It always shaped as a crucial chance for New Zealand to make a statement, and they came up just short against Australia in their opening men's hockey match at the Rio Olympics today.

The world No 8 Black Sticks went down 2-1 to the world's top ranked team. A win would have given them a cracking start to the tournament, in which, under the new format, the top four teams in each of the two pools will advance to quarter-finals.

They trailed 2-0 at halftime, through goals by Chris Ciriello and Matt Gohdes, but hit back a minute into the third quarter through midfielder James Coughlan.

It gave New Zealand a glimmer of hope and indeed they believed they had found an equaliser through Hugo Inglis, only to have it ruled out by the video referee.

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New Zealand coach Colin Batch said he had been unhappy with the slow start his team mate, while acknowledging the trying, 30degC conditions.

"The positives are that we played quite a good second half, we did apply ourselves really well," Batch said.

"Australia are a good side. I'm not sure they'd be happy with the way they played but they got the win.

"We've got to take what we can from this game, and start again against Britain tomorrow."
Britain, ranked fourth, were beaten 4-1 by world No 6 Belgium today.