Mara up for challenge of containing Smith

Robert Lowe, NZ Newswire June 2, 2012, 12:40 pm

Warriors hooker Alehana Mara is relishing his head-to-head with the best in the business when NRL leaders Melbourne are in town on Sunday.

His opposite will be Storm skipper Cameron Smith and he's hoping he can make his presence felt at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.

Mara has come up against the Kangaroos and Queensland captain twice before - when the sides split their two regular season matches last year - but this will be his first time as starter.

"It will be a good battle and hopefully I can contain him," he said.

"I guess if we can stop his options and get to him before he can do anything, we can shut him down."

What the 22-year-old, who has just 12 first-grade appearances to his name, is also hoping for is a repeat of the big effort the forwards put in when the Warriors ran the Storm close in Melbourne on Anzac Day.

While the final score read 32-14, the Warriors were in the hunt at 14-14 with 11 minutes to go before the home side kicked away with three tries.

"The boys went well that night, especially up the middle," Mara said.

"It's just little bits of the game we have to fix up."

The Warriors will have their frontline propping rotation of Kiwis Ben Matulino, Russell Packer and Sam Rapira, and Queensland representative Jacob Lillyman back on deck again.

The quartet were reunited for the first time this season for the Warriors' 24-22 defeat before their bye last week.

That match was also Mara's first of the year in first grade, his call-up coming as replacement for the injured Nathan Friend.

Whereas Friend is a workaholic tackler, Mara is noted for his runs from dummy half.

For the Warriors, not clocking off is one area for improvement from the Anzac Day defeat.

Coach Brian McClennan has also identified the need to be spot on in what they did on the field, especially when defending against the settled halves combination of Cooper Cronk and Gareth Widdop.

"You just have to do a lot of things really well," he said.

"Because they have the same halves, when they execute their plays, they execute them extremely well, better than any other side I've seen."

McClennan said the Warriors had to avoid giving away penalties or presenting Melbourne with other re-start opportunities where they can run through their chosen plays for a specific defence.

While the Storm began the latest round a comfortable six points clear of their nearest pursuers, the Warriors were back down in ninth spot and hitting a key stretch of their campaign.

Four of their next six matches are against top-eight opposition and four of them are away from home.

"It's a really important six games," he said.

"It could be the group of games where we start to get real traction."

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  1. Peter04:16pm Saturday 02nd June 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    i can see it all now, storm kick it high to wards Manus wing, he fumbles it, and storm score a try, next moment they run at Manu hes to slow to turn and chase, and storm score a try, at the end of the game Bluey says, i still rate Manu as one of the best wingers in the game, as he wipes the fog off his glasses, Manu was a good winger, but now a days hes to slow, and hed be better in the forwards, i still think hed be a great forward if he can hold onto the ball in the tackle.

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