A 39-21 reverse against Ireland wasn't the homecoming that former Northampton defence coach and current England coach Alan Dickens would have imagined as his side's U20 Six Nations Grand Slam dreams were left in tatters at Franklin's Gardens by a rampant Ireland who still have designs on repeating their own clean sweep of 2019.
In the two other matches in round three, both extremely tight affairs, Scotland edged Italy 30-29 in Reggio Emilia and Wales fought off fierce resistance from world champions France in Colwyn Bay to pull through 14-11.
With the victory over England, Ireland have opened up a six-point lead over their beaten opponents at the top of the table, while France, Scotland, Italy and Wales all trail in their wake with one win apiece to their names.
Next up for Noel McNamara's side is a home encounter with Italy before they travel to Perpignan to play France for what promises to a full-on dress rehearsal for when the two sides meet in Calvisano on 3 July, in the pool stages of the World Rugby U20 Championship.
Ireland turn on the style
In an exhilarating match between unbeaten sides, Ireland ran in six tries to England's three and showed the sort of form that took them to last season's title with an unblemished record.
The Irish forwards laid the platform with some big gain-line busting runs and tries from Alex Soroka, on his full debut, Hayden Hyde, Thomas Ahern and Ethan McIlroy saw the defending champions surge into a commanding 29-7 half-time lead.
England fought back to score tries through Hugh Tizard and Theo Dan, in addition to George Hammond's first-half effort, but Thomas O'Reilly and Ahern, with his second, ensured there was always at least two scores between the teams.
Wales dog it out
Wales opened their account for the season after overcoming difficult conditions and a slow start against world champions France.
Les Bleuets dominated the first half with the strong wind at their backs but all they could muster were two Thibault Demaes penalties, and it was the home side that led 7-6 at the break, Sam Costelow setting up half-back partner Ellis Bevan for a try that he also converted.
Wales started the second half a man down after Dom Booth had been yellow-carded just before the interval, and this time Les Bleuets made the opportunity count.
Buoyed by the introduction of their star performers from the triumphant U20 Championship-winning team, including number eight Jordan Joseph, the visitors took the lead in the 44th minute when loose-head prop Sacha Lotrian powered over from close range.
Superb defence from the home side prevented any further points being conceded and Morgan Strong's 62nd-minute try earned Wales their first win over France at this level for four years.
Relief for Scotland
Only the width of a post separated Italy from Scotland in a nip-and-tuck first half at the Stadio Mirabello.
Scrum-half Kyle McGhie and Rufus McLean twice gave Scotland the lead but with Nathan Chamberlain striking the upright with his first attempt at goal and Paolo Garbisi successful with both his kicks, following tries from Manuel Zuliani and Federico Mori, Italy held the slenderest of 14-12 advantages at the break.
Garbisi and Chamberlain traded penalties at the start of the second half before Italy opened up some daylight between the teams, thanks to a try from full-back Jacopo Trulla, Garbisi converting for a 24-15 lead.
Following another Chamberlain penalty, Italy stretched out further in front when winger Michael Mba turned on the after-burners and won a foot race to the line.
Training by 11 points with just 15 minutes left on the clock, Scotland had it all to do but they kept their composure and tries from Robbie McCullum and Connor Boyle, which Harry Peterson crucially converted, saw Scotland secure a thrilling victory.
Photo credit: INPHO / James Crombie