By Diana Dobson

New Zealand won the first day and Australia the second, setting up a stellar Trans-Tasman battle for the final day and overall honours at the Larsen Sawmilling Showjumping Champs.

There was nothing but praise all round for the riders – New Zealanders Lucinda Askin (Ashburton), Matt Irvine (Takapau), Nakeysha Lammers (Taranaki) and Oliver Croucher (Rotorua), and the Australian visitors – Jamie Priestley, Jessie Rice-Ward, Madeline Sinderberry and Jessica Tripp.

New Zealand chef d’equipe and trainer John Cottle was rapt with his team but also acknowledged the visitors.

“It was a good close contest,” he said. “After a not so good round on the second day, our riders stepped up today. The horses were getting tired and the riders just need to get the job done. They have to use their instincts as they get on new horses.”

All of the New Zealand riders had contributed to the final result.

“My job was very easy – all of my riders are very talented,” he said.

“The Aussies had around 70 young riders apply to be on their team, so the best of theirs are here.”

He extended thanks to both those who had loaned the “nice bunch of horses” and to the riders who had all done so well.

However, Cottle said it was disappointing to see the Gisborne show clash with another in Hawera, depleting fields somewhat.

Those thoughts were reiterated by Australian chef d’equipe and trainer Becky Jenkins. It is her second visit to Gisborne’s January champs and she was looking to replicate their winner efforts of last year. However it wasn’t to be.

“It has been a fantastic experience. I am very proud of the girls – they all dug deep. Things fell apart a bit in the first round today but they put it all back together for the second and did well.”

She felt the horses had been very even across the two pools, with riders swapping each day.

“It made for a very even playing field. It shows the riders skills – each horse has its little quirks and the rider has to sort that all out very quickly.”

The hospitality extended to the visitors had been “amazing”, and she was heartened to see the real friendships between the riders.

“It’s a fierce competition but there was amazing camaraderie between all the riders – each was keen and happy to share information about each horse. While each team wants to win, they are all also very good friends.”

Both chefs, course designer John Vallance and many riders had plenty of praise for the team behind the championships, and particularly the footing which was mostly down to the dedication of Ange Dolman who had been irrigating the grounds for the month in the build-up to the show.

Teams picked up bonus points for three clears in a single round, with five for a win and three for second.

Results – Trans-Tasman Young Rider Test

Day one 

New Zealand: Oliver Croucher (Rotorua) La Perla (owned by Matt Irvine and Maurice Beatson) 0 0, Lucinda Askin (Ashburton) Petanque (owned by the Lammers Family) 4 0, Matt Irvine (Takapau) Centaroc (owned by Matilda Shotter-Davies) 0 0, Nakeysha Lammers (Taranaki) KPH Stow Away (owned by Melissa Stratford) 0 DNS.

Australia: Jamie Priestley on Kiwi Coronation (owned by Fraser Tombleson and Rachel Martin) 8 0, Jessie Rice-Ward on La Bam (Owned by Danielle Maurer) 0 8, Jessica Trip on Delta Fasteux (owned by the Croucher Family) 4 0, Madeline Sinderberry on Amarula MVNZ (owned by Keean Cooper) 7 0.

Day two

New Zealand: Croucher on Kiwi Coronation 4 4, Askin on Delta Fasteux 0 0, Irvine on Amarula MVNZ 4 4, Lammers on La Bam 0 13.

Australia: Priestley on KPH Stow Away 0 8, Rice-Ward on La Perla 0 0, Trip E 12, Sinderberry on Petanque 0 0.

Day three

New Zealand: Croucher on La Bam 0 4, Askin on KPH Stow Away 4 0, Irvine on Kiwi Coronation 0 8, Lammers on Petanque 0 0.

Australia: Priestley on Amarula MVNZ 8 0, Trip on La Perla 8 0, Sinderberry on Centaroc 4 0.