They’d be calling it the St David’s Day Massacre after two Welsh shearers annihilated the more favoured New Zealanders to win Wales’ first two titles at the famed Golden Shears International Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in New Zealand for 23 years.
The two wins came in less than an hour today, when 24-year-old Hefin Rowlands, originally from Ruthin, of won the Junior final and 19-year-old AlynLloyd Jones, of Corwen, won the Intermediate final in Masterton’s War Memorial Stadium, where the Golden Shears have been held every year since they began in 1961.
Only two Welsh shearers had ever won titles at the Golden Shears, most recently in 1991 when the Junior final was won by Alwyn Manzini, of Bala.
Both Rowlands and Jones have been working in Hawke’s Bay, Rowlands for Hastings contractor Colin Watson Paul and based mainly this season in Waipukurau, and Jones for Napier contractor Brendan Mahony.
Rowlands had been in several finals in his career but never won until today, handsome consolation for having to give up rugby in which, as a sprinter at Breynhyfryd High School in North Wales, he showed some promise before fracturing a hip at the age of 16.
It was about four years ago that a friend suggested shearing as a possible career and otherwise destined for a farming lifestyle he took a British Wool Board course, soon afterwards entered the infectious environment of the Corwen Shears, and never looked back.
His aspirations became clear when he headed for New Zealand last summer and worked in Hawke’s Bay, and even clearer when, having been in the Bay again since November, he took to the stand today to battle three from the North Island and two from the South Island in a contest over five-sheep each, in which he was first to finish in 8min 53.506sec.
He beat favourite Joel Richards, of Oamaru, by 10 seconds – leaving an anxious few minutes waiting before judges quality points and the final result was announced.
At the final count, Richards faded and the runner-up was Woodville shearer Tegwyn Bradley, whose mother is from Wales.
Rowlands, beaming from ear to ear, told the crowd of over 600 after his win by 1.745pts was announced: “I’ve been making a few finals, but this is the first red sash I’ve had.”
Overwhelmed by the text message support from home on the other side of the World, he was quick to commend the Kiwi input of Hastings contractor and Hawke’s Bay Great Raihania Shears organiser Colin Watson Paul and senior staff member Marc Ludlow, and other supporters from fiancé Katie Hughes with him in Masterton to Wales, where mum Rhian was watching the event live-streamed over the internet.
Originally from Ruthin in North Wales, he’s heading home on Tuesday to a party he expects is already under way around Llaithddu in Powys, Mid-Wales, where he reckoned he grew the population from 10 to 11 when he moved-in about two years ago.
Jones, coaxed into shearing by Welsh industry identity Arwyn Jones, had already had significasnt success, winning the Royal Welsh Show and Corwen Shears Junioor titles a few days apart two years ago.
He too faced an anxious wait after being first to finish, the eight sheep in his final taking 12min 10.317sec, three seconds quicker than second-off and fellow Welshh shearer Sion Lewis, of Lampeter.
Jones also had to contend with Matawai shearer Catherine Mullooly, who after a string of wins in Intermediate competitions in the Lower North Island was a popular pick to score the biggest win by female in Golden Shears shearing events.
Ultimately it was Gisborne shearer Bevan Pere who came through for second, beaten by Jones by 0.595pts.
Golden Shears Junior final (6 sheep): Hefin Rowlands (Wales) 8min 53.506sec, 38.675pts, 1; Tegwyn Bradley (Woodville) 10min 0.402sec, 49.42pts, 2; Josh Balme (Te Kuiti) 10min 22.459sec, 39.523pts, 3; Lionel Taumata (Gore) 10min 3.872sec, 40.794pts, 4; Joel R ichards (Oamaru) 9min 3.449sec, 41.372pts, 5; Neil Bryant (Levin) 9min 18.03sec, 42.301pts, 6.
Golden Shears Intermediate final (8 sheep): Alun Lloyd Jones (Wales) 12min 10.317sec, 45.518pts, 1; Bevan Pere (Gisborne) 12min 24.728sec, 46.111pts, 2; Darren Alexander (Whangamomona) 12min 24.038sec, 47.577pts, 3; Catherine Mullooly (Matawai) 13min 26.25sec, 49.438pts, 4; Sion Lewis (Wales) 12min 13.254sec, 50.413pts, 5; Marshall Guy (Kaeo) 13min 28.299sec, 53.415pts, 6.