Zebre 17 Ulster 47: 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.
Ulster have a potential, further 10 points to play for in the final two rounds, hosting inter-provincial rivals and current league leaders, Leinster, on Saturday, April 30, before travelling to Swansea to face the Ospreys a week later.
K Van Zyl; D Berryman, G Bisegni, M Pratichetti, L Sarto; C Canna, G Palazzani; A Lovotti, O Fabiani, P Ceccarelli; Q Geldenhuys (capt), V Bernabo; J Cook, F Ruzza, G Koegelenberg.
B Postiglioni, A De Marchi, D Chistolini, M Bortolami, E Caffini, L Burgess, U Beyers, T Boni.
J Payne; T Bowe, L Marshall, S Olding, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best (capt), R Lutton; P Browne, F van der Merwe; I Henderson, S Reidy, R Wilson.
R Herring, K McCall, A Warwick, R Diack, C Henry, P Marshall, D Cave, R Scholes.
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