Friday 11th February, Urduliz
GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN beat BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ 22-18
Friday’s match in the Bizkaian town or Urduliz was expected to be a close one, and so it proved. Sebastien Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain had one their previous two matches after an extremely slow start in the championship, and Pablo Berasaluze and Alexis Apraiz were coming off two wins, and a near upset against the table toppers. The crowds were treated to an exciting and tough exhibition, which lasted 76 minutes and 612 balls. Although it was always close, and there was little to choose between the pairs, Gonzalez and Laskurain ran out the deserving winners. The latter was the difference between the sides, coming out on top in a tit for tat fight with Apraiz, and ending as the best player of the night.
Saturday 12th February, Pamplona
BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ beat XALA – BARRIOLA 22-21
Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz seized their fourth point of the championship with a tense and thrilling win over pre-tournament favourites Yves Salaberry and Abel Barriola. Both forwards and backs fought tooth and nail. Patxi Ruiz just shaded Barriola, but both pulled off impressive feats. Xala’s vehement attack was repelled time and again by Bengoetxea, whose defence was magnificent. He also took the attack to Xala with a wide range of shot play. Patxi Ruiz strained his calf with the score on 18-17, and when he returned from the locker room was restricted in the shots he could manage. Xala and Barriola went ahead 21-19, and looked as if the momentum would stay with them, but Bengoetxea and Ruiz fought back doggedly to take the win by the smallest possible margin.
Saturday 12th February, Tafalla
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II beat OLAZOLA I – BELOKI 7-4 (Olaizola I retired injured)
The game in Tafalla was brought to an unfortunate and abrupt end when Asier Olaizola was forced to retire with a knee injury. With the score at 7-4, and with everything still to play for, the forward from Goizueta twisted awkwardly and had to be helped from the fronton. He underwent a scan in Vitoria-Gasteiz this morning, and we await word from Asegarce on the extent of his injury.
Sunday 13th February, Logrono
TITIN III – PASCUAL beat OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO 22-21
Table toppers Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino suffered their first loss of the competition, succumbing by one point to Titin and Pascual at Adarraga. In a match full of emotion and excitement from first until last, the Asegarce duo looked to have matters under control, going ahead 3-10, 6-13 and 13-17. However, Titin masterminded a comeback, playing with passion and intensity in front of his home fans. Supported excellently by Pascual at the back, he drew his pair level at 17-17, before they surged ahead 20-17. Aimar and Aritz fought their way back to 20-21, but two errors from Begino handed the game to Titin and Pascual, who have reversed their fortunes dramatically from their drubbing by Gonzalez and Laskurain last week. Olaizola and Begino, however, remain in isolation at the top of the standings. This result will have provided them with a shock, but they are as good as safe and will put it behind them.
The championship now moves into its second round robin phase, in which each pair plays the four from the opposing empresa across four weeks of games. The schedule for this section of the competition can be viewed at Asegarce. The table at this point in proceedings indicates the closeness in ability of many of the couples. Olaizola II-Begino and Xala-Barriola have served up the most quality, and looked virtually assured of places in the semi finals, but behind them things are very tight. Bengoetxea VI-Patxi Ruiz are next best, having won four of their seven matches, while four pairs are tied on three wins. Olaizola I-Beloki seem out of it, but for everyone else, it is all to play for. See here for the full table.
The Second Tier championship, which mirrors to pattern of the main competition, also moves into its next phase next weekend. There, it looks to be a six-pair fight for the semi final berths. Apezetxea-Cecilio top the table, while Jaunarena-Larrinaga and Urrutikoetxea-Iza appear down and out. For the full table, see Manista, and for remaining fixtures see Asegarce.
Image from Manista, by Carlos Zuluaga