Category Archives: Second Tier Pairs Championship

2013 Manomanista draw revealed

With the Pairs final only just in the history books, the draw was announced yesterday for the 2013 Manomanista Championship. Sixteen pelotaris will compete for the title, won last year by Aimar Olaizola.

For Asegarce: Olaizola II, Bengoetxea VI, Albisu, Arretxe II, Beroiz, Idoate, Olaizola I and Urrutikoetxea
For Aspe: Martinez de Irujo, Barriola, Ezkurdia, Gonzalez, Jaunarena, Retegi Bi, Zabaleta and Xala

The draw is as follows:

Group A: Barriola vs Arretxe II (Legazpi, Friday 3rd)> Retegi Bi > Olaizola II
Group B: Gonzalez vs Urrutikoetxea (Labrit, Saturday 4th) > Xala > Idoate
Group C: Olaizola I vs Jaunarena (Eibar, Sunday 5th) > Zabaleta > Bengoetxea VI
Group D: Beroiz vs Ezkurdia (Labrit, Saturday 4th) > Albisu > Martínez de Irujo

The final will be held on Sunday 16th June

Pairs Championship: all set for the semis

Apologies for yet more silence from the blog in the past week or so. Things have been difficult in many ways at my end, while the world of pelota has moved on apace. The semi-finalists are set and the first of the matches in the last four take place this weekend. Last week’s results were as follows:

Friday 22nd March, Mutilva: MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – ZABALETA beat ARRETXE II – BEGINO 22-8
Saturday 23rd March, Pamplona: BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ beat TITIN III – MERINO II 22-8
Saturday 23rd March, Bilbao: XALA – BARRIOLA beat BERASALUZE II – ALBISU 22-20
Sunday 24th March, Eibar: OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA beat EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA 22-11

Three of the semi-finalists, Irujo-Zabaleta, Bengoetxea VI-Beroiz and Olaizola II-Ibai Zabala had been set but the big story of the past two weeks has been the fight for the fourth spot between Berasaluze-Albisu and defending champions Titin-Merino. In the end, it was the former who squeezed in, ending the defence of the Riojans who suffered a heavy defeat in Pamplona. Berasaluze and Albisu also lost, but did enough given their superior points difference. The final table looks like this:

Pair Games Won Lost Points for Points against Points diff.
1 MTEZ IRUJO – ZABALETA 14 11 3 291 224 +67
2 OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA 14 10 4 287 209 +78
3 BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ 14 10 4 283 244 +39
4 BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU 14 6 8 256 271 -15
5 TITIN III – MERINO II 14 6 8 243 284 -41
6 EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA 14 5 9 254 255 -1
7 XALA – BARRIOLA 14 5 9 241 287 -46
8 ARRETXE II – BEGINO 14 3 11 210 291 -81

The first semi-final pits Olaizola II-Ibai Zabala against Martinez de Irujo-Zabaleta (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Saturday) while Bengoetxea VI-Beroiz play Berasaluze II-Albisu in Eibar on Sunday. For a full round up of all the results from the round robin stages, see Aspe’s webpages.

Bengoetxea is in, but Titin is out

Bengoetxea is in, but Titin is out

The Promocion championship has also reached the semi-final stage, with standout pair Gorka-Cecilio sitting proudly atop the table.

Pair Games Won Lost Points for Points against Points diff.
1 GORKA – CECILIO 11 9 2 225 157 68
2 APEZETXEA – LARRINAGA 11 8 3 215 182 33
3 RICO IV – UNTORIA 11 7 4 215 184 31
4 TAINTA – LADIS GALARZA 11 6 5 215 195 20
5 MENDIZABAL III – MERINO 11 5 6 205 204 1
6 OLAZABAL – ARRUTI 11 3 8 177 209 -32
7 ELEZKANO II – LARUNBE 11 3 8 159 205 -46
8 LEMUNO – ARETXABALETA 11 3 8 148 223 -75

Both of the opening semis take place on Saturday. Gorka and Cecilio get a home match in Ezkaray against Rico IV and Untoria, while Apezetxea and Larrinaga play Tainta and Ladis Galarza in Vitoria-Gasteiz. For all the results from the round robin, see here.

