If there was any surprise at the Central Hawke's Bay A&P Show shearing and woolhandling championships on Saturday it was that Hastings shearer Rowland Smith, claiming New Zealand open-finals win No23 in a row, had never shorn in a final at the second-closest show to home.
He said after the win in a four-man, 20-sheep-each Open shearing final that because work was in one of its busiest phases at the time of the show in Waipukurau each year, he'd shorn at the show only once before - last year, when he failed to make the final just a day after finishing third in the New Zealand team selection final and missing out on a place the 2017 World championships.
It was barely less busy this year - he had worked on the day at Te Awanga, towards Cape Kidnappers, before heading for Waipukurau where he shore 20 of the most challenging North Island competition sheep to date this season in 18min 40sec, to be first off in what had been a keenly fought, side-by-side contest with John Kirkpatrick for most of the way.
Ultimately he beat Kirkpatrick by 24 seconds, with a further 17 seconds back to David Buick, and a minute and 20 seconds further back to Jack Fagan, who had been top qualifier from both the heats and the semifinals.
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Also posting best points in the pens, where Kirkpatrick did not do so well, Smith claimed the win by 2.25pts from Buick, who snuck into second place.
Joel Henare - despite what must have been disappointment in missing out on the big gongs at the Gisborne Tairawhiti Sports Awards on Friday night, where he and Maryanne Baty were finalists courtesy of their World championship wins in February - still performed with ultimate precision at Waipukurau to post his seventh Open woolhandling title in a row. Rahna Williams achieved a good result in beating the other two finalists, Sheree Alabaster and Keryn Herbert.
Lionel Taumata won the Senior shearing final by 2.7pts from Paul Swann of Wairoa, who also had a good result in beating the vastly more finals-savvy Ricci Stevens, of Napier, and Woodville's Tegwyn Bradley.
Hunterville shearer Josh Harding, who won four Junior finals in the 2015-16 season, had his first Intermediate win, and Brook Hamerton of Hastings claimed his first Junior title by just 0.4pts from runner-up Paul Swann of Wairoa, Hamerton having been last to qualify in the eight from the heats for the semifinal.
Samantha Baxter (nee Pritchard) of Pongaroa had her first shearing win in the Novice event, which had been won 12 months earlier by partner Mark Baxter as he began the run-up to his Novice win at the Golden Shears.
The Senior woolhandling final included husband and wife Angela and Ricci Stevens, who were first and fourth respectively, while the Junior woolhandling final provided a second win for Sarah Davis, from Rotorua.
More than 90 shearers and woolhandlers competed across the classes, the biggest entry of the five North Island show shearing competitions to date this season.