The Ireland Under-20s came within seven minutes of a famous win over Pool C rivals England, but a disappointing finish left Mike Ruddock’s youngsters pointless in Treviso.
In a ferociously competitive IRB Junior World Championship opener, Ireland bounced back from the early concession of 13 points with an opportunistic try from Andrew Conway.
An injury-time penalty from Paddy Jackson reduced England’s lead to 18-13 by half-time and a strong start to the second half gave the Irish further momentum.
Jackson added another penalty and although powerful prop Mako Vunipola bulldozed over for England’s third try, Jackson’s replacement James McKinney then reeled off a series of penalties.
He kicked three from four attempts to move the underdogs into a 25-23 lead, as players like Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy and Tadhg Furlong came to the fore.
However, George Ford helped England edge ahead again and after Irish replacement Shane Buckley was sin-binned for an off-the-ball offence, the Six Nations champions made certain of the win with a late converted try from Marland Yarde.
The try gave England a flattering bonus point and Ford's touchline line conversion left Mike Ruddock's side dejected as it robbed them of a losing bonus point that their efforts deserved.
Ireland, with 11 personnel changes from the sides' Six Nations encounter, afforded England too much space in a one-sided opening quarter.
A man-and-ball tackle from Andrew Boyle prevented a try, but some quick English passing and a final delivery from Elliot Daly put Andy Short over on the right for a second minute touchdown.
Ford knocked over the conversion and added a penalty from distance, 10 minutes later, after Dominic Gallagher was harshly whistled up for a breakdown offence.
Ireland were 13-0 down when Ford punished a tackle infringement with his second successful penalty. Yet, gradually, Niall Annett and his colleagues grew into the game.
Jackson missed two successive penalties, the first from a tight angle and the second from long range. But he rewarded his forwards – Furlong, Jordi Murphy and Michael Kearney being the busiest of them – with a well-struck effort in the 27th minute.
Marshall, Brendan Macken and Conway were hungry for work and Boyle showed well when weaving his way past two English defenders. He then popped up in defence, dotting down for a drop out after a dangerous English grubber kick.
England continued to carry more of an attacking threat and when Ireland went through the phases, the midfield was crammed with white shirts that were often offside and unpunished.
But Ireland got a slice of good fortune six minutes before the break that led to their only try. Conway's quick dropout deflected off an English player and straight into his arms, allowing the winger to race downfield and outpace the cover on the way to the try-line.
Jackson slotted the right-sided conversion, but England heaped pressure back on the Irish defence and an overthrown lineout from Annett saw them cough up crucial possession.
England needed no second invitation and after going close in front of the posts, the ball was swept out to the right again where prop Henry Thomas had a simple run-in.
Ford was off target with his conversion attempt and Ireland had the final say of a bruising first half, Jackson landing a penalty from the right to cut the gap to five points.
A thunderous break through the middle from Marshall, who dovetailed well with Brendan Macken and Jackson, got Ireland on the front foot in the opening minutes of the second period.
Iain Henderson was up in support and quicker ruck ball might have led to a scoring opportunity. The Irish maintained a foothold in England’s half with Kieran Marmion distributing well and the forwards increasing their influence on proceedings.
A regular ball carrier, Marshall put in a strong tackle to force England backwards and a promising early spell was rewarded with another well-struck penalty from Jackson.
With their confidence up, the men in green were showing better control and using possession more intelligently against an England pack that had to work hard in defence.
It was an attritional second half and Annett inspired his team-mates with a well-timed lunge at English scrum half Chris Cook off the back of a ruck, securing turnover ball.
England were next on the scoreboard though, attacking out wide and inviting Vunipola to shrug off a couple of tackles and storm over for an unconverted try.
With a number of replacements on, a terrific block and catch by Daniel Qualter gave Ireland field position and McKinney, after a miss just moments earlier, drilled over his kick for a 23-19 scoreline.
The pressure was on England again when Owen Farrell was penalised for a dangerous tackle and McKinney, who played in last year’s tournament in Argentina, split the posts from far out.
Having won back possession, Ireland continued to threaten from deep and great footwork from Gilroy, allied to lovely hands from replacement JJ Hanrahan, sent the Ulster flyer dashing over the halfway line.
The full-back was hauled down inside the English 22 and with England forced to infringe in the next phase, McKinney’s close range penalty edged Ireland ahead for the first time at 25-23.
Ireland’s discipline had been excellent for much of the second half, but they handed a kickable penalty to England shortly afterwards when Marmion was singled out for a ruck offence.
Ford stuck his kick between the posts to wrestle back some control for England and Ireland’s hopes were further hit when Buckley lost his temper at a ruck and was sent to the sin-bin.
The door was still open after Ford drew the resulting penalty wide of the posts, but Yarde dived over from a ruck to seal Ireland’s fate and snatch the bonus point away from them at 33-25.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)