Untoria and Gorka will face off on Saturday

Untoria and Gorka will face off on Saturday

Photos: mine

Pairs Championship: the past two weeks

Apologies for the silence over the past couple of weeks; I have been away. Sadly there are not enough hours in the day to write a comprehensive report of everything which has happened in this time, so a potted results list will have to suffice! The matches from 1st-3rd March saw the following:

Friday 1st March, Urduliz: BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU beat EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA 22-17
Saturday 2nd March, Pamplona: BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ beat XALA – BARRIOLA 22-10
Sunday 3rd March, Logrono: ARRETXE II – BEGINO beat TITIN III – MERINO II 22-19

The following week, this is what occurred:

Friday 8th March, Zarautz: BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ beat ARRETXE II – BEGINO 22-15
Saturday 9th March, Anglet: OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA beat XALA – BARRIOLA 22-12
Saturday 9th March, Etxebarri: TITIN III – MERINO II beat EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA 22-21

Thus, with two weeks remaining in the marathon round robin section of the championship, the table looks like this:

Pair Played Won Lost Points for Points against Points diff.
1 MTZ. DE IRUJO – ZABALETA 12 9 3 247 198 49
2 BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ 12 9 3 248 214 34
3 OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA 12 8 4 243 186 57
4 TITIN III – MERINO II 12 6 6 221 240 -19
5 BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU 12 5 7 214 235 -21
6 EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA 12 4 8 221 220 1
7 XALA – BARRIOLA 12 4 8 201 245 -44
8 ARRETXE II – BEGINO 12 3 9 190 247 -57

The top three pairs are all but safe as far as semi-final qualification is concerned, although Martinez de Irujo and Zabaleta saw their dominance challenged by a resurgent Bengoetxea and Beroiz. The latter had looked like the pick of the crop at the start of the tournament before falling under the shadow of their Aspe rivals, but two straight wins coupled with a surprising loss for Irujo and Zabaleta have seen them draw level at the top. Olaizola and Ibai Zabala saw their excellent run end in an easy defeat by Irujo and Zabaleta but a comprehensive win over Xala and Barriola, who now seem out of it, restored them to safety. The interest now lies in the fourth qualification place, which would seem to be between Titin and Merino, the defending champions, and Berasaluze and Albisu, who have pulled themselves from the mire in these past two weeks. The Riojans have the upper hand in terms of points but it could go either way, and happily as far as the drama of the situation is concerned, they meet each other this Saturday in Bilbao. Ezkurdia and Zubieta could still qualify, mathematically but they squandered two golden opportunities in the past two weeks. They went into their game on 1st March as probable favourites over Berasaluze and Albisu but were never really in it, and then lost by the smallest possible margin to Titin and Merino a week later. If the final point of that match had gone the other way, they could now face the final two weeks with some confidence. They need to win and for results to go for them in a big way, but at least they have a relatively healthy points difference when compared to Xala and Barriola, who are level in terms of wins and losses. They would need a miracle to turn things around.

The Promocion Championship also has another two weeks of round robin matches left, and again there is a tough fight underway for the fourth qualifying spot. For results and remaining fixtures, see here.

Pair Played Won Lost Points for Points against Points diff.
1 GORKA – CECILIO 9 8 1 190 126 64
2 APEZETXEA – LARRINAGA 9 7 2 183 154 29
3 RICO IV – UNTORIA 9 6 3 175 142 33
4 MENDIZABAL III – MERINO 9 4 5 165 164 1
5 TAINTA – LADIS GALARZA 9 4 5 171 172 -1
6 ELEZKANO II – LARUNBE 9 3 6 145 161 -16
7 OLAZABAL – ARRUTI 9 2 7 135 180 -45
8 LEMUNO – ARETXABALETA 9 2 7 118 183 -65

Pairs Championship: a brief round up

I am away this week so do not have time to write reports on this week’s Pairs games, but these are the results from the past weekend:

Friday 22nd February, Donibane Garazi: TITIN III – MERINO II beat XALA – BARRIOLA 22-9
Saturday 23rd February, Vitoria-Gasteiz: BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ beat RETEGI BI* – ZABALETA 22-8
Saturday 23rd February, Pamplona: EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA beat ARRETXE II – BEGINO 22-13
Sunday 24th February, Eibar: OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA beat BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU 22-11

In the Promocion Championship:

Friday 22nd February, Donibane Garazi: MENDIZABAL III – MERINO beat LEMUNO – ARETXABALETA 22-12
Saturday 23rd February, Vitoria-Gasteiz: APEZETXEA – PENAGARIKANO* beat ELEZKANO II – LARUNBE 22-14
Saturday 23rd February, Pamplona: TAINTA – LADIS GALARZA beat ARITZ LASA* – CECILIO 22-14
Sunday 24th February, Eibar: RICO IV – MENDIZABAL II beat OLAZABAL – ARRUTI 22-15

The main championship table now looks like this, and the Promocion table like this.

