England Lionhearts – Yorkshire have returned unbeaten from a two-game tour of Serbia.
It was their fourth to the country since 2006 and 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. The visitors scored six tries, three in each half.
The hosts used the game to give more international experience to players from their domestic competition. New coach Brett Davidson fielded four debutants in readiness for this autumn’s European Championship B matches against Russia and Spain.
Serbia Rugby League general secretary Slobodan Manak said: “As always, the Lionhearts give us a stern test and games like these are so valuable for our players.
“We are determined to give a chance to some of our up and coming players in October so it was important for us to welcome them here.”
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 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.
Lionhearts coach David Lamb said: “We had a bit more skill and experience which was enough to secure victory.
“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: 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.
England Lionhearts: 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.