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Shear champion stars as Kiwis dominate Ulster shears

Shear champion stars as Kiwis dominate Ulster shears

New Zealand shearing champion Rowland Smith looked every bit a likely World champion by the end of the month as he completed a Kiwi cleansweep of top international shearing sports events at the Balmoral Show in Northern Ireland yesterday.

Smith, 27, won a Royal Ulster All-Nations championship final in which four of the other five qualifiers were New Zealanders, or live in New Zealand/

His teammate in next week’s Golden Shears World Championships in the Republic of Ireland, 44-year-old fellow Hawke’s Bay shearer John Kirkpatrick, was second.

On Wednesday, New Zealand claimed the first three places in the All Nations blades shearing final, with World Championships team members Tony Dobbs and Brian Thomson first and third respectively, while on Thursday Kiwi woolhandlers Joel Henare and Ronnie Goss were first and second in their event.

Yesterday, third place went to defending World machines shearing champion Gavin Mutch, a Scotsman who farms and runs a shearing contracting business at Whangamomona in New Zealand.

Welsh shearer Richard Jones was fourth, beating New Zealand shearing legend David Fagan and Smith’s brother, Cornwall-based Matthew Smith.

New Northern Ireland champion Jack Robinson and World championships teammate Ian Montgomery, failed to qualify for the final, as did Republic of Ireland World title contender Ivan Scott, who holds a World record for shearing 744 lambs in eight hours, set in New Zealand.

A crowd of about 800 overflowing the show’s shearing pavilion was in awe at the pace of the final, which was led for much of the time by Matthew Smith, after blasting through the first five in 3min 56sec.

But the two-metres-tall younger brother burst to the front towards the end and completed his 20 sheep in 16min 11sec.

Kirkpatrick was beaten by just 20 seconds, and was unable to make-up the leeway with quality points, being beaten by 1.6pts and having to settle for second placing to Smith for a 10th time since late January.

It was Smith’s 11th win in the UK and Ireland in the last four years, but his first at Balmoral after placings in 2011 and 2012.

He put more than a sheep around the Fagan who at 52 has won 626 Open finals around the World over the last 32 years, including five individual World titles and the Royal Ulster title in 1988, 1990 and 1992.

Fagan, who had a stunning win at the Corwen Shears in Wales last July and then won six finals during the New Zealand season, looked a likely contender again when he was top qualifier after the semi-finals.

Smith, Kirkpatrick and Fagan will all be contenders in tomorrow’s Connacht Spring Shears at Ballinrobe before heading south for the Irish All Nations championship at the start of the four-day World Championships programme.

The senior and intermediate finals yesterday were won by Scotsman Alister Shaw and New Zealand teenager Dylan McGruddy respectively, while some Northern Ireland pride was salvaged by young Co Down shearer Stephen Morgan who added the Junior title to a season opening success at the Donard Shears, Co Wicklow, last Sunday.


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