PRO12 RUGBY: Covering Kingspan pitch may not have stopped Ulster v Zebre fixture being postponed

Ulster forwards coach Allen Clarke lends a hand to help clear frost off the pitch
Ulster forwards coach Allen Clarke lends a hand to help clear frost off the pitch
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Thousands of Ulster fans were left bitterly disappointed on Friday night as the Guinness PRO12 game against Zebre was called off.

Welsh referee Craig Evans - who was to have made his PRO12 debut - took the decision to call the game off 90 minutes before kick-off.

Referee Craig Evans with his assistants discussing the decision to postpone the game with Ulster and Zebre management

Referee Craig Evans with his assistants discussing the decision to postpone the game with Ulster and Zebre management

In spite of earlier efforts by Ulster Rugby officials and EventSec stewartds, parts of the pitch were still frozen.

With conditions continuing to deteriorate match official Evans deemed some areas of the pitch dangers and took the call to postpone the game.

Over 15,000 tickets had been sold in advance of the fixture.

It was to have been both Ulster and Italian visitors Zebre’s first game after a three-week PRO12 break due to the international Autumn Test series.

Parts of the Kingspan Stadium pitch were seemed unplayable on Friday night due to frost forcing the Ulster v Zebre game to be postponed

Parts of the Kingspan Stadium pitch were seemed unplayable on Friday night due to frost forcing the Ulster v Zebre game to be postponed

No date has yet been set for the game but it is a suitable slot will be found early next year.

A decision was taken not to cover the pitch the night before the game,.

However, Ulster Team manager Bryn Cunningham believed that would have made little difference to the eventual outcome of the game being called off.

“Nobody anticipated it getting as cold as this and we have done everything we can today to try and make the pitch available to play on,” he said.

Referre Craig Evans (WRU)  inspects the frozen pitch at Kingspan Stadium

Referre Craig Evans (WRU) inspects the frozen pitch at Kingspan Stadium

A statement released by Ulster on Friday evening thanked “the thousands of loyal supporters who made efforts to attend the game this evening”.

“Although most of the pitch was playable, deteriorating conditions late in the day meant that some areas were deemed to be dangerous by the referee,” the statement read.

Cunningham added: “We want to also thank all those people who walked the playing surface tonight.”

Ulster had been hoping to end a poor run of results in the PRO12 - three straight defeats - when they faced the Italians, who had travelled weak for the game depleted by missing international players.

Results elsewhere last night saw Ulster drop another place in the table to sixth place.

The Irish Province go to Cardiff Blues next Saturday before facing Clermont in the back-to-back European Champions Cup fixtures.

p Ospreys ran in four tries to earn a 22-5 bonus-point success at 14-man Glasgow and move into second place in the Guinness PRO12.

The result hinged on a red card shown by referee George Clancy to Warriors lock Brian Alainu’uese in the 46th minute.

Ospreys then adopted a much more open style to use the extra man that produced tries for replacement wing Tom O’Flaherty, number eight Dan Baker and centre Ashley Beck following a first half try from Tom Habberfield.