Sunday 11th March, Eibar
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – BARRIOLA beat RETEGI BI* – PASCUAL* 22-4
We were faced on Sunday afternoon with the unusual situation of a pair made up of two substitutes. Zubieta has now been out for several weeks with ongoing hand problems, and last week his regular partner Aritz Lasa joined the ranks of the ill and infirm. It fell therefore to Retegi Bi and Pascual to represent them, and although they were already out of the running for a place in the last four one could not help but conjure up visions of the injured duo watching this match from behind the sofa. The statistics make it look like a virtuoso showcase for Irujo, finishing as he did with fifteen winners to two errors, but in reality he had to do very little as Retegi Bi and Pascual looked utterly out of their depth and sealed their own fate.
The result was really never in any doubt. Right from the start, Irujo made his pressure tell and the opposing pair appeared to have no strategy for dealing with it and no cohesion. It appeared briefly as if a contest may be on the cards when Irujo made two careless mistakes in a row to turn 0-4 into 2-4, but that was as good as it was going to get for Retegi and Pascual. Irujo did not make another error in the match and Barriola, but for one low strike when falling backwards on 17-4, was faultless. Retegi had his chances but proved utterly incapable of making them count. On 2-9 for example, he had the easiest possible chance to seize a winner with a cross into the left wall but totally blew it, the ball clattering low. Too often he threw away position through a lack of imagination and an inability to break through Irujo’s control. Pascual meanwhile made matters worse and with every error he committed looked more and more disgruntled at having to be there at all. He was easy pickings for Barriola in the tactical stakes. The game was neatly summed up by the final point, in which Retegi hit the ball wildly wide directly from a disciplined and excellently directed Irujo serve.
It was expected that Irujo and Barriola would win this but the scale of their triumph must have filled them with considerable delight. They are embroiled in a close fight for a semi-final spot and a win plus a positive points difference of eighteen has done them the world of good. Having been out of the qualifying spots, they have leapfrogged Xala and Laskurain into fourth. Everything hinges on the next two weeks.
Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-2, 10-2, 10-3, 18-3, 18-4, 22-4.
Winners/errors: Irujo 15/2, Barriola 0/1, Retegi Bi 1/2, Pascual 0/5.
Match time: 35:27 with 16:21 of actual play
Balls hit: 318