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5 days ago
Parramatta Eels coach Brian Smith is eyeing a shutdown of the Warriors' matchwinners out wide ahead of their National Rugby League clash in Sydney on Saturday.
The Warriors' wingers are among the team's most potent attacking weapons this season, notching 20 of the 50 tries scored so far, many through their understanding with halfback Stacey Jones.
Francis Meli's 11 tries leads the list, followed by Henry Fa'afili's haul of nine.
It is a combination Smith is wary of as he prepares his under-strength, under-pressure side to face the Warriors at Parramatta Stadium.
"The outside backs have been winning games for them," Smith said.
"That combination between Jones, Meli and Fa'afili -- if they try that six or eight times it could cost you two or three tries.
"Their forwards are certainly big and skilful, but it's not the sort of team where you can focus on one aspect."
Meli is enjoying the season, despite the Warriors having their own ups and downs.
"I've had a solid start," he said, acknowledging that he has tried to involve himself more in the middle as well, taking some of the weight off the forwards with his 1.87m, 100kg bulk. He believed the team had turned a corner with last week's 23-6 win over the Sharks, their returning confidence evident in the late tries.
He picked up one touchdown off a pass from Sione Faumuina courtesy of a lucky bounce from Jarrad Anderson's head, and set one up for Faumuina with a neat left-foot kick.
It looked fancy but it was all part of the game plan, he said.
"Daniel (coach Anderson) tells us to train for the unexpected. I just heard the call and sent the ball inside."
Meli has one more season on his contract while Fa'afili has just re-signed for three.