How England found winning Sevens formula in Wellington

GettyImages 52129702

England came from 0-17 down to beat the All Blacks Sevens 19-17 in the tournament final.

 

After playing in the final two tournaments of the 2007-08 season, future Olympic gold medal-winning coach with Fiji Ben Ryan appointed him captain for the following season.

 

"We were building some momentum and played well in Dubai, reaching the final, but a dislocated elbow made me touch-and-go for the next two tournaments in New Zealand and Australia," Phillips, pictured, told cityam.com.

 

"I worked really hard in rehab and managed to get selected for the trip to Wellington in early 2009."

 

Phillips said England had never played well in Wellington always failing to make it out of the group stages.

 

However, in 2009 they beat Fiji and Kenya to reach the final.

 

"Wellington's stadium is known as the Cake Tin and it is an intimidating place to play, with fans right on top of you. The home supporters weren't exactly fond of us either, partly because of me," he said.

 

On their pre-tournament day off on the preceding Thursday, Phillips organised a tour of Wellington for the side and contacted the local Harley Davidson owners' club to see if they would give them the tour.

 

"I wasn't expecting a response, but they agreed and we went around the city in our England-branded waterproofs on the back of America's finest motorcycles – perhaps some health and safety concerns, but not an issue in 2009!

 

"Unfortunately the drivers' over-eager revving of their engines set off car alarms along the high street, which caused a stir among unhappy residents. Wearing our England gear made it quite obvious who the culprits were too.

 

"The final came around quickly and we were massive underdogs, so when we fell 0-17 behind the vast majority would have written us off. I managed to run in a 60-yard try just before halftime to give us a glimmer of hope and Ryan gave a great team talk.

 

"He didn't rant and rave, instead just saying calmly that we had the fitness levels to do it. He was right.

 

"Rob Vickerman got an interception to run in from inside our half to make it 17-12, but time was running out. With 30 seconds left it looked like our chances were over when Kevin Barrett gave possession away with a box-kick.

 

"Incredibly, Tom Biggs won us the ball back with the only turnover in his life. We then tapped a quick penalty and charged forward.

 

"When Isoa Damu got the ball in space I was screaming for it on the outside. The ball never came because he powered in to score under the posts and give Ben Gollings a kick to win it 19-17," he said.

 

The team went through a long wait to complete their drugs test and then walked out to their team bus only to find a huge crowd of locals waiting.

 

"It looked like we were in trouble, but it turned out they weren't hostile at all. After an hour of shaking hands we abandoned our trip back to the hotel to go celebrate in town," he said.

LATEST NEWS

View all