Tag Archives: Beloki

Riojan rampage: Promocion Pairs and Manomanista previews

There was double joy for La Rioja this weekend. On Saturday, Gorka and Cecilio defeated Apezetxea and Larrinaga 22-11 to claim the remaining spot in the Promocion Pairs final. This is justice for the couple who dominated the round robin stages but who have squeezed through the semi finals by the skin of their teeth. They lost their first semi 21-22 to Rico IV and Untoria, leaving them in need of a win in week two. Win they did, but only by one point. A loss here would have seen them out, but the win meant they were afforded the chance to play off against Apezetxea and Larrinaga for the final. Thankfully for them, Saturday’s game proved rather less stressful and they took it at a canter. The final will therefore feature two Riojan pairs; Gorka and Cecilio will take on Rico IV and Untoria on Saturday in Logrono for the txapela.

Elsewhere, fellow Riojan David Merino won his Manomanista preview against Aitor Zubieta. It was an attritional game in Eibar and could have gone either way. Merino led for the majority of the encounter only for Zubieta to put in a late surge and lead 19-17. However, his charge ran out of steam and Merino held his nerve to take five straight points. His win means his hopes of making the Manomanista tournament proper are kept alive but he will need to get past Ezkurdia, who beat Aritz Lasa last week, to progress any further.

Untoria and Gorka face each other on Saturday at Adarraga

Untoria and Gorka face each other on Saturday at Adarraga

Photo: mine

Ruben Beloki announces his retirement

After an illustrious nineteen year career as a professional, Ruben Beloki has announced his retirement from the sport. The 37 year old from Burlada holds the distinction of being the youngest ever Manomanista Champion, a title which he won in 1995 at the age of 20. He also took the prize in 1998, 1999 and 2001 as well as the Pairs Championship in 1996 and 2003. He will bring his wealth of experience to Asegarce’s technical staff.

A tribute match will take place on Saturday 3rd December at Labrit. Beloki was to have been joined by Aimar Olaizola but following the postponement of the Cuatro y Medio final to the 4th, a replacement will be sought. He and his partner will take on Oinatz Bengoetxea and Aritz Begino in this his swansong game. We wish him all the best in his new role.

Image from Marca

Manomanista first round results

As reported previously, MERINO II beat ALBISU 22-21 on Sunday. Alas I do not have time to write on every match of the weekend, so here is a round up of the other Manomanista first round results in brief.

22/4/11, Pamplona: IDOATE beat BELOKI 22-4 Many pundits believed the young and supremely promising Idoate would beat Beloki, but few would have predicted the scale of the thrashing he handed out to the 36 year old four time champion. Idoate, who is all of 21, dominated the veteran in every facet of the game, suggesting that his time might soon be upon us. However, to progress further, he will need to defeat Gonzalez in Ascain on Friday.

23/4/11, Haro: URRUTIKOETXEA beat BEROIZ 22-18 This must rank as an upset. 21 year old Beroiz has been regarded as Aspe’s champion in waiting for over a year now, so strong and assured is he for his age. However, Asegarce’s Mikel Urrutikoetxea, who is also 21, put paid to any ambitions for this year with a battling performance to fell him at the opening stage. He will now play Retegi Bi in Amorebieta on Saturday, and he must rate his chances.

25/4/11, Eibar: ARITZ LASA beat ARRETXE II 22-16 This was a close match in which there were several ties on the scoreboard. Both played quality pelota, but in the end, Lasa’s strength won the day and Arretxe was forced to concede after a marvellous fight. Lasa will now play Bengoetxea VI in Eibar on Sunday for a place in the last four.

 In the Promocion championship, Ladis Galarza beat Iza 22-10, Argote beat Gorka 22-10, Rico IV beat Cecilio 22-13, and Olaetxea beat Zabaleta 22-18. In the second round, Ladis Galarza plays Jaunarena, Argote plays Olazabal, Rico IV plays Pengarikano, and Olaetxea plays Leiza.

