Saturday 18th February, Pamplona: XALA-LASKURAIN beat GONZALEZ*-BARRIOLA 22-13
Sebastien Gonzalez entered the fray at Labrit on Saturday thanks to Juan Martinez de Irujo contracting mumps, an ailment which will also keep him out of the showdown with Olaizola II and Beroiz this coming weekend. Gonzalez, to his credit, acquitted himself extremely well, perhaps in an effort to prove that he should have been in the tournament in the first place, producing a tally of ten winners. However, he was up against a Xala in inspired form. His fellow French Basque hit thirteen winners to only one error, and together with the impressive solidity of Laskurain this was more than enough to get them over the line for their fourth win. Barriola, although on paper reliable, was pressured by Laskurain and ultimately outplayed. Irujo and Barriola appeared dead certs to make the semi finals in the first few rotations, but now they will have to watch their backs; they are still second but are level on points with three other pairs, including Xala and Laskurain.
Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-4, 4-4, 4-6, 7-6, 7-7, 12-7, 12-10, 16-10, 16-13, 22-13
Winners/errors: Xala 13/3, Gonzalez 10/5, Laskurain 1/1, Barriola 0/2
Monday 20th February, Tolosa: ARITZ LASA-PENAGARIKANO* beat TITIN III-MERINO II 22-15
Monday’s match in Tolosa also featured an injury substitution, with Kepa Penagarikano coming in for Aitor Zubieta, the state of whose hands force him to take a break. Penagarikano, though without the reputation of the former champion, filled his shoes admirably and outplayed David Merino who was unable to overcome his stranglehold. At the front, Aritz Lasa started slowly, allowing the Riojans to take the early lead, but as the game progressed his confidence rocketed. He showed Titin little respect and stuck to his own game with some resolve. Once their lead had been established at 10-6, there was no looking back for the underdogs who played on a different level from their opponents. This win was essential and they will need more in order to stand any chance of progressing. With Zubieta out for another two weeks at least, Aspe will hope that Penagarikano can hold his form and Lasa maintain the consistency he has at times so badly lacked. The victors remain seventh, while Titin and Merino slip one place to fourth.
Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3, 5-5, 6-6, 6-10, 6-14, 12-16, 12-17, 13-17, 13-21, 15-21, 15-22.
Tuesday 21st February, Tolosa: OLAIZOLA II-BEROIZ beat ARRETXE II-BEGINO 22-11
There was no surprise whatsoever in this result, apart perhaps from the fact that Iker Arretxe and Aritz Begino scored as many points as they did. That they were still in the match at 10-13 was down largely to the play of Begino, but once Aimar Olaizola nudged up a gear, the table’s bottom pair had no answer. The star forward was the player of the match, and with the metronomic support of Beroiz, barely had to extend himself. Nine wins from Nine means that Olaizola and Beroiz are assured of a place in the last four. Whoever joins them will have to think long and hard about how they can be undone.
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 8-2, 12-5, 12-9, 13-10, 19-10, 22-11.
This week’s results mean that the table, with five rounds to go, looks like this:
1 OLAIZOLA II – BEROIZ 9 9 +97
2 MTZ de IRUJO – BARRIOLA 9 5 +25
3 XALA – LASKURAIN 9 5 +13
4 TITIN III – MERINO II 9 5 +8
5 BENGOETXEA VI – APRAIZ 9 5 -4
6 BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU 9 4 +7
7 ARITZ LASA – ZUBIETA 9 3 -31
8 ARRETXE II – BEGINO 9 0 -114