The Vitality Roses concluded their Cadbury Netball Series campaign with a 62-47 defeat to the New Zealand Silver Ferns at the Claudelands Arena on Sunday morning.
The Silver Ferns lifted the Taini Jamison Trophy at the end of the encounter following two previous 58-45 and 54-47 victories.
After three highly-competitive tests on their return to competitive action, Head Coach Jess Thirlby will be able to take plenty of positives from the test series against the world champions.
Thirlby and Assistant Coach Kat Ratnapala were without centurion Serena Guthrie after sustaining an ankle injury so Gabby Marshall took her place in centre at the start of the game.
The Silver Ferns started with all the intensity that Head Coach Noeline Taurua was asking for in the opening stages of this final encounter, the 100th meeting between these two nations.
After Maia Wilson netted the opening goal, the hosts scored two more to put the score at 3-0 after the two-minute mark.
The Vitality Roses, however, have continued to improve ever since they arrived in New Zealand and shortly managed to cut the gap with three consecutive goals. Each came from George Fisher and levelled that match at 5-5.
It was end-to-end throughout the remaining seven minutes of the first quarter as each side battled for supremacy in Hamilton.
Despite impressive defensive play from Fran Williams and Razia Quashie inside the circle, it was those in a black dress that narrowly saw out the first 15 minutes ahead. Wilson netted the final goal of the quarter and put her side 12-10 in front.
England were determined to not come away from their trip to New Zealand without a win and quickly levelled the tie after the restart, scoring three on the bounce through Fisher and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.
From that moment on, though, the Silver Ferns took the ascendancy with shooters Wilson and Ekenasio firing on all cylinders prior to the half-time whistle.
Changes were made from Thirlby and Ratnapala, with Eleanor Cardwell and Yasmin Parsons coming on, but they couldn’t stop the home side from taking a four-goal lead after 22 minutes.
England battled hard and caused problems for their opposition but it was New Zealand that went into half-time in the lead. The hosts led 26-19 at the break.
In the last encounter, Taurua’s side won the game due to their emphatic third-quarter performance and were on fire after half-time once again in such a crucial period of the match.
Five minutes into the quarter, the hosts had scored 10 goals and restricted their opponents to just two in arguably their most clinical period of the series so far.
Vicki Oyesola was brought on for Williams, though, and made a positive impact by getting tighter to the shooters alongside Quashie in the circle.
The Vitality Roses retained their footing in the fixture and then some as they took the game to New Zealand, scoring eight goals and letting in just two goals. This included six goals in a row for the visitors with Cardwell scoring five.
The hosts were determined to leave nothing to chance in quarter four and, with their lead being cut to eight, they extended it to 10 right before the third quarter concluded. 45-35 with 15 minutes to go.
It will be those impressive, dominant spells that England will be able to take from the three matches in Hamilton. It became evident early on in the final quarter, though, that it would be New Zealand taking another win.
Quashie has impressed heavily during the series but could do nothing to quash the shooting duo of Wilson and captain Ekenasio, a combination which was left effectively unchanged by the coaching team over the last five days.
They put up shot percentages of over 94 per cent each as their side put further distance between them and their young opponents, opening up a 15-goal lead. This advantage was never relinquished as they ended the final game 62-47 winners.
Vitality Roses Starting VII: Razia Quashie, Fran Williams, Jade Clarke, Gabby Marshall, Laura Malcolm, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, George Fisher.
New Zealand Silver Ferns Starting VII: Kelly Jury, Jane Watson, Karin Burger, Claire Kersten, Gina Crampton, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Maia Wilson.