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Jared Payne injury main concern as Ulster draw strength from finish at Scarlets

By Michael Sadlier

Jared Payne appears to be Ulster's main injury concern after Saturday afternoon's drama at Parcy Scarlets.

The Kiwi, who was unsurprisingly playing at outside centre, received a hip join injury in the second half and was forced off the pitch and he may well be a doubt for Friday night's first home game against Zebre though further clarification is expected today.

Elsewhere, Declan Fitzpatrick left the action with an unspecified knock after coming on as a sub for his first game time since suffering g heart palpitations against Glasgow late last season.

Meanwhile, Rory Best should be back in Ulster colours on Friday night as might Paddy Jackson following a stress fracture to his back suffered last season though Tommy Bowe may have to wait another week following surgery in the off-season.

However, Iain Henderson may be about to go under the knife for hip surgery for a problem which requires sorting out now ahead of next year's Six Nations and World Cup.

Back to last Saturday, though, and at times it actually resembled another another one of those pre-season friendlies.

Structure went out the window, errors soared and the scoreboard just kept ticking over for both sides, yet few could predict the massive swing in fortunes Ulster staged to snaffle the draw and, as it turned out, three points thanks to bolting-on their try bonus courtesy of substitute Andrew Trimble's last minute dramatics.

Ulster were delighted with escaping West Wales by avoiding what had seemed like inevitable defeat and claiming those three highly prized points as Paul Marshall acknowledged.

"We believed on the pitch that we could get something out of the game and to get three points in the end is a positive," the scrum-half said over the fact that Ulster fought back to tie the scores despite trailing 32-18 with less than 20 minutes on the clock.

"We're disappointed that we conceded 32 points," Marshall added, "but it doesn't count as a loss, it's a draw and obviously you don't want to lose your opening game.

"You want to be a tough team to beat and we proved that even being so far down we weren't going to give in. We were 14 points down near the end but we've worked really hard on fitness and conditioning over the summer and we know we're in a good place that way," the 29-year-old said.

Still, it had been a topsy-turvy type of performance from both sides – typically early season fare, though admittedly with added drama for Sky Sports first coverage of the league – and Marshall will not enjoy his late first half pass which was intercepted by Jake Ball and finished off by the Ulsterman's impressive opposite number Gareth Davies.

"We conceded a couple of tries which we're a bit disappointed with," Marshall admitted.

"We created some great opportunities and maybe had a couple that were almost scores and one that was disallowed."

So, three points in the bag and now Zebre to play at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night which, as Marshall was keen to emphasise, is all about getting the first win.

"Zebre is a massive game now and one you want to win especially at home at kick on from what we've got from this game," he said.

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