Ireland proved too strong for England in their opening round of the Under-20s World Championship on Tuesday, powering past their rivals 42 points to 26.
The U20s Grand Slam champions scored six tries to England’s three as the competition kicked off in Argentina, with Leicester Tigers front-rower Joe Heyes starting at tighthead for last year’s runners-up.
England had built up an early lead, with fly-half Manu Vunipola sending over a penalty inside five minutes before winger Ollie Sleightholme made the most of an overlap on the right wing.
But Ireland responded with converted scores from Jake Flannery and Stewart Moore to put the Six Nations winners a point ahead at half-time, 14-13.
A second try for Sleightholme and one for Tom Seabrook got England back in front after the break, but Ireland sealed victory with two converted David McCann tries and one each for Ben Healy and John Hodnett with England replacement hooker Alfie Barbeary shown a red card for an illegal clear out.
England – one of the favourites for the competition heading into the first round match – had also lost Aaron Hinkley and Vunipola to yellow cards in the first half.
Heyes’ side will next face Italy on Saturday, June 8 in Sante Fe before ending their Pool B campaign against Australia on June 12. Kick off is at 7.30pm UK time, with coverage across World Rugby platforms.
England U20s 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.
“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.”