It was hard not to feel for Gisborne's Noddy Halley and Lad in the last run of a 15-strong field contesting the North Island title at the Tux Yarding Challenge sheep dog trial event at the Kaitaia A&P Showgrounds on Saturday.

Just being there indicated the pair are among the elite of New Zealand sheep dog trialing and they certainly looked the goods early as they guided their trio of sheep around the course only to arrive at the final pen where one of the sheep decided to get all jumpy and refuse to stay put. When another decided to follow the first's lead and do likewise, Halley and Lad were forced to throw in the towel.

However, Halley didn't have much time to reflect on the frustrating outcome as he had to hurry over to the adjoining course to compete in the Handy Dog final where he proceeded to beat all comers with Jade to take out the North Island title, thereby earning the right to compete at the national finals in Nelson next month.

When asked afterwards about what Halley had done wrong in the heading final — after everything had seemed to be going in his favour for a completion — event organiser Merv Cameron simply shrugged and muttered, "Sheep ... "

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■ A report from the Tux Yarding Challenge which featured the Northland leg of the series and North Island finals in both heading and huntaway categories will feature in Thursday's edition.