Thursday 5th August, Vitoria-Gasteiz
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – BELOKI beat BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ 22-12
Torneo Virgen Blanca
Manomanista champion Juan Martinez de Irujo and Ruben Beloki last night qualified with ease for the semi finals of the Torneo Virgen Blanca at Ogueta. The pre-match favourites never looked troubled in a 22-12 romp against an Asegarce partnership that showed fight but lacked both firepower and coordination. They will now meet Xala and Barriola for a place in Monday’s final.
From the gun, the eventual winners asserted their dominance and it looked to all the world as if the margin of victory would err on the side of the embarrassing. Before their opponents had settled into the game, Irujo had masterminded a 5-0 lead by way of three commanding winners, aided by two nervous mistakes from Apraiz, who never truly hit his stride. There was a palpable sense of relief from the assembled masses when Pablo and Apraiz managed their first point, thanks to a ball from Beloki which fell short, but they could not halt the march of their rivals. Pablo showed typically sprightly endeavor, and some promising defence, in the exchanges which followed, but three more errors from Apraiz took the margin to 10-1. From that juncture, a miracle would have been needed for the Asegarce pair.
However, Pablo, pocket fighter that he is, refused to lie down and proceeded to take the score line into the realms of respectability. Irujo struck a beautiful crosscourt airez to stretch his lead to 11-2, as if reminding all present of his superiority, but Pablo, not bowed by the status of his opponent, struck back with a dominant txoko, to the delight of the crowd. He followed this up shortly afterwards with another, followed by a searing crosscourt in a point where he ran rings around Irujo. Apraiz too got in on the act, all too briefly, haring forward to push Beloki long and to a point of no return.
The signs looked better for the underdogs, but their resurgence was to be short lived. Apraiz miscued on 6-11, and raised his arms skywards in disgust, knowing that he had thrown all momentum away. From then on it was plain sailing for Irujo and Beloki, despite the dogged resistance of Pablo who picked up any scraps afforded to him, scoring several impressive winners to drag his pair’s total to 12. Irujo it was who stole the show however, piling up fourteen winners in the course of the match to Pablo’s six. His veneer slipped only momentarily, with a falta on 19-11, but by then the game was up and his indignation at the close call soon forgotten. He sealed the win with a gantxo and two service winners, leaving nobody with in any doubt as to who was boss on the night. Beloki was as solid as a rock, providing the magic carpet ride for Irujo’s brutal finishing. The defender from Burlada made only three errors, half the number of his young opponent’s. This was not Apraiz’s night, but his time will come. On this showing, Irujo and Beloki will present a formidable hurdle in the semi final, but the pair which awaits them is a classy one. An intriguing game is in prospect.
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 5-1, 10-1, 10-2, 11-2, 11-6, 14-6, 14-7, 16-7, 16-9, 17-9, 17-11, 19-11, 19-12, 20-12, 22-12.
Winners: Martinez de Irujo 14, Berasaluze VIII 6, Beloki 0, Apraiz 0
Errors: Martinez de Irujo 3, Berasaluze VIII 2, Beloki 3, Apriaz 6
Also last night, Stephane Lemouneau (Lemuno) defeated Jon Ander Albisu in the all-Asegarce mano a mano encounter. The 24 year old Colombian-born Lemuno took the first game of the Torneo Manomanista Promoción La Blanca 22-13, out-powering and out-witting the 20 year old Albisu, who cracked under the pressure of the victor.
Image from: El Correo, by M. Fraile