Ulster are in great Nick as they breeze past Zebre
Ulster 32 - Zebre 0
Man of the match Nick Williams set Ulster on their way to a 32-0 bonus-point victory over Zebre at the Kingspan Stadium last night with a double try scoring performance.
But Ulster had to wait until the final minutes to secure the all-important fourth score. It came from substitute Paul Marshall as the province bounced back from two straight defeats to claim all five points on offer.
After a testing month, Director of Rugby Les Kiss hailed the resilience of his side against what proved to be stubborn Italian opposition.
"We knew that we had to do something better than we've been doing recently," Kiss said. "We talked about a similar thing to what we talked about before having Oyonnax here in the Champions Cup.
"We needed to do the best thing in the moment in defence and attack, separate the scoreline, and make it a real mission to get the fourth try."
Williams’ brace of tries in the first half hour seemingly had Ulster well on their way to the bonus, but 30 minutes passed before their next score, while a try was chalked off in either half, and the game seemed set for a frustrating finish before Marshall’s late intervention.
Kiss added: “We know we’re good enough to put scores on. We just had to trust that if we did the job in front of us we could build a score in a organised way.
“The ref, or maybe the TMO, maybe didn’t help us, but it was a great way to finish. The special thing for me was the way they scored at the end. They kept backing their ability and they got their reward.
“It’s been a tough four or five weeks. Our form hasn’t been, but there was a lot of quality that came out tonight. It was an important week for us.”
Ulster have a three-week break before facing Glasgow at the end of this month and Kiss admits the players have earned their rest after what has been a gruelling, 16-week stretch of games.
“I’m extremely proud of what the boys have delivered,” Kiss said. “It’s been a tough period.
“Every club goes through it, but what we’ve had to do was stay focused. Sure we dropped a couple of games, but this was a real reward.
“Most will go away for a bit of a break, some will go away with the national side and some will do a bit of work because they need a bit of work.
“We need to come back refreshed for the challenge ahead. To finish what has been an arduous block, particularly the last couple of weeks, the way we did, I’m proud.”
Kiss held special praise for Williams, adding: “He’s carrying a couple of injuries. He probably could have said that he couldn’t play with it, but he hasn’t and he’s played with the same vigour that you get from him.”