Pairs Championship: Arretxe and Begino net second win

Tuesday 12th February, Tolosa


This year as last, there has been little joy in the Pairs Championship for Iker Arretxe and Aritz Begino, but the level they found in their game on Tuesday was something far more exalted. There is no question that Berasaluze and Albisu, who had put together a run of wins after a shaky start, were the favourites going into this match but their play was nervous and error strewn. In contrast, their opponents barely put a foot wrong. The game was close in the early stages and stood at 9-10 before Arretxe and Begino pulled away to win at a canter. This result means the table is now packed tightly, with the partnerships disputing fifth, sixth and seventh level on points and only one point off the qualifying spots. Arretxe and Begino are still bottom, but moving up is now a possibility; they are a mere two points off fourth place.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 3-4, 6-6, 6-10, 9-11, 9-18, 10-18, 10-22

In the Promocion Championship, Gorka-Cecilio went clear at the top, beating Apezetxea-Larrinaga who were also previously undefeated. The margin of victory was 22-16. Elsewhere, Mendizabal III-Merino I beat Aritz Lasa (replacing Olazabal)-Arruti 22-6, Rico IV-Untoria beat Lemuno-Mendizabal II (replacing Aretxabaleta) 22-17 and Olaetxea (replacing Tainta)-Ladis Galarza beat Urrutikoetxea (replacing Elezkano II)-Larunbe 22-17. Their table can be seen here.

Martinez de Irujo and Zabaleta consolidate while Olaizola and Ibai Zabala climb the tree

There was high octane play in the Riojan capital of Logrono on Sunday evening as table toppers Martinez de Irujo and Zabaleta came from behind to beat Titin III and Merino II 22-20 in a match that lasted almost an hour and a half. The momentum of the game changed on a sixpence many times over. The defending champions, playing front of a passionate home crowd, started the better, going 3-0 ahead. Even when they were pegged back and overtaken, they found the strength to forge on again, taking their lead to 10-6, 12-7 and 13-8. Irujo and Zabaleta fought back however, drawing level at fourteen and then sixteen apiece. Titin and Merino looked to have rediscovered their command of the situation when they took a 19-16 and 20-18 lead, but again they were undone with the increasingly powerful Irujo and Zabaleta coming through at the death to take four consecutive points, and with them the win. While there was much scintillating play to thrill the Adarraga crowd, there were also many mistakes, but these did not detract from the drama of the game. Especially engrossing was the tooth and nail fight at the back of the fronton between the two young defenders, who gave yet another demonstration of the youthful talent which fills Aspe’s roster.

Aimar Olaizola and Ibai Zabala moved up to second in the table on Saturday with a hard fought 22-19 victory over former top pair Bengoetxea VI and Beroiz. Labrit was full for this much anticipated encounter, as locals came in their droves to see whether the combined solidity of Bengoetxea and Beroiz would be enough to dampen the spark of Olaizola. Though the pair in blue pushed them all the way however, Goizueta’s most famous son proved once more that despite an inexperienced partner in tow, any pair with him at the helm will be very hard to stop. The game was very even from the start with the spoils shared at 3-3, but Olaizola and Zabala soon moved into a 6-3 lead. Beroiz failed to place enough pressure on Olaizola and fed him too many easy balls with which he was all too willing to mete out punishment; 6-3 became 8-3. Bengoetxea staged a fight back however, and with Beroiz in increasingly solid support seized the lead back at 9-10, and then 9-12, with some dominant shot play. It cost the red pair much effort to fight back but they scrapped their way to the lead again at 14-13. Deadlock ensued as the pairs could not be separated, tied at 17, 18 and 19. From this juncture thought, Olaizola stepped up a gear, and wasted little time in hitting his way to victory, 22-19 the final score. Bengoetxea and Beroiz, who looked invincible a few weeks back, are now on something of a losing run. Olaizola and Ibai Zabala, on the other hand, may now dare to dream of the semi-finals. There is a short highlights video on etb, here.

Meanwhile, in the Promocion Championship, Gorka and Cecilio became the only unbeaten pair in the competition, beating Apezetxea and Larrinaga 22-16 in Logrono. They now sit atop the table alone. At Labrit, Mendizabal III and Merino put Aritz Lasa (playing for Olazabal) and Arruti to the sword, winning 22-6.

