The all-conquering career of Hawke's Bay shearer Rowland Smith continued almost unchallenged in Taumarunui last Friday as he won his 11th final in five weeks.
Smith is building up to a bid for a sixth Golden Shears open title in Masterton this Saturday, and with it, a place at the World Championships in France in July.
The 2014 World Champion won a six-man Taumarunui Shears open final by 1.54pts from runner-up and King Country shearer Mark Grainger.
It was the first leg of a busy pre-Golden Shears weekend, which continued for shearers and woolhandlers at the Apiti Sports Shears north of Feilding last Saturday, followed by the shearing and only Pahiatua Shears yesterday.
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Woolhandlers have their last outing before the big one with the Wairarapa Pre-Shears Championships near Masterton on Wednesday, the day before the start of the three-day, 59th Golden Shears.
The pace on Friday's open shearing final was made by 2012 World Champion, Scotsman and Taranaki farmer Gavin Mutch, who shore the 20 second-shear sheep in 17 min 5.12 sec, but had to settle for third place, once time and quality points were gathered.
Sheree Alabaster, of Taihape, gave another pointer to her hopes of competing at a third World Championships when she won the open woolhandling final last Friday.
Among those beaten by the 2008 World Champion, was reigning World and Golden Shears woolhandling champion Joel Henare, from Gisborne.
Along with third placegetter Keryn Herbert, of Te Kuiti, and Dannevirke's Eramiha Neho, Alabaster is assured of a place among four North Islanders to take part in an inter-island World Championship selection series showdown in Masterton.
Napier shearer Ricci Stevens won the senior shearing final by almost 2pts from leading Golden Shears opposition and Gore-based Lionel Taumata, from Taumarunui.
Daniel Biggs, of Mangamahu, won the intermediate final, and Scotswoman Katie Reid won the junior final, by more than a point from runner-up and 2018 New Zealand Championships novice winner Rakai Barrett, of Taumarunui.
Ngaira Puha, of Kimbolton, continued her domination of North Island senior woolhandling with another win, and the junior woolhandling final was won by cousin Cortez Ostler.
Results of the Taumarunui Shears on Friday. February 22, 2019:
Open final (20 sheep): Rowland Smith (Hastings) 17min 34.29sec, 59.915pts, 1; Mark Grainger (Te Kuiti) 17min 46.1sec, 61.455pts, 2; Gavin Mutch (Scotland/Whangamomona) 17min 5.12sec, 62.006pts, 3; Aaron Haynes (Feilding) 18min 23.01sec, 64.251pts, 4; Paerata Abraham (Masterton) 18min 15.15sec, 67.508pts, 5; James Ruki (Te Kuiti) 19min 27.66sec, 72.783pts, 6.n
Senior final (10 sheep): Ricci Stevens (Napier) 11min 10.31sec, 40.916pts, 1; Lionel Taumata (Taumarunui/Gore) 11min 4.92sec, 42.746pts, 2; Sean Gouk (Masterton) 12min 4.08sec, 45.304pts, 3; Alex Smith (Rakaia) 12min 50.05sec, 47.403pts, 4; Connor Puha (Kimbolton) 12min 9.24sec, 48.462pts, 5; Gethin Lewis (Wales) 12min 41.15sec, 48.758pts, 6.
Intermediate final (6 sheep): Daniel Biggs (Mangamahu) 7min 28.41sec, 30.755pts, 1; Paora Moanaroa (Eketahuna) 6min 54.96sec, 31.248pts, 2; Kyle Mita (Masterton) 7min 40.66sec, 31.533pts, 3; Chris Dickon (Masterton) 7min 23.03sec, 32.519pts, 4; Tyson Crown (Mataura) 7min 11.65sec, 33.417pts, 5; Reuben Alabaster (Taihape) 7min 50.38sec, 33.852pts, 6.
Junior final (4 sheep): Katie Reid (Scotland) 9min 27.21sec, 38.361pts, 1; Rakai Barrett (Taumarunui) 7min 38.73sec, 39.437pts, 2; Mark Gwynne (Wales) 7min 14.35sec, 39.718pts, 3; Matthew Smith (Otorohanga) 9min 48.41sec, 39.921pts, 4; Topia Barrowcliffe (Piopio) 10min 11.48sec, 45.574pts, 5; Will May (England) 8min 49.86sec, 49743pts, 6.
Open final: Sheree Alabaster (Taihape) 52.334pts, 1; Ronnie Goss (Mangamahu Valley) 84.532pts, 2; Keryn Herbert (Te Awamutu) 95.512pts, 3; Anita Phillips (Taumarunui) 97.388pts, 4; Joel Henare (Gisborne) 108.35pts, 5.
Senior final: Ngaira Puha (Kimbolton) 67.9pts, 1; Tramon Campbell (-) 73.91pts, 2; Ricci Stevens (Napier) 100.5pts, 3; Crystal Bird (Eketahuna) 105.9pts, 4; Phoebe Nikora (-) 124.34pts, 5.
Junior final: Cortez Ostler (Kimbolton) 52.932pts, 1; Te Anna Phillips (Taumarunui) 70.82pts, 2; Vinniye Phillips (Taumarunui) 92.514pts, 3; Lucas Broughton (Whanganui) 95.636pts, 4; Danny Thompson (-) 100.91pts, 5.