Zebre make Ulster pay for red card
Zebre 13 Ulster 6
Ulster never fully recovered from Declan Fitzpatrick’s early dismissal as they slipped to a humbling defeat in Italy.
Dario Chistolini grabbed the game’s only try — a handful were ruled out by the TMO — early in the second half after the game had been scoreless at the interval.
Ian Humphreys came off the bench to reduce the deficit with two quick penalties, but Kelly Haimona kicked a penalty and a drop-goal to ensure the hosts wouldn’t be caught, as Zebre avenged their 33-13 round-two defeat in Belfast.
A positive start from Ulster had the Italians under pressure, with Paddy Jackson pulling the strings from fly-half, but they were down to 14 men after just ten minutes, with veteran prop Fitzpatrick seeing red.
The Ireland international clearly swung, and connected, a punch on opposition hooker Andrea Manici as he lay on the ground after a maul collapsed, forcing referee Peter Fitzgibbon to show a straight red card.
That didn’t appear to deter them, Michael Allen and Stuart McCloskey combining slickly only for the latter to fall narrowly short of the line, before Jackson sent a drop-goal attempt under the crossbar.
Jackson soon had another crack at the posts, this time from the tee, after replacement prop Wiehahn Herbst earned a penalty on halfway but he was unable to break the deadlock, sending his effort wide.
Edoardo Padovani then tried his luck from the tee but the Italian also missed the target and the first 40 minutes came to a close without a single point.
Zebre flew out the blocks after the break and thought they were ahead through Leonardo Sarto, only for the TMO to rule out the winger’s try. However, they didn’t have to wait long for a second bite of the cherry, prop Chistolini crashing over five minutes into the half and Haimona adding the conversion.
Humphreys, shortly after replacing Jackson at fly-half, dragged Ulster back to within a point by the 55th minute.
However, a Haimona penalty and drop goal was enough to keep Ulster at bay and seal Zebre’s first win of the season.