venue: Makis Stadium, Belgrade
11th May 2015
Full Match Report
A conversion a few inches the wrong side of the post was the difference between the English Lionhearts and Serbia after a bruising, battling and, at times, bad-tempered affair at the Makis Stadium in Belgrade.
The Lionhearts had defeated a Serbia Select XIII on the Thursday before this game, but knew this game would be a massive challenge against a team ranked 13th in the world.
In front of a passionate and loud home crowd, Serbia took an early lead after an error from Owen Scholes, who kept a penalty kick to touch in play, but only succeeded in palming it into the hands of Dragan Jankovic, who raced clear for the first of his hat trick.
The Lionhearts hit back with a close range try from Paul Rickleton and, despite a sinbinning for Ryan Ashall after hitting out, they began to assert themselves and two tries in three minutes from Danny Brown and Ryan Hickman saw the Lionhearts establish a 16-6 win at half time, albeit with another man in the sin bin after Mathew Taylor was yellow carded along with Milos Calis after they tangled off the ball.
Calic made up for his indiscretion after barging his way over after 50 minutes to give Serbia hope of beating their more experienced opponents, hope that increased after Taylor was again sinbinned for an over-exuberant tackle. The Lionhearts showed character to not only keep the hosts from further reducing the deficit, but further extend their lead as Lionhearts Captain Jamie Bristo received a bullet pass close to the line and forced his way over, with Taylor finally making amends with the conversion.
Controversy then came into the match as all the tension that had built up between the two sides throughout the match finally boiled over as a high tackle led to players from both side piling into a pitched brawl. The referee was obliged to show a card or two, but surprised everyone including the Serbian players by sending off Lionhearts prop Darryl Appleby and Centre Jack Bury, but no Serbian players.
This two man advantage for Serbia began to pay off almost immediately with Jankovic taking advantage of a big overlap to score in the corner. The Lionhearts defence were working overtime to keep out the Serbian attack, but were finally breached at the end of the game after Jankovic completed his hat trick with a dive into the corner.
This left Vladislav Dedic with a very difficult conversion to give Serbia a draw, but his conversion went just wide of the uprights and the Lionhearts were able to walk away with a 22-20 win.
Miloš Zogović, Miloš Đurković, Miloš Ćalić, Dragan Janković, Dalibor Samardžić, Stefan Nikolić, Vojislav Dedić, Vlado Kušić, Vladislav Dedić, Žarko Kovačević, Miodrag Tomić, Pero Madžarević, Stefan Nedeljković, Stefan Ilić, Nikola Srbljanin, Aleksa Radić, Džavid Jašari
Paul Rickleton, Owen Scholes, Mathew Taylor, Jack Bury, Sean Anderson, Bradley Kelk, Tom Hopkins, Jamie Bristo, Tony Doyle, Darryl Appleby, John Padgett, Ryan Ashall, Danny Brown, Dec Riley, Chris Piercy, Richard MacLeod, Ryan Hickman