Friday 12th November, Pamplona
XALA beat MARTINEZ DE IRUJO 22-17
Yves Salaberry walked out to play against Juan Martinez de Irujo on Friday knowing that his Cuatro y Medio challenge had already shuddered to a halt following defeat to Barriola and Olaizola II. Conversely, Irujo was already assured of a place in the final. Though this was a dead rubber, it was no dud match as both players went for the jugular, Xala to salvage some pride and Irujo to maintain his status as favourite. After a scintillating comeback from a position of 9-16 in arrears, it was Xala who took the victory to soften the blow of his exit.
The first part of the encounter was all about Irujo, who controlled every aspect of the play. The pace of the match was infernal, but Xala was outdone by Irujo who hit strongly to all areas. The game turned when Irujo retired to the locker room without permission to protest about a call which went against him. Upon his return, Xala, ever calm and collected, was a different player. Irujo appeared suddenly out of sorts, and his opponent quietly and efficiently accumulated points, nine in a row before Irujo could put a halt on his progress. This halt was as temporary as could be however; he won only one further point before Xala took a further string of four to seize the day.
This championship has assuredly not ended in the way Xala would have liked. The Manomanista champion had his chances to reach his third major final of the year but was lacking in his first two semi finals. This win will, however, serve as a reminder of the stellar year he has had.
Scoring sequence: 0-1/ 1/ 2-1/ 2/ 3-2/ 3/ 4/ 4-5/ 5/ 5-11/ 8-11/ 8-14/ 9-14/ 9-16/ 18-16/ 18-17/ 22-17
Match time: 40:00 with 10:00 of actual play
Balls hit: 222
Image from: Pelota, Mano y Remonte