It ain't easy to beat a southern man!
The mighty southern men of shearing stepped-up yet again to take the first three placings in the New Zealand Spring Shears Open crossbred fullwool shearing championship final in Waimate on Saturday.
The six-man final over 16 sheep each was won by Invercargill shearer Leon Samuels, beating surprise runner-up Casey Bailey, of Riverton, by less than seven-tenths of a point, with almost a point back to third placegetter, Invercargill shearer and 10-times event winner Nathan Stratford, who a week earlier in Alexandra won the season-opening New Zealand Merino Shears Open title for a fifth time. Waikaka shearer Braydon Clifford added to the success by winning the Senior final, while on the opening day of the championships on Friday former Invercargill shearer Troy Pyper, now based in North Canterbury, successfully defended the New Zealand Winter-comb title on Merinos.
It wasn’t just the blokes flying the flag for the south. Former Golden Shears Senior woolhandling champion Amber Poihipi, of Ohai, also in Southland, claimed a double triumph with wins in Spring Shears and South Island Woolhandling Circuit Senior finals on Friday, confirming she will graduate to Open class by next season.
It was Pyper who made the pace in Saturday’s Spring Shears Open shearing final, in which he was the only shearer to average under a minute a sheep and finished in 15min 39.15sec.
Samuels was next 35 seconds later but was able to pull-back the time-points deficit with the best points for the board job, and third-best in the pens.
It was his first win in the event in which he was third in both 2019 and 2020, and maintained the form which produced wins in both national all-breeds circuit finals in Te Kuiti last April. It was a disaster first South Island final for Gisborne shearer Tama Nia. Nia who was making good progress midway through the showdown when a sheep kicked the handpiece into his face, causing a cut requiring several stitches and forcing his withdrawal from the race.
The heats on Saturday constituted the second round of the new season’s PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit in which both Stratford and Samuels are near certain finals qualifiers after just two of the five qualifying rounds. Fairlie’s Tony Dobbs won the Open Bladeshearing title, returning to the stage where he last year reached the unprecedented milestone of 100 bladeshearing winslast year he completed a century of wins. There was a big upset in the Senior winter-comb final on Friday, with winner Russell Ratima, from Aria in the central North Island, and Alex Clapham, from Yorkshire, England, having almost no competition history in New Zealand between them. Ratima had failed to make it past the Senior heats in Alexandra the previous weekend but won on Friday by a wide margin of more than 12pts. He and Clapham graduated from the bottom half of the 12 semi-final qualifiers at Waimate and were the last two into the six-man final amid the exit of Alexandra winner Scott Cameron, who had been the top qualifier in the heats.
In New Zealand about two years ago and living in Roxburgh, Clapham confirmed it had been his first competition downunder and described it as part of “living the dream out here in New Zealand.”
Masterton’s Matene Mason won the Open Novice shearing final, for Open-class shearers who have otherwise not won an Open title, North Canterbury shearer 2020-2021 No-1 ranked junior Reuben King won his first Intermediate shear title, and the Junior final was won by Jack Pringle, of Balclutha.
Joel Henare, of Gisborne, added the Open woolhandling title to that he won at Alexandra a week earlier, while Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, won the South Island Open woolhandling circuit final.
Maraea Iwikau, of Taumarunui, won the Spring Shears Junior woolhandling title, and the junior circuit fibal was won by Emma Martin, of Gore.
It was a busy two days, with 150 competitors and 18 events decided in the conditions of the Covid-19 Delta Alert.