Tag Archives: Patxi Ruiz

Mikel Idoate signs with Asegarce

Asegarce yesterday announced the signing of Mikel Idoate from Aspe for two years. He follows in the footsteps of Mikel Beroiz and Ladis Galarza who have both left Aspe for the Bilbao company in recent times. The move is likely fuelled the abundance of talent in the forwards department at Aspe, counterbalanced by the relative lack of it at Asegarce. Idoate has fallen into the gap between top tier pairs selection and the promocion tournaments, and is increasingly losing out to new talents like Ezkurdia and Jaunarena who are being pushed into the limelight. He is too good to be allowed to fall by the wayside. This move should revitalise the career of the 23 year old from Txantrea and afford him plentiful opportunities in the top flight. Asegarce have struggled for two or three years for a fourth elite forward to sit alongside Aimar Olaizoola, Bengoetxea VI and Berasaluze II. Asier Olaizola has been on the wane for a while and Iker Arretxe has failed to rise to the task on too many occasions. Idoate gives them new young blood and a talent bursting to show itself. He will play his first match for his new empresa on Saturday in Pamplona, where he is paired with Apraiz against Urrutikoetxea and Begino.

Patxi Ruiz retires

Asegarce announced this morning that Patxi Ruiz will retire from professional pelota. The 32 year old defender from Estella has struggled with a long term back injury which has kept him off the fronton entirely for thirteen months. He last played on 9th January 2012, in the Pairs Championship in Tolosa, with no knowledge that that match would prove his last. He has been a professional for fifteen years, making his debut at Labrit on 14th November 1998. His greatest triumph was the 2003 Manomanista title, which he won over Aimar Olaizola. He was also runner up in the Pairs Championship of 2002, where he played alongside Asier Olaizola, and he took the Navarrese Cuatro y Medio title in 2004. Asegarce will organise a tribute to Ruiz, to take place on a date yet to be determined. We wish him well for his future life.

Cuatro y Medio round up: wins for Saralegi, Berasaluze VIII and Olaetxea, plus the winners and losers in the second tier

Sunday 9th October, Eibar


This was a first round result which surprised many, with Ekaitz Saralegi easily outplaying Mikel Idoate, the 22-year old who is tipped for great things. Idoate won his place in the 2011 main championship by winning last year’s Promocion competition in grand style, trouncing Merino II 22-7 in the final after an unbeaten campaign. Saralegi, not immune to creating upsets in major competitions, went out of last year’s championship in the first round, but has already gone one better in 2011 and will meet Xala in the quarter finals.

The game at Astelena was an uninspiring one. Idoate was never in the game from 2-3 onwards, going behind 2-8, 5-16 and 9-19 before succumbing without much real fight. Saralegi was dominant in all areas, creating space through tactical nouse and hitting winners with aplomb. He notched up fifteen winners in open play with an additional two on service. Idoate won seven of his points with winners, relying on the lapses of his opponent for the remaining four. Sadly for him, Saralegi was not well disposed to the granting of gifts, and it is the Gipuzkoan who marches on.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-2, 8-2, 8-3, 8-4, 9-4, 9-5, 16-5, 16-6, 18-6, 18-8, 18-9, 19-9, 21-11, 22-11.

The other two main Championship matches to be held over the weekend also yielded easy winners. Both took place on Saturday in Pamplona, affording the Labrit fans a potentially intriguing double header which in the end fell rather short of drama. In the first game, PATXI RUIZ was outplayed by OLAETXEA, a pelotari very much in the ascendant, having won both the second tier Pairs and Manomanista so far this year. He won the second tier Cuatro y Medio in 2008, and showed his readiness for the major stage here, beating Ruiz 22-13. The second game of the evening saw BERASALUZE VIII put ARRETXE II to the sword by 22 points to 8. This was plain sailing for Berasaluze but he will face tougher times ahead; his next opponent is four-time Cuatro y Medio champion Aimar Olaizola.

In the second tier Promocion Championship, ARGOTE beat the spirited UNTORIA 22-16, ONGAY compounded CECILIO’s recent lack of form in a 22-8 drubbing, MENDIZABAL III withstood a comeback from ZABALETA to win 22-15, OLAZABAL, a recent returnee from injury, beat MERINO 22-8, TAINTA beat an off-colour IZA 22-9, and GORKA goes through after an injury to JAUNARENA forced the cancellation of their game.

For the full schedule of quarter final matches, see Asegarce.

