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Bittersweet victory for Ulster as Marcell Coetzee is forced off through injury

The Springbok back-rowleft the field early on, as Ulster scored 10 tries against Zebre.

Image: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Ulster Rugby 68
Zebre            21

Adam McKendry reports from the Kingspan Stadium

ULSTER RAN IN ten tries on their way to a 68-21 victory over bottom-of-the-table Zebre that takes them back into the league’s top four.

Stuart Olding pulled the strings for the hosts, who were at their very best at the Kingspan Stadium, as they returned to the play-off places in style and now once again have their top four destiny in their own hands.

The win comes with a bittersweet feel as there will be concern for Marcell Coetzee who appeared to injure his knee again early on. The back-row made his debut for Ulster last month, after being sidelined with a knee injury since signing last summer.

Coetzee, who has 28 caps for South Africa, made his first appearance for Ulster only last month, and will be hoping that the injury won’t keep him out of action for as long this time.

Within three minutes things started going badly for the visitors as openside flanker Gideon Koegelenberg saw yellow for a high tackle on Stuart Olding, and Ulster immediately capitalised as Luke Marshall went over in the sixth minute.

But the Kingspan Stadium was shocked when 14-man Zebre levelled the scores with a well worked try, with two linebreaks and an excellent offload setting up loosehead prop Andrea de Marchi for a great score.

Normal service was quickly resumed, however, as excellent hands from Charles Piutau and Jared Payne sent Marshall over for his second in the opening 13 minutes, and then Piutau again turned provider as his offload put Stuart Olding into space who in turn lined Ruan Pienaar up to score.

The fantastic start to the game continued as the Irish province thought they had the bonus point in the 19th minute, only for the TMO to rule that scorer Marshall was in front of Craig Gilroy when he kicked the ball.

The Ulstermen kept adding pressure, however, and added their fourth in the 25th minute, Payne setting Piutau over for it.

On the half hour mark they had their fifth, Olding’s short pass sending through Jacob Stockdale for the seven pointer, and they nearly hit the 40 mark by the break only for Payne to drop the ball metres from the line.

They didn’t relent after the break either, and after just four minutes of the second half they had the sixth as Craig Gilroy danced over, and a seventh two minutes later, as Zebre winger Lloyd Greef made a huge mistake, dropping the ball over the line allowing Piutau to steal in and dot down.

The tries kept flowing as substitute John Andrew got in on the act, getting on the end of a Craig Gilroy kick through to score, while they had another try ruled out by the TMO as Clive Ross was adjudged to impede a Zebre defender as Paul Marshall went over.

To their credit, the visitors did pick up a second try through prop Guillermo Roan who pounced on a loose ball to stretch over the line and score in the 66th minute, but Ulster immediately struck back as man of the match Olding produced a brilliant dummy to fool the Zebre defence and sprint over.

Ulster notched their tenth with eight minutes to go as Paul Marshall cantered over from a turnover in midfield, and although Zebre had the last laugh through a late Greef try, the night belonged to Ulster and their great performance.

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