England lost 48-42 to world champions New Zealand in the first of their three-match series after a close contest in Christchurch.
A fast start in the final quarter saw the Roses draw level at 38-38 but the Silver Ferns showed their quality to turnover the ball in key moments.
Roses captain Serena Guthrie said “we’ve got some work to do”.
The second match takes place on Wednesday.
New Zealand, who won the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, were without the experience of Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who is on maternity leave, and Jane Watson, who is recovering from ankle surgery, while some of their players have had only a three day build-up window to the series because of coronavirus restrictions.
Those restrictions have also affected England, with four players – Natalie Haythornthwaite, Stacey Francis-Bayman, Helen Housby and Jo Harten – not joining the tour until it moves on to Australia, where they are based.
England head coach Jess Thirlby tried numerous combinations against a new-look Silver Ferns side but the Roses allowed debutant shooter Tiana Metuarau too many opportunities – and she scored nine times from nine shots as the hosts moved five points clear by the end of the first half.
“We were muscled out – we were caught chasing and we did push them but fell apart again at the end,” Thirlby said.
A rotation of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, George Fisher and Eleanor Cardwell shot at 86% accuracy in the absence of 2018 Commonwealth Games winning partnership Housby and Harten.
Thirlby praised the combination of veteran defender Geva Mentor, winning her 147th cap, and Layla Guscoth, who were playing their first international match together since the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.
Mentor, who plays club netball in Australia, did not play for England for more than two years because of Covid restrictions.
“It’s a breath of fresh air having Geva, there isn’t a team in the world that wouldn’t want her in it,” said Thirlby.
- Q1 – 12-11
- Q2 – 26-21
- Q3 – 37-33
- Q4 – 48-42