Saturday 16th January, Pamplona
OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA beat TITIN III – MERINO II 22-8
The defending champions were well and truly humbled on Saturday by a stunning performance from Aimar Olaizola and Ibai Zabala, who now sit second in the table and look ever more secure as a pair. In contrast, Titin and Merino will need to turn things around merely to make the semi-finals. At the start of the championship, it was obvious that Olaizola was the predominant player in the partnership, shielding his inexperienced partner from pressure. However, as the tournament has progressed, Zabala looks more confident and Olaizola seems happier to give him his head. He is playing with great security and not a little style, with an especially strong right. With greater equality in the pair, it is now easy to see them challenging right to the end of the championship.
In contrast to Zabala’s assured play, David Merino looked extremely out of sorts, making a catalogue of errors. This left Titin running for scraps in the face of a dominant Olaizola. The Asegarce pair looked to dominate matters from the outset with a faster ball than their opponents may have liked. Their choices, both in this and in the tactical sphere, worked perfectly and the crowd could hardly believe what they were seeing when they raced into a 14-0 lead. There was no way back from here for the Riojans. The champions managed a reaction of sorts, netting five points in a row thanks to some classy finishing from Titin but Olaizola and Zabala continued to dominate, leaving nothing to chance in a 22-8 annihilation. In under three quarters of an hour the game was up and the 2012 winners left to lick their considerable wounds.
Winners/errors: Olaizola 10/1, Titin 7/2, Zabala 1/1, Merino 1/6
Match time: 44 minutes
Balls hit: 321