Captain Charlie Ryan praised the collective efforts of his Ireland Under-20 side as they repeated their Six Nations heroics with a brilliant 42-26 bonus point win over England on the opening day of the World Rugby U-20 Championship in Santa Fe.
The Grand Slam champions capitalised on England's indiscipline - Aaron Hinkley and Manu Vunipola were sin-binned in both halves and replacement hooker Alfie Barbeary saw red with a reckless 66th-minute challenge on John Hodnett - as they closed out an impressive performance with clinching tries from Ben Healy, who starred off the bench, and Hodnett.
Noel McNamara's youngsters scored six tries in all, their first two from Jake Flannery and debutant Stewart Moore giving them a 14-13 half-time lead. England led 10-0 and 21-14 at different stages, with winger Ollie Sleightholme touching down, but David McCann's brace in the third quarter, coupled with a 13-point haul from out-half Healy, steered Ireland home.
Second row Ryan said afterwards: "We're delighted with the win. We're going to enjoy today, review it and look forward to Australia on Saturday. Four more games to go. It was a super game to play in, privileged to be a part of it and really happy with the performance from the boys.
"Really proud of everyone out on the pitch. They put in a huge shift but we have plenty of things to improve on. We'll analyse Australia, who had a good (36-12) win themselves against Italy, and just keep the heads on and keep working hard."
Playing with a stiff breeze, England burst out of the blocks with number 10 Vunipola landing an initial penalty and converting Sleightholme's well-worked eighth-minute try. However, Ryan inspired Ireland's response with a charge-down and lineout steal, the latter leading to Craig Casey sending his half-back partner Flannery over for a converted score to the right of the posts.
Openside Hodnett's breakdown skills saw him win a penalty and a subsequent turnover, but a knock-on from debutant number 8 Azur Allison foiled some promising phases. Despite losing the luckless Allison to injury, the Irish forwards continued to show a strong physical edge with Ryan Baird and hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin to the fore.
Following a Vunipola penalty for a 13-7 lead, Tierney-Martin won the restart and had England scrambling back behind their own line where Ulster Academy centre Moore cleverly dived in from an onside position to touch the ball down. With TMO confirmation of the try, Flannery's superb conversion nudged his side in front.
However, Ireland were held scoreless during Hinkley's 33rd-minute sin-binning for a dangerous tackle on Angus Kernohan. Pre-match favourites England dominated on the resumption, stringing together a Vunipola penalty and Sleightholme's second try from skipper Fraser Dingwall's cross-field kick.
Vunipola's yellow for a high shot on Iwan Hughes gave Ireland their opportunity to respond, with a strong maul effort setting up McCann to burrow over. Healy's conversion levelled it at 21 points apiece - only for Tom de Glanville's deft hands to put Tom Seabrook over for five points in the left corner.
The resilience Ireland had shown earlier in the season was evident again, as Healy booted a scrum penalty to the corner and McCann squeezed over against just a few phases later. Healy kicked Ireland back in front and they never looked back, Barbeary's red for dumping Hodnett at a ruck allowing Healy to dive over down the short side of a scrum.
The Garryowen and Munster starlet's terrific touchline kick ensured some vital breathing space at 35-26. In a breathless finish, replacement Sean French denied Joel Kpoku a certain try before combining slickly in attack with Casey, the forwards duly piling through and workhorse Hodnett deservedly sealed it with six minutes remaining.
TIME LINE: 2 minutes - England penalty: Manu Vunipola - 3-0; 8 mins - England try: Ollie Sleightholme - 8-0; conversion: Manu Vunipola - 10-0; 11 mins - Ireland try: Jake Flannery - 10-5; conversion: Jake Flannery - 10-7; 25 mins - England penalty: Manu Vunipola - 13-7; 26 mins - Ireland try: Stewart Moore - 13-12; conversion: Jake Flannery - 13-14; 33 mins - England yellow card: Aaron Hinkley; Half-time - England 13 Ireland 14; 42 mins - England penalty: Manu Vunipola - 16-14; 45 mins - England try: Ollie Sleightholme - 21-14; conversion: missed by Manu Vunipola - 21-14; 49 mins - England yellow card: Manu Vunipola; 50 mins - Ireland try: David McCann - 21-19; conversion: Ben Healy - 21-21; 52 mins - England try: Tom Seabrook - 26-21; conversion: missed by Tom de Glanville - 26-21; 59 mins - Ireland try: David McCann - 26-26; conversion: Ben Healy - 26-28; 66 mins - England red card: Alfie Barbeary; 66 mins - Ireland try: Ben Healy - 26-33; conversion: Ben Healy - 26-35; 74 mins - Ireland try: John Hodnett - 26-40; conversion: Ben Healy - 26-42; Full-time - England 26 Ireland 42
ENGLAND U-20: Tom de Glanville (Bath); Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints), Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints) (capt), Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks), Tom Seabrook (Gloucester); Manu Vunipola (Saracens), Ollie Fox (Bath); Olly Adkins (Gloucester), Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks), Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), Joel Kpoku (Saracens), Alex Coles (Northampton Saints), Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors), Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester), Tom Willis (Wasps).
Replacements used: Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons) for Vunipola (16-24 mins, temp sub), Arron Reed (Sale Sharks) for Seabrook (51), Alfie Petch (Exeter Chiefs) for Heyes, Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs) for Willis, Hodge for de Glanville, Alfie Barbeary (Wasps/Bloxham School) for Dolly (all 61), James Kenny (Exeter Chiefs) for Coles, Dolly for Sleightholme, Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors) for Adkins (all 66).
IRELAND U-20: Iwan Hughes (Ballynahinch/Ulster); Angus Kernohan (Queen's University/Ulster), Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster), Stewart Moore (Malone/Ulster), Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster); Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster), Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster); Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster), Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht), Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster), Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster), David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster), John Hodnett (UCC/Munster), Azur Allison (Ballymena/Ulster).
Replacements used: Ronan Watters (St. Mary's College/Leinster) for Allison (24 mins), Ben Healy (Garryowen/Munster) for Hughes, Sean French (Cork Constitution/Munster) for Moore (both 49), Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster) for Wycherley (67), Declan Adamson (Clontarf/Leinster) for Tierney-Martin, Ciaran Booth (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby) for McCann, Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht) for Baird (all 73), Charlie Ward (Clontarf/Leinster) for Clarkson (78).
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Scorers: England U-20s: Tries: Ollie Sleightholme 2, Tom Seabrook; Con: Manu Vunipola; Pens: Manu Vunipola 3
Ireland U-20s: Tries: Jake Flannery, Stewart Moore, David McCann 2, Ben Healy, John Hodnett; Cons: Jake Flannery 2, Ben Healy 4
HT: England 13 Ireland 14