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Stratford at home in bid for World shears double

Home town hope Nathan Stratford has made a bold bid to claim a big double at the World shearing and woolhandling championships in Invercargill as top qualifier for tonight's Southland All Nations Open machine shearing final.

Stratford, New Zealand teammate John Kirkpatrick and All Nations favourite and reigning World Champion Rowland Smith, who narrowly missed selection in the New Zealand and thus the opportunity to defend his title, all made it into the six-man final set to all-but detonate the ILT Stadium Southland, expected to have at a crowd of at least 2000.

It's expected to be the biggest crowd to watch a shearing event in New Zealand since the regulations-relaxed heydays of Masterton's Golden Shears when crowds topping 2000 were regular for its Open final on the first Saturday night of each March – fire safety and other regulations now limiting the Masterton crowd to considerably less.

Having shorn in front of many of them, Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Sir David Fagan said: "This is going to be bigger than anything we;'ve seen in New Zealand. And tomorrow night (the World Championship finals) will be even bigger."

World Championships heats leader Gavin Mutch, of Scotland, was eliminated from the All Nations in the quarterfinals, finishing 13, missing the next stage by one place and being left to concentrate on his World Championships hopes tomorrow.

Results of the Southland All Nations machine shearing Open championship semifinals (10 sheep, top six to final tonight): Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 36.855pts, 1; Rowland Smith (Hastings) 37.258pts, 2; John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 37.571pts, 3; James Fagan (Raglan) 38.752pts, 4; Darin Forde (Lorneville) 39.051pts, 5; Ivan Scott (Ireland) 39.2pts, 6; Casey Bailey 39.527pts, 7; Ryan Miller (Gore) 39.822pts, 8; Aaron Haynes (Feilding) 40.019pts, 9; Jordan Boyes (Owaka) 40.926pts, 10; Tony Coster (Rakaia) 41.248pts, 11; Axle Reid (Taihape) 44.211pts, 12.