As part of the festival of rugby league surrounding the U19 European Championships in Belgrade, Turkey won the inaugural Balkan 9s at the NCS, Makis.
In a dramatic climax they defeated their Serbian hosts 14-10 three minutes into golden-point extra time, after Serbia had missed the final kick conversion that would have given them the regular-time win.
Bulgaria won the bronze medal, defeating Albania 8-4, in what they described as, “our biggest victory so far.”
In a five nation tournament, Turkey also beat Bosnia & Herzegovina (16-0) and Albania (28-4), whilst Serbia eliminated Bulgaria (24-6) and Albania were ranked fourth, having defeated Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Serbian Rugby League general secretary, Slobodan Manak, is hoping that next year both Montenegro and Greece will also be a part of the Balkan 9’s.
“We took the opportunity, whilst hosting the U19 Euros, to invite regional teams to kick-start a tournament which we believe should be an annual gathering,” he said.
“Next time we are hoping to have all the Balkan nations competing, in what could become a very high quality championship.”
To give the teams more matches, but outside of the competition, an EU Barbarians team was formed comprising players from Ireland, Scotland, Malta, Ukraine, Italy and Serbia, who took on, and defeated, both Bulgaria and Bosnia & Herzegovina.