King Country shearer Digger Balme showed he still had a bit of winning form left in him as he claimed the Northern Shears open title at the Royal Easter Show in Auckland on Saturday.
In his 33rd season of open-class shearing, winner of a range of titles and a Golden Shears open finalist nine times from 1991 to 2007, Balme hadn't won a show final for over three years dating back to a pair of wins at Aria and Te Puke in February 2016.
With entries expectedly down on recent years, due to the late fall of Easter and a three-week break since the most recent North Island competition at the New Zealand championships in Te Kuiti on March 30, it was a day of mixed performances and unique results in front of crowds peaking several hundred of the close-to 50,000 who passed by during the two days of the competitions.
Balme won despite being having just the second-fastest time, third-best point in judging on the board, and third-best points in pen-judging.
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It was, however, a vast improvement from his performance in the Open Plate at Te Kuiti where he ripped through 10 sheep in 7min 42.85 sec but had to settle for sixth-place, the tail ended by almost 20pts.
On Saturday he won by 1.65pts, finishing nine seconds after runner-up and Southland shearer Leon Samuels, who, with a time of 16min 34sec was first to finish the five-man final of 20 sheep each.
Te Kuiti shearer Mark Grainger was third in what was his 13th final of the season.
Kaiwaka's Toa Henderson was fourth and Te Kuiti shearer James Ruki was fifth, although scoring best quality points.
All four main titles were won by shearers who had not previously won in 2018-2019.
The senior final was won by occasional competitor Dwayne Rhind, of Onewhero, the intermediate final by Michael Boyd, of Dargaville, and the junior final was a special triumph for Matthew Smith, of Otorohanga, who had his first win in 15 finals since his first junior win in February last year.
The novice final was won by Northlander Gus Berger, who was runner-up three weeks ago in the New Zealand Championships novice final, and third four weeks earlier at the Golden Shears in Masterton.
RESULTS from the Northern Shears at the Royal Easter Show on Friday-Saturday, April 19-20, 2019:
Open final (20 sheep): Digger Balme (Otorohanga) 16min 43 sec, 63pts, 1; Leon Samuels (Ohai) 16min 34sec, 64.65pts, 2; Mark Grainger (Te Kuiti) 17min 54sec, 69.25pts, 3; Toa Henderson (Kaiwaka) 18min 20sec, 69.75pts, 4; James Ruki (Te Kuiti) 20min 31sec, 72.25pts, 5.
Senior final (12 sheep): Dwayne Rhind (Onewhero) 11min 53sec, 49.4pts, 1; Sean Gouk (Masterton) 13min 46sec, 51.13pts, 2; Daniel Seed (Woodville) 13min 46sec, 52.46pts, 3; Jayden Mainland (Wellsford) 13min 32sec, 53.27pts, 4; Dan Berger (Ahuroa)14min 30sec, 55.66pts, 5.
Intermediate final (6 sheep): Michael Boyd (Dargaville) 8min 40sec, 35.16pts, 1;Daniel Biggs (Mangamahu) 9min 25sec, 41.75pts, 2; Alan Boler (Wellsford) 9min 32sec, 42.26pts, 3; Trent Robin 11min 18sec, 44.4pts, 4; Steve Knudsen (Orere Pt) 13min 27sec, 70.68pts, 5.
Junior final (4 sheep): Matthew Smith (Otorohanga) 7min 23sec, 30.9pts, 1; Kelvin Welsh (Snells Beach) 7min 59sec40.2pts, 2; Danielle Boyd (Dargaville) 10minm 10sec, 43pts, 3; Hazel Wood (Ruawai) 10min 13sec, 46.4pts, 4; Ed Morrow (Te Kuiti) 11min 13sec, 79.15pts, 5.
Novice final (2 sheep): Gus Berger (Ahuroa) 6min 59sec, 32.95pts, 1; Devon Ball (Te Kuiti) 7min 18sec, 35.9pts, 2; James Noble Campbell (Onewhero) 7min 52sec, 38.1pts, 3; Renee Biggs (Mangamahu) 9min 46sec, 43.3pts, 4; Tyler Taupo (Onehero) 10min 31sec, 75.55pts, 5.
North-South (12 sheep): South 91.24pts (Ant Frew 12min 30sec, 47.17pts; Leon Samuels 11min 33sec, 44.07pts) beat North 98.28pts (Michael Fabish 11min 53sec, 47.99pts; Matene Mason 13min 4sec, 50.29pts).