Red Star Belgrade picked up their fifth Balkan Super League title in the seven years of the competition’s existence, defeating rivals Partisan 1953, 40-6 in the Grand Final at the FK Sava 45 Stadium in the city.
They scored seven tries, all from different players, Milos Zogovic finishing with 16 points from a try and six goals. Red Star led 12-0 early on after touchdowns from Rajko Trifunovic and Denis Chengaj, Partisan losing their strike centre, international Aleksandar Pavlovic to injury.
Further tries from Vladislav Dedic and Zogovic gave Red Star a 26-6 half time lead, Andrej Marinkovic replying for Partisan, but Dragan Kokanovic’s score three minutes into the second period all but settled the outcome. Marko Jankovic and Bosko Todorovic’s late scores completed a convincing win.
Colin Kleyweg, Red Star president, said: “The Balkan Super League win in 2023 is one of the proudest moments for the club given the score line against formidable opposition, and the fact we did it with a team principally of juniors between the ages of 17 to 19 across half our starting side. The development of the next group of Red Star players, all of Serbian heritage, is a moment we place great pride in for both our future and that of the Serbian national team.”
Director of the Balkan Super League, Dragan Pavlovc, commented: “There is still a strong dominance of Serbian teams as they have the most developed domestic competition in the region, but clubs like Arsenal from Tivat, Montenegro, are progressing year by year and providing more and more competitive matches.
“Refreshing for the league this year was the comeback of Greek teams, especially AEK Athens. A total of 15 games were played in the league part of the competition in the first division, plus the Grand Final. After the covid pandemic, this is so far the biggest competition with two divisions for the first time since 2019, embracing 12 clubs in total from six countries.”
He added: “The distances between some teams are over 1000 km, which only shows the effort and funds that the clubs have invested in this competition. One of the oddities is that every year there are more and more players from traditional rugby league countries like England and Wales who are interested in playing in the competition and helping the development of rugby league in the Balkan countries. This year, four players from Wales participated.
“For next year plan is that we include clubs from North Macedonia together with the return of those from Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is also interest again from Italy, with the Udine region club.”
RED STAR – 40
Milos Zogovic, Marko Jevdjic, Denis Cengaj, Rajko Trifunovic, Miroslav Selimovski, Vladislav Dedic, Vojislav Dedic, Milos Calic, Vuk Strbac, Marko Jankovic, Dragan Kokanovic, Balsa Zarkovic, Nikola Djuric,
Subs: Miodrag Tomic, Uros Martinovic, Bosko Todorovic, Silver Zenuni
Tries – Rajko Trifunovic 3rd min, Denis Cengaj 7th min, Vladislav Dedic 32nd min, Milos Zogovic 35th min, Dragan Kokanovic 47th min, Marko Jankovic 68th min, Bosko Todorovic 79th min, Goals: 6/8 Milos Zogovic
Goals: 6/8 Milos Zogovic
PARTISAN 1953 – 6
Dragan Jankovic, Darko Samardzic, Aleksandar Pavlovićc Andrej Marinkovic, Boban Jankovic, Dzavid Jasari, Branko Carapic, Billy Forrester, Filip Nesic, Velibor Karanovic, Strahinja Stojiljkovic, Nemanja Manojlovic, Enis Bibic
Subs: Darko Abidinovic, Filip Samardzic, Milos Tamburic, Jasmin Bibic
tries – Andrej Marinkovic 14th min,
Goal: Dzavid Jasari 1/1
Half time: 26-6
Referee: Lazar Zivkovic