Ulster maintain winning streak
Zebre 25 Ulster 27:An under-par Ulster side maintained edged a remarkable game of rugby against Zebre in Parma this afternoon, to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
The league leaders, shorn of many of their young stars this season who shone so brightly against Fiji at Thomond Park yesterday, were outscored four fries to two by the Italians but clinched the win with a late penalty try.
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe was under no illusions as to good fortune his side enjoyed at the home of the league's whipping boys, who picked up two bonus points for their efforts.
“We got out of jail in the end,” said the New Zealander. "We played poorly and probably didn’t deserve to win. Zebre put together some nice plays and deserved to get more out of the game. Our kick receipts were poor and they punished us from that. Our defence also let us down. We certainly didn’t play to our potential.”
The penalty try was awarded after the home scrum buckled under pressure from Ulster, and O'Connor added the crucial extras.
Ulster went ahead through an O'Connor penalty but Zebre scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi touched down after 10 minutes to put the Italians in front. Two more O'Connor penalties restored Ulster's advantage, before Daniel Halangahu's penalty kick reduced the deficit to one point at half-time.
Australian outhalf Halangahu then crossed for a try to put Zebre 13-9 ahead, and although O'Connor kept Ulster in touch the first of two tries for South African Dries van Schalkwyk extended the hosts' lead to 18-12.
Ulster reacted strongly and Paddy Wallace touched down on the right-hand side after good work from Jared Payne, and although O'Connor failed to convert he did strike another penalty to put the visitors two points ahead.
Zebre did not buckle and Van Schalkwyk claimed his second try as he charged off the back of a retreating Zebre scrum, with Halangahu's extras giving them a 25-20 lead.
At that stage they looked good for victory, but the concession of the penalty try ultimately proved very costly.
Zebre: Try: Tebaldi, Halangahu, Van Schalkwyk 2 Pen: Halangahu Con: Halangahu
Ulster: Try: Wallace, Pen try Pen: O’Connor 5 Con: O’Connor
Zebre: D Odiete; L Sarto, M Pratichetti, S Pace, A Castagnoli; D Halangahu, T Tebaldi; M Aguero (S Perugini 52), A Manici, L Redolfini (F Tripodi 63); F Cazzola (E Caffini 41), J Sole; F Ferrarini (N Cattina 56), F Cristiano, A van Schalkwyk
Ulster: R Andrew; M Allen, J Payne, P Wallace, C Cochrane; N O’Connor, M Heaney; C Black (T Court 56), N Brady (capt) (R Herring 53), J Afoa; R Diack, N McComb; N Williams, M McComish, R Wilson.