Australia overcame New Zealand in the first match in what is effectively a two-match series ©Getty Images

Australia have moved within one win of Rio 2016 Olympic qualification after a fiercely contested 71-59 victory over New Zealand in the first match of a two-game series, which is doubling as the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Oceania Championships, while their female counterparts also won their first match.

Playing in front of a 16,000 strong crowd at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena, the team held on despite a 22-point effort by New Zealand star Corey Webster.

Matthew Dellavedova led the way for the hosts with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Patty Mills and David Anderson each scored 17 points as the Australians eased clear in the latter stages. 

"I thought we did a good job of just maintaining our intensity, our commitment to the work that's required at the defensive end and that's going to give us a chance to be successful in this series," said the victorious coach Andrej Lemanis said.

"We only gave up six offensive rebounds, which is a key when you are competing against a team like that which just smashes the offensive glass."

Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare added: "It was a great atmosphere, it was a great crowd, it was a great occasion for basketball in Oceania, so from that side of things it was a fun night and good to be a part of it.

"For us it's half-time and we're down 12 at half-time - that was my message to the guys and that's how we have to look at the series."

Australia are one win away from Rio 2016 Olympic qualification ©Getty Images
Australia are one win away from Rio 2016 Olympic qualification ©Getty Images

The second game will take place on  a Kiwi court at Wellington's TSB Arena on Tuesday (August 18) with the overall winner securing a direct berth for next year's Games in Rio.

The loser will still have a chance to qualify also, having to settle for a place in the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Australia have won the last two editions of the bey iennial two-team event, with New Zealand having last emerged victorious in 2009.

Meanwhile, Australia's female counterparts won 61-41 in the first match of their two-match series aganst the same opponents, as they continue a remarkable unbeaten record against the Tall Ferns stretching back to 1974.

They will then be looking to continue or improve upon a record that has seen them win a silver or bronze medal at every Games since Atlanta 1996.