Urrutikoetxea did for the fancied Beroiz

Urrutikoetxea did for the fancied Beroiz

Image from Asegarce

Pairs Championship: easy prey for Xala-Barriola, and Irujo-Merino II stay in contention

Saturday 19th February, Pamplona


The Navarre-Rioja partnership of Juan Martinez de Irujo and David Merino kept alive their hopes of a semi final slot with a fine victory over Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ibai Zabala, the latter a substitute for the injured Patxi Ruiz. The victors took advantage of the presence of Zabala, who tried gamely to fill Patxi’s shoes, but proved the weak link under a relentless aerial bombardment. Irujo and Merino took an early lead at 12-7, but Bengoetxea took the game to the former and pulled his pair level at 14-14, momentarily making up for the disparity between Merino and Zabala to his rear. However, he could not hold the fort indefinitely, and the pressure of the red pair’s perfectly executed tactic became too much to withstand; they added eight points to only one in reply to take the match without breaking sweat. They now lie 6th, level on points with Bengoetxea and Ruiz, who sit 4th.

Friday 18th February, Anglet


Ekaitz Saralegi, replacing the injured Asier Olaizola, and Ruben Beloki presented no problems whatsoever for pre-tournament favourites Yves Salaberry and Abel Barriola. There was little Saralegi could do in the face of the pressure of Xala, who asserted pressure without any stress, physical or otherwise. The hapless forward, who committed six errors, blamed his lack of time in the tournament for his rustiness, but whatever the reason, there was no mistaking his inferiority here. Beloki was notably ineffectual, and rarely moved the ball with any invention. There was no comparison between him and Barriola, who rarely needed to extend himself and barely put a foot wrong. As befitted their play, these two pairs stand as polar opposites in the table; Xala and Barriola are level on wins with Olaizola II and Begino but now go top by virtue of points difference. Saralegi and Beloki are tailed off at the bottom, with little hope of rescue.

Xala and Barriola go top

Xala and Barriola go top

Image from: poperoak.es Sources: Diario de Navarra, Diario Vasco

Pairs Championship Week 7 Round Up

Friday 11th February, Urduliz


Friday’s match in the Bizkaian town or Urduliz was expected to be a close one, and so it proved. Sebastien Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain had one their previous two matches after an extremely slow start in the championship, and Pablo Berasaluze and Alexis Apraiz were coming off two wins, and a near upset against the table toppers. The crowds were treated to an exciting and tough exhibition, which lasted 76 minutes and 612 balls. Although it was always close, and there was little to choose between the pairs, Gonzalez and Laskurain ran out the deserving winners. The latter was the difference between the sides, coming out on top in a tit for tat fight with Apraiz, and ending as the best player of the night.

Saturday 12th February, Pamplona


Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz seized their fourth point of the championship with a tense and thrilling win over pre-tournament favourites Yves Salaberry and Abel Barriola. Both forwards and backs fought tooth and nail. Patxi Ruiz just shaded Barriola, but both pulled off impressive feats. Xala’s vehement attack was repelled time and again by Bengoetxea, whose defence was magnificent. He also took the attack to Xala with a wide range of shot play. Patxi Ruiz strained his calf with the score on 18-17, and when he returned from the locker room was restricted in the shots he could manage. Xala and Barriola went ahead 21-19, and looked as if the momentum would stay with them, but Bengoetxea and Ruiz fought back doggedly to take the win by the smallest possible margin.

Saturday 12th February, Tafalla

MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II beat OLAZOLA I – BELOKI 7-4 (Olaizola I retired injured)

The game in Tafalla was brought to an unfortunate and abrupt end when Asier Olaizola was forced to retire with a knee injury. With the score at 7-4, and with everything still to play for, the forward from Goizueta twisted awkwardly and had to be helped from the fronton. He underwent a scan in Vitoria-Gasteiz this morning, and we await word from Asegarce on the extent of his injury.

