in the three-day season-ending New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling Championships, "Stratty" had a 1.829pts winning margin over runner-up and reigning World champion John Kirkpatrick in the tough six-man final of 15 sheep each, comprising five merinos, five crossbred ewes and five lambs.
Third was 2014 world champion Rowland Smith, who in winning the North Island Shearer of the Year final on Friday night completed a sequence of 41 wins in finals in New Zealand dating back 14 months.
Stratford had previously won the circuit final in 2012 and toured the UK with that year's New Zealand Open champion, Napier shearer Kirkpatrick, with whom he partnered to win the Teams title at the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in home-city Invercargill.
Outside of the World title, the latest win will go down as possibly the best of his 61 wins in his 21 seasons in the Open class, which also included a Corwen Shears win in Wales in 2012, premier multi-sheep-types championship the PGG Wrightson National Circuit final in Masterton in 2014, and, surprisingly his first South Island Shearer of the Year title in February this year.
Taumarunui shearer, 2015 New Zealand Championships Senior winner and first-time Open circuit finalist Floyde Neil made a valiant attempt to claim the title on speed, the only finalist to finish in under 19 minutes and shearing the 15 sheep in 18min 53.71sec.
He was in front at all stages, through the five South Island merinos and the five crossbred ewes to hold-on in the run home over five lambs, beating second-man-off Kirkpatrick by 13 seconds.
The 43-year-old, acclaimed a Master Shearer by Shearing Sports New Zealand in 2014, in the circuit's top six for a seventh time in a row and 15th time overall, and the most-expert on merinos, with three New Zealand Merino Championships wins in Alexandra to his name, Stratford kept in touch to finish in 19min 24.85sec.
It was just over one time-point down on Kirkpatrick, who was also out to win the Circuit for a second time and complete the multi-types double after winning the national circuit final in Masterton on March 3.
But the southern man's quality was up to the expected mark, and he had clearly the best quality ponts, both on the board and in the pens judging.
Neil was ultimately fourth, Manawatu shearer Murray Hernderson fifth and James Ruki, of Te Kuiti sixth, the culmination of a series from which 12 semi-finalists were found based on their best five heats performances in other selected shows around the country.
Shortly afterwards Stratford was fifth in his 10th Te Kuiti shears New Zealand Open championship final, Smith returning immediately to winning form in the more familiar environment of a contest of 20 second-shear sheep each. It was Smith's sixth win in the Open, among them in 2013 when Stratford was second.
Stratford's win last night was the second of two South Island wins at the 2018 championships, the other having gone to Winton shearer Brandon Maguire Ratima on Friday night when he completed a Golden Shears and New Zealand Intermediate championships double. His father, Eddie, won the New Zealand championships Junior, Intermediate and Senior titles, in 1989-1992.
RESULTS from the final night of the New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Te Kuiti on Thursday-Saturday, April 5-7:
Open final (20 second-shear sheep): Rowland Smith (Maraekakaho) 16min 2.67sec, 56.434pts. 1; John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 16min 2.67sec, 57.284pts, 2; Gavin Mutch (Scotland/Whangamomona) 15min 50.87sec, 57.644pts, 3; David Buick (Pongaroa) 15min 54.27sec, 58.264pts, 4; Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 16min 45.9sec, 58.995pts, 5; Mark Grainger (Te Kuiti) 15min 47.35sec, 59.118pts, 6.
Open Plate (10 second-shear sheep): Brett Roberts (Mataura) 9min 47.48sec, 38.274pts, 1; Tama Niania (Gisborne) 9min 38.91sec, 39.546pts, 2; James Fagan (Te Kuiti/Raglan) 9min 37.43sec, 41.772pts, 3; Turi Edmonds (Raetihi) 9min 50.72sec, 43.336pts, 4; Darren Alexander (Whangamomona/Hastings) 10min 10.11sec, 46.306pts, 5; Jack Fagan (Te Kuiti) 8min 39.65sec, 47.083pts, 6.
Senior final (12 second-shear sheep): Ricci Stevens (Napier) 13min 58.38sec, 53.586pts, 1; Catherine Mullooly (Matawai) 14min 31.28sec, 54.731pts, 2; Luis Pincol (Chile/Geraldine) 14min 57.59sec, 55.797pts 3; Lionel Taumata (Taumarunui/Gore) 14min 28.32sec, 55.833pts, 4; Sean Gouk (Masterton) 15min 0.94sec, 57.13pts, 5; Whakapunaki (Naki) Maraki (Flaxmere) 14min 33.37sec, 57.252pts, 6.
New Zealand Shears Circuit final (5 merinos, 5 crossbred ewes, 5 lambs): Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 19min 24.85sec, 75.843pts, 1; John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 19min 6.78sec, 77/672pts, 2; Rowland Smith (Maraekakaho) 20min 3.52sec, 79.642pts, 3; Floyde Neil (Taumarunui) 18min 53.71sec, 81.353pts, 4; Murray Henderson (Halcombe) 19min 39.57sec, 81.579pts, 5; James Ruki (Te Kuiti) 20min 35.98sec, 84.333pts, 6.
Open final (6 sheep): Sheree Alabaster (Taihape) 81.432pts, 1; Logan Kamura (Marton) 90.12pts, 2; Joel Henare (Gisborne/Motueka) 94.976pyd, 4; Keryn Herbert (Te Awamutu/Te Kuiti) 116.44pts. 4; Pagan Karauria (Alexandra) 129.28pts. 5.