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Edinburgh: Making amends

Scotland has some impressively barren areas, but its emptiest quarter at 1.10pm last Sunday afternoon was that part of the Murrayfield pitch where the Edinburgh defence should have been.

Greig Tonks believes improvement is in Edinburgh's own hands   Photograph: SNS
Greig Tonks believes improvement is in Edinburgh's own hands Photograph: SNS

Henry Trinder, the Gloucester centre, certainly noticed their absence, and his threaded kick into that wide open space gave Rob Cook, his full-back, the easiest job in the world to romp through for a try.

As Edinburgh had collected a clever try of their own a few minutes earlier, it was like watching one of those old advertisements that used to say the world was held in harmonious equilibrium only by smart acts being countered by very dumb ones. The more so as Greig Tonks, scorer of the Edinburgh try, seemed most culpable in the disastrous passage of play that allowed Cook to claim his touchdown.

Three days later, at Edinburgh's weekly media briefing, the pun is cruelly intentional when some-body suggests that Tonks might be a little, well, defensive if the subject of his whereabouts at that critical moment is raised. As it turns out, though, Tonks is willing, if not exactly happy, to recall the sequence of events that set Gloucester on their way to the 23-12 win that more than likely dynamited the capital side's Heineken Cup hopes for another season.

"The way we do it, I was on the end of the line in terms of the front row of defence and we had a winger coming across," says Tonks, pictured. "There was a miscommunication between myself and the winger. I went up and he didn't come across, which obviously left a fair old hole for them to kick it into."

In other words, it was a good old-fashioned cock-up. In terms of damage sustained on the scoreboard, it ranked alongside Harry Leonard's later kick into the arms of Jonny May, whose subsequent brilliant run set up Gloucester's third try, but it lacked the slapstick value of Tonks' collision with Jack Cuthbert as both ran to collect a high ball. All in all, it was a day when Edinburgh errors were frequent and costly.

A microcosm of their season, you could say. Indeed, it is what Tonks believes, too. "That's the frustrating thing," he says. "I don't think there have been many games where we have been convincingly beaten by a team who dominated us. I think we have played them into the game and given them opportunities from which any team will score. The good thing is that we are in control of that, so we can make amends for that.

"There's nothing worse than when you are giving teams the game because you know you are making mistakes yourselves. It becomes a recurring theme. If somebody's done an amazing move and beat us on the outside, you can say, 'well done', but that's not happening. It's us giving them the ball on a plate and saying 'here's our try line, have a couple of tries for free'."

Of course, Tonks might not have had so much egg on his face last weekend if his Edinburgh career had panned out as planned. When he joined the club at the start of last season, the intention was to give him a few runs at full-back and then see how he went at fly-half. As things evolved, though, he made the No 15 jersey his own, and has yet to experience a minute of action in the No 10 berth.

It is the position that has caused Edinburgh more grief than any other in recent years. Phil Godman enjoyed a decent spell there three seasons ago, but his form had already faded before a lengthy injury took him out of the picture and he subsequently moved on to pastures new. Leonard is first choice at the moment, but his game lacks assurance and composure at times. Does Tonks ever think of rekindling his old playmaking ambitions?

Apparently he does. "Last year, I wanted to play full-back," he explains. "This year, I want to play full-back but I can play fly-half if need be. I think the coaches know that as well. We'll just need to see how it plays out and see what the coaches think. It's definitely an option, not something I am writing off."

The logic is compelling, not least at international level. Tonks' solitary appearance for Scotland was at full-back against Samoa on the summer tour to South Africa. And well deserved it was too, but it would be absurd to overlook the fact that Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland were absent on Lions duty at the time, and the two Glasgow players are still well ahead of him in the full-back queue.

"Yeah, there are a few full-backs in Scotland," he smiles. "But at the moment I am playing full-back so to switch to fly-half with a view to international rugby would be a longer-term goal I reckon. It's something I would definitely consider and talk to the right people about and see what they think."

Tonks, 24, was born in South Africa to British parents but spent only the first few months of his life there. Rising through the age-grade ranks in England, his future looked bright, white and with a large red rose on the chest. However, things stalled for him at Leicester (he actually spent much of that period on loan to Nottingham) and then Northampton (where the emergence of Ben Foden didn't help his career prospects) before he decided to throw in his lot with Edinburgh.

So does the return match against Gloucester at Kingsholm this afternoon give him an extra edge of motivation? "Only really on a personal level," he says. "I know a few of the guys. It's always quite funny playing against a few old friends."

But the venue inspires him. "It's a great place," he beams. "It's got a bit of history behind it hasn't it? Kingsholm, with The Shed and all that sort of stuff. It's a good place, it's a real heartland of rugby so there will be a good atmosphere. The good thing for us is that Gloucester have come here and beaten us and will think 'happy days, we are going home now, it's going to be an easy one'. We think it might make them a little bit complacent. For us, it would be good to get some sort of performance away at Kingsholm. It's a pretty good crowd to silence down there if we do."

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