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Mutch zeroes in on World Champs

Former World shearing champion Gavin Mutch placed his stake in the ground of upcoming championships hopes when he won the Geyserland Shears Open final at the Rotorua A and Show on Sunday.

It was the first win of the season for the Scotland international and Taranaki farmer, lining-up for the 40th anniversary World championships in Invercargill on February 8-11, when he hopes to regain the title he won at the 2012 championships in Masterton.

Sunday's win came just 24 hours after Mutch dipped-out in the Taihape A and P Show Open, eliminated in the heats and failing to make the top 18 for the semi-finals.

The weekend finals highlighted that Mutch, a Whangamomona farmer and shearing contractor who hails from Huntly, Aberdeenshire, will move to dominate the pace at the World championships, along with teammate Hamish Mitchell from Lochearnhead and with whom he won the World teams title in Ireland in 2014.

Mutch was on Sunday the only shearer among the five finalists to cut under 17 minutes for the 20 sheep, which he shore in 16min 49sec.

It was 28 seconds quicker than the next-man-off, 2014 World champion and Hawke's Bay-based Northlander Rowland Smith, who missed selection for the New Zealand team but who has otherwise already won seven finals this season, including dominating Saturday's event in Taihape.

A further two seconds back was Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick, who in November won the black-singlets team selection series final in Christchurch and next week competes in a fourth World championships, with teams titles from Norway in 2008 and Masterton in 2012.

Kirkpatrick picked up enough quality points on Sunday to take second place overall. Mutch claimed the $900 winning cheque by just 0.2pts, with Te Kuiti shearer Mark Grainger pipping Smith for third place.

Southland shearer Nathan Stratford, with a swag of victories behind him this season and a major triumph in November when he claimed the second place in the New Zealand team, edging Smith out by just 0.032pts, failed to make Sunday's final, missing by one place in the semi-finals.

Having won two events the previous weekend in Southland, separately on long wool ewes and on crossbred lambs, Stratford had however shown his versatility with fourth place on the second-shear ewes of the Taihape final on Saturday.

Mutch's win was one of several by World title hopes over the weekend, those at Rotorua also including Ireland representative Stanley Allingham, teammate of World lambshearing record-holder Ivan Scott, who on Saturday was runner-up at the Tapawera Shears south of Nelson.

Results from the shearing at the Geyserland Shears were:
Open final (20 sheep): Gavin Mutch (Scotland/Whangamomona) 16min 49sec, 63pts, 1; John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 17min 19sec, 63.2pts, 2; Mark Grainger (Te Kuiti) 18min 7sec, 64.1pts, 3; Rowland Smith (Hastings) 17min 17sec, 64.9pts, 4; Murray Henderson (Feilding) 19min 6sec, 69.75pts, 5.

Senior final (10 sheep): Paraki Puna (Napier) 11min 15sec, 44.85pts, 1; Darren Alexander (Whangamomona) 11min 52sec, 45.4pts, 2; Dion Hughes (Wales) 11min 7sec, 46.05pts, 3; Conan Te Kene (Taumarunui) 10min 58sec, 46.2pts, 4; Tegwyn Bradley (Woodville) 12min 41sec, 50.74pts, 5.

Intermediate final (6 sheep): John James (Aberystwyth, Wales) 9min 56sec, 38.13pts, 1; Jeremy Leygonie (Martel, France) 9min 33sec, 40.98pts, 2; Anaru Wakefield (Porangahau) 10min 7sec, 41.85pts, 3; Maredudd Pyrs (Pentre-Foelas,Wales) 9min 55sec, 44.25pts, 4; Joe Boylan (Cavan, Ireland) 10min 20sec, 46.66pts, 5.

Junior final (4 sheep): Steve Hakaraia (Napier) 8min 9sec, 39.2pts, 1; Cory-Tiwai Barrowcliffe (Aria) 8min 59sec, 40.45pts, 2; Cullum Pritchard (Pongaroa), 8min 18sec, 45.9pts, 3; Reuben Alabaster (Taihape) 9min 59sec, 48.2pts, 4; Artie McCarthy (Llandrindod, Wales) 10min 13sec, 50.15pts, 5.