Irujo and Zabaleta are in a position of strength

Irujo and Zabaleta are in a position of strength

Photo: mine

Pairs Week 7: the slow moving saga unravels

Friday 1st February, Zestoa: OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA beat ARRETXE II – BEGINO 22-6
Many questioned the wisdom of pairing the might of Aimar Olaizola with the inexperience of the untried Ibai Zabala, but thus far the experiment is working, mostly. The empresas made a conscious policy of picking pairs which would be evenly matched, thus creating close matches and greater excitement but at times, the dominance of Olaizola has been so great that he appears to all the world as if he could win entirely alone. This would, however, be to do Zabala a disservice for he has held his own at this level for the most part and has at times looked very solid indeed. It is too soon to tell whether they will have the staying power to go all the way, but on the strength of this showing they can be fairly optimistic. It is true that this year just as last, Arretxe and Begino are clearly the least potent of the couples, but they were destroyed here in no uncertain terms. They kept pace for a short period, Arretxe temporarily hitting with Aimar as an equal, but once the latter got his eye in there was no stopping him. This was as vintage a display of shot play as you are ever likely to see and there was nothing his opponent could do to stem the flow. Zabala played his part ably as Begino endured another bad day. Olaizola and Ibai Zabala move up to third in the table, with this their fourth win. Arretxe and Begino remain entrenched at the bottom with a solitary point. It is easy to forget that, not so long ago, Begino lifted the trophy with Olaizola. Times have changed.

Saturday 2nd February, Idiazabal: EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA beat BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ 22-11
Aitor Zubieta’s first match without the ousted Sebastien Gonzalez was a triumph. It was he who made the difference, dominating Beroiz at the back and giving Bengoetxea virtually nothing on a length from which he could hit a winner. When the opportunity did come his way, he proved unable to close the deal. Joseba Ezkurdia, miraculously recovered from what looked like a much more serious shoulder injury, stepped into the fray and looked as if he had always been there. He belied his tender years, and doubtless also allayed the fears of the Aspe bosses that they might have taken the wrong decision regarding Gonzalez. An Ezkurdia flop would have looked very bad indeed. However, it will take more than one golden match to resurrect the title hopes of this pair. With Gonzalez, Zubieta managed only a solitary win, over bottom pair Arretxe and Begino. They still languish in seventh but with a full rotation of matches still to be played, time is on their side. In the early days of the championship, Bengoetxea and Beroiz looked almost unbeatable and every inch the winners. However, as some other pairs have risen, their form appears slightly on the wane. They are still second in the table, with five wins and two losses, but both these defeats have come in the last two weeks. Their immediate future trajectory depends on whether Bengoetxea can keep Olaizola at bay when they clash on Friday at Labrit.

A good day for Aitor Zubieta

A good day for Aitor Zubieta

Saturday 2nd February, Pamplona: MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – ZABALETA beat JAUNARENA – BARRIOLA 22-13
Very much on the up are Juan Martinez de Irujo and Jose Javier Zabaleta. They have lost only one match so far, and that 21-22 (to Bengoetxea and Beroiz in week three), and look be growing in both confidence and flair. Attracting much of the praise is Zabaleta, new to this level of competition but taking to the big stage like a natural. It is easy to forget his tender years when one observes his command at the back of the fronton, and sensed the calmness in his demeanour. Aspe have clearly found a treasure, no matter what happens from this point on in the Pairs. Irujo, who has not had a great year by his standards, lagging dramatically behind Olaizola in the quest to be the best, appears galvanised by this new partnership. Jaunarena, another golden young talent here stepping in for Xala, proved easy pickings for Irujo on Saturday but will not be overawed; last week he clearly demonstrated his potential at this level. Barriola, so used to being in charge, could not unseat Zabaleta as the pair in red dominated every aspect of the game. They now sit top of the table in isolation while their opponents slip to sixth with two losses in the past two weekends. Xala will undergo a physical test on Friday to determine whether he can play in Tolosa on Saturdau against Ezkurdia and Zubieta.

Sunday 3rd February, Bilbao: BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU beat TITIN III – MERINO II 22-9
The Pairs Championship is a slow burning affair. Some couples hit their stride right from the off, winning weekly with seeming total control. Others, such as Jon Ander Albisu and Pablo Berasaluze enter the tournament with high hopes but initially fail to fire. However, as long as any period of malaise is relatively contained, there is time to turn things around and there is a sense that recovery may be on the cards for Albisu and Berasaluze. They opened their account with four straight losses but have now won three in a row, lifting them from the base of the table up into fifth and right in contention for the semi-final places. This latest win was perhaps their most impressive; they flattened the defending champions 22-9 in Bilbao on Sunday, leaving the Riojans looking dejected and clueless as to how to come back. The commander in chief was undoubtedly Berasaluze, who looks to be back in the same kind of form he displayed in December. He hit winners for fun and totally dominated Titin who looked flat footed and stretched to his limits. David Merino, so often such a model of classical elegance at the back, for forced to scrap in order to lift himself out of the traps placed for him by a masterful Albisu, who was clearly the better of the defenders. So petulant was Merino’s body language by the end that he appeared broken in both body and soul. And so, Titin and Merino’s up and down title defence continues. They still sit fourth, holding onto the final qualifying spot narrowly, but there is still far to go.

