THEIR counterparts may have soared to the European football summit but Red Star Belgrade discovered in windswept Cumbria that ascending the rugby league ranks is going to prove an all together more demanding affair.

Buffeted by a gale-force wind and battered by Millom's experienced amateurs, the much-vaunted Challenge Cup debut of the newest branch of Serbia's most renowned sports conglomeration ended in a comprehensive 38-10 defeat.

The world's oldest amateur club, from the third tier of the National Conference League, ran in seven tries as they set about brutally exposing the naivety of opponents forced to settle for two of their own, from centre Aleksandar Djordjevic and Australia's Darcy Etrich.

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

"I wanted them to take a beating," Pullen said. "Whether it was in this round or the next, it was going to happen and 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 and we would love to get the chance to return to the Challenge Cup next season."

If Red Star arrived in Cumbria with modest ambitions than those of Toronto Wolfpack, who made their much-vaunted debut at the same stage two years ago, the majority of the local population of 8,000 certainly took them to their hearts.

Serbian flags were buffeted outside the adjacent pub and Red Star hats and tracksuit tops were eagerly snapped up in the social club, while an impressive crowd of almost 1,000 was swollen by a significant number of members of the Serbian diaspora.

Red Star's players were given the opportunity to pose with the Challenge Cup before kick-off, before being served harsh notice that it would be many years before they were in a position to emulate the tournament's first overseas winners, Catalans Dragons, last year.

After an initial spell of pressure, Red Star fell behind to a try from local favourite Noah Robinson and from that moment on the gulf in physical strength and tactical awareness was made increasingly apparent by home players keen to spoil the party.

Millom, known as the 'Woolybacks', had considered not entering this season's competition due to fixture congestion but relished the exposure the draw afforded them, beneath a BBC camera gantry constructed especially for the occasion.

Djordjevic - having made his own piece of history as the first Serbian to score a Challenge Cup try -praised the home side's spirit and will leave Cumbria determined to ensure Red Star's unlikely appearance one-off.

"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.

"We were beaten by a better and more-experienced team, but I hope we can come back and try again."