Ulster rounded off their PRO14 campaign with a seven-try demolition over Conference A’s basement side Zebre at Ravenhill on Friday night.
Jordi Murphy crossed twice while Rainey Old Boy Brad Roberts scored his first try in a white shirt. John Andrew, Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune and Rob Lyttle were the other scorers.
Ulster (14) 49
TRY: John Andrew, Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, Jordi Murphy (2), Rob Lyttle, Brad Roberts
CON: John Cooney (4), Michael Lowry (3)
Zebre (3) 3
PEN: Paolo Pescetto
I would have expected Ulster to record a comfortable win against 15 men, but Marco Manfredi‘s red card for a shoulder charge in the 34th minute left it a training session for the home side in the second half. Manfredi was the replacement hooker as Massimo Ceciliani had failed an HIA earlier on and with no player able to ensure contested scrums, Zebre had to sacrifice another man leaving them with only 13 players on the pitch for 46 minutes.
Andrew opened the scoring with his seventh try of the season from a rolling maul after 12 minutes while Lowry added the second try four minutes after the red card to give Ulster an 11-point lead at half time.
Tries from Murphy and Baloucoune in the space of two minutes after the break was a sign of things to come as Ulster threatened to run up a cricket score against the lacklustre Italian side. Unable to match Ulster with two men down, gaps were prevalent which would have been music to Dan McFarland‘s with Harlequins coming up.
Replacements were made five minutes into the second half with John Cooney, Marty Moore and Eric O’Sullivan all being taken off with extended game time given to Dave Shanahan, Callum Reid and Tom O’Toole.
Zebre managed to spend ten minutes inside the Ulster half. Although they hardly threatened the Ulster line it provided a bit of respite for the away side from defending in their own half. It didn’t last, with Murphy scoring his second try on the hour mark from a rolling maul.
Lyttle latched onto a perfect cross kick from Lowry for his second try of the season and Ulster’s sixth of the evening before Roberts capped off a free scoring night with a try in the 78th minute.
ULSTER: Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy (C), David McCann. Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham
ZEBRE: Gabriele Di Giulio, Pierre Bruno, Tommaso Boni, Enrico Lucchin, Jamie Elliott, Paolo Pescetto, Joshua Renton; Paolo Buonfiglio, Massimo Ceciliani, Matteo Nocera, Mick Kearney, Ian Nagle, Iacopo Bianchi, Lorenzo Masselli, Potu Junior Leavasa. Replacements: Marco Manfredi, Daniele Rimpelli, Eduardo Bello, Leonard Krumov, Charles Alaimalo, Nicolò Casilio, Guglielmo Palazzani, Antonio Rizzi.
Where now for Ulster?
Dan McFarland would have had one eye on the Challenge Cup match before the Zebre game but now all attention is diverted towards that trip to Twickenham Stoop and I suspect that would have been the case shortly into the second half.
It was akin to a practice run and the loose style of game suited the backline that Ulster had named. I don’t think Ulster were as clinical as they were in the away fixture between these sides and topping 60/70 points would have not been surprising considering the quality of the opposition and chances that Ulster had.