Hawke's Bay shearer Rowland Smith completed one of the most remarkable individual seasons in New Zealand shearing sports by winning a sixth New Zealand championships Open title in Te Kuiti on Saturday night.
His win in the Les Munro Centre, formerly the Waitomo Cultural and Arts Centre, came just 24 hours after his 41st finals victory in a row in New Zealand, in the North Island Shearer of the Year final.
But in the meantime, he had been beaten earlier on Saturday night in the final of the New Zealand Shears Circuit, a multiple sheep-types event, merinos included, in contrast to the more familiar 20 second-shear crossbreds of the Open championship showdown.
Since winning the world title in Ireland in 2014, the now 31-year-old Smith has been beaten only 10 times in 84 finals in New Zealand, with 23 from 24 in the season that finished in Te Kuiti, and 136 in 12 seasons in the top class after graduating with already a successful record including the Golden Shears junior and senior titles, won when the 2m-tall giant was growing up around Ruawai, in Northland.
With his fifth Golden Shears Open title in Masterton and three other victories on the month-long route to Te Kuiti, Smith was rounding off preparations before next season for a place in the New Zealand team for the 2019 world championships in France and a chance to regain the title he won in Ireland four years ago.
Also chasing a repeat of the Open finals treble he scored at Te Kuiti last year, and starting with victory in the North Island final over 10 ewes and 10 lambs each on Friday, Smith stumbled only on the merinos of the circuit final won by Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford before finding his element in the Open final.
Top qualifier of 38 in the heats, seventh in the quarterfinals and top qualifier again in the semifinals, Smith shore on stand No 2 alongside Taranaki-based Scots farmer and 2012 world and 2015 Golden Shears champion Gavin Mutch, who on No 1 made the pace from the start.
Mutch breezed through the first 10 in 7min 49sec but to perhaps the biggest roar of the night was overtaken in the last stages by home-town hope Mark Grainger who finished in 15min 47.35sec.
Mutch was next off, followed by Pongaroa shearer David Buick in a brave performance after an injury during the week, with Smith and two-times winner and reigning world champion John Kirkpatrick, of Napier, next, locked together at 16min 2.67sec, just 15 seconds covering the first five.
Smith won claiming the better combined quality points, and Kirkpatrick had to settle for second place in all three of the finals, having been runner-up in the Shearer of the Year and Open finals last year, and the Circuit and Open finals in 2016, when he won the North Island series.
Mutch was third overall, Buick fourth, and Stratford fifth, with Grainger drifting to sixth, penalised heavily in the pen judging after having the best points in judging on the shearing board.
Smith won the biggest prize in shearing sports – a $15,499 Can-Am Outlander 570 Pro Quad Bike, and $3000, and with Stratford another UK trip to represent New Zealand at a series of shearing test matches in July.
The process for finding the two machine shearers to wear the black singlet at the 2019 world championships is expected to be decided in August.
Going into the championships, Smith had already secured Shearing Sports New Zealand's No 1 ranking for the season in the Open grade, in what became a Hawke's Bay-Wairarapa cleansweep of the shearing honours.
Woodville shearers Tegwyn Bradley and Daniel Seed were No 1 in the senior and intermediate grades respectively while Jonathan Painter, of Pahiatua, achieved the top junior ranking.
Napier's Ricci Stevens claimed the senior shearing and woolhandling titles at the championships, as well as the No 1 senior woolhandling ranking for the season.
Joel Henare, from Gisborne, retained both the championship and rankings honours in the Open grade, the junior woolhandling final was won by Ngaira Puha, of Kimbolton, and the No 1 junior ranking for the season went to Tyler Hira, of Onewhero.
RESULTS from the New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling Championships at Te Kuiti on Thursday-Saturday, April 5-7, 2018:
Transtasman (4 merinos, 4 second-shear per shearer): NZ Shears Te Kuiti 235.113pts (David Buick 12min 7.43sec, 62.122pts; Mark Grainger 13min 11.2sec, 79.435pts; Sean Gouk 16min 41.12sec, 93.556pts) Warrnambool Show Vic 266.986pts (Lee Harris 11min 29.75sec, 76.263pts; Roger Mifsud 14min 28.2sec, 93.91pts; Benn Heinrich 18min 11.75sec, 96.713pts) by 31.873pts.
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.
North Island Shearer of the Year final (10 ewes, 10 lambs): Rowland Smith (Maraekakaho) 16min 24.42sec, 55.471pts, 1; John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 16min 38.49sec, 57.825pts, 2; Gavin Mutch (Scotland/Whangamomona) 16min 15.97sec, 57.999pts, 3; David Buick (Pongaroa) 16min 26.62sec, 58.581pts, 4; Mark Grainger (Te Kuiti) 16min 49.86sec, 59.443pts, 5; Digger Balme (Te Kuiti) 15min 24.17sec, 62.709pts, 6.