Sunday 13th February, Logrono


Table toppers Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino suffered their first loss of the competition, succumbing by one point to Titin and Pascual at Adarraga. In a match full of emotion and excitement from first until last, the Asegarce duo looked to have matters under control, going ahead 3-10, 6-13 and 13-17. However, Titin masterminded a comeback, playing with passion and intensity in front of his home fans. Supported excellently by Pascual at the back, he drew his pair level at 17-17, before they surged ahead 20-17. Aimar and Aritz fought their way back to 20-21, but two errors from Begino handed the game to Titin and Pascual, who have reversed their fortunes dramatically from their drubbing by Gonzalez and Laskurain last week. Olaizola and Begino, however, remain in isolation at the top of the standings. This result will have provided them with a shock, but they are as good as safe and will put it behind them.

The championship now moves into its second round robin phase, in which each pair plays the four from the opposing empresa across four weeks of games. The schedule for this section of the competition can be viewed at Asegarce. The table at this point in proceedings indicates the closeness in ability of many of the couples. Olaizola II-Begino and Xala-Barriola have served up the most quality, and looked virtually assured of places in the semi finals, but behind them things are very tight. Bengoetxea VI-Patxi Ruiz are next best, having won four of their seven matches, while four pairs are tied on three wins. Olaizola I-Beloki seem out of it, but for everyone else, it is all to play for. See here for the full table.

The Second Tier championship, which mirrors to pattern of the main competition, also moves into its next phase next weekend. There, it looks to be a six-pair fight for the semi final berths. Apezetxea-Cecilio top the table, while Jaunarena-Larrinaga and Urrutikoetxea-Iza appear down and out. For the full table, see Manista, and for remaining fixtures see Asegarce.

Titin and Pascual: giant killers

Titin and Pascual: giant killers

Image from Manista, by Carlos Zuluaga

Pairs Championship: 6th Rotation Round Up

Affairs are hotting up in the Pairs Championship; with six rotions gone, we have a good idea of who may fill the semi final berths. Two pairs have all but qualified, one is all but out, and the rest are fighting for their lives. For the full table visit Manista.com, here. For remaining fixtures, see Asegarce, here.

(Apologies for the lack of in-depth reports; I was unable to see much of the play this weekend!)

Friday 4th February, Covaleda


Sebastien Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain kept alive their hopes of reaching the last four, with what turned into a crushing defeat of Augusto Ibanez and Inigo Pascual in Covaleda. It was expected to be a tight game, and so it proved for the first twenty points, the pairs reaching stalemate at 10-10 after a tough fight, especially in the back division. However, at this juncture, Titin and Pascual inexplicably capitulated, as their opponents took the next 12 points to win 22-10. Gonzalez and Laskurain looked the cooler and the more efficient, as well as the more inventive, and Titin failed to fire, hitting only five winners to Gonzalez’ seven. The signs are good for the winners, but as a contest, the game all but fizzled out. These two pairs now sit level on points in 5th and 6th positions, with Gonzalez and Laskurain ahead on points difference.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-1, 4-1, 4-2, 5-2, 5-4, 6-4, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 10-22.

Saturday 5th February, Zalla


Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino kept their unbeaten record alive in Zalla on Saturday, but they were made to work for their victory against a pair very much in the ascendant. Olaizola and Begino were ahead throughout the contest, but never managed to shed their opponents from their coat tails. Berasaluze and Apraiz were seven points behind at 6-13 but scrapped their way back into contention, pushing the eventual winners all the way and making them sweat as they squandered their first two match points. The heart of the encounter lay in defence, where the two evenly matched protagonists fielded strings of improbable balls at will. Berasaluze took the fight to Olaizola in attack, reading the game expertly, and finishing with more winners than his rival. However, Olaizola and Begino produced the goods when it mattered, and remain atop the table, as the only partnership not to drop a game 

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 0-5, 1-5, 2-5, 2-6, 3-6, 3-7, 4-7, 4-8, 4-9, 5-9, 5-10, 5-11, 6-11, 6-12, 6-13, 7-13, 12-13, 12-14, 12-16, 13-16, 14-16, 14-17, 14-18, 15-18, 15-19, 16-19, 17-19, 19-20, 17-21, 18-21, 19-21, 19-22.

