England turn on the style
Alvin Sallay in Dubai
Dressed to dazzle, England took the first step towards fulfilling skipper Ben Gollings' wish when they defeated Samoa 29-21 to win the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens.
Having discarded their traditional white strip, England - in jazzy orange shirts and red shorts officially described as 'tequila sunrise' - came back from a 21-12 deficit to score three unanswered second-half tries through Simon Hunt, Dan Norton and Mat Turner to power their way to victory and win the opening leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Gollings said on the eve of the tournament that 'it would be nice if we can win the World Series for the first time'.
With this victory, his side served notice they would be the team to beat in the eight-leg series this season, in which the Hong Kong Sevens in March will be the fifth leg. 'Maybe the worm has turned for England sevens,' said elated England coach Ben Ryan. 'Hopefully we can stir the England sevens beast to be a pretty powerful weapon.
'We dug ourselves out of a hole [in the final]. We could not escape the fact we really could have been in the Bowl competition and we got our chance,' Ryan said, referring to an earlier defeat to Portugal which almost saw them being relegated to the lower levels.
Two second-half tries from Oliver Lindsay-Hague - who also scored the first two tries in the final - helped England squeeze past New Zealand 19-14 in the semi-finals.
Defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens, who alluded to a couple of questionable calls by Irish referee David Keane.
'It is fair to say that we got hammered in the penalty count,' Tietjens said. 'We played against a very good English team who have been together since the Commonwealth Games, but it still went down to the wire.
'I'm still very proud of the way we played. They started well, we bounced back. But this is sevens rugby where a lot of games are being decided on the last throw of the dice.'
The other semi-final also went down to the wire with a try by Fautua Otto giving Samoa a last-gasp 24-21 win over Fiji.