Daily Archives: 19 May, 2010

Manomanista: Ruthless Irujo makes short work of Oinatz

Sunday 16th May, San Sebastian


Manomanista Group A

On Sunday, Manomanista favourite Juan Martinez de Irujo made short work of Oinatz Bengoetxea to make absolutely sure of his place in the last four. Bengoetxea, the 2008 champion needed a big victory to progress, but he came up against an Irujo in a typically aggressive mood, and never came close. The result also means that Asier Olaizola is assured of his semi final slot. He will probably play Xala, while Irujo will face either Patxi Ruiz or Retegi Bi.

As if to state his intent to finish his opponent off as quickly as possible, Irujo raced to a 5-0 lead. Bengoetxea rallied to 5-4 but that was as close as he got to the tournament favourite, who surged to 13-5 and 20-6. He relaxed a little as he reached the finishing line, but he had plenty breathing space, and though he moved on to 10, Benogetxea was in an inferior league to Irujo here. The former champion committed ten errors, and the lack of competition between the two was reflected in the short duration of many of the rallies. Irujo simply had too much power and played with too much speed, and only 117 balls were required to seal the win.

This is the third consecutive visit to the Manomanista semi finals, and he has arrived at this point with three wins from three in the contest. He must now be the favourite, although Asier Olaizola uncovered weaknesses in his armoury. Xala may have something to say about the supposed top status of the man from Ibero, and as the form pelotari of the year as a whole, may prove his most formidable rival. A final between the two would be a match to savour.

Scoring sequence: 5-0, 5-4, 13-4, 13-5, 13-6, 20-6, 20-7, 21-8, 21-10, 22-10

Oinatz is out

Oinatz is out

Image from Noticias de Alava, by Javi Colmenero

Manomanista: Olaizola I keeps Barriola at bay

Saturday 15th May, Pamplona


Manomanista Group A

In a game of high intensity and great excitement at the cathedral of Labrit, Asier Olaizola overcame the staunch challenge of Abel Barriola to all but claim a place in the semi finals of the 2010 Manomanista. Had he lost here, he would have been forced to wait for the result of the match on Sunday between Martinez de Irujo and Bengoetxea VI, where a win for Bengoetxea would mean elimination for the Goizuetarra. As it was, this sterling victory meant qualification, unless Bengoetxea could beat Irujo by more than eight points.

The game was one of sporadic quality. Both pelotaris displayed stunning skill at times but both also lapsed. However, the real quality of the evening came in the form of its scintillating atmosphere, stirred up by the knowledge of all concerned that this encounter truly mattered. The large crowd roared and rippled like the sea. At first, Olaizola rode the crest of the wave, moving to a 4-1 lead with some authority. It was not to last though, as a lapse in his early intensity opened the door for Barriola, who at 9-4 to the good found himself in a position of some strength. He was able to control points, pushing Olaizola back relentlessly, and it appeared that his pre-injury verve had returned, albeit too late for him to qualify. However, Olaizola took his chance to regain the serve with both hands, and astonished all concerned with a run of fifteen straight points. He served excellently, and displayed the killer punch that Barriola increasingly lacked, on his way to registering a total of thirteen clean winners in the match. It is to be expected that after nearly a year off with a serious knee injury, Barriola will take time to return to the boil, but he looked slow here and lacked spark. Sharp movement is obviously not yet easy. However, having arrived a mere three points short of the prize, Olaizola stuttered, and his errors allowed Barriola back into the game. In his last match, against Irujo, Olaizola had allowed a massive lead to slip; surely it would not happen again? Thankfully for him, he regained his composure, not without some necessary risk taking, and moved with relief from 20-18 to 22-18.

The relief was palpable on the face of the older Olaizola; he had done all he could, and could return home to await his fate in the knowledge that he had left everything on the fronton. Barriola was below his very high par, as he has been all tournament, and one can only hope that the real pelotari will step forward very soon. The loser was, as ever, gracious in defeat, and congratulated Olaizola with warmth. As he retired to leave his brother in the limelight, botillero Aimar granted Asier a firm pat on the back; job well done.

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-1, 4-1, 4-9, 19-9, 19-13, 20-13, 20-18, 22-18