Daily Archives: 23 March, 2010

Gonzalez-Laskurain crush the dreams of Titin III-Pascual

Sunday 21st March, Logrono


Pairs Semi Finals

After Saturday’s starter, in which Xala and Zubieta cemented their credentials as txapela contenders, came Sunday’s main course which would decide who would meet them at the top table. The eyes of the pelota world alighted upon Adarraga, in the Riojan town of Logrono, the home fronton of Titin III, and the stage seemed set for the local hero to grasp the last pass to the final. The baying crowd certainly hoped and prayed for such an outcome, and for Gonzalez and Laskurain, this fixture must have felt like running headlong into the jaws of the enemy. However, the ‘away’ couple were not to be overawed, and clinched their ticket to Ogueta in commanding style.

Aritz Laskurain, the unassuming but quietly devastating defender from Soraluze in Gipuzkoa, was the man of the match. He has played this year as if newly invigorated, and can now eye his first major final since 2008, when he along with Titin lost in the final of this very competition to Olaizola II and Mendizabal II. He seems a more consistent player these days, having held his form almost the tournament through, and read the game on Sunday with aplomb. He dominated Pascual, who himself has turned in some stellar performances of late, including that of last weekend, which eliminated Irujo and Beroiz. He and Gonzalez went for the jugular from the drop of the flag, racing to a 14-2 lead, and putting Titin under extraordinary pressure in the process. That the eventual losers pulled the score back to 22-16 by the end could be seen as something of a triumph but in reality their comeback ensued only after Gonzalez and Laskurain had let their foot off the gas. All Rioja was stunned into silence.

Many believed that the insatiable desire of Titin, coupled with the ruthless form of Pascual, would see them through, but they reckoned without the emergence of a rival pair who’s eyes are focussed firmly on the prize. The upshot is that Gonzalez will face Xala in attack on April 4th in the first all-French-Basque forward battle in the history of championship finals. Xala has been the more consistent across the tournament as a whole but Gonzalez on his day can beat anyone in the world, as he showed in the Cuatro y Medio final against Irujo in December. The defensive battle will be no less fascinating, with a white hot Laskurain fighting Zubieta, who has grown by ten feet since January. After nearly three months of enthralling sport, all is set for the Eastertide showdown in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 2-6, 2-14, 4-14, 4-15, 5-15, 7-15, 6-16, 10-16, 10-17, 13-17, 13-18, 13-20, 16-20, 16-22.

Aritz Laskurain: in form

Aritz Laskurain: in form

Image from: Gara

Xala and Zubieta remain unbeaten in txapela chase

Saturday 20th March, Pamplona


Pairs Championship Semi Final

On many levels, this match did not matter in the slightest; Xala and Zubieta had already qualified for the final and pre tournament favourites Irujo and Beroiz were already out. Such dead rubbers can be hard to predict, with one side potentially taking a breather and the other perhaps having given up the ghost, but to their great credit, Saturday’s protagonists made quite a match of it. Irujo spoke in the press before the game about showing respect to the paying public, eager to see a contest and in truth, the man from Ibero is never one to lie down and surrender his pride. Xala and Zubieta clearly saw this as a confidence building exercise ahead of the final, which they now enter unbeaten in the semi final stage, the undisputed form pairing.

In fact, the finalists may be considered lucky in their win, for they were chasing the game right up until the final point, when they edged ahead for the first and only time. Irujo and Beroiz came out fighting, perhaps seeking to show that their semi final disintegration had not been total. They put eight points on the board without answer, and as Irujo loosened his arm, the red lead extended to 13-2. However, Xala, for many the player of the tournament, settled into the match and never allowed himself to be overawed by Irujo, who has proved himself fallible in recent weeks. He orchestrated a comeback which turned the match on its head and displayed for all to see the fighting spirit of his duo. This attitude to the game can only serve them well come the final showdown.

So, Irujo and Beroiz did indeed put on the show they promised and only the cold hearted could have left Labrit disappointed. If nothing else, this was a useful guide to form for us, the public, and a high octane workout for Xala and Zubieta, who will now seek to hone their skills and their senses to perfection ahead of their big day out in Vitoria-Gasteiz. The losers bow out with their heads held high, and will certainly be back for more come next year.

Scoring sequence: 8-0, 8-2, 13-2, 13-4, 14-4, 14-7, 15-7, 15-10, 16-10, 16-11, 17-11, 17-13, 18-13, 18-14, 19-14, 19-18, 21-18, 21-22.

Xala: never say die

Xala: never say die

Image from: Aspe