SOUTH AFRICA 5 IRELAND 12, Gorodok Stadium, Moscow
Scorers: South Africa: Try: Yolanda Meiring
Ireland: Tries: Ashleigh Baxter, Lynne Cantwell; Con: Jenny Murphy
The Gorodok Stadium was bathed in warm sunshine and temperatures touching 27 degrees as Ireland made their debut at the Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens.
They opened the pool stages this morning against South Africa, who were semi-finalists at the 2009 World Cup in Dubai, and early nerves were evident as the South Africans touched down after barely two minutes' play.
Zenay Jordaan pounched on a turnover from a scrum and Yolanda Meiring got over in the corner, but the try scorer was unable to convert from a difficult position.
Ireland were on the defensive for most of the opening half and some errors in possession let the South Africans off the hook, with a knock on spoiling a promising break from Sophie Spence.
But the girls in green hit back at the end of a close and tense first half. A long injury delay for Lorinda Brown, who was unfortunately stretchered off, allowed Irish captain Claire Molloy to settle her troops down and they were much improved for the remainder of the game.
They scored a try after the hooter from Ashleigh Baxter who profited from a trademark surging run from Alison Miller. Jenny Murphy failed to convert, leaving the sides level (5-5) at the break.
With plenty of support from the crowd, Ireland moved ahead just a minute and 29 seconds into the second half. A great exhibition of ball-handling and quick, precise passing paved the way for Lynne Cantwell to go over by the posts with Murphy converting for a 12-5 lead.
That excellent team try showed what Ireland could do in attack as they exposed a couple of weaknesses in the South African defence.
There was very little between the sides in the closing stages and Ireland, defensively sound for the most part, were relieved when Phumeza Gadu was called for a double movement as she looked to score South Africa's second try.
Speaking afterwards, head coach John Skurr admitted: "It was nerve wracking. There was a bit of naivety trying to score when the hooter was gone but we are learning all the time. We have started well and I'm happy about that.
"South Africa are a good team and we got off to a soft start but we picked our game up. Next up are Australia, the defending champions. It's a real battle and we're really looking forward to it."
The Australians also got off to a winning start as they ran six tries past China for a 36-0 victory. Teenager Tiana Penitani, who touched down four times, will be a player to watch out for.
Ireland's clash with Australia gets underway at Gorodok Stadium at 12.40pm local time/9.40am Irish time. They will then head to the main venue, Luzhniki Stadium, for their final pool game against China (kick-off 3.58pm local time/12.58pm Irish time).
Click here to visit the official IRB tournament website for the latest results and updates. The Ireland v China match will be streamed live on the site.
TIME LINE: 3 minutes - South Africa try: Yolanda Meiring - 5-0; conversion: missed by Yolanda Meiring - 5-0; 7+5 mins - Ireland try: Ashleigh Baxter - 5-5; conversion: missed by Jenny Murphy - 5-5; Half-time - South Africa 5 Ireland 5; 9 mins - Ireland try: Lynne Cantwell - 5-10; conversion: Jenny Murphy - 5-12; Full-time - South Africa 5 Ireland 12
SOUTH AFRICA: Mara Williams, Nomaphelo Mayongo, Zenay Jordaan, Yolanda Meiring, Lorinda Brown, Phumeza Gadu, Thamie Faleni.
Subs: Bella Makwezela, Fundiswa Plaatjie, Mathrin Simmers, Tash Hofmeester, Veroeshka Grain.
IRELAND: Jenny Murphy, Claire Molloy, Sophie Spence, Jeannette Feighery, Lynne Cantwell, Alison Miller, Ashleigh Baxter.
Subs: Larissa Muldoon, Shannon Houston, Amy Davis, Laura O'Mahony, Nikki Caughey.
Referee: Amy Perrett (Australia)