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Six for Smith at Golden Shears

Rowland Smith with his sixth Open shearing trophy. PHOTO/PETE NIKOLAISON

DOUG LAING

Hawke’s Bay shearer Rowland Smith bounced from world championship hopeful to likely favourite when he won his sixth Golden Shears Open title in Masterton on Saturday night.

The win gave the 32-year-old one of two New Zealand machine-shearing berths at the 2019 championships to be held in Le Dorat, Central France, on July 1-7.

Smith won the World title in Ireland in 2014, but just missed out on the team for the 2017 championships in Invercargill where the final was won by fellow Hawke’s Bay gun and four-times Golden Shears Open winner John Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick now has to win, or be runner-up to Smith, in the New Zealand Open Championship in Te Kuiti on March 30 to have any chance of defending the crown.

Kirkpatrick was sixth in Saturday’s final to complete a busy night’s work in being the only shearer in the three big events of the night, also including an unsuccessful defence of the PGG Wrightson Wool National Circuit title and shearing a transtasman test in which Australia scored its sixth win in New Zealand in the last 10 years.

With now 13 finals wins in a row since starting the new year at Wairoa on January 19, Smith has a career tally of 148 Open-class victories, 48 of them in the two years and two weeks since bringing up the century at Pukekohe.

Before the Golden Shears he said that win or lose he was committed to following the shows for the rest of the season and is a likely starter at Kumeu next weekend and other shows including the New Zealand Shears and the Royal Easter Show in Auckland.

A hot TAB favourite to win, Smith was a comfortable qualifier from the heats of 71 shearers on Friday, that night’s Top 30 quarterfinal shootout and Saturday afternoon’s semi-final, where the toughest challenges were expected to come from Kirkpatrick, 2018 runner-up and Pongaroa farmer David Buick and seasoned South Island Golden Shears finalist Nathan Stratford.

But the drama came from only first-time Open finalist Mark Grainger, son of 1985 winner Paul Grainger. His machine failed when battling for the lead early in the race and it was a courageous battle once he resumed, ultimately credited with fastest-time after judges made calculations for the delay.

Grainger, who has nine Open-class wins to his name, was deemed to have shorn the 20-second shear sheep in 17min 21.577sec, just over three seconds quicker than Smith, whose other big plus was his result in the pen-judging.

That also gave him the John Henson Trophy for best quality points.

Seasoned finalist Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill, was runner-up, beaten by almost one-and-a-half points,, two-times runner-up Aaron Haynes, of Feilding was 3rd, Grainger 4th, and Buick was 5th.

Elsthorpe farmer Mark Ferguson scored Hawke’s Bay’s next biggest success, adding the Intermediate shearing title to the Junior title he won two years ago. Now 45 he was twice the age of his fellow finalists.

Gisborne’s Joel Henare won the Open woolhandling final for a record seventh time, announcing his retirement from top competition at the age of just 27, with a plan for more family time. He said while disappointed with his failure to win a place in the New Zealand team to defend his World title in France, it was a “relief” to have the pressure off, and he was in remarkable control in his Open final victory.

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