What has been the Achilles heel of the PRO12/PRO14 over the last number of seasons? In most cases, if you asked this question, supporters will tell you that it is the gulf in class which exists between the teams in the competition and the almost inevitable outcome when it comes to who makes the playoffs.
However, with the expanded tournament for this season, we have seen a lot of unexpected results and that hasn’t just come from the Cheetahs who recorded their third successive victory against the Ospreys on Friday night.
Nope, the Italian sides are also putting it up to the competition’s most established and successful sides. Bennetton Rugby lost their first two games of the season before recording back-to-back wins over Edinburgh and Ospreys before putting it up to the Glasgow Warriors in Scotstoun on Friday night.
Zebre, on the other hand, who lost their first three games of the season, have just recorded two successive victories – a 43-17 win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth and amazingly, they have just beaten the tournament’s form side, Ulster, 27-23 at home.
The home side was down 13-6 at halftime but they put in an excellent second-half performance to emerge four-point victors. Tries from Giovanni Licata and Mattia Bellini produced a 20-16 lead and that’s when the game-clinching score came.
Ulster were pounding away at the Zebre defence just 10 metres out from the Italian side’s line until Cristian Lealifano threw a pass which was intercepted by Renato Giammarioli who sprinted 80 metres to touch down under the posts.
Renato Giammarioli breaks clear to score Zebre's third try against Ulster pic.twitter.com/HjuoUlEnBW
— BBC SPORT NI (@BBCSPORTNI) September 30, 2017
Darren Cave hit back with a try just minutes from the full-time whistle to secure a losing bonus point for Ulster but this result is a complete shock for the northern province who had played some incredible rugby in the PRO14 so far this season until they made this weekend’s trip to Italy.
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