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Smith wins second Otago Shears title

Rowland Smith, of Hastings, winning a second Otago Championships Open shearing title in Balclutha on Saturday. PHOTO/BARBARA NEWTON

Hastings shearer Rowland Smith’s charge towards his defences of the Golden Shears and New Zealand Championships titles next month and a possible crack at a World title in May continued when he won his second Otago championships Open title in Balclutha yesterday (February 8).

Winner two years ago but having skipped last year’s event, Smith was back in town as a member of the two-man New Zealand team which beat Wales in the second match of the four-test Elders Primary Wool Shearing Series.

He also found time to shear for an all-star team of four which won the Shears’ shearing and woolhandling teams event.

The Open title was Smith’s fifth in seven finals since his first competition of 2014 at Wairoa on January 18, initiating what is fast shaping as a near repeat of last year when he won 14 finals in the post-Christmas phase of the 2012-2013 Shearing Sports New Zealand season.

Smith, 27, now has a career tally of almost 80 wins, including being one of only two shearers to win Golden Shears titles in three grades, and now in his eighth season at the top level has posted 53 wins, 50 of them in the last four years.

The runner-up, for the fourth time to Smith in the last fortnight, was Napier-shearer and five-times Otago winner John Kirkpatrick, who was in the Otago final for a 10th year in a row and the 13th time in his career.

Invercargill shearer and defending champion Nathan Stratford, in his eighth final in the event, was third, and fellow Southlander Darin Forde, was fourth, on the 20th anniversary of the first of his 15 times in the final, which included winning in 1999 and 2000.

Rakaia shearer Tony Coster, who has won more than 50 finals in his Open-class career of over 20 years, reached the Otago final for the first time and was fifth.

Te Kuiti veteran David Fagan, who won the event 17 times from 1983 to 2004 and who was runner-up to Smith two years ago and fourth last year, bypassed this year’s event to compete at the Te Puke show, where the shearing was cancelled because of wet weather.

Smith shore the 20 sheep in 17min 19sec, beating Kirkpatrick to the button by six seconds, Forde by a sheep and a half, and Stratford and Coster by more than two sheep. While Kirkpatrick claimed victory by almost two points from Kirkpatrick, Stratford’s quality points total of 6.3 was markedly better than the next-best, Smith’s 8.9pts.

Mataura shearer Brett Roberts won the Senior title to complete an unprecedented record of five wins across three grades in successive years at one venue before reaching the Open class.

It was his third consecutive win in the Otago Senior final, following victories in the Junior final in 2010, which he followed with victory at the Golden Shears in Masterton, and the Intermediate final in 2011, which he followed with a New Zealand Championships win in Te Kuiti.

His three wins this season, at Lumsden and Winton last month and today’s victory take him to 11 in the Senior grade, passing the 10-win threshhold which will promote him to Open-class next season.

Beating runner-up and English shearer Sam Bullingham, of Okehampton, Devon, by five-and-a-half points, Roberts is heading for a Golden Shears showdown with Masterton-based Riverton shearer Casey Bailey, who did not compete in Balclutha but who has not been beaten in nine finals in the North Island this season.

Masterton shearer Dylan McGruddy won the Intermediate final, and Carlton Aranui continued a good season for young competitors from the tiny Northern Hawke’s Bay township of Raupunga by reaching his first final, and winning. He was fourth to finish, a minute and a half after the first, but his quality points were seven better than the next-best in the five-man, four-sheep showdown.

The championships started a four-week run down to the Golden Shears Open final in Masterton on March 1, which will decide one member of New Zealand’s machine shearing team for the World Championships in Gorey, Ireland, in May. The second berth will be decided in the New Zealand Championships Open final in Te Kuiti on March 29.

ENDS

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