Saturday 5th February, Idiazabal 


The game in Idiazabal went entirely as predicted, with a resounding win for Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz, who got their campaign back on track after some recent wobbles. The greatest disparity in quality lay in the forwards, where Bengoextea easily eclipsed Asier Olaizola, who has had a torrid time in the competition thus far. Olaizola and Beloki made it their aim to wear Patxi Ruiz down, but their strategy backfired, as the defender from Estella displayed some excellent form and refused to be bowed. There was no contingency plan for the reds, or if there was they proved unable to execute it, and they remain bottom, while Bengoetxea and Ruiz cling onto the last qualification spot in fourth.

Scoring sequence: 0-4, 1-4, 1-6, 2-6, 2-7, 4-7, 4-8, 5-8, 5-12, 6-12, 6-16, 7-16, 7-19, 9-19, 9-22

Sunday 6th February, Eibar


Sunday’s match at Astelena promised much excitement, if only because it is increasingly difficult to predict what Irujo and Merino will bring to the table. Aspe’s mixture of youth and experience has failed to gel, but alone, each of its parts is capable of incredible things. However, as the rational predicted, this was an easy victory for Xala and Barriola, the proven and tested class of the empresa. The eventual winners played with firmness of purpose and ruthless efficiency, testing Merino to his limits and exerting total control. As a partnership, they operate like clockwork. Irujo was unable to find any spark in attack until it was far too late. The reds, who were never within reach, face a near impossible fight to qualify for the semi finals, while Xala and Barriola, who sit second, are virtually assured of progression. 

Scoring sequence: 0-2, 1-2, 2-3, 2-7, 3-7, 3-10, 5-10, 5-12, 6-12, 6-13, 7-13, 8-17, 9-17, 10-17, 12-19, 14-19, 14-22.

(Sources: Aspe and Asegarce)

Begino (left) and Olaizola II stay top

Begino (left) and Olaizola II stay top

Image from Noticias de Navarra, by J. Sampedro

Pairs Championship: wins for Berasaluze VIII-Apraiz, Gonzalez-Laskurain, and Titin III-Pascual in week 5

Friday 28th January, Estella-Lizarra


After their resurgence last week, when they beat Gonzalez and Laskurain comfortably, many assumed that Irujo and Merino II were now back on track, after their disastrous start in the championship. They were the clear favourites for this fifth week match, but the gremlins reappeared for the Aspe duo, as they met a pairing still riding the crest of a wave after their own fourth week win. Berasaluze and Apraiz outgunned their rivals with ease, Pablo dominating even more than he had done against Bengoetxea VI the week before against an Irujo who was a shadow of his usual self, managing only two winners to his opposite number’s twelve. Merino, while promising and at times brilliant, is still developing, and this was not his finest hour. Is it over and out for the experimental pairing.

Saturday 29th January, Pamplona


After their outstanding 2010 as a pairing, much was expected of Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz in this year’s contest, but alter two successive defeats, it seems the wheels are coming off. Last week they lost in a closer tussle with Berasaluze and Apraiz, but this time round it was a disaster for the Asegarce hopes. They started well, but as Gonzalez and Laskurain, who were yet to win a match in the competition, swung into action, their opponents had no answer and were outplayed in every department. Neither pair is well placed in the overall standings, but their trajectories Could barely be more different.

Sunday 30th January, Logrono


After two one sided onslaughts came a far closer match down in Rioja. Titin and Pascual squeezed past Asier Olaizola and Beloki to keep their hopes of reaching the last four alive, and they showed great resilience in coming from behind to take the point. For the most part, the sides were evenly matched; Beloki began well but Pascual, playing better than in recent weeks, was able to match him, and likewise at the front, Olaizola and Titin both winner and errors in turn. The Asegarce pair was ahead for much of the match, and although they were never more than four points in arrears, they appeared as if they would keep their noses in front. However, with the score at 17-19, Titin and Pascual pounced, taking five points without reply. Olaizola and Beloki managed to scrape one back, but the momentum had shifted, terminally.

