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Samuels reigns on the boards

Southland shearer Leon Samuels has joined the elite of world shearing, winning his maiden open title at the ‘Wimbledon” of Shearing – the Golden Shears on Saturday night.

Samuels’ victory in a dramatic six-man final at Masterton’s War Memorial Stadium was the first by a South Island shearer in 35 years, and his name is the first new one to be etched onto the prestigious trophy in nine years.

The drama started before the Golden Shears began when eight-time winner Rowland Smith was ruled out with an injury. Then prolific recent winner and TAB hot favourite Toa Henderson was eliminated in the quarterfinals. That left Samuels as the favourite to lift the trophy for the first time.

However, it was 2015 champion Scotsman Gavin Mutch who made the early running in the final until the sixth of the 20 sheep when local favourite David Buick from Pongaroa took the lead, which he held until the end, holding off a late surge from Samuels and finishing in 16 minutes 16.064 seconds, one of the quicker times in the 62 years of the event.

One of the biggest cheers was saved for the miracle man Buick, whose achievement of finishing first was even more remarkable given that it was just two-and-a-half years when he was so badly injured in an accident on his Pongaroa farm the prognosis was that he might not even walk again.

Ultimately, though, it was a Southland one-two, with 40-year-old Samuels competing in his second Golden Shears Open final [having finished third in 2020], winning by the narrow margin of 1.253 points from runner-up and Riverton shearer Casey Bailey, who was in the final for the first time.

Losing some points in judging of the sheep in the pens, Buick was a further 1.26 points back in third place, followed by Southland veteran Nathan Stratford in his 12th final, first-time championship finalist James Ruki of Te Kūiti, and Hawke’s Bay-based Scotland international Mutch.

The last South Island shearer to win the Open title was Edsel Forde in 1989.

Also on Saturday night, Stratford won his third PGG Wrightson National Shearing Circuit final in his 20th appearance, with just a 0.355 points margin to Samuels in second place, in another Southland quinella.

Samuels, Stratford [in his last test] and Marlborough shearer Angus Moore combined to beat the Australian team of Daniel McIntyre, Nathan Meaney and Josh Bone by just 2.51 points, the closest margin in trans-Tasman shearing tests since an Australian victory in Warrnambool, Victoria, in 2013 and New Zealand’s narrowest win since 2009.

It also gave New Zealand a 2–0 weekend after woolhandlers Tia Potae and Cushla Abraham won their match against the Australian woolhandling team of Marlene Whittle and Alexander Scholl on Friday night.

Joel Henare, 32, from Gisborne, continued his woolhandling dominance, winning the Golden Shears Open title for a 10th consecutive time, with a narrow margin of just six points from Alexandra hopeful Pagan Rimene.

Saturday wrapped up a highly successful championship, which attracted a record number of entries, with more than 500 shearers, woolhandlers and woolpressers participating, while more than 5000 spectators poured into the War Memorial Stadium for the three days of competition.

    Additional reporting
    – Doug Laing

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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