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Ulster looked to be in control thanks to a first half try from Andrew Trimble, who captained the side today, but a fantastic recovery from the Italians with three scores inside 25 minutes meant the Ulstermen had to rely on Darren Cave's last-minute try to secure the scant consolation of a losing bonus point.

Ulster came into this clash with four wins from four, two bonus points in the bag, and were lying third in Conference B, well within touching distance of the table-topping Scarlets and Leinster, both of whom had notched home victories on Friday.

Zebre, meanwhile, were back from a relatively successful stint in South Africa where a defeat to the Toyota Cheetahs and a victory over the Southern Kings yielded six points and 11 tries. They began this afternoon's match in fifth place in Conference A, ahead of Welsh sides Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys.

Squad rotation was once again the name of the game for Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss, with full-back Charles Piutau, centre Cave and prop Rodney Ah You the only players retained from the team which had put seven tries past the Dragons.

This meant seven new faces in the pack, with Callum Black and John Andrew lining up alongside Ah You in the front row, Peter Browne and Iain Henderson pairing up at lock, and an all-new back row of Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy and the fit-again Jean Deysel.

An experienced back-line featured Trimble and Louis Ludik on the wings, with Luke Marshall partnering Cave in midfield, and the half-back tandem of Christian Lealiifano and John Cooney reinstated after a night's rest against the Dragons.

Carlo Canna drew first blood for the Italians with an early penalty as Ulster failed to release quickly enough in the tackle for referee Mike Adamson's liking, but the out-half missed a similar effort minutes later, and Zebre's early dominance soon waned.

Four turnovers in quick succession gained Ulster valuable metres, and a late tackle on Cave won the penalty from which Piutau carved open the Zebre rearguard to offload to his skipper for an 18th minute try, converted by Cooney.

Canna's 50% kicking success rate continued as he first closed the gap to a single point but then missed with a penalty from distance. Ulster once again patiently made their way into the 22 where a Zebre infringement handed Cooney an easy three points in front of the posts.

Low on real incident, the first half closed with an early engage from the Italians at the scrum presenting Cooney with yet another opportunity to kick for goal. The Ireland-capped scrum half duly split the posts to establish a seven-point lead at the interval - 13-6.

Zebre made a bright start to the second period, enjoying five minutes of fluent attacking until Piutau's enormous clearance bought Ulster some breathing space. But a clash for a high ball which left Ludik prostrate invited Canna to kick into the gap towards the right corner where the onrushing Giovanni Licata gratefully collected to ground the score.

Canna's conversion brought Michael Bradley's men level and, as their confidence surged, Zebre put together an electrifying move engineered by full-back Matteo Minozzi, who weaved Piutau-like through the Ulster defence and picked out winger Mattia Bellini, who was impressive throughout and fully deserved his try.

The conversion, this time from scrum half Marcello Violi, sailed between the posts leaving Ulster a converted try adrift (20-13), and a good 10 minutes of hard toil were required before Cooney proved his mettle with a high-pressure penalty from 35 metres out.

It was his final contribution, however, as David Shanahan, a try scorer last week, came on in his place, and when Zebre were soon whistled up for a no-arms tackle, Lealiifano opted for touch. The decision at first seemed a good one, as Ulster mauled to the line where replacement prop Wiehahn Herbst applied the finishing touch. However, examination of the footage by TMO Neil Paterson identified obstruction by 'changing of lanes' in the maul as the Ulster forwards drove towards the line, and the try did not stand.

Ulster pushed on with another maul, but as they recycled with perhaps a little too much urgency, number 8 Renato Giammarioli nipped in ahead of Henderson to snatch Lealiifano's pass and sprint clear from his own 22 to seal a famous win.

Cave and replacement winger Robert Lyttle combined well to grab a late consolation try, converted with a drop-kick by the scorer Cave himself with 60 seconds to play, but the solitary bonus point was all Ulster could salvage to bring back to Belfast as Zebre gratefully cleared to touch on 80 minutes.

Ulster remain third, level on 19 points with Leinster but with an inferior scoring difference, and will look to get straight back to winning ways in their first interprovincial derby of the season - Connacht are the visitors to Kingspan Stadium next Friday night.
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