Ulster labour to victory over Zebre and miss out on bonus point

Two second-half yellow cards for the Italian side prove crucial on a dreadful night in Belfast

Ulster 22 Zebre 7

On a dreadful night for rugby in Belfast, Ulster got the job done with an expected but still fairly laboured victory over Zebre.

Dan McFarland's side made it four wins from five thanks to tries from Dave Shanahan in the first half, along with a penalty try and a score from Rob Lyttle which came in the second.

Conditions aside, Ulster’s failure to claim a try bonus looks certain to hurt them going forward, especially with a tricky looking trip to Munster looming next Saturday.

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Michael Bradley’s side certainly put it up to Ulster in the opening half which ended with them trailing 7-10 after taking a very early lead. Ultimately the Italians were undone by having two players yellow carded in the second half forcing them to play for 20 minutes down to 14.

Zebre scored in the first minute after winger Mattia Bellini was put over by Guglielmo Palazzani's inside flip-pass. Carlo Canna converted and the Italians were 7-0 up.

It took Ulster until the 20th minute before they could respond – by which time they had lost Will Addison to an apparent arm injury – and it was a peach of a score belying the wet conditions.

Marcell Coetzee's offload out the back allowed Luke Marshall draw and step the cover before he put Dave Shanahan in under the sticks. Bill Johnston converted to tie the scores.

Ulster took the lead just after 30 minutes through a Johnston penalty just as the conditions worsened. There were no further scores in what was an understandably scrappy half as Ulster were unable to break Zebre down despite applying pressure.

Rob Herring then surged over in the 47th minute but Kieran Treadwell's block on Maxime Mbanda ruled it out.

Ulster came back though with a 51st-minute penalty try being awarded which saw Ian Nagle yellow-carded after pulling down the maul.

The home side failed to score during Nagle's absence but they were now turning the screw and when flanker Giovanni Licata was also sin-binned shortly after Nagle's return, Ulster got their third try after Johnston's cross-kick for Lyttle.

At 22-7, Johnston failed to convert and that ended the scoring.

ULSTER: W Addison; L Ludik, M Faddes, L Marshall, R Lyttle; B Johnston, D Shanahan; J McGrath, R Herring (capt), T O'Toole; A O'Connor, K Treadwell; Mattie Rea, N Timoney, M Coetzee.

Replacements: C Gilroy for Addison (16 mins), S Reidy for Timoney and A Curtis for Ludik (both 51), S Carter for O'Connor (54), J Cooney for Shanahan, K McCall for McGrath, A McBurney for Herring mins, R Kane for O'Toole (all 72).

ZEBRE: J Laloifi; C Walker, J Elliott, T Boni, M Bellini; C Canna, G Palazzani; D Fischetti, O Fabiani, G Zilocchi; I Nagle, G Biagi (capt); M Mbanda, G Licata, R Giammarioli.

Replacements: L Bigi for Fabiani (49 mins), L Krumov for Biagi (51), E Lucchin for Boni (54), E Bello for Zilocchi (58), J Renton for Laloifi (60), D Rimpelli for for Fischetti (64). Not used: A Tauyavuca, R Tenga. Yellow cards: I Nagle (51 mins), G Licata (69).

Referee: S Grove-White (SRU).