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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Newcastle Falcons may not fly away from Sale Sharks

Cheetahs can hold off motoring Munster

Byron McGuigan scores a try for Sale Sharks in their win over Wasps
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Newcastle v Sale
BT Sport 1, 7.45pm Friday
Cheetahs v Munster
Sky Sports Mix, 6.35pm Friday

A pulsating race for the Premiership top four continues at Kingston Park when fifth-placed Newcastle host sixth-placed Sale and the Sharks look worth a wager with a seven-point start.

Sale were involved in a scintillating Salford scrap with fourth-placed Wasps last Friday, when wing Marland Yarde dived over deep into added time to secure a 28-27 success.

While they are without suspended back-three duo Denny Solomona and Mike Haley, new outside backs Paolo Odogwu and Luke James bring their own brand of dynamism. Byron McGuigan, who dotted down against Wasps for a fourth try in five league games, is quite comfortable with the switch to full-back.

The Sharks pack is settled and have a punishing rolling maul while half-back duo Faf de Klerk and AJ MacGinty are forging a partnership that provides balanced tactical options on the road. In the last two months, they have eked out a 13-8 win at basement boys London Irish and got involved in ding-dong battles at Bath and Northampton, getting chinned in the last minute at the Rec but coasting home at Franklin's Gardens.

Bookmakers are probably right to expect Newcastle's 27-13 loss at Worcester last Saturday to be a blip as they have won eight on the spin in front of their fans in all competitions and are a level up this season from the Exiles, Bath and Saints.

However, it is hard to ignore that the last six league meetings between the teams have all been tight tussles and neither side will be too upset with a losing bonus as a top-six berth books a European Champions Cup place next season. Fit-again internationals Josh Beaument, TJ Ioane and Tom Curry could help Sale to surge if required.

Cheetahs against Munster is a captivating clash in Conference A of the Pro14.

The Bloemfontein boys will book their berth in the playoffs with victory while a success for the Red Army, who roll into Toyota Stadium after slamming the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, should seal second spot and a home post-season tie with the third team in Conference B.

Even though the Cheetahs needed an injury-time penalty try to overcome Cardiff last Saturday, they should be backed to record a ninth home win out of ten this campaign. This is far from a second-string Munster selection, boasting power in the pack and verve in the backs, but next weekend's Champions Cup semi-final with Racing 92 in Bordeaux looms large.  

Glasgow against Connacht (BBC Alba & TG4, 7.35pm) and Ulster versus Ospreys (BBC2 Wales & Northern Ireland, 7.35pm) are also televised fixtures and drab weather forecasts should not prevent plenty of tries for the host teams with both their visitors out of the playoff reckoning.

The pick of the anytime tryscorer prices looks to be the 11-8 available about ace Glasgow full-back Stuart Hogg. 

The Galway gang have conceded 127 points in their last four games in all competitions and Hogg, who has three tries in four club outings this injury-affected season, will be keen to get involved.  

In the televised RFU Championship clash (Sky Sports Action, 7.45pm), leaders Bristol are asked to give up 26 points to sixth-placed visitors Doncaster. 

Sale +7
1pt 10-11 BoyleSports
1pt 10-11 Sky Bet
S Hogg to score a try in Glasgow v Connacht
1pt 11-8 BoyleSports

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Stuart Hogg has three tries in four club outings this injury-affected season
E.W. Terms
Sky bet