Saturday 7th April, Pamplona
XALA – LASKURAIN beat BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU 22-19
It must seem to Pablo Berasaluze as if life simply isn’t fair. The effervescent Asegarce forward was outstanding at Labrit on Saturday, the best of the quartet of players by a healthy margin, but yet ended on the losing side. Any loss is hard to stomach, but especially one which kills any lingering dreams of a place in a big championship final. Berasaluze has been a joy to watch in the latter stages of this Pairs Championship, but it is Xala and Laskurain who maintain their hopes of a place in the last two, having undone Jon Ander Albisu entirely. There was nothing his forward partner could do to prevent his meltdown, as he committed error after error.
The Asegarce pair started the better, taking an early 5-0 lead, but their opponents came back at them to trail by only two points at 9-7 with a concerted effort to take Berasaluze out of the game and probe the weaknesses of his young defensive partner. The pressure told on Albisu, who was largely responsible for the dramatic turnaround as they ceded a 17-10 lead to Xala and Laskurain. Berasaluze, irrepressible as he is, still had his eyes on the prize however and seized the initiative back, dominating Xala who even when his pair was on top never looked entirely at ease with his game. Extraordinarily Berasaluze dragged his pair to a tie at 19-19. He ended the night with twelve winners, three times the total managed by Xala who lacked any kind of serious incision and was brought to his knees by Berasaluze’s left handed cross court play. Thankfully for Xala, he had the metronomically accurate support of Laskurain from behind, and his relentless hitting was sufficient to keep his younger counterpart firmly under the cosh. As Berasaluze’s miraculous comeback fell agonisingly short, the Aspe pair seized their chance.
Xala and Laskurain have blown hot and cold in the championship as a whole. Laskurain has been consistently excellent but Xala has been noticeably below par. They must be delighted at the position in which they now find themselves. On Friday they play a sudden death tie in Bilbao; the winner progresses to the final, the loser is out.