ZEBRE 13 ULSTER 6
Ulster suffered their first defeat of the Guinness PRO12 season and a first-ever loss to Zebre with this result in Parma.
The Irish Province went down to 14 men after just 10 minutes when prop Declan Fitzpatrick punched out at an opponent, referee Peter Fitzgibbon producing the red card following consultation with the TMO.
Ulster dug deep, but were denied a pefectly good try late in the game and could only take a losing bonus point for their efforts.
The frist half was to remain scoreless, however, with both place kickers missing penalty opportunites.
In spite of the numerical advantage, Ulster had the better of the opportunities, and it was outhalf Paddy Jackson who had the chance to break the stalemate.
But he pushed his 28th minute penalty attempt from the half way line just to the left of the target.
Zebre outhalf Padovani also missed with his only attempt of the first half.
The Italians made a lively start to the second half with winger, Sarto being denied scoring tries twice, the first for a foot in touch and the second was deemed help up.
But Zebre did finally break the stalemate on 45 minutes when tighthead prop, Chistolini crossed and Haimona converted for a 7-0 lead.
Jackson was forced off with a head gash after catching Chistolini’s stud as the try was scored and Ian Humphreys replaced him.
It was Humphreys who landed two penalties to bring Ulster to within a point after 53 minutes.
But Haimona made it 10-6 just before Ulster looked to have scored a great try through Darren Cave. But it was ruled out for obstruction, a call which on this occasion looked harsh by the TMO.
Seven minutes from the end, Haimona made it 10-6 when his drop goal attempt was awarded after being reviewed and that made it 13-6.
Having played with 14 men since the 10th minute, it took its toll on the players - the full bench being deployed - and the Italians held out for a deserved win on the balance of play.