Tommy Bowe scores two tries after six-month lay-off as Ulster brush aside Zebre
Ireland wing Tommy Bowe made a try-scoring return as Ulster boosted their hopes of a Guinness PRO12 play-off place with a 47-17 victory over Zebre.
Bowe suffered a knee injury at the World Cup in October and his only rugby since had been 40 minutes for Ulster A against Munster last weekend.
But the British and Irish Lion needed only 14 minutes at Parma's Stadio Sergio Lafranchi to get back in the try-scoring routine and he went over for a second score in the dying moments.
Bowe, however, took a supporting role to Jared Payne, whose 12-minute hat-trick either side of the break paved the way for Ulster to move back into the top four of the PRO12.
Ruan Pienaar's converted second-minute try put Ulster on their way, but Zebre scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani levelled after a great drive by the home forwards.
Bowe restored Ulster's lead, which Paddy Jackson extended to seven points, but a Carlo Canna penalty made it 14-10 and Zebre were very much in the contest.
But Craig Gilroy soon picked up a loose ball to power over and Payne secured Ulster's bonus point with the first of his three tries.
Palazzini's yellow card on the stroke of half-time allowed Ulster to pull away further with full-back Payne profiting from some excellent back play to cross twice more.
Zebre replacement Ulrich Beyers broke away to claim a second try for the hosts and the reliable Canna converted again.
But Ulster had the final word two minutes from time when Darren Cave fed Bowe and the veteran sprinted over for his second try.