There is much to celebrate in Serbian rugby league circles as 2014 comes to an end.
Top of European Championship B table at the halfway stage – including a memorable win at home to Italy – they were the biggest movers in the World Rankings released last week, going up four places to 13th, which should put them in good stead for the 2017 World Cup qualifiers, the finals in Australian and New Zealand featuring 14 teams.
According to SRL president Predrag Pantic, “This is the year in which the Serbian Rugby League Federation had a great domestic development. Nearly 100 matches were played from seniors to U14.
“Red Star’s win over Dorcol is a new chapter in Serbian Rugby League history, and we all hope that domestic development will continue in 2015.”
Red star’s dramatic 36-26 away triumph in the Grand Final ended 12 seasons of dominance by Dorcol, one of the longest continued runs of success in rugby league history.
Two-try and two-goal Vojislav Dedić, the Red Star stand-off was the star. “The season was very long and hard, especially after the summer break”, he said.
“It was important to us to be the best when it counts. Dorćol was as tough as ever but I think we were hungrier for success. Even when they took the lead, we never gave up and it paid off.
“The feeling is amazing and I would like to congratulate and thank to all my teammates, staff and supporters”.
His opposite number Dalibor Vukanović also claimed 12 points but, for once, it was not enough.
“We were not at the level we usually are defensively and Red Star utilized that in the opening and closing minutes of the game”, he noted.
“We made some bad decisions during our dominating period so we couldn’t build a lead big enough for a comfortable finish. At the end, both teams had chances to win, this time Red Star used their one and I congratulate them.
“It is up to us now to regroup over the off-season and to do our best to win back the title next year”.
Red Star’s red-and-whites shocked the hosts by racing to 10-0 lead after only eight minutes with tries from Nikola Djurić and Dragan Vasiljević.
Dorćol responded with winger Milan Avramović’s touchdown and a goal by captain Vukanović, but Red Star extended their lead with a Petar Milanović score and Vojislav Dedić’s second conversion.
Three minutes before half time, centre Stevan Stevanović crossed for the home team and Vukanović landed another goal to make it 12-16 at the break.
Dorćol took control in the opening minutes of the second half with Stefan Nedeljković equalizer and Vukanović’s first try, Dedić responding to make it 20-all.
In the 66th minute, Vukanović posted a superb solo effort between the posts, Nedeljković adding the extras to put Dorćol back in front.
Red Star’s international duo Dedić and Miloš Zogović with the goal levelled the score again just three minutes later, with the latter completing the comeback in the next set with a fine try.
Red Star had to pull off a try-saving tackle in the corner to force a knock-on and avoid extra-time and, in the dying minutes, they made sure of only their second-ever win over Dorćol thanks to a second try by the man of the match Vasiljević, Zogović completing the scoring with his second goal.
The match, streamed live, had the SRL’s highest-ever viewing figures.
Also, Radnički Nova Pazova defeated Tašmajdan Tigers 38-30 in the play-off final and returned to the first division after only one season out.
Andrej Mora, Stefan Vukanović, Marko Ćuk, Aleksa Radić, Milan Avramović, Dimitris Dajč, Mirko Božović, Stefan Nedeljković, Dalibor Vukanović, Miloš Aleksić, Stevan Stevanović, Ivan Tulić, Milan Čobanović. Subs: Sergej Devetak, Lazar Mićić, Rade Spajić, Nikola Vlahović.
Tries: Milan Avramović (11’), Stevan Stevanović (37’), Stefan Nedeljković (42’), Dalibor Vukanović (48’, 66’)
Goals: Dalibor Vukanović 2/3, Stefan Nedeljković 1/2
RED STAR: 36
Miloš Zogović, Nikola Djurić, Petar Milanović, Dragan Vasiljević, Aleksandar Radovanović, Mark Pullen, Vojislav Dedić, Nikola Vulić, Vladislav Dedić, Slobodan Manak, Miodrag Tomić, Miloš Kostadinović, Velibor Srećković. Subs: Vuk Štrbac, Nenad Žujić, Denis Čengaj, Nikola Milovanović.
Tries: Nikola Djurić (3’), Dragan Vasiljević (8’, 79’), Petar Milanović (15’), Vojislav Dedić (56’, 69’), Miloš Zogović (72’)
Goals: Vojislav Dedić 2/4, Miloš Zogović 2/3