Friday 25th February, Azkaine
GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN beat ARRETXE II – IBAI ZABALA 22-19
Gonzalez and Laskruain were the overwhelming favourites for this game, which took place in front of a crowd of 700 in the former’s backyard. However, Iker Arretxe and Ibai Zabala caused them no end of worry, and pushed them all the way to the line, maintaining stalemate at 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 18, before finally succumbing to the cool heads of their more seasoned rivals, after a whopping 1030 balls. Arretxe was the player of the match, resourceful and successful in attack, as the underdogs threw caution to the wind; as substitutes for Olaizola I and Beloki they had little to lose, and a gilt edged opportunity to make a name for themselves. In the end though, Gonzalez and Laskurain joined the group of five vying for the remaining three qualifying spots behind Xala and Barriola.
Scoring sequence: 0-1/1/4-1/4/4-6/6/9-6/10-7/10/11/12/14-12/14/14-16/16/17/18/20-18/20-19/22-19
Duration 106 minutes, with 53 minutes of playing time and 1030 balls struck
Sunday 27th February, Logrono
BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ beat TITIN III – PASCUAL 22-19
This was as close as it gets to a crunch game: both pairs needed a victory to avoid the predicament of having to win both of their remaining matches to qualify. In a tense affair, full of emotion, it was the Asegarce pair who prevailed. Bengoetxea and Ruiz kept their noses in front for most of the match; they led 5-0, before their opponents came back and took over by eight points to five, but once they regained the lead, they never let it go. The Aspe duo gave the Titin tifosi something to cheer about when they came to within one point of parity at 19-20, but they lacked the killer punch of their opponents. All played with skill and passion, but Patxi Ruiz’ was the standout performance. Asegarce will no doubt be delighted that he controlled the game as he did, with no hint of discomfort from his lately rather troublesome hands.
Scoring sequence: 0-5 / 5 / 5-7 / 7 / 8 / 8-6 / 9-10 / 9-11 / 10-12 / 12 / 12-14 / 12-13 / 13-17 / 15-17 / 16-19 / 17-19 / 18-20 / 19-20 / 19-22
Duration 81 minutes, with 30 minutes of playing time, and 671 balls struck.
Image from Deia, by Iban Aguinaga