The Royal Navy's young rugby stars are celebrating a record third successive Inter-Services Under-23 title, after drawing 19-19 with the Army.

A draw was all the Senior Service needed after sweeping past the RAF last week, with the Army coming through a much tighter encounter en route to Wednesday's crunch fixture.

And a draw was exactly what the men in dark blue got, despite battering the Army for at least 70 minutes of an extraordinary match in Portsmouth.

They had to do it the hard way to retain the title they've won for the past two seasons, with the intensity so high in the game that there was no score after half an hour.

Royal Navy U-23 Inter-Services rugby win vs Army, 2017

The Navy also seemingly suffered a setback when Gareth Rees was sin-binned after reacting to a high tackle.

But that served only to galvanise the Senior Service players, with full-back Jack Acreman scoring two penalties before the break before flanker Dan Mason crossed the line for the opening try.

Ackerman converted to give them a 13-0 lead, which reflected their domination.

That continued after the break, but the dark blues failed to add to their score and with what was virtually their first foray into opposing territory, the Army scored.

Royal Navy U-23 Inter-Services rugby win vs Army, 2017
The Army refused to give up despite a big half-time defecit

A searing run from Jake Richards freed up John Devetanivalu to score under the posts, with the conversion provided by Aaron James.

Almost immediately Acreman made it 16-7 with his third penalty, but the Army weren't done yet. 

In another counter-attack, they again broke quickly and this time it was James who went over.

The Army were unable to convert the try, but the players were right back in the game at 16-12.

Royal Navy U-23 Inter-Services rugby win vs Army, 2017

The kicking of Acreman was absolutely vital. He added a fourth penalty, leaving the crowd asking whether at 19-12, with just minutes left, it was game over.

Not a bit of it. The Navy seemed to switch off and scrum-half Lloyd Wheeldon won a one-on-one chase. James' conversion levelled the scores at 19-19.

The Navy nearly got a try at the end, but the referee's whistle sparked delight and relief for the Navy in equal measure.

Navy skipper Air Engineering Technician Scott Makepeace said he was pleased his team managed to meet expectations.

He said: "There's a lot of pressure on our shoulders. The boys knew coming up out they were expected to win.

"It hasn't been done before [winning three successive titles], so it means everything to us."

The Army's captain, Sapper Marcus Mercer, said he was proud of his players but disappointed with the result:

"[I'm] devastated... They played really well, [they] played with their hearts on their sleeves."

The Navy will now look to extend their unbeaten record next year, while the Army will come back determined to gain revenge.

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