Apologies for the lack of full reports this week; I was unable to watch either of the matches and have since then been run off my feet!
This past weekend saw the conclusion of the Manomanista group stages. Group A reached its conclusion the week before, with Martinez de Irujo and Olaizola I taking the semi final slots, and this week it was the turn of Group B. Xala had already booked his place in the last four, but the second berth rode on Saturday’s game at Labrit between Patxi Ruiz and Retegi Bi. The winner would progress while the loser would kiss the competition goodbye. Patxi Ruiz it was who qualified, beating Retegi Bi 22-14. Retegi had the best of the early exchanges, taking a 4-9 lead against an opponent who looked wracked with nerves. However, Ruiz changed his approach, abandoning the volleying game he had previously adopted. His newfound speed wore the younger pelotari down, as he was forced to chase back repeatedly. Ruiz will now face Martinez de Irujo in the semi finals, where he will have to up his game to a major degree.
The other match, in Bergara on Sunday, saw the in-form Xala beat Iker Arretxe 22-16, in a game he did not have to win. The match was hard fought, and Arretxe did himself credit in the fight he took to Xala. The Asegarce player found himself in the competition only as a substitute for the injured Olaizola II, and while he lost both games he played (the other against Retegi Bi), he showed much promise as well as great character. Xala’s performance was not as dominant as might have been expected, but the Aspe forward is the player of the year so far, and looks like the most serious rival to Martinez de Irujo for the overall prize. He will first have to overcome Asier Olaizola in the semi finals.
The dates and venues for the semi final matches were announced today and are as follows:
XALA v OLAIZOLA I, 17:00, Saturday 5th June at Labrit, Pamplona
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO v PATXI RUIZ, 17:00, Sunday 6th June at Astelena, Eibar
Image from: Diario de Navarra, by Jose Carlos Cordevilla