Ulster overcome spirited Zebre

Date published: February 26 2017

Ulster kept their Pro12 play-off hopes alive after a 40-17 triumph over Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Chris Henry and Ruan Pienaar helped the Irish province into a 14-0 lead but the Italian outfit hit back with 10 unanswered points. Guglielmo Palazzani scored all of them before Les Kiss’ men reasserted their authority on proceedings by getting a third try early in the second period through Stuart Olding.

Olding’s effort was then followed by the bonus-point touchdown when Jacob Stockdale crossed to effectively end the game as a contest.

Mattia Bellini touched down for Zebre but Ulster ran out comfortable winners after late Robbie Diack and David Busby tries.

Following a positive start to the season, the Irishmen have struggled for consistency but this victory keeps them in contention for the top-four.

They started in impressive fashion with Charles Piutau proving to be a particular threat on the left-wing, but it was the forwards that created their first try when the visitors set up a driving maul and Henry touched down. Pienaar converted and then scored their second as Piutau broke the gainline and passed to the scrum-half, who crossed the whitewash unopposed.

Zebre could have wilted following those tries but, to their credit, the hosts responded and were back to within losing bonus-point territory through Palazzani’s close range effort.

The scrum-half added a penalty as the hosts began to take control, but they failed to build on that in the second period and Ulster had the bonus-point wrapped up 10 minutes into the half.

Firstly, Olding weaved his way over before Stockdale touched down from close range for an 18-point buffer.

Bellini once again raised the hosts’ hopes of potentially fighting back when he finished a well worked attack, but Diack and Busby ended a good afternoon’s work for the visitors by crossing late on.

For Zebre:
Palazzani, Bellini
Cons: Palazzani 2
Pens: Palazzani

For Ulster:
Henry, Pienaar, Olding, Stockdale, Diack, Busby
Pens: Pienaar 5

Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Lloyd Greeff, 10 Serafin Bordoli, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Dennis Bergamin, 5 Valerio Bernabò (c), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Guillermo Roan, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Bruno Postiglioni
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Bartholomeus Le Roux, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Davide Fragnito, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Tommaso Castello, 23 Simone Balocchi

Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Marcel Coetzee, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Robbie Diack, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Callum Black, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Jared Payne, 23 David Busby

Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)