Ben Toolis bemoans ‘stupid decisions’ and says Edinburgh need to close out games

Lock at a loss to explain why knockout jinx continues to hold a grip on Richard Cockerill’s team
Ben Toolis attempts to escape the attentions of Ulster's James Hume. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNSBen Toolis attempts to escape the attentions of Ulster's James Hume. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Ben Toolis attempts to escape the attentions of Ulster's James Hume. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

For Scotland lock Ben Toolis the brief resumption of the 2019-20 season came and went in a disappointing blur on Saturday night as Edinburgh’s hopes of reaching the Guinness Pro14 final were snuffed out by Ulster.

Toolis had recovered from a shoulder injury to pack down with 150th appearance man Grant Gilchrist in the home engine room and got almost 70 minutes under his belt. When he left the field Edinburgh were far from comfortable as Ulster dominated possession and territory but still had a cushion to defend. The second-row forward could only look on helplessly from the sidelines as that evaporated and the Irish took the spoils with Ian Madigan’s last-gasp penalty.

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“Extremely disappointing. Fair play to Ulster, and to Ian Madigan for those important kicks, but at the same time we need to be a bit smarter and learn how to close those games out,” was the Toolis verdict.

“There have been a few games – Munster in Europe last year and the year before that in the [Pro14] quarters – where we played really well. But there are fine margins, and we need to make sure that when we’re in a position like that we need to better utilise the pitch and not be silly and give them the ball.”

Toolis was at a loss to explain why the knockout jinx continues to hold a grip on a team that has otherwise excelled under coach Richard Cockerill.

“I don’t know. I thought we would have learned from that,” he said. “We were stupid with some of the decisions we made, and Ulster fought hard in the second half and found a way to win. But we just need to make sure that when we’re winning and in a good position, we need to keep pushing and learn how to win those games.”

Toolis rallied around sub hooker Mike Willemse whose outstretched hand stopped an Ulster attack and led to the decisive penalty.

“Obviously he’s gutted, but at the same time… People might say that was the deciding factor, but there was a lot of areas in the last ten minutes that led to penalties that kept them in the game – kept them in our half and we had to defend,” said the Queensland-born forward who now has 25 caps for Scotland.

“Sometimes that happens, and unfortunately for Mike, he’s probably feeling that it was his fault, but it’s not his fault: it’s a collective thing. We need to review, and make sure that we take the positives from the season and push on into next season. And go into Europe in two weeks’ time and try to kick-start.”

That game in France may appear to some as a bit of an unwelcome nuisance ahead of a fresh start for the 2020-21 campaign, but Toolis is relishing the chance to play again and have a crack at redemption on the European stage, albeit the second-tier version.

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“We want to go to Bordeaux, a great team, and if we can go over there and beat them, then we can get on track and I’m sure we’ll get our confidence back up,” he said.

“That’s two losses in a row, and two losses isn’t good enough, especially with the way we’ve been playing this season. We want to make sure that we get back on the right track and start next season well.”

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