For the current table see here, and for past results and future fixtures, go here.

In the Promocion Championship, Gorka and Cecilio took command at the top with a 22-6 win over Lemuno and Aretxabaleta. Elsewhere, Urrutikoetxea (replacing Tainta) and Ladis Galarza beat Mendizabal III and Merino I 22-14, Elezkano II and Mendizabal II (standing in for Larunbe) beat Olazabal and Arruti 22-18 and Apezetxea and Larrinaga squeezed past Rico IV and Untoria 22-21. For the full Promocion table, see here and for results and fixtures, here.

Gorka Esteban, going well in the Promocion

Gorka Esteban, going well in the Promocion

Pictures: mine

Promocion Pairs Championship: the story after two weeks

There are two pairs in a share of the lead in the Promocion Pairs Championship, in which two rounds are complete. Topping the table are Apezetxea and Larrinaga, who have registered easy wins over both Olazabal and Arruti, and Olaetxea and Aretxabaleta. Nipping at their heels is the all-Riojan pair of Gorka and Cecilio, who have also won both their games, against Mendizabal III and Merino I, and the other Riojan representatives Rico IV and Untoria. At the opposite end of the table, Tainta-Ladis Galarza and Mendizabal III-Merino I have yet to score. The full table is as follows:

Pair Played Won Lost Points for Points against Points difference
1 Apezetxea-Larrinaga 2 2 0 44 19 25
2 Gorka-Cecilio 2 2 0 44 30 14
3 Rico IV-Untoria 2 1 1 34 33 1
4 Lemuno-Aretxabaleta 2 1 1 35 35 0
5 Olazabal-Arruti 2 1 1 28 42 -14
6 Elezkano-Larunbe 2 1 1 33 32 1
7 Tainta-Ladis Galarza 2 0 2 33 44 -11
8 Mendizabal III-Merino I 2 0 2 28 44 -16

For a full run down of all the Promocion results and fixtures, see Asegarce’s webpage.

Promocion Pairs Championship announced

The combinations have been announced for the Promocion Pairs Championships, which start this Friday in Zaldibar. They are as follows:

For Asegarce: Elezkano-Larunbe, Rico IV-Untoria, Lemuno-Aretxabaleta, Tainta-Ladis Galarza

For Aspe: Gorka-Cecilio, Apezetxea-Larrinaga, Olazabal-Arruti, Mendizabal III-Merino I

The matches in the first rotation will be:

Friday, Zaldibar: Rico IV-Untoria v Elezkano-Larunbe
Saturday, Pamplona: Lemuno-Aretxabaleta v Tainta-Ladis Galarza
Sunday, Eibar: Gorka-Cecilio v Mendizabal III-Arruti
Monday, Tolosa: Apezetxea-Larrinaga v Olazabal-Arruti

Promocion Pairs: Belated Congratulations to Jaunarena and Cecilio

Saturday 28th April, Pamplona


Promocion Pairs Final

I was in the Basque Country while the Promocion Pairs final took place but was unable to get to Labrit, and as I had limited internet time while I was there and have devoted this week to writing about the main championship final, this game has been rather overlooked. However, it was no less important to their pairs involved, who had battled since January for place in the last two. Throughout the tournament, Jon Jaunarena and Cecilio Valganon, and Mikel Olazabal and Inaki Larrinaga have been the best and so it was fitting that they should meet to fight it out for the prize. By all accounts the favourites were dominant from 6-7 onwards, with Olazabal failing to push Jaunarena onto the back foot and Larrinaga less effective from long than Cecilio. A txapela here for Cecilio (24, Ezcaray) means that of the four individuals to triumph in the two pairs championships, three are from La Rioja. A golden age for them indeed. This also represents a first professional championship win for 20 year old Leitzarra Jaunarena, who looks set to be the next great player from that talent-rich Navarrese town. Congratulations to them both.

More success for La Rioja in the form of Cecilio

More success for La Rioja in the form of Cecilio

Photo: mine