Daily Archives: 27 February, 2012

Berasaluze saves the blushes of Albisu as rivals fall away

Sunday 26th February, Eibar


Pairs Championship

It looked to all the world as if Aritz Lasa and Penagarikano were going to take the win they so badly needed at Astelena last night. Lasa was playing excellently, with accuracy and real verve, and Albisu appeared trapped in a sequence of inaccuracy and self-doubt. The Aspe pair led comfortably from the off and although their opponents came back at them, they held them at bay. However, keeping Pablo Berasaluze down is never simple and just when the situation was becoming critical for his team, he produced the goods to maintain their qualification chances. Meanwhile, the afflicted Aitor Zubieta could only sit in the stands and watch as his proxy, Penagarikano, felt the heat and let everything slip.

Albisu was the culprit in the red pair’s early demise. In the second play of the match he left a long, spiralling ball from Lasa which looked to be going wide. When it fell in, his face was a picture of consternation. He then went on to miscue the ball three times in a row and before anyone had had time to blink, it was 0-5. Berasaluze and Albisu gradually pulled points back, and the latter did well to bomb Penagarikano into submission to get them off the mark. Berasaluze showed himself able to turn on the style when needed, and produced a whirlwind period of play between 7-12 and 12-13 to bring his pair right back into touch. When on 4-10, Albisu threw away a golden position in going high trying to get the ball over his opponent’s head, Berasaluze seized the serve back with a gantxo. When Lasa exerted excellent control to take the score to 6-12, Berasaluze jumped back in with two winners in a row. Albisu played his part with a long ball which trapped Penagarikano against the back wall but when he faltered in the next point, Berasaluze again rescued the momentum with a hat trick of winners. With a gap of only one point, the match had taken on a very different complexion and this was down almost entirely to the tenacity of the man from Berriz.

Lasa and Penagarikano stopped the rot and extended their advantage to four again at 12-16, but sensing the situation was now very dangerous, Berasaluze moved again. Penagarikano had hitherto played very well indeed but as Berasaluze turned the screw, he faltered, committing a string of errors right at the death. There was little Lasa could do to rescue him in the face of his opposite number, who took all the pressure off his ailing defensive partner and deposited it elsewhere. This was an opportunity too good to miss for the Aspe pair to secure a crucial win, with Lasa on song and Albisu out of form. It is to Berasaluze’s credit that they failed to drive it home.

Scoring sequence: 0-5, 1-5, 1-7, 2-7, 4-7, 4-11, 6-11, 6-12, 9-12, 9-13, 10-13, 12-13, 12-16, 16-16, 16-17, 17-17, 21-17, 21-18, 22-18.

Winners/errors: Berasaluze 13/2, Lasa 7/0, Albisu 5/8, Penagarikano ¼

Match time: 1:04.43 with 21:49 of actual play

Balls hit: 414

Rampant Titin and classy Merino ascend the ladder

Friday 24th February, Irun


Pairs Championship

This Championship has been billed from the start as a two horse race between Olaizola II-Beroiz and Martinez de Irujo-Barriola. However, thanks in part to the indifference of the latter pairing in the past few weeks, coupled with Irujo’s illness, a new contender is emerging. The Riojan combination of experience and youth had won five of its nine matches prior to Friday and sat in the midst of those seeking a way to squeeze into the last two semi-final berths. However, Titin and Merino’s efforts in Irun have lifted them into second place, ahead of dead certs Irujo and Barriola. That they find themselves in this elevated state is thanks to the sheer doggedness of Titin and the emerging class of David Merino, a towering beacon of future promise.

Titin and Merino had almost everything their way in this match. Titin took control right from the start with five clean winners in the first seven points. The other two points in this early passage came as a result of errors from Apraiz, who was put under searing pressure from the great veteran. Merino was the perfect foil, clean elegant and devastatingly accurate from any distance. Titin was out foxed by a short ball from Apraiz in the tenth point and fell short down the wall, but the Asegarce pair failed to produce a clean winner until the defender got one over Merino’s head at 1-12. After this confidence boost, a sign that scoring points was in fact possible, Bengoetxea picked up two in a row with a txoko and a cross court swipe while almost flat against the front wall. However, such moments of inspiration from the usually effervescent forward were few and far between. He chipped away at the Aspe lead in ones and twos, but only appeared to have discovered his true style when it was far too late, at least taking his pair into double figures with a run of three clean winners before the Riojans closed the deal. The winning point came from the hand of Merino, who demonstrating his will to be adventurous as well as merely solid, pulled off a txoko from an impressive distance.

Bengoetxea did not play badly, indeed he made only one error, but Titin was in magisterial form and struck twice as many winners as his opposite number, who could do little to break his control. Apraiz, although he began with little promise, found his range as the game progressed, but proved unable to disrupt Merino’s serenity. This loss has done little to help their cause, though they still have their chances. For Team Rioja however, it seems the only way is up. They will have home advantage against Olaizola and Beroiz this weekend and may fancy themselves to get close, although the table toppers are an entirely different proposition.

Scoring sequence: 9-0, 9-1, 12-1, 12-4, 13-4, 13-5, 14-5, 14-6, 16-6, 16-8, 17-8, 20-8, 20-11, 22-11.

Winners/errors: Titin III 14/1, Bengoetxea VI 7/1, Merino II 3/1, Apraiz 2/4

Match time: 54:00 with 20:14 of actual play

Balls hit: 439