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
GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN beat TITIN III – PASCUAL 22-10
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
OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO beat BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ 22-19
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
BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ beat OLAIZOLA I – BELOKI 22-9
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
XALA – BARRIOLA beat MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II 22-14
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
Image from Noticias de Navarra, by J. Sampedro