The England Roses were beaten 62-55 after a late rally from New Zealand handed them a 1-0 lead in the Taini Jamison Trophy.
The Silver Ferns got the match underway with first centre pass in front of a packed house in Porirua.
Geva Mentor was straight into the heart of the action with a tip behind but the Silver Ferns worked the back line ball for the returning Maria Tutaia to open the scoring.
There were a couple of early turnovers and Mentor continued to impress as the Roses established an early 4-2 lead.
Bailey Mes displayed her athleticism with a fantastic save as the ball threatened to go long and fed Tutaia to close the gap.
The Roses were unlucky to see a few shots fall short and the Silver Ferns took advantage and a 12-10 lead with Tutaia finding the net from all over the circle.
But Tracey Neville’s side fought back with Harten converting a turnover after a fantastic Mentor steal and it was all square at 15-15 after an intense opening quarter.
Momentum was with the Roses at the start of the second 15 with Sara Bayman and Helen Housby combining well to help England to a 19-18 lead.
With both sides trying to assert their dominance, it became a physical affair out on court and a passage of scrappy play followed with the ball turned over in quick succession before Tutaia finally scored from range.
Spurred on by the home crowd, the Silver Ferns enjoyed a run of unanswered goals to put them 27-24 up.
The experienced Mentor sparked the Roses back into action with another rebound and Harten netted a fabulous effort from range.
England were back within one when Housby scored and were unlucky to not be on level terms at half-time after a Mentor steal in the final seconds was launched forward but the Roses failed to take it to goal.
Shannon Francois got the third quarter off to a flyer with a classy steal, which Tutaia duly converted, but Serena Guthrie replied with one of her own and Housby did the honours in the circle.
Tutaia was leading from the front and the rub of the green was certainly with New Zealand as they scored at the third time of asking.
The Roses continued to persevere and were rewarded with sharp shooting from Harten reducing the lead to just two.
With seven minutes remaining in Q3, the GS held her nerve to bring it back to 36-36.
The pressure on court continued to build but the Roses battled superbly to keep it on centre-pass.
Top work from Housby created space for Harten before she picked up the return to finish the turnover and fire the Roses to a 39-38 lead.
A last-minute turnover converted by Te Paea Selby-Rickit though handed the Silver Ferns a slender 42-40 lead going into the final quarter.
Ama Agbeze was leading by example and her incredible retrieval kept the turnover ball moving with Harten on hand to apply the finish.
Harten and Tutaia continued to trade blows as the game went back and forth.
Mentor was positioned superbly to gather a loose feed from the Silver Ferns, Harten and Pitman displayed slick build-up play and the GS scored to hand the Roses a 47-46 lead.
Hesitation in the England circle was punished though with New Zealand capitalising to make things all square at 49-49 halfway through the final quarter.
Backed by the vocal home crowd, the Silver Ferns came on strong and started to dictate the play to pull clear at 53-50 with six minutes to go.
The Roses were in need of turnovers in the closing stages but Janine Southby’s side saw the game out well.
Neville’s squad now have a few days to regroup and prepare for the second match in the Series, which takes place at 3am on Sunday 10th September in Napier.
Roses starting 7: GS – Harten, GA – Housby, WA – Pitman, C – Bayman, WD – Guthrie, GD – Agbeze, GK – Mentor
Silver Ferns starting 7: GS – Mes, GA – Tutaia, WA – Crampton, C – Francois, WD – Cullen, GD – Grant, GK – Watson
Roses: Harten 31/37 (84%), Housby 24/33 (73%)
Silver Ferns: Mes 11/14 (79%), Selby-Rickit 20/24 (83%), Tutaia 31/37 (84%)
Report courtesy of England Netball