Ulster maintained their seven point lead at the top of the PRO12 with this deserved win which got the bitter pain of last week’s home defeat out of their system.
It was a much improved performance, if laboured at times, but Ricky Andrew went over for the vital fourth and bonus point securing try seven minutes from the end to keep the leaders seven points ahead of the team they face away next week, Glasgow Warriors.
The Scots also took five match points in a 60-3 rout of NG Dragons in Newport to set up a pulsating clash at Scotstoun next Friday.
Rob Herring went in for his debut try for Ulster with Pienaar converting for a 7-0 lead after eight minutes.
Halangahu rewarded the Italian spirit with a simple penalty conversion on 33 minutes to make it 7-3.
Stuart Olding entered the arena with Luke Marshall forced out with a left leg injury on 38 minutes and almost went in for a try after a great break by Pienaar and Trimble. A great pass by Cave when play moved to the left from the ruck saw No 8 Robbie Diack go in for the unconverted try and a 12-3 advantage for Ulster at the break.
As second placed Glasgow were securing their five match points with a fourth try, Ulster finally broke the Zebre resolve. The impressive Trimble made an initial surge, but was held up short. From the ruck ball was flashed out, the ever prominent Cave took and fed Diack who trundled through under the posts for his second and Ulster’s third try. Pienaar added the easy extras and it was 19-3 just short of the hour mark.
Neil Walsh was introduced for his debut appearance – with Ulster on a short term training period – while Michael Heaney came on at scrumhalf and immediately added impetus, making a break which eventually led to Ulster finally securing their vital bonus point try.
It came through fullback Andrew, capping his best performance in a Ulster shirt, with a touchdown, Pienaar converting superbly from the touchline.
Ulster: Ricky Andrew, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Chris Cochrane; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rob Herring, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Lewis Stevenson, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack
Replacements: Niall Annett (Herring 65), Callum Black (Court 68), John Afoa (Fitzpatrick HT), Neil McComb (Stevenson 68), Mike McComish (Henry 50), Michael Heaney (Jackson 68), Stuart Olding (Marshall 37), Neil Walsh
Tries: Herring, Diack (2) Andrew
Cons: Pienaar (3)
Blood-bin: Henderson (McComish 7-20)
ZEBRE: Paolo Buso; Leonardo Sarto, Alberto Benettin, Gonzalo Garcia, Sinoti Sinoti Daniel Halangahu, Alberto Chillon; Andrea De Marchi, Andrea Manici, Luca Redolfini, Michael Van Vuren, Marco Bortolami (capt), Filippo Cristiano, Mauro Bergamasco, Josh Sole.
Replacements: Carlo Festuccia (Manici 49), Carlo Fazzari (Marchi 48), Matias Aguero (Redolfini 48), Dries Van Schalkwyk (Bortolami 54), Nicola Belardo (Cristiano 46), David Odiete (Sinoti 46), Alberto Chiesa (Bennettin 71), Matteo Pratichetti. (Halangahu 38).
Att: 10, 309
News Letter man of the match: Robbie Diack
Ref: Neil Patterson (Scotland)