By Phil Caplan, Date:30/6/13
The Czech Republic won a fiercely contested match with the touring Serbian U20s, running out winners 28-22 in Vrchlabi.
The young Serbians showed immense courage and some fine skills against bigger and generally older opponents to ensure the home team never pulled away from them on the scoreboard.
The Czechs crossed in the early minutes through impressive Pavel Vrana and did not relinquish the lead thereafter.
Vaclav Fischer was the standout for the hosts and scored their second try with a typical bulldozing effort, while in an encouraging note for the development of rugby league in the Czech Republic, the rest of their tries were scored by players on debut, with two for Mikulov full back Otto Friedl, another to Fischerâ€™s Teplice Dragons teammate, Jan Zelezny on the cusp of half-time, and a touchdown for Lokomotiva Beroun utility player Viteslav Drazka.
For the Serbs, who had travelled by coach for 13 hours the day before the game, stand-off and captain Vladislav Dedic was excellent leading his passionate young team, setting up the gameâ€™s second try with a magnificent cut-out pass to Lazar Grubor to cross in the corner.
Forwards Milan Rakic, Nikola Stojmenovic and Pero Madzarevic took the game to their opponents and Vuk Strbac and Petar Milanovic showed no fear as they constantly launched themselves at the Czechâ€™s in both attack and defence.
Serbian coach Vladan Kikanovic was proud of his young charges efforts and predicted big futures for some of them. â€œThese guys are the future of Serbian rugby league,â€ he said. â€œIt wonâ€™t be long before many of them are pushing for full Serbian national team selection.â€
â€œThe standard of the Czech team has improved a lot since I played against them in 2010,â€ he continued. â€œI was not too sure of what level they would be today, but I can see that the Czechs are definitely improving as rugby league players, they have great potential to improve even more as they continue to play more.â€
Czech captain Petr Sedina was satisfied that the match was good preparation for the countryâ€™s forthcoming European Bowl commitments, but still sees plenty of room for improvement. â€œThe first half was fine, but the second was disappointing,â€ he noted.
â€œI thought some of our defence was not up to scratch and we also struggled to convert good field position into points. That is something we need to work on, and we also need to eliminate the silly penalties from our game that cost us several times.â€
He added, â€œThe positive, though, was that several first-choice players were unavailable today and so we debuted quite a few a new guys, with half the team being 21 years or younger. Thatâ€™s encouraging for the future but we must now focus on the rest of this season and playing against tough and experienced teams from Norway and Ukraine.â€™