In only their third international, Bulgaria put in a spirited performance to run a young Serbia side close at FC Trebich in Sofia. The hosts trailed narrowly at half time and it took a try in the 71st minute from prop Djordje Krnjeta – who crossed twice last week against Bosnia & Herzegovina – for the visitors to claim the spoils.
Bulgarian Rugby League Federation president, Tihomir Simeonov, commented: “It was a really tight game. We lacked a little discipline in the end but I’m extremely proud on our lads, they worked hard and improved significantly. We are young side and will continue to learn. We will keep upgrading relationships with teams from Serbia and are looking forward to playing against them again.”
The kick off was delayed by an hour due to heavy storms and to protect the players from a possible lightning strike and Serbia began strongly, with two unconverted tries from winger Uros Ilic and Nikola Mladenovic inside the opening ten minutes.
Bulgaria hit back when centre Denis Ivanov crossed and Ali Rasol goaled, hooker Mladenovic claiming his second try in reply soon after, Strahinja Stojiljkovic with the conversion. Home man of the match Miroslav Debreliev’s touchdown made to 10-14 at the break.
In a sensational start to the second half, Jeliazko Kostadinov edged Bulgaria level and Rasol’s conversion put them ahead for the first time but with Debreliev and Serbia’s best – opposite number Enis Bibic – in the sin bin, Serbia retook the lead with a second Ilic try and two more Stojiljkovic goals – the second a penalty after a fine Bibic break on his return – before Krnjeta sealed victory.
Jasmin Bibic, Serbia assistant coach, said: “The match was very physical and competitive. We need that for this young team to make them stronger players. Bulgaria were very good and well prepared, they made it extremely tough for us. We continue with matches against Montenegro and Albania next and this is a tremendous experience for our side.”
Alexander Alexandrov, Svetislav Simeonov, Denis Ivanov, Milen Nikolov, Kiril Atanasov, Marian Penov, Kristian Ivanov, Hristian Ivanov, Slavi Givmushan, Hristov Georgiev, Alex Arsov, James Mott, Miroslav Debreliev
Subs (all used): Velislav Bozev, Tomas Roch, Jeliazko Kostadinov, Ali Rasol
Tries: Ivanov (19), Debreliev (32), Kostadinov (42)
Goals: Rasol 2/3
Andrej Marinkovic, Aleksa Zivojinovic, Uros Stojkovic, Dorotej-Dado Arnold, Uros Ilic, Luka Raskovic, Mateja Nedeljkovic, Djordje Krnjeta, Nikola Mladenovic, Strahinja Stojiljkovic, Marko Jevdjic, Luka Ilic, Enis Bibic
Subs (all used) Branko Sabanovic, Milos Pavlovic, Veljko Djordjevic, Batric Jevric
Tries: Ilic (6, 55), Mladenovic (10, 25), Krnjeta (71)
Goals: Stojiljkovic 4/6
Half time: 10-14
Referee: Slobodan Manak