Delight for Ekaitz Saralegi

Delight for Ekaitz Saralegi

Image from Deia

Sixteen Minutes of Genius: Aimar Olaizola into Manomanista Semis

Saturday 14th May, Bilbao


This was pelota, but not as most play it. Aimar Olaizola and Juan Martinez de Irujo, a modern classic, played between two modern artists, always fuels the imagination and draws the crowds. Such was the confidence of the promoters that they charged 75 Euros for a top price ticket, almost double the cost of entry to Bengoetxea VI and Patxi Ruiz’s quarter final. Some quibbled at the asking price, in these troubled economic times, but those who coughed up were treated to a game in a million, between the defending champion and an Olaizola II at the height of his powers.

The infernal, rabid pace of the encounter drew gasps, as the two champions hurled themselves into the fray, desperate with desire for glory. Aimar made his chosen tactic apparent from the off, nullifying the Irujo serve by racing forward into the volley. In the midst of the rally too, he used the sotamano to seize the initiative, hitting 62 in all, 38% of the balls he struck in the match. This would seem outrageous to most pelotaris, professional or otherwise. When forced to, he defended the left wall with utter ferocity. Irujo returned fire, trying to beat Aimar at the volleying game, leading to some extraordinary rallies, full of near impossible shots and immense physicality. When he raced ahead 8-1 and 17-8, it seemed Aimar would bury Irujo quickly, but the man from Ibero is known for coming back from the death, and he scrapped back each time, to 8-10 and 18-19. In the end though, Aimar’s heat was the whiter, and there was nothing Irujo could do to halt his finishing kick.

The statistics speak of a close match, 13 winners to 10, 6 errors to 5, but it was Aimar who set the tempo, who dictated how the game should be played. It is to Irujo’s credit that he refused to lie down when the advantage of his opponent grew and grew again; his tenacity coupled with Aimar’s devastating mastery gave us a game for the ages, a recital in attack and defence, and a vision of platonic pelota. Goizueta’s finest will play Bengoetxea VI in the semi finals, and if he can maintain this irresistible force, it is hard to imagine him bowing out there.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 1-3, 1-8, 7-8, 7-10, 8-10, 8-17, 14-17, 14-18, 16-18, 16-19, 18-19, 18-22.

Winners: Olaizola II 13, Irujo 10

Errors: Olaizola II 6, Irujo 5 

Service winners: Olaizola II 4, Irujo 2 

Service errors: Olaizola II 0, Irujo 0

Match time: 65:40 with 15:59 of actual play

Balls hit: 315

The world has been Aimars oyster this spring

The world has been Aimar's oyster this spring

Image from: Noticias de Alava, by Gorka Estrada. Source: Diario Vasco

In the other quarter final to take place this past weekend, BENGOETXEA VI beat PATXI RUIZ 22-6 in Pamplona. This game was a near walkover for the 2008 champion, who took just 32 minutes to despatch his regular pairs partner. It was tight early on, but from 5-6, Bengoetxea was unstoppable against a lacklustre Ruiz, surging to 5-18 and 6-22. Bengoetxea served strongly, putting Ruiz on the back foot repeatedly, and dominated with his left, which brought seven points. Four of Ruiz’s points came from Bengoetxea errors, underlining the fact that the defeated player could find very little in the way of venom. Bengoetxea now plays Olaizola II, an entirely different proposition.

In the Promocion Championship, there were quarter final wins for Penagarikano, 22-14 over Ibai Zabala, and Olaetxea, who beat Ongay 22-17. They play each other on 29th May for a place in the final.

Pairs Championship: Bengoetxea and Albisu fail to make perfect ten

Sunday 13th March, Eibar


This match was all about Oinatz Bengoetxea and Jon Ander Albisu, and by extension, Patxi Ruiz. Yves Sallaberry (Xala) and Abel Barriola, the favourites, had already secured their berth in the semi finals, but for their opponents, this was crunch time. Their Asegarce colleagues, Iker Arretxe and Ibai Zabala had done their best to eliminate Martinez de Irujo and David Merino, but squandered a match point to lose 22-21, meaning that Bengoetxea and Albisu had to score at least ten points against Xala and Barriola to qualify. For Bengoetxea and his usual partner, Patxi Ruiz, this should have been a formality. However, with Ruiz injured, grave responsibility fell on the head of his replacement, inexperienced twenty year old Albisu. Given the track record of Bengoetxea and Ruiz as a pair over the past year, a semi final line up devoid of them would seem perverse, but Xala and Barriola were in no mood for charity, and Albisu was forced to leave the fronton, head in hands, with Bengoetxea high and dry.

