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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO
# emphatic
Emerging Ireland's Stewart shines as Ulster run six tries past Zebre in 21-point win
Dan McFarland’s side have moved back into second in the United Rugby Championship above the DHL Stormers.

Ulster 36
Zebre Parma 15

HOOKER TOM STEWART further outlined his burgeoning talent with two tries on a comfortable night at Kingspan Stadium as Ulster swatted aside a limited Zebre Parma side, running in six tries on their way to a 36-15 victory.

The Emerging Ireland star crossed from the back of driving mauls twice as Dan McFarland’s side moved back into second in the United Rugby Championship above the DHL Stormers, who replaced them after their earlier win over the Scarlets, on a night where they barely had to break a sweat.

The bonus point was wrapped up by half-time thanks to further scores from Matty Rea, Callum Reid and Stewart Moore, with Stewart and John Andrew making it a hat-trick of maul tries after the restart for Ulster to add some gloss to the scoreline, which also included six points from the boot of Nathan Doak.

But while it may have been a comfortable night, there were enough signs of rust in Ulster’s performance that perhaps they would not have gotten away with against a team better than the rather toothless Italians, who looked every bit the bottom of the league side they are.

Twice they saw out yellow cards to Sam Carter and Doak – who was perhaps lucky his tip tackle on Simone Gesi was only deemed worthy of a yellow and not red – while only conceding one try, although with a much-changed side that saw McFarland hand a debut to fly-half Jake Flannery, he will no doubt be pleased at their night’s work.

Also pleasing was seeing the return of Ireland lock Iain Henderson, who completed a productive 27-minute stint off the bench in his first game of the season since a hand injury sustained on the tour to New Zealand in the summer, but by the time he came on the game was already well won.

Ulster’s start was devastating in its efficiency and they had the opening try of the game inside the first three minutes as exciting young winger Stewart burst over from the back of a maul for his third try in as many starts for the province, but their second strike was even better just five minutes later.

Marty Moore started it off, the tighthead prop riding a wave of confidence after his call-up to the Ireland A squad and delivering a sublime offload to James Hume on his shoulder, who in turn found Doak in support and the scrum-half was able to pop it up from the ground to the supporting Matty Rea who carved over from ten metres out.

Doak converted the latter but not the former before the superbly named Geronimo Prisciantelli got Zebre on the board with the first penalty of the evening, which would spark a purple patch for the visitors that was helped by Carter’s yellow card for checking Prisciantelli as he tried to take a quick tap penalty.

That would lead to them deservedly scoring their first try of the game, quick hands in the backs leading to Lorenzo Pani shrugging off the tackle of Jacob Stockdale and gliding over for the five-pointer, but although that allowed them to close within four, it was as close as they would ever get.

Instead, Ulster would have the bonus point secured before they returned to the dressing rooms, Reid getting on the board while Carter was still in the bin as he burrowed his way over the line under the sticks before Moore picked up the fourth score when he was sent over by captain for the night Duane Vermeulen.

Doak was a tad fortunate at the shade of card that was brandished in his direction just a couple of minutes after the restart, the young scrum-half tipping the impressive Gesi beyond the horizontal and seemingly onto his head but only being given a yellow by referee AJ Jacobs.

But Ulster would survive being down a man on this occasion and as Doak returned to the pitch, which coincided with the return of Henderson from the bench, Ulster grabbed their fifth as Stewart completed his double when he once again drove through a maul and over the line.

Moore was inches away from a second of his own when a lovely flat pass from Luke Marshall send him through the defence, only for Gesi’s desperate tap tackle to prevent him from crossing the line, but the sixth wasn’t long in coming and it may have been a new hooker on the pitch but it was the same outcome for Andrew.

The replacement front rower found Henderson with the throw and piloted the set piece over the line for the third time of the evening, and he thought he had a second with five minutes left on the clock as another maul proved effective, only for the TMO to rule it out for the hooker changing his bind.

Instead, it would be Zebre who would finish with a consolation, replacement full-back Erich Cronjé barrelling over from close range with the final play of the game, but it was nothing more than a bit of embellishment on a lopsided scoreline.

Scorers

For Ulster
Tries: Stewart (2), Mat Rea, Reid, S Moore, Andrew
Cons: Doak (3)

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For Zebre
Tries: Pani, Cronjé
Pen: Prisciantelli
Con: Prisciantelli

Ulster
(15-9) Stewart Moore; Ethan McIlroy, James Hume, Luke Marshall (Angus Curtis 65), Jacob Stockdale (Ben Moxham 78); Jake Flannery (Michael McDonald 62), Nathan Doak; (1-8) Callum Reid (Andy Warwick 62), Tom Stewart (John Andrew 62), Marty Moore (Jeff Toomaga-Allen 40); Cormac Izuchukwu (Iain Henderson 53), Sam Carter; Matty Rea (David McCann 54), Marcus Rea, Duane Vermeulen.
Yellow cards: Sam Carter (29′), Nathan Doak (43′)

Zebre Parma
(15-9) Lorenzo Pani; Jacopo Trulla (Erich Cronjé 58), Richard Kriel (Ratko Jelic 65), Enrico Lucchin (Joey Caputo 40), Simone Gesi; Geronimo Prisciantelli, Chris Cook; (1-8) Juan Pitinari (Daniele Rimpelli 46), Jacques du Toit (Marco Manfredi 53), Matteo Nocera (Riccardo Genovese 69); Jan Uys (Leonard Krumov 40), Andrea Zambonin; Guido Volpi (Iacopo Bianchi 55), Giacomo Ferrari, Matt Kvesic.

Man of the Match: Tom Stewart (Ulster)

Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)

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