The English Lionhearts (Yorkshire), have returned unbeaten from a two-game tour of Serbia, their fourth to the country since 2006, all part of a deal that will see the Serbians tour Yorkshire next year, and the Lionhearts return to Belgrade in 2020.
In the main fixture, the Lionhearts successfully defended their unbeaten record in the country, defeating the national side 34-6 at the Makis Stadium in Belgrade, where the visitors scored six tries, three in each half.
Using the game to give more international experience to players from their domestic competition, Serbia’s new coach, Brett Davidson fielded four debutants in readiness for this autumn’s European championship B matches against Russia and Spain.
“As always the Lionhearts give us a stern test,” commented SRL general secretary, Slobodan Manak. “Games like these are so valuable for our players, and as we are determined to give a chance to some of our up and coming players in October it was important for us to welcome the Lionhearts.”
Lionhearts’ tour manager Mark Baynes noted: “We were made to feel so welcome and it was a truly fascinating experience for us all. Both games were a great success and played in the true spirit of the game; tough physical encounters with total respect for the match officials and each other. I was pleasantly surprised with the standards being achieved in Serbia and the passionate people promoting the sport there.”
As a part of this tour, the Lionhearts also faced an SRL All-Star side, Belgrade Rebels, winning 56-0 in the capital.
“We had a bit more skill and experience which was enough to secure victory,” said Lionhearts’ coach, David Lamb. “Serbia have the makings of a top rugby league nation; their players are big and strong. I was excited to hear about the work that is happening behind the scenes to grow the sport there and in other emerging Balkan nations.
“They have already overcome many challenges, but I am confident they will be successful in establishing the sport because everybody I met was so passionate about it. I was fortunate to do some coaching with teenagers from Belgrade Red Star and was very impressed with their attitude, some of them were very athletic and had very good skill levels.”
SERBIA 6: Milos Zogovic, Nikola Pesterac, Aleksandar Djordjevic, Nenad Grbic, Nikola Srbljanin, Djordje Stosic, Dzavid Jasari, Aleksa Radic, Vuk Strbac, Milos Aleksic, Vlado Kusic, Predrag Keglic, Vladimir Milutinovic. Subs: Dario Abidinovic, Pero Madzarevic, Petar Milanovic, Denis Cengaj.
Tries: Vladimir Milutinovic (74’); Goals Dzavid Jasari 1/1)
ENGLAND LIONHEARTS 34: Alfie Seely, Marty Hall, Josh Whithead, Alex Hardcastle, Matt Prest, Lewis Poskitt, Adam Bingham, Tom Hewland, Danny Rushworth, Gav Davies, Arron James, Chris Rushworth, Alex Gilbey. Subs: Oliver Dale, Neil Powley, Jorge Faikbank, Jalk Collansen.
Tries: Alex Hardcastle (3’), Tom Hewland (18’), Danny Rushworth (23’), Arron James (58’), Alfie Seely (65’), Matt Prest (77’). Goals: Adam Bingham 4/5, Danny Rushworth 1/1.
Venue: Makis stadium, Belgrade. Attendance: 300. Half time: 0-16.
Referee: Radoslav Novakovic (Serbia). Touch judges: Vladan Kikanovic, Nenad Zujic (Serbia).