Mark Cueto is off the treatment table and determined to cling onto his Aviva Premiership Rugby try-scoring crown for as long as possible.
The competition’s all-time leading finisher has endured a frustrating season so far – one that he has already suggested may be his last.
With just 136 minutes of league rugby under his belt, Cueto has been battling injuries and is yet to add to his 86 Aviva Premiership Rugby tries.
Closing in on his tail is Wasps wing Tom Varndell, now just six behind after collecting five tries in his first four league games this season.
But Cueto is determined to bow out before he is overtaken and when Sale Sharks host high-flying Exeter Chiefs on Friday night the 34-year-old is hoping to get up-and-running for the season at last.
“It would be nice to end it on top, of course,” he said.
“It’s been difficult for me this year because I’ve not played a huge amount, just three games in the Premiership, and I haven’t scored any tries.
“Tom has scored five in six games and has been playing well, however he’s still six behind, so it would be nice to get a couple this weekend and keep him off my heels.
“But it’s not something that I think about, or that I can’t sleep over. I actually scored in this fixture last year to take top spot, so hopefully that will be a good omen.”
Cueto’s try in this fixture last season was eventually in vain as Sale were beaten 18-16 by the Chiefs, courtesy of six Gareth Steenson penalties.
However, they took their revenge in clinical fashion at Sandy Park in April, running in eight tries – including a Sam Tuitupou double – to win 55-12 and cement their place in this season’s European Rugby Champions Cup.
And it is the confidence of that result, coupled with three Aviva Premiership Rugby wins on the bounce, that has Sale in good spirits ahead of Friday night.
“We’re grinding out results now,” added Cueto. “To win away at Quins and Newcastle is a huge testament to where we’re at. That win away at Newcastle was only my second win there in 15 years.
“Even during our glory years winning the Premiership and Amlin Cups we were still struggling to win up there. So you know you’re in a relatively good place if you can go to somewhere like Newcastle and get the win.”
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