Ulster point to the positives after Zebre victory

The rain pours down at Ravenhill

The rain pours down at Ravenhill

It was a case for the defence on Friday night at Ravenhill as Ulster ensured they got over the line with a 13-6 win against Zebre that leave them sitting in second place in the RaboDirect PRO12 table.

It was the third straight match in which Ulster had not conceded a try.

The defensive line was last breached, ironically in some ways, by Zebre in the corresponding fixture in Parma on November 30.

Ulster scraped through that fixture as well, 19-11, conceding a try in the 53rd minute - the last time a team has got over their line.

“We have not conceded a try in 267 minutes in all competitions,” enthused Ulster head coach, Mark Anscombe, following the latest win over Zebre at a packed Ravenhill on Friday.

It was probably one of the few positives the coach could take from a below par performance from a much changed Ulster side from that which had secured back to back bonus point wins over Benetton Treviso in Heineken Cup’s Pool Five.

There were nine changes to the side with a number of players getting an opportunity.

The conditions at Ravenhill - reflected in the low scoring games of this weekend’s series (and the postponement of the Glasgow v Treviso match) - also made if difficult and there was never likely to be a free flowing game with lots of tries.

However, crucially for Ulster, they got past the stubborn Zebre side and, coupled with results elsewhere, moved into second place in the standings and right back where they wanted to be as they prepare for two hard festive holiday games against Irish rivals, Leinster and Munster over the next two weeks.

It still remains unclear who will be made available for the Provinces over the coming fortnight under the IRFU player management programme.

Given the Irish training camp is a week earlier than previous years and not bang in the middle of the traditional derby fixtures there may be the avoidance of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ sides being field.

That may just be as well for Ulster as Anscombe was left disappointed with the overall performance of those who played against Zebre.

“They (Zebre) never make it easy for us,” Anscombe.

“Even when you make changes we have enough experience here to demand a bit more of ourselves.

“It’s a process we’ve got to look at it but it was a poor performance, but we got the win.”

However, he was still happy to have got the win, even if it was not the pre-Christmas cracker the home fans had hoped for.

“We dodged a bullet there. We didn’t play well but we’ll bounce on and we’ll now have to lift the bar for the games which lie ahead.

There were no major injury concerns after the Zebre game and Anscombe hinted he may have Chris Henry and Iain Henderson back from the lengthy injury list.

“Chris and Iain are close to making a return so we will see how they go this week.”

Anscombe was also happy to see Paddy Wallace back in the senior side after a nine month lay off with injury.

“It’s been a long year for him and he’ll be better for his 60-odd minutes. He’s still got a lot to offer us and it’s good that he’s got the confidence now with a few games under his belt.

“With a few more he’ll be better for it,” he added.




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