Aviva Premiership Rugby’s all-time top try-scorer Mark Cueto hopes he can bring the curtain down on his time at the AJ Bell Stadium with a victory that keeps Sale Sharks’ chances of a European Rugby Champions Cup place alive.
Gloucester Rugby’s European Rugby Challenge Cup win last weekend means seventh-placed Sale must now make up an eight-point gap in order to reach the top six with two rounds to go.
A bonus-point win over Newcastle Falcons on Saturday is paramount to achieving this feat in Cueto’s 14th and final Aviva Premiership Rugby season.
The former England wing scored the 89th try of his Sharks career last time out against Harlequins, on his 217th league appearance.
And, as he prepares to step out in front of a home crowd for the final time, 35-year-old Cueto wants to secure an all-important win.
“We’ve been on the right track for 90 per cent of the season and probably only in the last two weeks we’ve derailed a little bit,” he said.
“Pushing for a top-four or top-six spot would have been a nice way to go out with the club, but ultimately Newcastle is another home game and at the start of the season you target wins in all your home games.
“It’s my last game in front of a home Sale crowd and for the lads it’s their last game at the AJ Bell, so we’ll want to finish with a bang.
“Carrying a loss from the last home game of the season through the summer isn’t great.”
Victory for Sale would score their first ever Premiership double over the Falcons, having triumphed 18-13 in November’s corresponding fixture.
For the 11th-placed Falcons to avoid that they must claim only their second away win anywhere in the Premiership since October 2013.
But having run Sale close in the north east, lock Kane Thompson is upbeat about Newcastle’s chances.
“The game at Kingston Park was really close,” said Thompson.
“It was just one of those matches where we took our foot off the gas and [Danny] Cipriani showed the skill that he has with a little chip over the top and they ran in a 90-metre try from a simple mistake we made on their goal-line.
“That’s the kind of team they are. They can strike from anywhere and we’ve seen that first-hand, so we’ve just got to try and contain him as well.
“Sale have a big forward pack, so they’re going to try and attack us first through the middle if they can, then they’ve got a pretty exciting back-line as well.
“So first and foremost we’ll need to front up, make sure they can’t get the go-forward ball they will want to get and if we can do that it will go a long way towards winning the game.”
AJ Bell Stadium, 2pm
Referee: Matthew Carley (30th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton & Andrew Jackson. TMO: Graham Hughes