Zebre come from behind to stun Ulster
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Zebre produced a brilliant second-half display to stun Ulster and end their perfect start to the Pro14 season with a 27-23 victory in Parma.
Trailing 6-13 at half-time, Zebre ran in three scores after the break to wrap up a second successive victory following last week's success in Port Elizabeth.
For Ulster, it was a first setback of the campaign, although Darren Cave's try at the death at least earned them a losing bonus point.
The home side opened the scoring just three minutes in thanks to a penalty from Carlo Canna but Ulster soon opened their own account.
Andrew Trimble was the man to cross for the try but it was made by Charles Piutau, creating a chance where Zebre looked to be set in defence. But the former All Black is much more than just quick feet and pace in open space, he has surprising power, and was able to force his way through a couple of tacklers before offloading for Trimble to score. John Cooney converted to make it 7-3 to the visitors.
Zebre responded with three more points from Canna, although he was off-target with another shot a little later in the half.
Instead it was Cooney who knocked over two penalties to give Ulster a 13-6 lead heading into the break.
Zebre had been playing well with little reward, but that changed in the early stages of the second half as they stunned Ulster.
First Giovanni Licata went over on 48 minutes to level the game, and he was followed by Mattia Bellini shortly after.
The wing had been the standout performer for Zebre in the first half, constantly threatening with ball in hand. And eventually he and Matteo Minozzi combined to send Bellini over, with Marcello Violi converting to make it 20-13 to the Italians.
Ulster needed a response, and cut the deficit to four points with a penalty from John Cooney as they threw everything at their opponents.
With 12 minutes left, Ulster thought they had retaken the lead through Wiehahn Herbst after a rolling maul.
Unfortunately for Ulster, they had committed obstruction at the maul in the build-up to the try, with the score disallowed after consultation with the TMO.
That gave Zebre the chance to clear their lines, but still Ulster came at them. That was until Renato Giammarioli picked off a pass on the 22 and showed remarkable pace for a No.8 to go all the way for Zebre's third try. Violi converted to make the game safe, seemingly.
Ulster did what they could to come back, eventually crossing through Cave, who converted his own try with a drop goal, but they could not find another score in the final minute and instead had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Zebre, meanwhile, move up to fourth in Conference B with their second win of the campaign.
Tries:Licata, Bellini, Giammarioli
Cons: Canna, Violi 2
Pens: Canna 2
Cons: Cooney, Cave
Pens: Cooney 3
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 George Biagi, 4 David Sisi, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Leonard Krumow, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti.
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Andrew Trimble (captain), 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Jean Deysel, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Peter Browne, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 John Andrew, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Rob Lyttle.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)