After 1 weeks break where the Serbian Second Division took centre stage, the first weekend of April sees the return of spring sunshine and 1st grade rugby league. The action in the Serbian 1stDivision is always difficult to pick. In the last round there were resounding victories for Partizan over Radnicki (which translates as “Workers”) Nis at 60 to 10, and for Red Star who avenged their loss in the Super Cup with a dominant second half performance at Dorcol, running out winners 50-20 in arguably one of the greatest results for the Red Star since its inception.
Radnicki Nis vs Red Star
When Radnicki Nis last played Red Star they were on the wrong end of a 54-4 scoreline on the 24th April 2016 in the Cup. The previous result in the league 3 weeks earlier was a much closer affair with Red Star running out winners 28-16. Red Star have a strong record in matches between the two clubs and go into this match resounding favourites.
What Have We Learned So Far in 2017?
Partizan Belgrade handed Radnicki Nis a strong defeat in Round 2, but Radnicki Nis played this game with only 1 available substitute. Rugby league is a tough enough game as it is without being forced to endure an 80 minute onslaught with limited troops. It’s a credit to the heart and soul of Radnicki Nis as a team that their points came in the second half. If they can play with a full team of reserves, they will be a much tougher opponent for Red Star. Missing players was also the story in the Dorcol vs Red Star match, with Dorcol missing 3 internationals and Red Star missing 1 international player. The key in the Serbian Rugby League, as for any amateur league is therefore being able to keep your team together and injury free for as long as possible.
The Men to Watch
For Radnicki Nis, young hooker Milos Stasin showed good strength and guile in scoring his sides first try against Partizan from dummy half, beating 3 Partizan defenders in a determined run. Milos is one of the players in Radnicki Nis who is the future of the young club. For Red Star, in the second half against Dorcol Nenad Zujic provided a couple of strong runs when the game was there to be won or lost. Tries were scored immediately after his strong runs scattered the defence in the midfield and laid the platform for his outside backs to capitalise. Stefan Nikolic will be another player to watch. The five eighth reads the game well and has a good ability to put players into gaps. With extra time and space he could be extremely effective in setting up opportunities for his outside backs and second rowers.
The Lucky Numbers
Our lucky number for this week is 50. Radnicki Nis have struggled to keep the 3 major Belgrade teams (Dorcol, Partizan Belgrade and Red Star Belgrade) under 50 points in recent times. Their last match against each of the major clubs resulted in scorelines of 60-10 (Partizan), 54-4 (Red Star) and 86-4 (Dorcol). The future of Radnicki Nis is very important for the Serbian Rugby League, and the young club are doing a wonderful job competing in the Serbian First Division, having earned their right from 2016 with excellent results whenever they played opposition outside of the “big 3”.
Good Luck Tipping a Winner
Rugby league games are not won on paper, so this Sunday Red Star have a job to do when they travel the A1 highway to Nis and must stay focused. For a club with strong ambitions like Red Star anything less than a strong performance should be considered insufficient. Radnicki Nis proved last week against Partizan that they have the basic criteria for playing rugby league – having mental toughness and sticking to their task. If Red Star play like they did in the 2nd half against Dorcol 2 weeks ago however, luck won’t be a factor in this contest. Our prediction is Red Star by 34.
In the other game this weekend, Partizan Belgrade and Dorcol play off in a fascinating encounter in Belgrade. Partizan are currently narrow leaders over Red Star on points difference, but mathematically any one of 3 teams could be top of the league after Round 3. Our tip for this match is that Dorcol will bounce back very strongly and push Partizan to the last minutes, but Partizan have excellent early season form and we are tipping Partizan by 2 in the match of the round, probably with a try in the 78th or 79th minute deciding the contest!