PRO14 RUGBY: Zebre leave Ulster with lots to think about after defeat in Parma

Ulster's Christian Leali'ifano on the attack against Zebre
Ulster's Christian Leali'ifano on the attack against Zebre
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ZEBRE 27 ULSTER 23

Ulster produced one of their worst performances in recent times as they saw a 13-6 half time lead slip to a 27-23 defeat to Zebre in Parma on Saturday.

The Italians struggle in the Guinness PRO14 annually, but have hit a rich vein of form recently and backed up last week's bonus point win in South Africa against Southern Kings with a fully deserved win over the Irish Province.

It ended Ulster's unbeaten run this season and a losing bonus point will be scant consolation.

Zebre were the more enterprising of the two sides in the first half and had Ulster rattled in the early stages.

Carlo Canna kicked one penalty and missed a second kickable effort to give his side a 3-0 lead inside five minutes.

Zebre secure ball against Ulster

Zebre secure ball against Ulster

Good pressure from Ulster was rewarded when Andrew Trimble, who equalled the most appearances record held by Roger Wilson on 221, finished off a good attacking move.

John Cooney converted and was to add two penalties before the break with Canna scoring one from two to leave it 13-6 at the break.

Ulster were expected to come out of the blocks for the second half, instead it was the home side who continued to torture the visitors.

With Louis Ludik down injured, Zebre put the squeeze on and exploited the extra man when Canna's crossfield kicked found wing forward Giovanni Licata. Canna added the extras and the visitors were deservedly level.

Scrum time for Zebre and Ulster

Scrum time for Zebre and Ulster

Ulster were caught out again when a great break by fullback Minozzi exposed the visitors and his pass, although it may have looked slightly forward, found winger Mattia Bellini - who had been a thorn in the visitors' side all afternoon - and he raced in for a try.

With Canna off, scrumhalf Marcello Viol added the extras to put them in front for the second time in the game, this time by seven points at 20-13.

Ulster pressed and dominated for a short spell, but Zebre repelled them. It looked as though replacement prop Wiehahn Herbst had gone over for a try, but it was ruled out on TMO review due to obstruction at the rolling maul which led to the opportunity.

Then, as Ulster pressed again, number eight Renato Giammariol intercepted inside his own '22' and raced away for the try, converted by Viol for a 27-16 lead with eight minutes to go.

A minute and a half from the end Darren Cave did go over for a try, which he converted with a drop kick, but a forward pass in the next attack gave Zebre ball back and the Italians were celebrating back to back wins.

Zebre: M Minozzi; G Bisegni, T Boni, T Castello (capt), M Bellini; C Canna, M Violi; A Lovotti, O Fabiani, D Chistolini; D Sisi, G Biagi; G Licata, J Meyer, R Giammarioli.

Replacements: L Luus (Fabiari 68), S Panico (Lovotti 41), E Bello (Chistolini 62), L Krumow (Sisi 48), J Sarto, G Palazzani, S Bordoli, G Venditti.

Ulster: C Piutau; A Trimble (capt), D Cave, L Marshall, L Ludik; C Lealiffano, J Cooney; C Black, J Andrew, R Ah You; P Browne, I Henderson; M Rea, S Reidy, J Deysel.

Replacements: A McBurney, A Warwick (Black 49), W Herbst (Ah You 49), K Treadwell (Browne 27), N Timoney (Deysel 54), D Shanahan (Cooney 63), P Nelson, R Lyttle (Ludik 49).