Pablo Berasaluze: in form

Pablo Berasaluze: in form

Image from Gara

Pairs Championship: routine victory for unbeaten Aimar and Aritz

Monday 24th January, Tolosa


There was nothing unexpected about this match. The younger Olaizola brother and his partner, Aritz Begino, were the overwhelming favourites, and completely outclassed their rivals. Aimar was never troubled, and had no need to sweat in subduing his older brother, who looked ineffectual in comparison. Begino was solid as a rock at the back, in contrast to Beloki who was unable to make any of his returns tell. the underdogs came within three points at 9-12, but as soon as Aimar and Aritz pushed the level a notch higher, they had nothing more to give. Asegarce’s star pairing have now won four from four, and sit atop the table, level with Xala and Barriola, whom they play on Sunday. A far sterner challenge awaits.

Begino and Olaizola II: barely challenged

Begino and Olaizola II: barely challenged

Image from Deia

Pairs Championship: wins for Olaizola I-Beloki and Bengoetxea VI-Patxi Ruiz

It was a good two days for Asegarce on Friday and Saturday as both their competing couples brought home the spoils in their third rotation Pairs matches.

For Asier Olaizola and Ruben Beloki, it was the first point of the championship, as they had lost their first two games, and they took it well, beating the fancied Gonzalez and Laskurain 22-16 in Getaria. Olaizola, so often overshadowed by the renown of his younger brother, here let fly, taking the game to Gonzalez who never broke free from the shackles placed on him. The strength of his right arm was especially apparent, and he found space out wide with the left, playing the tight angles with aplomb on his way to ten winners. He was partnered ably by Beloki, who was a safer pair of hands than Laskurain, who blew hot and cold. In the end, the win was more comfortable than most had predicted, and will give the Asegarce partnership some much needed confidence in their tough fight to make the top four.

In Pamplona, Oinatz Benogetxea and Patxi Ruiz took a titanic scrap against Titin III and Inigo Pascual, 22-20. The fans at Labrit were treated to a sensational game in which all four protagonists showed extraordinary skill and verve, playing at breakneck speed and with startling inspiration. It was the forwards who took most of the plaudits from the crowd, who chanted their names with fervour. The 42 year old Titin, who celebrated his birthday this past week, defended like a terrier against the all out attack of the far younger Bengoetxea, and the two traded myriad gantxos and txokos, as if determined not to be outdone. In defence, the fight was just as intense, with Pascual and Ruiz displaying their long range hitting skills to gasps from the assembled crowds. Ruiz last week extended his contract with Asegarce until 2014, and on this showing the management should be rubbing their hands in glee. In the end, Bengoetxea and Ruiz had a fraction more to give, and held their nerve for a memorable win. It is their second of the championship and they are clearly contenders.

Patxi Ruiz is experiencing a purple patch

Patxi Ruiz is experiencing a purple patch

Image from Diario Vasco

Pairs Championship: Berasaluze and Apraiz collect their first point

Friday 7th January, Tolosa


Pablo Berasaluze and Alexis Apraiz opened their account in the Pairs Championship last night, and in doing so condemned Asier Olaizola and Ruben Beloki to the foot of the table. The match failed to reach the heights, with all four players looking ill at ease. Apraiz seemed especially nervous at the outset, but was probably on balance the best player of the night. As the game went on, the defender from Gernika found his rhythm, taking the game to Beloki. As he opened his shoulders, Berasaluze acquired a platform to attack, and Olaizola had little answer. He and Beloki face a long road back to contention.

Apraiz was the best of a modest bunch in Tolosa

Apraiz was the best of a modest bunch in Tolosa

Image from Diario Vasco