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Big Night for New Zealand at World shears champs

It was a New Zealand and South Africa night tonight as the two traditional rugby nations turned their rivalry to the woolshed on the final night of the World shearing and woolhandling championships in Invercargill's ILT Stadium Southland.

New Zealand made it a bag of four as the black singlets won the individual and teams titles in machine shearing and woolhandling, while South Africa won the two blade shearing titles, for New Zealand a repeat of the quadruple success scored in Norway in 2008.

But it was a contrast from the last championships in Ireland where the machine shearing and woolhandling honours were split among four countries, New Zealand's only win being the machine shearing title.

Perhaps the biggest individual winner tonight was Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick, who at his fourth attempt won the glamour event, the individual machine shearing final, to deafening applause from a crowd of over 4000, one of the biggest ever to watch a shearing event. According to Invercargill locals, it was also the biggest crowd for any event held in the stadium, better known for netball and basketball matches, and short boxing fights.

Pairing with World Championships first-timer Nathan Stratford, four-times Golden Shears Open winner Kirkpatrick, 45, won his third World teams title.

Dunedin-based Joel Henare, from Gisborne, regained the woolhandling title he won at the Golden Shears in Masterton in 2012, teammate and surprise New Zealand selection Mary-Anne Baty, also from Gisborne, having the best night of her life to finish runner-up and pair with Henare in taking the teams title.

It was also a big night for New Zealand-based Cook Islands pair mother-and-daughter Tina and Maiden Elers, of Mataura, Tina Elers finishing third in the individual final and the pair claiming third place in the teams event.

South African craftsman-supreme Mayenseke Shweni successfully defended the blade shearing title he won in Ireland in 2014, and the teams title he won this time with Bongani Joel. New Zealanders Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie, and Phil Oldfield, of Geraldine, were second and third respectively in the individual final and second in the teams event. Australians Johnathon Dalla and Ken French achieved their best ever result in blade shearing with the third-place ribbon.

Both machine shearing finals were fast and furious with Scotsmen Hamish Mitchell and Gavin Mutch, as expected intent on blasting the home shearers out of the contest with speed.

They were first to the finish in the teams event and first and second respectively to finish the individual final of 20 sheep, comprising long wool, second shear and lambs, which Mitchell cut-out in 16min 50.75sec.

With Mutch next and Kirkpatrick finishing in 17min 22.079sec the ponts judging out of sight in the pens was to be crucial, Kirkpatrick mastering the craft best and ultimately winning with a 1.353pts buffer from Mutch, with Stratford third.

The Kiwi pair always looked to have the quality, but it was a closer result than expected with Kirkpatrick and Stratford claiming victory by just 0.79pts. There was a further gap of more than five-and-a-half points to the third placegetters, Australian pair Shannon Warnest and Jason Wingfield.