Challenge Cup: Red Star Belgrade beaten 38-10 by Cumbrian amateur side Millom

Red Star played in blue on their first trip to Cumbria
Red Star played in blue on their first trip to Cumbria

Red Star Belgrade made an unsuccessful debut in rugby league's oldest competition as they lost 38-10 to Cumbrian amateur side Millom in the first round of the Challenge Cup.

Their football counterparts from the multi-sports club from Serbia won the European Cup in 1991.

But Red Star's rugby players found in windswept Cumbria that cracking the 13-man code may prove a bit trickier.

They shipped seven tries at Coronation Field, scoring just two of their own.

Centre Aleksandar Djordjevic and Australia's Darcy Etrich both crossed the whitewash against the world's oldest amateur club, who play in the third tier of the National Conference League,

"It was an honour to play in one of the biggest tournaments in any sport. And in the place where rugby was made," said Djordjevic, a basketball-playing sporting all-rounder who has also represented his country at rugby union and became the first Serb to score a Challenge Cup try.

In the first round of Challenge Cup fixtures since Catalans Dragons became the first non-English side to win the famous old trophy last August, Red Star showed that they have a long way to go to match those heights.

But Red Star's director of rugby, Englishman Mark Pullen, conceded that his side's chastening experience in the face of a biting gale and resolute hosts was maybe exactly what they need in order to evolve.

"I wanted them to take a beating," said Pullen. "Whether it was in this round or the next, it was going to happen. We needed it because we had gone through the whole of last season unbeaten.

"It was about our boys being tested by a traditional team in the game. They will take a lot away from this experience. It's a long-term project. We would love to get the chance to return to the Challenge Cup next season."

Millom, known as the 'Woolybacks', had considered not entering this season's competition because of fixture congestion.

But in the end, sparked by an early try from local favourite Noah Robinson, they relished the exposure, viewed from a BBC camera gantry constructed specially for the occasion.

Red Star's future plans

Red Star's owner, the Australian-based businessman Colin Kleyweg, said the first step is a potential expansion of the current Balkan Super League, in which Red Star are currently an all-too-dominant force.

"When we applied to the Rugby Football League we explained that what we were scared of was that we were winning our matches too comfortably," he said.

"We won one of our semi-finals this season 94-2, and another match by over 100 points, which really isn't a good thing for anybody.

"That was the catalyst for us really pushing for entry into the Challenge Cup.

"We would like to increase interest levels and hopefully use it to evolve the Balkan Super League into a broader and more competitive European competition."

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