Friday 7th January, St Jean de Luz
XALA – BARRIOLA beat GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN 22-18
Xala and Barriola are deservedly among the white hot favourites for this year’s Pairs title, and their dismantling last week of Olaizola I and Beloki confirmed this. However, this time round they did not have things their own way, as Gonzalez and Laskurain, themselves contenders, pushed them for all they were worth. The eventual winners were forced to come from behind on several occasions in the match, most notably when they were 15-18 down and on the verge of loss. In a demonstration of their big game composure, however, they strung together seven points in a row to seize the win. Thus, for the second time in as many weekends, Gonzalez and Laskurain have failed to convert a position of strength into a championship point; last week they let a 17-13 lead slip against Olaizola II and Begino.
The real battle took place at the back of the fronton, between Barriola and Laskurain, who fielded many more balls than their partners in attack, and the former was the statistical game winner, making only two errors to Laskurain’s seven. Xala appeared unusually ineffectual for much of the match, but he burst into life when it mattered, taking advantage of a handful of misses from his opponents to drive the nail into the coffin with some stunning winners. Gonzalez played a solid match, putting more balls passed Xala than vice versa, but in truth, this was Barriola’s stage.
Scoring sequence: 0-2, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 2-5, 3-5, 3-8, 8-8, 8-10, 13-10, 13-11, 15-11, 15-15, 18-15, 18-22.
Winners/errors: Xala 8/4; Barriola 2/2; Gonzalez 11/4; Laskurain 0/7
Match time: 76 minutes, with 35 minutes actual playing time
Balls hit: 719
Abel Barriola proved the difference
Image from Gara