Anscombe hails impact of powerhouse Williams
What a shrewd buy Nick Williams is turning out to be for Ulster.
The New Zealand-born powerhouse turned in another thunderous performance in the back-row as Ulster kept their unbeaten Pro12 record with a late comeback to defeat defending champions Ospreys in their own back garden on Saturday.
Trailing 13-3 at one stage after allowing Ospreys sprinter Hanno Dirksen to wing in for a try in the second quarter, Ulster's finishing power did the business after coach Mark Anscombe brought on some big guns -- with replacement scrum-half Paul Marshall grabbing the all-important winning try five minutes from full-time.
But it was Man of the Match Williams' dynamic play that helped Ulster's defence quell the home side's fire and kept them honest at the breakdown.
Anscombe, who gave Williams his first taste of senior rugby when coaching North Harbour, was full of praise for the former Munster No 8, who was brought back from the obscurity of Italian rugby.
"Nick had a great game. What was pleasing was his work rate," said Anscombe. "He got through a lot of work during the 80 minutes. The more game time he gets, the better conditioned he will be.
"He still has a lot more to offer but his performance was important for us at the Liberty Stadium."
Anscombe, though, was not happy with Ulster's overall performance and said they will have to improve with the visit of Munster to Ravenhill next Friday.
"I was disappointed with the performance in the first 65 minutes," said Anscombe.
"We didn't look after the ball well enough, we were turned over a lot and we didn't play territory like we had talked about beforehand.
"We seemed happy to amble through the game and I thought we generally lacked a bit of fizz and didn't show enough purpose. There is plenty to improve on for next week.
"Every team will be looking to improve week-on-week and we're no different. We will have a couple more guys back in the fold and that will help but we have to be patient and we will get there.
"The substitutes came on and really lifted the performance. Some of them haven't played a lot of rugby recently but it was great to be able to bring players of that calibre on," said Anscombe who watched John Afoa, Tom Court, Stephen Ferris and Marshall turn around Ulster's fortunes.
"The scrums were very good in the second half with Nigel (Brady), John and Tom very strong and they put their front-row under pressure. Allen Clarke has done a lot of work on our set-piece and we are reaping the rewards," he said.
After 24 minutes of flexing muscles it took a superb individual effort to liven up the home crowd when Dirksen blitzed the Ulster defence after picking up a loose pass 35 metres out to swoop in, with Matthew Morgan converting.
Ulster out-half Niall O'Connor made up for an earlier miss to land a fine long-range penalty after 31 minutes, while Morgan added two more penalties after half-time.
Then came the cavalry with the visitors' scrum shunting the Ospreys' pack all over the place, with Paddy Jackson knocking over a couple of penalties as Ulster clawed back to 9-13.
And it was a Craig Gilroy break out of defence five minutes from the end and a great carry by Afoa up to the line that set up the nippy Marshall to dive over for the try confirmed by the TMO.
Ospreys -- R Fussell; H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, T Isaacs (Grabham 57); M Morgan (Biggar 61), R Webb; R Bevington (D Jones 74), R Hibbard, A Jarvis (Reeves 74); I Gough (Bearman 55), A Wyn Jones (capt); J King (Baldwin 65), J Tipuric, J Thomas (Stowers 61).
Ulster -- J Payne; C Gilroy, D Cave, L Marshall (Trimble 55) M Allen; N O'Connor (Jackson 55), M Heaney (Marshall 41); C Black (Court 41), R Herring (Brady 49), D Fitzpatrick (Afoa 49); J Muller (capt), L Stevenson (McCombe 66); M McComish, S Doyle (Ferris 55), N Williams.
Ref -- N Paterson (SRFU).