Silver Ferns 48
England Roses 42
After almost seven months off the international court and a heavily disrupted build-up, the Silver Ferns overcame their challenges to open the Taini Jamison Trophy series in style last night.
The New Zealand side saw off the England Roses 48-42 in the first of three tests this week in Christchurch to continue their dominance over the Commonwealth Games champions, who they beat in a clean sweep of last year's series.
Cracks showed at times for the Ferns but that's perhaps understandable given the number of recent challenges.
While the Roses were locked up, the Ferns were locked down amid the country's recent Covid outbreak and left with limited time together heading into the series.
Their planned training camp in Wellington last month was also canned as squad members trained from home and kept in contact with online calls.
New captain Gina Crampton said she was pleased with her side's efforts.
"I'm very happy with that, it was a big grind for us, so ticks all around," she said. "But we are trying to get the consistency up.
"We had targets in terms of our stats that we'll look at, but considering our build-up and the short time we've had as a team, it was a great performance."
The first quarter was evenly matched, with just one goal separating the sides.
The Ferns were in front but the Roses were more accurate under the hoop, prompting Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua to focus on a message of improved attack at the first-quarter break.
Shooter Tiana Metuarau stepped up in the circle in her international debut. Her partnership with Maia Wilson showed potential as the young duo were put to the test by the Roses defence.
England captain Geva Mentor constantly disrupted the ball inside and around the circle, while goal defence Layla Guscoth was dangerous in the air, picking up four intercepts.
But it wasn't enough to stop the Ferns from pulling away.
Starting the second half ahead by five, the Ferns made a couple of positional changes, with Sulu Fitzpatrick and Claire Kersten coming off the bench. The Roses made just one, introducing Imogen Allison at wing defence.
England made small gains in the third quarter, as their shooting unit of George Fisher and Eleanor Cardwell showed composure under the hoop.
The Ferns midcourt led by Crampton put up strong centre pass defence to keep their opponents at bay.
It wasn't until the final 15 minutes that the Ferns were put under pressure.
With the scoreboard all tied up, it was crunch time.
Metuarau again fronted up in the circle, keeping her shot record at 100 per cent and rewarding the efforts of her defenders.
Karin Burger snagged a timely intercept to push New Zealand back in front before a flurry of turnovers in the Ferns' favour put them back into a comfortable position to claim the win.
The Silver Ferns play England in the second test on Wednesday and third on Friday.