ITALY 32 SERBIA 20 – Este, Veneto
A man of the match performance from Richard Lepori, who’s try on the hour secured victory, saw the Azzurri claim second spot in the final European Shield table, in a captivating clash.
The Oldham winger paid his own way over to don the Italian shirt in an effort to make it into their World Cup squad and was happy to get the job done.
“I really enjoyed it, Serbia gave it a real dig, they were tough and ran hard,” he said. “We had to battle in defence but stuck to our plan of trying to get the ball wide and scored most of our points down the flanks.”
The Serbians started impressively, dominating the early exchanges but Lepori proved to be their undoing, catching a kick and breaking free over 80 metres, his offload sending Christophe Calegari in for the opening score in the sixth minute, Remi Fontana goaling.
The visitors continued to pose problems, Stevan Stevanović knocking on over the line on the back of a 40-20 but they were rewarded when Vojislav Dedić chipped to the corner and Marko Ćuk dotted down for an unconverted try.
Ray Nasso knocked on with the line beckoning but the Italians increased their lead when Gioele Celerino crossed.
Dorcol Spiders’ experienced scrum half Dalibor Vukanović ran a great a great line from ten metres out to go over, Vojislav Dedić converting to level but on the final play of the first half, Serbia pushed a pass in their own half and Calegari swooped for his second touchdown.
Italian pressure at the start of the second period saw Gert Peens go over and convert his own try but a short sided play saw Stevanović across to cut the gap to six points.
An evasive run from Lepori, who was a handful throughout, saw local hooker Simone Boscolo sneak over and Lepori gained his reward soon after, Peens goaling both.
Two minutes from time, Cuk claimed his brace after a tight contest in the final quarter.
Serbian coach Marko Janković had nothing but praise for his player’s efforts. “Today showed that local players can compete with what I think was the strongest side in the competition, playing for World Cup spots” he said.
“This was a triumph for all those who have been involved in rugby league development in Europe for a number of years, it was a great contest. The future is on our side, this is a great format for us to continue to progress.”
Fabrizio Ciaurro (Coventry Bears), Richard Lepori (Oldham), Christophe Calegari (Lezignan Corbieres), Ivan Barani (XIII del Ducato), Riccardo Scandurra (North West Roosters), Remi Fontana (Carpentras), Chris De Meyer (North West Roosters), Chris Vitaliani (University of Gloucestershire All Golds), Ray Nasso, (Avignon XIII), Cedric Prizzon (Villefrache en Rouergue), Gioele Celerino (North West Roosters), Giovanni Franchi (XIII del Ducato), Jonathon Marcinczak (Racing Club Albi), Subs (all used): Michele Verardi (Tirreno Sharks), Gert Peens (North West Roosters), Simone Boscolo (Ariete Este), Drake Muyodi (XIII del Ducato)
Tries: Calegari (6, 39), Celerino (24), Peens (45), Boscolo (58), Lepori (61)
Goals: Fontana, Peens 3
Miloš Zogović (Red Star), Mihailo Bošković (Dorcol), Miloš Ćalić (Red Star), Marko Milenković (Niš), Marko Ćuk (Dorcol), Vojislav Dedić (Red Star), Dalibor Vukanović (Dorćol), Lazar Živković (Niš), Vladislav Dedić (Red Star), Dejan Lukenić (Dorcol), Vladica Nikolić (Red Star), Stevan Stevanović (Dorcol), Stefan Nedeljković (Dorcol), Subs (all used): Igor Vratnjan (Podbara), Žarko Kovačević (Radnički Nova Pazova), Mirko Božović (Dorcol), Pero Madžarević (Radnički Nova Pazova)
Tries: Cuk (19, 78), Vukanović (36), Stevanović (48)
Goals: Vojislav Dedić 2
Half time: 14-10
Referee: Chris Campbell (England)
Penalty count: 8-7
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