England were beaten 58-45 in the opening match of their three-Test series against New Zealand.
The Silver Ferns controlled the game in Hamilton but England applied substantial pressure in what was their first competitive match since March.
George Fisher, who will play her club netball in New Zealand next season, top-scored for the Roses with 18.
"A welcome back to international netball, that's what I make of it!" said Roses co-captain Laura Malcolm.
"There were some moments of really good stuff from us in attack, when we used clean lines and just opened it up but I guess it's just inconsistency, but really great work from the defence to get some turnovers and get us some opportunities for goals."
World champions New Zealand led by five goals at the end of the first quarter with Eleanor Cardwell's shooting keeping the Roses in contention, despite their lack of match sharpness.
The speedy Sophie Drakeford-Lewis joined Cardwell in attack in the second quarter and made an instant impact on the game in addition to her 100% shooting record.
"I have every faith in our shooters - they've been shooting well all week so that's absolutely no surprise to me," Malcolm added.
England are without head coach Jess Thirlby, who was forced to stay behind after she tested positive for coronavirus.
But, in contact with her coaches from home, she handed a first cap to Imogen Allison in wing defence.
England's squad for the series includes seven players with fewer than 10 international caps and is missing several experienced Australia-based players, including Jo Harten and Geva Mentor.
"I don't feel like you could separate the inexperience from the experience there," said Malcolm. "We saw Imogen Allison come on and get her first cap and she looked like she was made for this.
"It was really great to have the youngsters on and to see them step up to the challenge."
The next match of the three-Test series is on Friday, before the final game takes place on Sunday (both 06:00 GMT).
England: GK Quashie, GD Williams, WD Clarke, C Guthrie, WA Malcolm, GA Cardwell, GS Corbin
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