Special honour for former Hong Kong international
Former HK international is honoured with a first-ever 'Colony Cap' for services to the game
With all the craftiness of a front-rower needling his counterpart under the referee's eye, Dave Lewis lets slip he holds a record no other player in Hong Kong can boast of - never losing an international sevens match.
"I have an unbeaten record at sevens, something which even the best Hong Kong players like Rowan Varty or Keith Robertson cannot claim," says Lewis gleefully.
But it wasn't for his sevens prowess that the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union picked Lewis as the first recipient of a "Colony Cap", given to players who distinguished themselves before the handover.
Instead, it was for his long and dedicated service in the Hong Kong front row at 15s that Lewis was honoured. To mark 60 years of Hong Kong rugby, the union launched a commemorative cap campaign. Two designs, one for the pre-1997 players and one post-1997, have been commissioned with Andy Yuen Kin-ho getting the red Hong Kong SAR equivalent. Over the next six months, players from each of the past six decades will be awarded with retroactive caps.
"I'm very honoured to be the first recipient," said Lewis, 52. "When the old guys meet occasionally, always when Hong Kong are playing an international, we start reminiscing about the old days. The union facilitates such meetings with a get-together, but now by awarding caps they have taken it another step and it is very touching," said Lewis, a chief inspector of police.
Born in Hong Kong, Lewis left for the UK with his parents when he was 18 months old. He returned to join the Royal Hong Kong Police Force as a 28-year-old in October 1988 after completing two five-year military stints, the first with the Royal Marines followed by that in the Oman army.
Lewis, who served two tours of duty in Northern Ireland and also fought in the Falklands, was soon in the thick of action in the front row for Hong Kong. HKRFU chairman Trevor Gregory recounted Lewis' no-holds barred approach, saying: "As a former Royal Marine it's perhaps not a great surprise his most prized rugby possession is a report on a Hong Kong v Taiwan match that appeared in Rugby World in March 1992 and which reads: 'The test was an acrimonious affair, not helped in the least by Japanese referee Shiguero Yoshida's poor handling of the game. Things got so out of hand that at one stage the entire Taiwan team walked off the pitch after flanker Tse Zen-chieh was felled by a punch from Hong Kong prop Dave Lewis'.
Lewis played 55 times for Hong Kong. His first cap was in 1989 when he found himself face-to-face with a young Craig Dowd in a game against a side of up-and-coming All Blacks on their way to the UK. His final appearance was in 2003 against the Penguins, a match to celebrate the HKRFU's 50th anniversary.
"One of the reasons why I applied for the job in the Hong Kong Police was rugby. I had hardly played any rugby while I was in Oman and I knew if I didn't play rugby, I would never get the chance," said Lewis.
A tough and uncompromising player, Lewis was a cornerstone of the national team who enjoyed great success under George Simpkin in the PacRim tournament in the late 1990s when Hong Kong beat Japan, the USA and Canada. While he treasures those moments, Lewis still picks the 1990 Hong Kong Football Club 10s as his most memorable achievement.
"We defeated the Royal Marines in the Cup final. I was part of a front row made up of former British Forces players - Mark Kent and Allan Payne [former HKRFU executive director] - and to beat the Marines was special."
A few weeks later, Lewis found himself in the sevens squad for the first time, much to his surprise. Hong Kong had been invited to take part in the Sicily Sevens and coach Jim Rowark felt Lewis was fit enough to be picked.
"It was more due to availability than ability," laughed Lewis. "I was reasonably fit and I was named in a squad that included players like Moose [Stuart Krohn], Crossy [Gary Cross], [Gary] Acheson, [Steve] James and [Ian] Strange. It was a good side and Jim felt that since he had bought me all the way, he had to play me. I played against Sri Lanka and Tunisia and luckily we won both games. That was my only brush with sevens and to this day, I can say I have never lost on the international sevens field."