‘I am devastated’... rookie ref’s response to Telegraph after Ulster match call-off
Rookie referee Craig Evans has said he was left "devastated" after having to call off his own Pro12 debut last night when Ulster's clash with Zebre fell foul of the weather.
The call was made shortly after 6pm by Evans, just an hour and half before the game was due to start.
Belfast has been in the midst of a cold snap all week, and the Welshman had been at Kingspan Stadium earlier in the afternoon, but was left with little choice when conditions worsened.
While frost sheets were not used, the redevelopment of Kingspan in 2014 did not include undersoil heating.
Evans was due to be making his Guinness Pro12 debut in the fixture, having previously taken charge of games in last summer's Junior World Championships and the U20 Six Nations.
The 24-year-old later tweeted in response to the Belfast Telegraph: "Devastated with it being my 1st game that the Ulster Rugby v Zebre Rugby game couldn't go ahead tonight, but player safety is paramount!"
As supporters milled around outside, stadium staff were marching across the frozen areas of the surface in an effort to thaw out the pitch but, given the danger of injuries, there was only one call to be made.
The 15,500 supporters have already been assured that their tickets will be valid for the rescheduled contest. No date has yet been set.
Playing the contest this afternoon to save the Italians the return journey was a non-starter as they were due to travel back to Parma on the first flight this morning.
Matters will be complicated further by Zebre already having had one game abandoned this season - at home to Connacht back in September.
A make-up date for that fixture is still to be announced.
Ulster do have two free weekends upcoming in the calendar, unlike last season when their Champions Cup game with Oyonnax was postponed in light of the Paris terror attacks.
Both the weekend prior to the Six Nations, and that of the opening round of fixtures, have no Pro12 games scheduled.
There were three matches in the Pro12 last night. Ospreys secured a bonus point win over Glasgow, Connacht saw off the challenge of Cardiff, and leaders Leinster lost to Scarlets.
With a game in hand, Les Kiss's men are now sixth.