Captain Rob Herring admitted it was difficult to scrum against Zebre as the Italians didn’t hook the ball when it came into the set piece.
However the tactic played little dividend as Ulster beat the Parma based side 32-0 with a bonus point to return to winning ways in the Pro12.
“We knew coming into the game it was going to be long scrums so we prepared for that mentally and physically, I guess the frustrating thing is when the ball is sitting there for 20 odd seconds I think they should be a call and a turnover scrum,” said Herring.
“I think last season they was a call like that but the refs tend to go away from that now, it’s tough as a whole pack because we scrum as an eight but we knew what we were up against and we dealt with it pretty well.”
“I think it is a generally thing with the Italians, Treviso and Zebre both do it and they have done it for the last few seasons and I guess the idea behind it is if the hooker has his leg up there is a weakness there, we strike the ball and all the hookers at our club do and it is something that we have learned to overcome.”
Herring had missed two games due to a hamstring injury.
“It was good to get back, I did a jackal early on and I got a bit of confidence from that as it really tested the hammy and once I got through that I knew I was good to go, my legs were pretty tired.”
Having leaked a few soft tries in recent games the hooker was delighted to keep Zebre scoreless.
“We have pretty high standards for our defence and we’re one of the top defensive sides in the league, we have good structures and over the last month we haven’t been as good as we would have liked, there was a big focus not to necessarily nil them but to keep that defensive structure nice and tight and the boys all bought into that this week and it showed out there this week.”
Ulster now have a two week break before travelling to defending champions Glasgow on Friday, March 25.
“It was a good outcome for us it is nice way to end this block of 16 games but we’ll look back and think there were still things we left out there and improve and we know we can get refreshed and come back and work on it.”
p Zebre head coach Gianluca Guidi is adamant his side’s performances of late bode well for the future, in spite of the loss to Ulster.
Zebre remain above their Italian rivals Benetton Treviso, but otherwise prop up the PRO12 standings with six games left of the season.
Guidi insists he is pleased with how his side are faring in the league at the moment, as he bloods young talent with so many of his regulars on international duty with Italy.
“My players have graced the shirt of Zebre in a beautiful game played at the same level as Ulster; but we struggled in the scrum.
“Tonight we could have maybe won a bonus point, but we accept this defeat as the youngsters took to the field with the right attitude.”