The encounter started in the worst possible way for the Asegarce pair; Albisu hit high in open play, and then again from a Xala serve, allaying no fears about the possible state of his nerves. Bengoextea steadied the ship with a crosscourt flick, ending a hard fought point, to get his partnership on the board, but Xala showed that he could beat him at his own game in the very next point, before Albisu miscued twice more in the next three points. Bengoetxea subsequently rushed into a potential drop winner which met the ground instead of the frontis. Scoring was an arduous trial for the blue pair, who picked up points periodically, but could not establish any momentum. Bengoetxea’s class shone through with the winners he managed, notably in the two excellent drops on 2-8 and 3-8, the second of which revealed disorganisation in the red camp for the first, and perhaps only time in the game.

However, despite the sterling defensive efforts for which he has become renowned, Bengoetxea was unable to compensate for the lack of attacking platform afforded him by Albisu. It was assumed that Xala and Barriola would target the young defender as the weak link, but as things unfolded, it became clear that he would dig his own grave. Time and again he hit too high, perhaps attempting in vain to put some pressure on the relentless Barriola. More frustratingly for the blues, he threw away points which should have been theirs; on 5-12, Barriola was forced forward to cover a txoko, but was let off the hook by an error, the result of either carelessness or tension. Again, and more crucially, on 8-20, with the magic ten points almost in reach, he undid all the excellent scrapping forward work of Bengoetxea to concede match point.

While the flailing Asegarce duo tried in vain to accrue points, Xala and Barriola moved forward with all of their customary ease and grace. So reliable and efficient was Barriola that one hardly noticed his presence. He ran rings around his young counterpart without breaking a bead of sweat, to the extent that there was an almost audible gasp when he finally made an error on 20-7. Watching such a consummate master at work, it seems baffling that he has won as few major championships as he has. Consistency throughout the year, as in an individual match, is Barriola’s byword, but maybe this time around the rewards will come. Xala’s showing was less than totally perfect, but so dominant was he over Bengoetxea that his two errors were hardly noticed. Most of his mounting winners were achieved with brutal ease, whether rocketed crosscourt or tapped delicately into the corner. On the occasions when Bengoetxea did engage him in a scap, Xala more often than not had his number. Even in the close fight on 3-8 which Bengoetxea won, Xala’s pick-up off the floor, adjudged to have bounced twice, was an extremely close run thing.

So, it is over and out for Bengoetxea and Ruiz. With Ruiz in place, the necessary ten points would surely have come more easily. Albisu fought as hard as he could, and showed talent in spurts, but in truth he leaked points, and gave Bengoetxea little room to manoeuvre. The qualifying concerns of their rivals were of little import to Xala and Barriola, who continued on their serene journey through this championship. They head the final quartet, and it would be brave in the extreme to predict their exit before four becomes two.

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-1, 4-1, 4-2, 8-2, 8-4, 9-4, 9-5, 17-5, 17-6, 20-6, 20-8 and 22-8.

Match time: 47.04 minutes, with 21.22 minutes of play

Service winners: Xala 4, Bengoetxea 0

Winners: Xala 9, Barriola 0, Bengoetxea 4, Albisu 0

Errors: Xala 2, Barriola 1, Bengoetxea 3, Albisu 5


No joy for Oinatz

No joy for Oinatz

Image from Diario Vasco

Pairs Championship week 10 round up

Friday 4th March, Amorebieta


Mikel Beroiz stood in for Inigo Pascual on Friday, and helped Titin to an extremely valuable win over another pair of substitutes, Iker Arretxe and Ibai Zabala, who have no hope of making the last four. The Aspe pair looked like an established partnership, and moved with unity of purpose towards an easy win, in which they were never remotely troubled. Both players were leagues ahead of their opponents, who proved unable to exert any pressure at all. As a contest, this was a non-event, but many aficionados surely revelled in an excellent and cool display of pelota from the victors. Titin and Pascual now lie in fifth, one place out of the qualifying spots, but they are level on points Gonzalez and Laskurain one place above them, so everything is to play for.

Scoring sequence: 4-0 / 4-1 / 10-1 / 10-2 / 15-2 / 18-3 / 18-4 / 20-4 / 20-6 / 22-6

Sunday 6th March, Eibar


This was always likely to be a closely fought game, given the similarity in fortunes of these two pairs in the championship thus far, and so it proved as the advantage swung back and forth throughout. Gonzalez and Laskurain held sway early on, but Oinatz Bengoetxea was instrumental in the Asegarce duo’s resurgence in the second half of the match, as he turned the tables on Gonzalez in expert fashion. He finished with a whopping fifteen winners. The defenders were evenly matched; Laskurain played a more involved part in the game, but Ruiz was excellent when called upon. The winners now sit third, level on points with Olaizola II and Begino in second. Gonzalez and Laskurain are a further point back in fourth.

