When Ulster’s interim director of Rugby Les Kiss heads back to his proper job with the Ireland management team in the second week of October, his legacy will be keenly felt at Kingspan Stadium.
Brought in to knock Ulster into shape after head coach Mark Anscombe and director of rugby David Humphreys left in June, Kiss immediately put his highly-organised slant and attention to detail to Rory Best’s squad, and so far, it’s working, although it still needs a little greasing here and there.
According to Ulster there are no candidates yet in place for either position; it is likely that the current trio of local coaches, Neil Doak, Jonny Bell and Allan Clarke, will take over the helm in the interim.
Kiss, meanwhile, would not have been that amused at what he saw last night for the first hour at least. Error-strewn Ulster could not find their rhythm and accuracy against their Italian visitors.
Leading 19-10 at the break with tries by Nick Williams, Craig Gilroy and the excellent Robbie Diack they could have had their bonus point tucked away long before half-time with skipper Best and Luke Marshall dropping the ball with the line at their mercy.
But Ulster achieved what they set out to do and that was to garner five points from their opening home game.
The scrum in particular was very tight although the line-out spluttered a little, while Louis Ludik looks an impressive acquisition.
Ulster’s opening try arrived in the fifith minute when Williams in barnstormed over from a scrum against the head. Gilroy’s effort was made by neat hands by Rickey Andrew, while Diack’s try was conceived by man-of-the-match Andrew Trimble
That bonus try did finally arrive on the hour thanks to the energetic Trimble, who was put away by a whippet-like break by No 9 Paul Marshall from the base of a scrum.
Ulster finally fell into a rhythm in the last quarter and Dan Tuohy got the final score after a number of rumbles by the pack.
Ian Humphreys helped himself to four conversions, while Zebre did manage to score a first-half try through replacement Samuela Vunisa, with fly-half Kelly Haimona kicking the remainder of his side’s points.
Ulster: R Andrew; A Trimble, D Cave (L Ludik 11), L Marshall (S Olding 68), C Gilroy; I Humphreys, P Marshall (M Heaney 68); A Warwick (R Murphy 60), R Best (R Herring 66), W Herbst (B Ross 68), L Stevenson (F van der Merwe 53), D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry (R Wilson 57), N Williams.
Zebre: H Daniller, D Odiete, G Bisegni, G Garcia (E Padovani 51), G Toniolatti; K Haimona, B Leonard (G Palazzani 57); De Marchi, O Fabiani (A Manici 61), D Chistolini (L Leibson 63), A Ferreira (Q Geldenhuys 45), G Giagi (V Bernabò 59), M Bergamasco, F Cristiano, A van Schalkwyk (S Vunisa 3).
Referee: L Hodges (WRU).