New Zealand championships:
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.
Open Challenger, no previous Open wins (10 sheep): Michael Fabish (Stratford) 9min 35.28sec, 40.564pts; Andy Mainland (Kapuka) 10min 50.09sec, 42.005pts, 2; Jimmy Samuels (Marton) 9min 11.06sec, 42.053pts, 3; Floyde Neil (Taumarunui) 9min 17.71sec, 42.086pts, 4; Hayden Tapp (Taihape) 9min 28.31sec, 44.716pts, 5; Tristan Mackay (Wairoa) 11min 52.49sec, 48.025pts, 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.
Intermediate final (8 sheep): Brandon Maguire-Ratima (Winton) 11min 56.72sec, 41.336pts, 1; Daniel Seed (Woodville) 11min 53.42sec, 44.546pts, 2; Paora Moanaroa (Eketahuna) 11min 21.13sec, 45.682pts, 3; Steve Hakaraia (Rotorua) 12min 34/18sec, 48.834pts, 4; Liam Lowry (Glen Murray) 13min 12.3sec, 53.49pts, 5; Trent Hewes (Pukekawa) 13min 43.38sec, 53.669pts, 6.
Junior final (5 sheep): Reuben Alabaster (Taihape) 8min 27.34sec, 33.767pts, 1; Brook Hamerton (Ruawai/Hastings) 8min 47.83sec, 35.992pts, 2; Keith Swann (Wairoa) 8min 59.14sec, 37.157pts, 3; Jonathan Painter (Pahiatua) 10min 9.72sec, 40.486pts, 4; Braydon Clifford (Gore) 10min 6.43sec, 40.522pts, 5; Natalya Rangiawha (Raglan) 10min 36.58sec, 46.429pts, 6.
Novice final (2 sheep): Rakai Barrett (Taumarunui) 4min 31.49sec, 29.575pts, 1; Logan Kamura (Marton) 5min 55.09sec, 33.255pts, 2; Heath Barnsdall (Pio Pio) 9min 36.71sec, 39.836pts, 3; Kendra Paulsen (Waikaretu) 9min 51.54sec, 45.577pts, 4; Samantha Baxter (Pongaroa) 10min 8.29sec, 46.915pts, 5; Jerome Papworth (Eketahuna) 11min 3.6sec, 49.68pts, 6.
Contractors Relay (8 sheep): Barrowcliffe No 1 (Kaleb Foote, Craig Fagan, Catherine Mullooly) 11min 23.21se, 46.061pts, 1; McSkimming Shearing 12min 25.55sec, 48.078pts, 2; Fagan No 2 12min 21.54sec, 49.177pts, 3; CT Shearing Te Kuiti 13min 2.85sec, 51.843pts, 4; Fagan No 1 13min 29.43sec, 53.572pts, 5; Barrowcliffe No 2 17min 20.89sec, 64.845pts, 6.
Open Speedshear: Jimmy Samuels (Marton) 19.46sec, 1; Brett Roberts (Mataura) 20.04sec, 2; Paerata Abraham (Masterton) 21.22sec, 3; Rowland Smith (Maraekakaho) 21.5sec, 4.
Senior Speedshear: Lionel Taumata (Taumarunui/Gore) 24.04sec, 1; Whakapunaki (Naki) Maraki (Flaxmere) 25.92sec, 2; Ricci Stevens (Napier) 26.68sec, 3; Paul Swann (Wairoa) 27.84sec, 4.
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.
Senior final (5 second-shear sheep) Ricci Stevens (Napier) 47.34pts, 1; Ash Boyce (Dannevirke) 48.78pts, 2; Angela Stevens (Napier) 57.94pts, 3; Sharon Tuhakaraina (Gore) 59.34pts, 4; Adrienne Samuels (Marton) 69.362pts, 5.
Junior final (5 second-shear sheep): Ngaira Puha (Kimbolton) 52.41pts, 1; Samantha Baxter (Pongaroa) 67.12pts, 2; Summer Pritchard (Pongaroa) 71.16pts, 3; Whakapunaki (Naki) Maraki (Flaxmere) 76.09pts, 4; Lucky Garrett (Eketahuna) 76.85pts, 5.
Shearing and woolhandling:
Inter-Island Teams Challenge (6 second-shear sheep per shearer): North Island (shearers Rowland Smith, John Kirkpatrick, David Buick; woolhandlers Eramiha Neho, Hanatia Tipene, Sheree Alabaster) 255pts beat South Island (shearers Andy Mainland, Nathan Stratford, Shaun Mathieson; woolhandlers Joel Henare, Pagan Karauria, Chelsea Collier) 310pts.