Lancashire defeat Red Star Belgrade in Serbia

Photo courtesy of Mark Stringer

For the very first time, Red Star met Red Rose as the Balkan Champions went head to head against the BARLA Three Counties champions.

An entertaining game followed before an appreciative and noisy crowd.

Red Star Belgrade made a great opening to the game and after some good early movement and evasion showed particularly by fullback Milo Zogovic and attacking from scrum-half Darcy Etrick. Red Star scored a well-taken try from Aus Traljanac which was converted by Vojislav Dedic, for an early 6-0 advantage.

It took Lancashire a little time to work into the game but they were rewarded in the 11th minute when Adam Holland (Leigh East) scored from dummy half after getting on the back of some good work by Aaron Smith (Wigan St Judes). It had been coming with Holland darting down the blindside and linking with Tom O’Loughlin (Shevington Sharks) earlier in the set to put Lancashire on the front foot. Jordan Gibson (Haydock) added the first of four first-half goals to level.

The game continued to ebb and flow and things were even right through to the 27th minute when Luke Belshaw (Wigan St Pats) played on after the ball came off his shins and he chased through. Gibson goaled for a 12-6 advantage and gradually Lancashire took control.

This was emphasised after 37 minutes when Leigh Miners Ladies Head coach Gareth Paine sailed over from O’Loughlin’s pass. Gibson goaled well.

Just as half-time beckoned Lancashire scored a great try forged in St Helens as Thatto Heath hooker Conor Dutton worked the ball to Pilkington Recs fullback Ryan Hilliard who shot over the line at pace.

Trailing 24-6 at half-time, Red Star made a positive start to the second half and were rewarded when they first forced an error and then Niksa Hukovic touched down out wide, evading the tackle attempts of O’Loughlin and Gibson.

It was 24-10. Both teams had their moments with Lancashire unable to capitalise on Holland’s bomb and Deane Meadows knocked on from a scrum attack.

Red Star prop Slobodan Milenkovic made a great break but ultimately this came to nothing.

Then, after 58 minutes a long Lancashire kick bounced on the 3G surface and O’Loughlin chased through to score, Gibson goaled to make it 30-10 to the Red Rose.

Five minutes later a sixth Lancashire try came after some great hands to the right and an athletic dive at the corner from Owen Scholes (Thatto Heath).

Red Star continued to play some solid rugby league and were rewarded with a third try for their persistence from Stefan Nedelykovic, who squeezed through from dummy half after 69 minutes. The Serbians grabbed further respectability when busy fullback Zogovic shot in and he then converted to make it 20-34.

In the last couple of minutes Lancashire had a couple of chances to make the game safe. Luke Belshaw was tackled short and then Holland missed with the drop goal attempt, but then with the last play Zac Baker (Rochdale Mayfield) was rewarded for an all-action game when latching onto an O’Loughlin side kick and running to the line from 30 metres. Gibson missed with his final goal attempt and Lancashire celebrated a solid win, 38-20.

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