England have delivered on their hype heading into the Netball Quad Series as world netball's disrupters, tipping over the Silver Ferns 49-45 at Trusts Arena tonight.
After trailing at each change of end the English ran down the Ferns in a frenetic final quarter, in which the Silver Ferns struggled to find passage to goal through a determined and committed Roses' defensive effort.
England have longed been talked up as a threat to the Silver Ferns' place in world netball's established order, but that chatter has got louder heading into season.
With the likes of Geva Mentor, Serena Guthrie and Jo Harten proving stand-outs in the new Australian domestic competition this year, many across the Tasman are tipping an England v Australia gold medal match at next year's Commonwealth Games.
Those theories seemed to be supported by the Roses' second half comeback against Australia in the weekend's Quad Series opener in Brisbane. After trailing by 10 at halftime the Roses looked to be heading for a heavy defeat, but Tracey Neville's side showed strong resolve in the second half to claw their way back into contention, eventually falling 54-50.
Given New Zealand's unconvincing start to the series against South Africa, the new-look Ferns looked vulnerable heading into tonight's clash.
Those vulnerabilities were exacerbated by the Ferns disrupted build-up to the test, with Janine Southby robbed of two of her best performers from Saturday night's 63-56 win over South Africa.
Star shooter Maria Tutaia, who was named player of the match in Brisbane, was ruled out of the remainder of the Quad Series due to a family bereavement, while young defender Kelly Jury was struck down by an ankle injury on the eve of the test.
The late withdrawal of the pair saw Monica Falkner and Kayla Cullen called into the line-up against England, the latter fast-tracking her return from minor knee surgery.
After a lacklustre showing against the Proteas, Southby demanded a more commanding defensive effort from her side last night. Her players delivered early on, with Jane Watson and Katrina Grant have a strong influence on the match in the first half.
The pair ensured English shooters Helen Housby and Kadeen Corbin struggled to find their early rhythm.
Down the other end of the court, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who replaced Maria Tutaia in the starting line-up following the star shooter's late withdrawal, and Bailey Mes started strongly against highly-vaunted English defence, helping New Zealand out to a 14-10 lead.
Mes' impact was blunted slightly in the second spell, with the athletic shooter pinged for a number of offensive penalties.
With the English defence handing a string of soft turnovers, they were able to draw level at 20-all mid-way through the spell, forcing Southby to go to her bench and inject Cullen at wing defence in place of Sam Sinclair.
Cullen's commanding presence on the circle edge helped the Silver Ferns pick up a number of turnovers and get their noses back in front at the halftime break.
But England continued to surge in the third spell as the New Zealand side found it increasingly difficult to work the ball into the shooting circle under the intense defensive pressure of the visitors. Midcourters Guthrie and Beth Cobden worked overtime on the circle edge to prevent any easy feeds into Mes and Selby-Rickit.
Heading into the final turn the Ferns held a narrow one-goal lead, but the momentum was clearly in favour of England. The Roses took the lead with three minutes left on the clock and never looked back, romping to a four-goal win.
The result was ominous for the Ferns, who are set to face England a further three times over the next two weeks as part of the Taini Jamison series.