Scoring sequence: 0-3 / 1-3 / 2-3 / 2-5 / 5 / 9-5 / 9-7 / 10-7 / 10 / 11 / 14-11 / 14 / 14-16 / 16 / 16 – 21 / 18-21 / 18-22

Monday 7th March, Tolosa


Tolosa witnessed the shock of the week.  Had Xala lined up with his normal partner, Barriola, they would have been the favourites, but with Barriola injured, the young and inexperienced Zabaleta stepped in. Aspe clearly wanted to give him a test, safe in the knowledge that the star pair had qualified anyway, and he did not disappoint, helping to condemn the former leaders, now in second to a fourth straight defeat. It took Zabaleta a while to settle, but once he did, there was little stopping his pair. Xala was majesterial form, putting thirteen Winters past his opponents. With Barriola back and healthy, it will take much to stop this pair. Despite their recent meltdown, Olaizola and Begino still sit second, thanks to their six straight wins at the start of the tournament. The odds are that they will be safe.

Scoring sequence: 0-1/1/3-1/3-2/6-3/8-4/10-5/15-11/18-14/18/19/20/21-20/21/21- 22

Tuesday 8th March, Tolosa


Pablo Berasaluze and Alexis Apraiz will struggle to make the semi finals, but this victory has at least given them the chance. The red pair of Juan Martinez de Irujo and David Merino looked the better almost throughout thanks to the play of Irujo and the hesitancy of Apraiz. However, at 15-18 down, Berasaluze took the game into his hands, unleashing a barrage of left handed hooks to condemn Irujo to a bit part. The blues scored seven points unanswered to take the tie and keep their hopes alive, though they lie second from bottom. Irujo and Merino are one place, and one point, above in sixth.

Scoring sequence: 0-2/4-2/4-3/6-3/6/10-6/10-11/15-11/15-12/17-12/17-15/18-15/18-22


1 XALA – BARRIOLA 10 8 2 216 147 +69
2 OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO 10 6 4 197 186 +11
3 BENGOETXEA VI – P. RUIZ 10 6 4 187 179 +8
4 GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN 10 5 5 191 174 +17
5 TITIN III – PASCUAL 10 5 5 190 186 +4
6 MTZ IRUJO – MERINO II 10 5 5 168 183 -5
7 BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ 10 4 6 180 189 -9
8 OLAIZOLA I – BELOKI 10 1 9 119 214 -95

Pairs Championship: Bengoetxea/Ruiz and Gonzalez/Laskurain take their places in the qualification fight

Friday 25th February, Azkaine


Gonzalez and Laskruain were the overwhelming favourites for this game, which took place in front of a crowd of 700 in the former’s backyard. However, Iker Arretxe and Ibai Zabala caused them no end of worry, and pushed them all the way to the line, maintaining stalemate at 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 18, before finally succumbing to the cool heads of their more seasoned rivals, after a whopping 1030 balls. Arretxe was the player of the match, resourceful and successful in attack, as the underdogs threw caution to the wind; as substitutes for Olaizola I and Beloki they had little to lose, and a gilt edged opportunity to make a name for themselves. In the end though, Gonzalez and Laskurain joined the group of five vying for the remaining three qualifying spots behind Xala and Barriola.

Scoring sequence: 0-1/1/4-1/4/4-6/6/9-6/10-7/10/11/12/14-12/14/14-16/16/17/18/20-18/20-19/22-19

Duration 106 minutes, with 53 minutes of playing time and 1030 balls struck


Sunday 27th February, Logrono


This was as close as it gets to a crunch game: both pairs needed a victory to avoid the predicament of having to win both of their remaining matches to qualify. In a tense affair, full of emotion, it was the Asegarce pair who prevailed. Bengoetxea and Ruiz kept their noses in front for most of the match; they led 5-0, before their opponents came back and took over by eight points to five, but once they regained the lead, they never let it go. The Aspe duo gave the Titin tifosi something to cheer about when they came to within one point of parity at 19-20, but they lacked the killer punch of their opponents. All played with skill and passion, but Patxi Ruiz’ was the standout performance. Asegarce will no doubt be delighted that he controlled the game as he did, with no hint of discomfort from his lately rather troublesome hands.

Scoring sequence: 0-5 / 5 / 5-7 / 7 / 8 / 8-6 / 9-10 / 9-11 / 10-12 / 12 / 12-14 / 12-13 / 13-17 / 15-17 / 16-19 / 17-19 / 18-20 / 19-20 / 19-22

Duration 81 minutes, with 30 minutes of playing time, and 671 balls struck.

Iker Arretxe almost engineered an upset

Iker Arretxe almost engineered an upset

Image from Deia, by Iban Aguinaga

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