Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

Dubai Rugby Sevens: Lewsey brothers play together for first time as Conquistadors win

When Josh Lewsey decided to celebrate his 40th birthday by flying to Dubai to play rugby with his brothers, he might have anticipated a warm welcome.
Josh Lewsey warms up for the Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors during the Dubai Rugby Sevens. Victor Besa for The National
Josh Lewsey warms up for the Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors during the Dubai Rugby Sevens. Victor Besa for The National

DUBAI // When Josh Lewsey decided to celebrate his 40th birthday by flying to Dubai to play rugby with his brothers, he might have anticipated a warm welcome.

And he found that goodwill was in plentiful supply at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens. Even the referee decided to give him a card.

Unfortunately for Lewsey, who turned 40 on Wednesday, it was of the yellow, rather than greeting, variety.

Which was weird. Despite being renowned as a tough-tackling winger, he was rarely ever censured during a celebrated professional career that included winning the World Cup with England in 2003.

Lewsey is playing for the Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors, an Abu Dhabi-based charity side, in the International Social competition this weekend.

When they played their second match on Day 1, a mid-afternoon fixture against Moscow Dragons, the team decided to maintain the sociable theme.

More Dubai Rugby Sevens:

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• Meet Masivesi Dakuwaqa: Blind in one eye and emblematic of Fiji’s indomitable spirit

• The Olympic effect: Sevens returns to Dubai a sport surging, and changing, after golden Olympics

• The story of Ben Ryan: Paul Radley documents the influence of Ryan in the rise of Fiji’s sevens side

Even when one of them went to the sin-bin, they refused to go alone. Despite picking up a remarkable four yellow cards — their Russian opposition also had two — they still managed to eke out a last-play 17-12 win.

Winston Cowie, the first to go, had the time to get sin-binned, have a sit down for two minutes, then come back on and score the winning try. So all’s well that ends well.

All of which put a memorably comical bent on what was an otherwise successful day for both the Conquistadors and the Lewsey family.

Josh agreed to join the charity side so he could play for the first time in the same team as older brother Tom, and younger brother Ed.

It is remarkable it has never happened before, given all three excelled in age-group rugby before having professional careers in the game.

In all probability, it will be the one and only time it happens, given Tom is 41 now, while Ed is 37. As such, father David and mother Mair were not going to miss it.

“I was just glad they didn’t start fighting, or dropping passes, like used to happen in the garden,” Mair said after the Conquistadors won their opening match 24-7 against Multiplex Barbarians.

“We have travelled the world watching all three of them playing rugby, but this is a special one — and probably the very last one.”

Father David said the days of globetrotting watching his sons play rugby are nearing an end, so they are making the most of this one.

“We left the UK last night and it was minus six, we arrived here and it was 25C, so it is lovely,” David said. “It is great to see the boys playing together.

“They’ve always been ultra-competitive. They tended to avoid playing in the same teams, and if they did, they would blame each other for losses.

“When two of them are the wrong side of 40, you tend to think a chance like this might have gone.”

Eldest brother Tom has only played one rugby match since retiring from playing competitively nine years ago, and that a third-XV match on a frosty morning in the UK.

As such, a weekend of sevens in the sunny climes of the UAE desert might prove a challenge, he said.

“The body was stretched by the end, it is good to win, but you have to be careful what you wish for,” Tom said.

“The more you win, the more games you have to play, but we might not get this opportunity again — we almost certainly won’t — so we are making the most of it. Two or three days of pain for a lifetime of memories.”

Fixtures and kick-off times for Friday’s matches.

pradley@thenational.ae

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Updated: December 1, 2016 04:00 AM

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