Ulster coach Anscombe relieved to earn victory in Italy

John Afoa tries to break through the Zebre defence
John Afoa tries to break through the Zebre defence

Head coach Mark Anscombe hailed the character of his Ulster side on Sunday, but admitted they had been fortunate to come away with a last-gasp 27-25 win over RaboDirect PRO12 strugglers Zebre.

The under-strength Irish Province preserved their unbeaten start to the season against the Italian side who only had one point going into yesterday’s rearranged fixture in Parma.

A huge call by referee, Neil Patterson, in awarding a penalty try in the dying minutes, finally swung the game in Ulster’s favour by the closest of margins.

“We have used our get out of jail card today,” admitted Anscombe.

“Let us be honest, we all know that. But we won. We are smiling at the fact that we have four points and are now six points clear at the top of the table.”

The leaders were outscored four tries to two by the bottom side but snatched victory with a late penalty try.

Zebre earlier punished a slack Ulster with tries from number eight Andries Van Schalkwyk (two), and half-backs Tito Tebaldi and Daniel Halangahu.

Paddy Wallace edged Ulster ahead with a 58th-minute try but Zebre got their noses in front until the penalty try – outhalf Niall O’Connor, whose kicking was superb from hand and ground, had the simple conversion to secure the win.

Anscombe added: “We were flat today and we have to ask how we can improve rather than just forgetting about it.

“We have five days now to prepare for the Treviso game and we know they will be harder again. We have to get ourselves up for that game and fix what went wrong today.”