SINGAPORE (AFP) - England, fielding a patched up team that included a university student who was on a skiing holiday just a week ago, produced an extraordinary comeback to reach the last eight at the Singapore Sevens.
Facing the prospect of missing the quarterfinals for the first time this season after losing their opening match to France, England's battered and bruised players got a glimmer of hope when they thrashed Japan 40-10 in their second match and France lost 10-7 to South Africa.
Then, when France surprisingly lost their last game to Japan, England pulled off another upset when they beat World Series leaders South Africa 19-12 to finish top of their group.
The man who sealed England's win was no surprise; world record tryscorer Dan Norton, who gave his team a decisive 10-point lead midway through the second half when he chipped and regathered to score a spectacular solo try.
"We just got a get-out-of-jail-free card," Norton told AFP.
"We're lucky enough that we have a really strong squad of 25 guys who are really pushing hard for their opportunity and when they get it, they are so full of energy and ready to show the world how good they are."
England coach Simon Amor was also full of praise for his team's extraordinary comeback after he had to call for fresh reinforcements when Tom Mitchell, Charlton Kerr and Ethan Wallander were all ruled out with injuries.
He called up Loughborough University student Will Edwards, who was on a ski trip, as well as England Sevens Academy players Callum Sirker and Will Glover and all three flew to Singapore at short notice.
"With the number of injuries we have it could have gone one of two ways but I am so proud of the way the group has responded," Amor told AFP. "That was the biggest turnaround I've seen from a team."
After getting a second life, England will now play last year's surprise Singapore winners Kenya in Sunday's quarters. From facing the dread of an early exit, they are now eyeing the prospect of a third title this season after wins in Cape Town and Vancouver.
"That's sevens for you," Amor said. "If you get your game a tiny bit wrong you get punished a lot and we were off this morning, which was quite frustrating because we didn't quite get it right in Hong Kong and we wanted to make amends for that one.
"It's a brutal double and there's some very tired boys out there but it becomes more head over body and we showed a lot of mental resilience so I'm very proud of them."