Koch (18), Marin (27, 63), Danzey (43), Isaak (55)
StevanoviÄ‡ (33, 49), S. NikoliÄ‡ (59), Ä†aliÄ‡ (65)
K. Keinhorst 2/5
EUROPEAN SHIELD 2012-13 GAME 1
Holders Germany registered their first-ever win over Serbia, at the third time of asking, thanks to a dramatic last minute Kristian Keinhorst drop goal; triumphing 25-24 in the first match of the 2012/3 European Shield, in Heidelberg. Three times the gallant visitors hit back to level but could never quite edge in front and suffered the ultimate heartbreak.
“We knew it was going to be a physical battle in the middle but our half backs worked to move their big forwards around,” said proud German coach Dan Stocks. “The first 20 minutes when we completed our sets gave us confidence and set the tone.”
In an absorbing clash played in fine weather, the excitement never lessened, Nico Koch giving the hosts an 18th minute lead somewhat against the run of play when he shot through a gap from 40 metres. Germany had weathered a series of Serbian attacks thanks to some desperate goal line defence which saw the visitors held up over the line on three occasions while they were also denied a try on seven minutes from Stefan NedeljkoviÄ‡ for a forward pass.
Germany doubled their lead on 27 minutes following a Kristian Keinhorst chip to the corner which eventually found the grateful hands of Lucas Marin who crossed, Kristian Keinhorst again missing the conversion. The rugged Serbian pack gained increasing momentum and profiting on the back of a dropped ball and penalty, stand off Ivan Šušnjara delivered a superb 20 metre pass to the left for Stevan StevanoviÄ‡ to step his way over, Miloš ZogoviÄ‡ goaling to make it 8-6 at the break.
Germany extended their lead three minutes into the second half, impressive debutant hooker Joshua Danzey dummying over from acting half back, Kristian Keinhorst again wayward with the boot. Six minutes later, impressive prop Lazar Å½ivkoviÄ‡ broke down field and Šušnjara again found centre StevanoviÄ‡ who claimed his second try, ZogoviÄ‡ levelling with the conversion. On 55 minutes, Germany’s 2011 Player of the Year Thomas Isaak arced over, Kristian Keinhorst goaling but on the hour the Serbians produced a stunning counter punch, re-gathering their own drop out and going the length of the field in a set, Mawuli Amefia fumbling a kick on the last and Stefan NikoliÄ‡ gathering to go over.
Serbia then lost possession in midfield and German debutant Marin snaffled the ball to race clear from half way to claim his double. From their short kick off, with tension mounting, the Serbians again secured possession and, with Å½ivkoviÄ‡ again making good ground up the middle, another fumbled kick on the last tackle saw Miloš Ä†aliÄ‡ on hand to dive over, nerveless ZogoviÄ‡ adding the touchline conversion to make it 24-all with 15 minutes remaining.
The Serbs thought they had taken the lead for the first time with ten minutes to go, but more terrific goal line defence held them out in the corner and a minute from time, Kristian Keinhorst delivered the decisive blow with a well struck drop goal to leave the visitors crestfallen. Full back Dimitris DajÄ commented, “We gave our all but some poor decisions with the ball cost us. We will learn and there is a very good feeling and togetherness within the squad.”
Germany now prepare to host Russia next week in game two where they are hoping to have some key players back including Leeds Rhino Jimmy Keinhorst.
Rugby League European Federation General manger Danny Kazandjian was an impressed observer. “This match sets up the competition perfectly,” he noted. “It was the best game we have seen in the competition to date.”
Pictured: Zlatko PešiÄ‡ hits it up.
Christoph Huber, Nick Keinhorst Nico Koch, Lucas Marin, Mawuli Amefia, Damien Seibold Kristian Keinhorst, Ben Behr-Heyder, Joshua Danzey, Thomas Isaak, Fabrice Fehlemann Sebastian Roczyn, Vincent Spies. Subs: Jens Schmidt, Sebastian Vermaat, Liam Doughton Jacob Handy
Dimitris DajÄ, Nebojša Å½ivanoviÄ‡, Stevan StevanoviÄ‡, Nikša UnkoviÄ‡, Miloš ZogoviÄ‡, Ivan Šušnjara, Vojislav DediÄ‡, Vladica NikoliÄ‡, Zoran PešiÄ‡ (c), Lazar Å½ivkoviÄ‡, Miloš Ä†aliÄ‡, Stefan NedeljkoviÄ‡, Stefan NikoliÄ‡. Subs : Mirko BoÅ¾oviÄ‡, Velibor SreÄ‡koviÄ‡, Zlatko PešiÄ‡, Pero MadÅ¾areviÄ‡