After eleven enthralling weeks, we now know the line up for the semi finals in the Pairs Championship. Heading the standings are Xala and Barriola, the long time favourites who only briefly ceded superiority to Olaizola II and Begino in the battle to top the table. With nine wins out of eleven, and a positive points difference of 83, they deserve their favouritism. Everything about their partnership seems right, from the calm brutality of Xala to the metronomic long range striking of Barriola, and it will take much to shatter their ice cool facade.
Olaizola II and Begino qualify in second, as the sole Asegarce representatives in the last four. They began the competition like a proverbial train, chalking up six straight wins, including a narrow defeat of Xala and Barriola, before things went somewhat awry. No matter though, for they never looked in danger of elimination thanks to their points difference, and an easy win this weekend made sure of their progress. While less consistent than Xala and Barriola, they bring class in abundance, especially in the form of Olaizola, who when on song can pulverise anyone who dares to take him on.
Behind the two more obvious semi finalists come two pairs who have had to fight tooth and nail for their positions. Gonzalez and Laskurain, who lost in the final last year to Xala and Zubieta, took their time to find their feet in 2011, surprisingly given their track record and knowledge of each other. In the end though, they glided into the semi finals almost unnoticed, causing few ripples along the way. They look to be coming to the boil when it matters, and with their grim determination to succeed, cannot be ignored.
Martinez de Irujo and Merino II had a torrid start to the competition, clearly failing to gel as a pair. In fact, Merino looked infinitely better when paired with Aritz Lasa during Irujo’s injury break. However, Aspe’s experiment of youth and experience, devised after Aitor Zubieta’s pre-Christmas injury, eventually paid off and they round out the last four, thanks to Bengoetxea and Albisu’s inability to score ten points against Xala and Barriola. No pair featuring Irujo can be ruled out, and Merino, though young, is a special talent.
The semi finals begin on Sunday 20th, when all four pairs will be in action. Fixtures will follow when they are confirmed.
|1||XALA – BARRIOLA||11||9||2||238||155||+83|
|2||OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO||11||7||4||219||197||+22|
|3||GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN||11||6||5||213||189||+24|
|4||MTZ IRUJO – MERINO II||11||6||5||190||194||-4|
|5||BENGOETXEA VI – P. RUIZ||11||6||5||195||201||-6|
|6||TITIN III – PASCUAL||11||5||6||201||208||-7|
|7||BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ||11||4||7||195||211||-16|
|8||OLAIZOLA I – BELOKI||11||1||10||140||236||-96|