England U20s lost their opening game of the World Rugby U20 Championship, beaten 42-26 by Ireland in Sante Fe, Argentina.
England trailed by a point at half-time despite Ollie Sleightholme’s early try and eight points from the boot of Manu Vunipola, Ireland responded with converted scores from Jake Flannery, and Stewart Moore.
A second try for Sleightholme and one for Tom Seabrook got England back in front but Ireland sealed victory with two converted David McCann tries and one each for Ben Healy and John Hodnett.
The side will next take on Italy on Saturday 8 June (KO 7.30pm BST) in Sante Fe before ending their Pool B campaign against Australia on 12 June.
England had an early lead, with Vunipola sending over a penalty inside five minutes, before Sleightholme extended the score with a try in the corner, taking advantage of an overlap on the right wing.
Jake Flannery jinked his way over under the posts from close range after a period of Ireland pressure, converting his own score.
Vunipola sent over a second penalty for a six-point lead but Ireland responded immediately with Moore dotting down and Flannery converting for 14-13.
England lost Aaron Hinkley for 10 minutes for a dangerous tackle but they held out during that period and soon had the lead with a third penalty for Vunipola.
A second try came soon after with Sleightholme collecting Fraser Dingwall’s crossfield kick to dive over in the corner and a 21-14 lead.
However, momentum swung back Ireland’s way with Vunipola yellow carded for a high tackle and from the resulting lineout and drive McCann bundled over with the conversion levelling the score.
Seabrook flew over on the left wing for a third England try, courtesy of a superb offload from Hinkley to release his Gloucester team mate.
McCann had a second try and a fourth for Ireland as they sealed the bonus point with Healy’s conversion also giving them a 28-26 lead.
Alfie Barbeary was red carded for an illegal tackle and soon after Ireland had a fifth try through Healy which he also converted.
Hodnett’s late score added further gloss to the score as Ireland sealed victory.
Head coach Steve Bates said: “It was a really good game of rugby until the last 20 minutes when we lost two players and that was always going to make things difficult against a good team such as Ireland.
“After starting the second half so well, those two cards really hurt and swung the momentum back in Ireland’s favour but I have to say the Ireland team took their opportunities and played really well.
“I thought we scored some good tries, but we gave away some silly tries which is disappointing.
“My message to the players was there is a lot more rugby to play. We can either feel sorry for ourselves and go into our shells or we can stick together and go out in the next game against Italy and put in a really good performance which does us justice.
“We can’t dwell too much on today, we have to learn the lessons and move on very quickly because we have another game in a matter of days and we have to bounce back and give ourselves the best chance of qualifying for the semi-finals by winning the next two games and winning them as well as we can.”
England U20s v Ireland
15. Tom de Glanville (Bath Rugby)
14. Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints)
13. Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints) – captain
12. Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks)
11. Tom Seabrook (Gloucester Rugby)
10. Manu Vunipola (Saracens)
9. Ollie Fox (Bath Rugby)
1. Olly Adkins (Gloucester Rugby)
2. Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks)
3. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers)
4. Joel Kpoku (Saracens)
5. Alex Coles (Northampton Saints)
6. Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors)
7. Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester Rugby)
8. Tom Willis (Wasps)
16. Alfie Barbeary (Wasps) – Bloxham School
17. Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors)
18. Alfie Petch (Exeter Chiefs)
19. Will Capon (Bristol Bears)
20. James Kenny (Exeter Chiefs)
21. Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs)
22. Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
23. Josh Basham (Newcastle Falcons)
24. Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)
25. Luke James (Sale Sharks)
26. Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks)
27. Arron Reed (Sale Sharks)
28. Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)
England U20 fixtures
4 June: England U20s 26-42 Ireland U20s
8 June: England U20s v Italy U20s (KO 7.30pm BST), live on World Rugby platforms.
12 June: England U20s v Australia U20s (KO 7.30pm BST), live on World Rugby platforms.
Knockout stages on Monday, 17 June and finals day on Saturday, 22 June, live on ITV.