Ulster ease past Zebre for first win

Date published: September 13 2014

Ulster secured their first win of the Pro12 season with a comprehensive 33-13 success over Zebre.

Ulster secured their first win of the Pro12 season with a comprehensive 33-13 success over Zebre.

Nick Williams, Craig Gilroy and Robbie Diack all crossed in the first half, while Andrew Trimble and Dan Tuohy went over after the break for Les Kiss' side.

The visitors scored a first half try of their own from Samuela Vunisa, as well as well as three kicks from fly-half, Kelly Haimona; but never really threatened a more streetwise Ulster side.

It wasn't the prettiest of games, but Ulster won't give a jot as they get they secure their first win of the Pro12.

The game began scrappily, but it was Ulster that had the livelier opening. And the home side seemed to have made the perfect start on three minutes when Humphreys put skipper Best in under the sticks, but the hooker made a catastrophic fumble with the Zebre line at his mercy.

However from the ensuing scrum, the Ulster pack took one against the head, enabling behemoth Williams to pick up at the base, and Zebre's defence was powerless to curtail the big man's onslaught. Humphreys converted to make it 7-0 to the Ulstermen.

The Italian franchise responded well by putting together some decent phases of its own, but the home defence was equal to the challenge.

On the eight minute mark, the visitors finally broke through, when replacement Vunisa strolled through a meek Ulster defence to score. Haimona converted to level proceedings at 7-7.

The Zebre pivot successfully edged his side into the lead three minutes later when he nailed an impressive long distance penalty.

The home side were actually lucky the Zebre lead was not greater, given the profligacy of its defence.

Humphreys, in turn, had a gilt-edged chance on 13 minutes to restore parity, but missed the relatively straightforward kick.

The evening certainly wasn't going to plan from an Ulster perspective at this stage of the contest.

But the tide started to turn on 17 minutes, when a powerful run by Diack put international Gilroy over in the corner. Humphreys nailed it this time to earn his team a 14-10 lead.

The Irish side was now beginning to attain some continuity, and Diack extended the lead on 27 minutes when he gratefully gathered a pass from full-back, Ricky Andrew to touch down in the corner. Humphreys missed the difficult conversion to leave the score at 19-10.

Haimona had a great chance to reduce the deficit on 34 minutes, but scuffed his kick.

Ulster's response was almost immediate, as they raced the length of the pitch and set up camp in Zebre's 22.

From an attacking scrum, centre Luke Marshall seemed to have got over the line, but spilled the pill at the last minute. The miss was nearly as glaring as that suffered by his captain earlier in the half. It was to be the last act of an entertaining, but flawed half.

The second half kicked off with the Italians chasing the game, and there was certainly more urgency about their play post interval.

And the underdogs got a glimmer of hope on 55 minutes when Andrew was sin-binned following an ugly challenge on scrum-half, Brendon Leonard.

Zebre were definitely winning their fair share of possession in the second period, but alas struggled to inject any real penetration into their performance.

Their challenge looked dead and buried by the 60 minute mark when Trimble got over for another Ulster try. Humphreys added the extras to make it 26-10 to the Ravenhill men.

The visitors were thus left with a mountain to climb. And when Irish lock, Tuohy swept up a stray ball on 65 minutes to score another home try, it was game, set, and match to the Irish province. Humphreys again added the extra points to give Ulster an insurmountable 33-10 advantage.

With less than ten minutes to go, Haimona eccentrically took three points when the visitors were awarded a kickable penalty. With the vast points differential, it seemed a bizarre call.

The kick proved to be only futile resistance, however, as Ulster held on to seal a welcome win. They will need to get a lot better to make inroads in this league, though.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Tries: Williams, Gilroy, Diack, Trimble, Tuohy
Conversions: Humphreys 4
Yellow Card: Andrew

For Zebre:
Try: Vunisa
Conversion: Haimona
Penalties: Haimona 2

The teams:

Ulster:15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Andrew Warwick
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Louis Ludik.

Zebre: 15 Hendrik Daniller, 14 David Odiete, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (c), 11 Giulio Toniolatti, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Filippo Cristiano, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 George Biagi, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea De Marchi
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 21 Quintin Geldenhuys, 21 Samuela Vunisa, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Edoardo Padovani

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)