Ben Toolis buries the memories of his nightmare first cap

Edinburghs Ben Toolis catches at the lineout. Pic: Fotosport/David Gibson
Edinburghs Ben Toolis catches at the lineout. Pic: Fotosport/David Gibson
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It was an exhausted but satisfied squad of Scotland players who left the Singapore National Stadium after getting Gregor Townsend’s spell as national head coach off to a five-try winning start over Italy.

From the coach’s point of view, one of the more satisfying aspects of the 34-13 win must have been the performances of some of the players he did not know well when he took the job.

Scotland and Edinburgh winger Damien Hoyland beats the tackle of Italy winger Leonardo Sarto to score a try in the corner. Pic: Fotosport/David Gibson

Scotland and Edinburgh winger Damien Hoyland beats the tackle of Italy winger Leonardo Sarto to score a try in the corner. Pic: Fotosport/David Gibson

At the top of that list was Ben Toolis, the Edinburgh lock who repaid the coach’s faith in awarding him his second cap and first start by producing a stand-out performance.

“It was a good result for his first go as an international head coach,” Toolis said afterwards.

“The fact that he put his trust in players like myself, giving me my first start, shows what sort of coach he is and he confidence he has in his players.

“He had a game plan from the start based on attack and throwing the ball around. It was very enjoyable, I loved going out for my first start. It was difficult in the heat, tough in the first half when the Italians came out and made it difficult for us. We had a lot of ball, a lot of attack but there were a few errors, things we need to work on.

“There were a lot of good things, a lot of bad things, but overall I am happy with how it went and it was good to get a win.”

There was no official man of the match but an unofficial poll of the Scotland team said that if there had been, it would have gone to Toolis.

That buries memories of the horror show of his first cap two years ago, when he came off the bench late in the Six Nations match against Italy, got sin-binned and saw his side lose to a late penalty try he could have helped stop.

This time the set-piece and mauls were at the opposite extreme, Italy getting nothing from either, while Scotland dominated the tight and claimed one try from a driven lineout.

“The maul defence was pretty good even though we did give away a few penalties at the end,” Toolis said. “Italy love their maul and set-piece but we stopped them pretty well. The scrum went well.

“I’m happy with the lineout defence, all the boys were all in the right spots and we put pressure on them. It worked, even when we were not stealing ball, the pressure could lead to an overthrow, or something like that, and we could clean up.

“I made the call [for the maul try] but at the of the day, Ross Ford [the hooker] needed to hit his mark and all the other boys needed to go their roles right as well. It was a good throw, we got set up nice and tight and we all went over. It was good for Ford to get his two tries on his 108th cap.”

The tour moves on to Australia, where Toolis was born – his mother is Scottish – but he maintains that after four years in Edinburgh, there is no doubt where he is more at home now.

He said: “I have played in that sort of heat in Australia, but that was four years ago, I’m not used to it now. I am clearly acclimatised to Scotland and Europe – I am definitely a Scot now. There are definitely things to work on but for my first start I am happy.”