Serbia: 10
England: 16

    Unkovic (7), Stanic (28), Gencic (48), Tajsic (60), M Susnjara (75)

    M Susnjara 3/5

Match report

IF brutal defence and scintillating attack are up your street, then the Young Lions' first game of their tour to Serbia would have kept you absolutely engrossed. For 80 wonderful minutes, the players kept a healthy three-figure crowd royally entertained. In the end, the tourists walked off with the stunning Belgrade Trophy, but the hosts impressed everybody with a display that bodes very well for the future of the game in Serbia.

The first ten minutes, with at least five massive hits and three tries, contained more action than most halves of football do. Todd Appleby and Jamie Martin led the way with some punishing defence and the Lions were rewarded with an early try courtesy of a well-worked move which saw Ross Gainford, the captain, laying the ball off to winger Tom Saltmer, roaming infield, who stormed onto the ball and went in by the posts.

But the visitors, to their credit, weren't rattled. They were losing the battle upfront but they kept hold of the ball and Niksa Unkovic levelled the scores after a penalty handed the Serbs field position.

The Lions hit straight back with Saltmer scoring his second. Appleby won his side possession with the mother of all big hits from the kick off, busting open his own lip in the process. The Skirlaugh winger swooped on a loose ball and the opposition couldn't lay a hand on him as he scorched to the corner for his second try. Gainford converted magnificently.

After Lewis Wilson and Ivan Susnjara were surprisingly sin-binned for a minor scuffle, the Serbs tied the scores with the try of the night. Stefan Nedeljkovic collected a chip over the top before sending Milos Stanic to the line but the sheer number of passes that preceeded it brought the home crowd to their feet.

The last word of a superb first half went to Andy Lea, who later left the field with an ankle-ligament injury, as he touched down Gainford's pin-point grubber kick.

With a six-point lead, the British hoped that an early try would kill off their plucky opponents, but despite a couple of early penalties, the Serbs hung in and reduced the deficit to two points when Sasa Gencic scored outwide, forcing the ball down despite the attention of a trio of defenders.

The second half was played amid a backdrop of thunder and lightning which accentuated the atmosphere and fittingly mirrored the aggressive and thrilling action on the pitch. A couple more yellow cards followed - firstly to man of the match Todd Appleby and then to Dusan Virc for coming in late on Ben Swift. But scrum-half Matthew Meaden took the heat out of the situation by skilfully touching down after Gainford's pass. Throughout the night, both halves demonstrated the knack of coming up with big plays when their team needed them most.

But still the Serbs would not lie down. With impressive meterage in the bank, Ivan Susnjara moved play to the left, drew the defence and freed Radovan Tajsic with a perfectly-timed pass. The winger still had plenty to do, but his blinding pace left the defence bewildered as he left them all for dead to reduce the gap to two points once again.

Not for the first time, when his side needed something, Gainford had the audacity to kick from a scrumbase from more than 20 metres. Totally alert, Jacob Crossland beat the flat-footed defence to touch down for a try that saw the hosts' hearts finally sink.

Connor Myers almost scored an interception try but just couldn't hold on, but moments later he gleefully took Meaden's beautiful inside pass to score the try that finally clinched the game at 32-20 after Gainford's fourth goal.

Fittingly the final score of the match went to Serbia's excellent hooker, Milan Susnjara, who plunged over from dummy-half, which led to a couple of nervy late moments for the Lions, but they were able to hang on, and Gainford lifted the trophy in front of his jubilant teammates.

Co-coach Colin Phillips said: "The players adhered to the gameplan. We knew the opposition would be physical but our skill levels were more prominent than theirs.

"The Serbs scored some well-constructed tries and they gave their all for the full 80 minutes but the enthusiasm and pride in the Great Britain shirt gave the BARLA lads the incentive to win the game."


  1 Milos Stanic

  2 Borko Zunic

  3 Niksa Unkovic

  4 Stevan Stevanovic

  5 Radovan Tajsic

  6 Ivan Susnjara

  7 Stefan Nikolic

  8 Danilo Delic

  9 Milan Susnjara

10 Lazar Zivkovic

11 Stefan Nedeljkovic

12 Mirko Bozovic

13 Vuk Turdisic (C)

Subs (all used)

14 Sasa Gencic

15 Nikola Pavlovic

16 Lazar Gospavic

17 Petar Pavlovic

18 Sreten Zec

20 Dusan Virc


17 Jack Ridsdill (West Hull)

 9 Chris Highton (Seaton Rangers)

16 Connor Myers (Skirlaugh Bulls)

19 Ben Swift (Cockermouth Titans)

18 Tom Saltmer (Skirlaugh Bulls)

 8 Ross Gainford (C) (Kells)

14 Matthew Meaden (Ince Rose Bridge)

 4 Payden Candland (Eccles)

21 Mike Whittle (Wigan St Judes)

13 Jamie Martin (Wath Brow Hornets)

  3 Adam Brummitt (Shaw Cross Sharks)

12 Andy Lea (Thatto Heath Crusaders)

  1 Todd Appleby (Leigh Miners Rangers)

Subs (all used)

10 Tom Holmes (Walney Central)

  5 Jacob Crossland (Normanton)

22 Lewis Wilson (Kells)

  6 Sam Dowsett (Askam)

  2 Lewis Smith (Kells)

Men of the Match

BARLA: Todd Appleby

Serbia Students: Lazar Zivkovic

Sin Bins:

Serbia Students: I Susnjara - fighting (18), Virc - running in (55)

Young Lions: Wilson - fighting (18), Appleby - dissent (51)

GAMEBREAKER: Jacob Crossland's second-half try left the hosts with two much to do.

GAMESTAR: Todd Appleby's energy and defence were reminiscent of a young Adrian Morley.

TOP TACKLE: From an eighth-minute kick-off, Todd Appleby absolutely battered Stefan Nikolic and forced the ball free.

Serbia Students: Unkovic (7), Stanic (28), Gencic (48), Tajsic (60), M Susnjara (75). Goals: M Susnjara 3/5

BARLA Young Lions: Tries: Saltmer (5,10), Lea (32), Meaden (58), Crossland (66), Myers (72). Goals: Gainford 4/6

Scoring sequence: 0-4, 4-4, 4-10, 10-10, 10-16, 14-16, 14-22, 20-22, 20-26, 20-32, 26-32

Penalty count: 11-8

GLDO Forced: 0-0

Half-time: 10-16

Referee: Haris Dajc (Serbia)