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Williams on the double as Ulster hold Zebre scoreless in bonus-point victory

Pete Brown and Paul Marshall also got over for tries as Les Kiss’ side made easy work of their Italian guests.

Image: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Ulster Rugby 32

Zebre 0

CARDIFF-BOUND NICK WILLIAMS gave Ulster a taste of just what they’ll be missing next season with a powerhouse display as he bludgeoned two tries in a bonus-point victory over struggling Zebre at Kingspan Stadium.

While not conceding a single point to their Italian visitors, Ulster were somewhat fortunate to pick up the four-try bonus, as they squandered several opportunities close to the try-line and had to wait until 90 seconds from time for Paul Marshall to pop up with the crucial score, after lock Peter Browne had contributed the third on the hour mark.

The win cemented Ulster’s fourth place in the Guinness Pro12 on 51 points, gaining one point on third-placed Scarlets who failed to land a bonus against Benetton Treviso.

Hooker Rob Herring returned to captain Ulster, taking the armband from Paddy Jackson whose two recent outings as skipper ended in narrow defeats, at home to the Scarlets and away to the Cardiff Blues.

Paddy Jackson kicks a penalty Paddy Jackson scored 12 points as Ulster eased to victory. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

After wasting an early penalty to touch by kicking directly behind the try-line, Jackson fared better with a fifth-minute effort towards the posts, and again two minutes later when Zebre infringed for the fourth time with a high tackle on Luke Marshall.

A rolling maul off the next penalty also paid dividends, Williams taking full advantage of the Ulster pack’s superior drive to pile over for the try, converted by Jackson.

The Italians enjoyed a narrow escape on 25 minutes when Rory Scholes’ effort off the back of a scrum was overruled by the TMO for the blocking of a prospective tackler by Marshall, but there was no disputing Williams’ second score on the half-hour as he piledrove through both Italian flankers off the next scrum to touch down.

Jackson converted again and although Zebre saw out the first period entrenched deep in the Ulster ‘22’, a distinct lack of imagination – and an eventual knock-on – ensured that Ulster ran off with their scoresheet intact.

Williams thought he had the hat-trick 10 minutes into the second period after an electrifying dummy and sprint from Marshall – only for the score to be cancelled out by referee John Lacey for an apparent knock-on from Herring.

Luke Marshall and Ian McKinley Luke Marshall beats Zebre's Ian McKinley during tonight's clash in Belfast. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Ulster came again on the hour after soaking up two fruitless spells of Zebre pressure, Browne stretching over the line after more good work from WIlliams and his fellow forwards five metres from home.

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The Jackson conversion veered off-target, but with the fourth try now the sole priority, Zebre did well to bog Ulster down in defence for a good 10 minutes until, with only two minutes remaining, a sharp one-two between Jackson and replacement Darren Cave made the space for Stuart Olding to burst into the ‘22’ and pick out recent entrant Paul Marshall at pace, the scrum-half doing well to hold onto the ball and dive over to tangible relief across East Belfast.

Scorers

UIster

Tries: Nick Williams (2), Peter Browne, Paul Marshall
Penalties: Paddy Jackson (2)
Conversions: Paddy Jackson (3)

Ulster: Craig Gilroy; Rory Scholes, Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding, Jacob Stockdale; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Kyle McCall, Rob Herring (c), Ricky Lutton; Peter Browne, Franco van der Merwe; Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Nick Williams

Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Black, Andrew Warwick, Roger Wilson, Sean Reidy, Paul Marshall, Sam Windsor, Darren Cave

Zebre: Mils Muliaina; Ulrich Beyers, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Castello, Kayle van Zyl; Edoardo Padavani, Fabio Semenzato; Andrea De Marchi, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini; Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami (c); Emiliano Caffini, Federico Ruzza, Johan Meyer

Replacements: Emiliano Coria, Guillermo Roan, Pietro Ceccarelli, Gideon Koegelenberg, Luke Burgess, Ian McKinley, Giulio Toniolatti

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland).

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