Sunday 22nd November, Astelena, Eibar
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat TITIN III 22-11
Sebastian Gonzalez must have girded up his loins for a tense afternoon on Sunday, as the result of the match between Titin III and Juan Martinez de Irujo had a direct bearing on whether he himself would reach the final. As things turned out, by game’s mid point, he may well have been relaxing contentedly with a cup of tea as Irujo’s dominance was never in doubt. For Titin it was victory or quits and the latter was, emphatically, his destiny.
Astelena was packed to the rafters for what many believed would be one of the matches of the championship. Irujo and Titin are both renowned for the intensity both of their play and of their demeanour and with so much at stake matters seemed set to be white hot. The crowd, who bedecked the arena in banners and Riojan flags, were primed for a fight but were left unfulfilled, for there was nothing Titin could do to quench Irujo’s fire. For at least the first four points, affairs were close as the players traded both blows and errors to find themselves locked at 2-2. From that point on however, Irujo located the accelerator and went. The man from Ibero moved from 5-4 to 17-4 with seamless ease. This period of play was peppered with errors by Titin, including a moment of clouded judgement when he left a ball he thought was long. Irujo for his part hit winners at will, mixing powerful hooks and deft drops in a display of breathtaking pace and utter confidence. Titin, who usually appears furious and incredulous when under the cosh, could muster only disbelief and resignation.
However, Titin would not be Titin without the stomach for a battle and the Riojan mustered a fightback of sorts. He broke Irujo’s incredible run of points when the latter could not scoop up a dipping ball close to the frontis, and won the next two in quick time with a dosparedes and a long service return from Irujo. Irujo took back the initiative and advanced to 19-7, almost within touching distance of the final, but his opponent was not yet done and reacted with four points in a row courtesy of a string of uncharacteristic errors from his opponent. But any doubts about Irujo’s ability to close out the match were swiftly dispelled. Titin rallied impressively but in reality the die was cast; two more errors from Titin followed by a signature hook and the game was up.
This was an impressively clinical display from Irujo who knew precisely what he had to do and did the job without a flicker of self doubt. While Gonzalez must be delighted with his final ticket, part of him must be quaking at the thought of playing an Irujo in such rampant form. Irujo finds himself in his third major final of the year and Gonzalez is the only man between him and a clean sweep. The two will meet at Atano III on 8th December.
Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 5-2, 5-4, 17-4, 17-7, 19-7, 19-11 and 22-11.
Image from: El Correo Digital