Matt Mackey/INPHO Michael Lowry scores a try for Ulster.

Zebre finish with 13 players as Ulster score seven tries in 46-point victory

Dan McFarland’s men were rampant in the second-half in Belfast.

Ulster 49

Zebre 3

Adam McKendry reports from Kingspan Stadium

A RED CARD leading to two players having to go off, a dispute over a prop playing hooker, seven Ulster tries and a floodlight failure at Kingspan Stadium. It’s fair to say that Ulster’s win over Zebre may go down as the most eventful meaningless game in history.

Dan McFarland’s men were rampant in the second-half in Belfast, scoring five tries after Marco Manfredi’s red card for an elbow on John Cooney at the end of the first half led to the hooker being sent from the field, and then the Italians lost another man when they opted to go to uncontested scrums.

But with two less men, the visitors were completely overpowered. Jordi Murphy notched two of the seven tries Ulster produced in a game that will tell them precious little about the youthful squad they put out at Kingspan Stadium but still sees them finish the season with the second-best record in the Guinness Pro14.

It had been billed as a game where we would learn a lot about the next generation of Ulster’s squad given the team they put out but, in the end, the resistance posed by their opponents means McFarland will likely be left scratching his head just as much as he will be pleased with the scoreline.

John Andrew went over for their first score in the 13th minute, the hooker the one to profit from the dominant driving maul from just five metres out, but Paolo Pescetto cut the gap with a penalty straight off the restart.

It was far from a vintage first-half for Ulster, who were struggling to create dents in the Zebre rearguard despite some decent carries from David McCann and Cormac Izuchukwu, although they did have Kieran Treadwell held up over the line.

They got a significant helping hand, however, when replacement Zebre hooker Manfredi was given his marching orders, the Italian catching Cooney’s head with his elbow as he tried to charge down the scrum-half’s kick and earning a straight red from referee Andrew Brace.

With starting hooker Massimo Ceciliani having been withdrawn in the third minute through injury, that led to a comical interchange on the touchline as the Zebre coaching staff threw on replacement loosehead Daniele Rimpelli claiming he could play hooker, only for the player himself to tell Brace he couldn’t, and instead the visitors were forced to play on with just 13 men in order to go uncontested with the scrum.

And, with the numerical advantage, Ulster’s second try followed quickly after. It was started by Robert Baloucoune, the winger riding a tackle to offload to Cooney, the scrum-half in turn finding Stewart Moore down the touchline and the centre feeding Michael Lowry for the try in the corner on the stroke of half-time.

But it was after the restart that Ulster really made their extra two men count as they crossed for two quick scores inside the opening five minutes of the half to put the result beyond any doubt, even if the rest of the half would prove it never was in the first place.

Baloucoune got the first, the winger finishing off a nice, patient build-up in the corner that saw the ball pass through nearly every set of Ulster hands, before Murphy got over for his first of the night when he finished off a brilliant move that saw Cooney kick in behind for Stewart Moore to chase.

The flanker made his a double when he then got over from the back of a maul, and that was followed by arguably the try of the night when Lowry perfectly judged his crossfield kick to hit Rob Lyttle in stride, and the winger left Gabriele di Guilio in knots to sprint over for a well-deserved score.

There was even enough time for the floodlights to fail with five minutes to go as Zebre were pressing at the line, and the look of bemusement on the face of Rimpelli preceded replacement hooker Brad Roberts cantering over for his first try for the province to put a nice bow on the evening for the dominant hosts.

Ulster scorers

Tries: Andrew, Lowry, Baloucoune, Murphy (2), Lyttle, Roberts
Cons: Cooney (4), Lowry (3)

Zebre scorers
Pens: Pescetto

Ulster: (15-9) Ethan McIlroy; Robert Baloucoune, James Hume (Ian Madigan 72), Stewart Moore (Ben Moxham 56), Rob Lyttle; Michael Lowry, John Cooney (David Shanahan 47); Eric O’Sullivan (Callum Reid 40), John Andrew (Brad Roberts 54), Marty Moore (Tom O’Toole 44); Cormac Izuchukwu (Alan O’Connor 54), Kieran Treadwell; Sean Reidy (Matty Rea 54), Jordi Murphy, David McCann.

Zebre: (15-9) Gabriele di Guilio; Pierre Bruno, Tommaso Boni (Antonio Rizzi 36), Enrico Lucchin, Jamie Elliott; Paolo Pescetto, Joshua Renton (Guglielmo Palazzani 58); (1-8) Paolo Buonfiglio, Massimo Ceciliani (Marco Manfredi 3), Matteo Nocera (Eduardo Bello 47); Mick Kearney (Danielle Rimpelli 38), Ian Nagle (Leonard Krumov 54); Iacopo Bianchi, Lorenzo Masselli (Charles Alaimalo 65), Potu Junior Leavasa.

Subs not used: Nicolò Casilio.
Red card: Marco Manfredi (35′)

Man of the Match: Kieran Treadwell (Ulster)

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey preview Ireland’s game against England and try to figure out where this team is going under Andy Farrell, if anywhere:

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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