Simon Mail previews the final weekend of the regular Premiership season and thinks Newcastle can celebrate their semi-final spot with a win over Wasps...
"The Falcons have been outstanding at home, winning their last nine matches in all competitions, so the hosts may have the edge. Wasps have failed to win their last three away matches although both losses were by a point so another narrow defeat could be on the cards."
Newcastle v Wasps
Live on BT Sport 2
Newcastle and Wasps both have a Premiership semi-final to look forward to after clinching a top-four finish last weekend. The Falcons have enjoyed a superb campaign and have qualified for the play-offs for the first time. Dean Richards' side will be the big outsiders to reach the final but Newcastle have already upset the odds on many occasions this season.
None more so than last weekend after Newcastle's late converted try snatched a 25-23 win over Leicester at Welford Road. It was a memorable victory for the Falcons which ensured the Tigers could not finish above them. Newcastle have based most of their success this season on an excellent home record with an unbeaten run at Kingston Park stretching back to November.
Wasps are certainly not surprise semi-finalists with last year's runners-up aiming to go one better. Dai Young's side are in the top four for the third successive season although they will have to reach Twickenham the hard way by defeating either Exeter or Saracens away. Wasps come into this game off the back of successive home wins against Worcester and Northampton.
The odds suggest it is difficult to split these teams and it could be a tight contest this weekend. Newcastle are three points behind their opponents but could overhaul them with a victory. The Falcons have been outstanding at home, winning their last nine matches in all competitions, so the hosts may have the edge. Wasps have failed to win their last three away matches although both losses were by a point so another narrow defeat could be on the cards.
Sale v Leicester
Live on BT Sport 3
There is plenty on the line at AJ Bell Stadium with Sale and Leicester fighting for a Champions Cup place. But for the visitors, this could feel like a huge anticlimax after the disappointment of missing out on the play-offs for the first time in 14 years. The Tigers are used to being a permanent fixture in the semi-finals but fifth place is the best they can now achieve.
Sale are still in the running for a top-six finish although the Sharks will need to win their final match. Steve Diamond's side have lost their last two games at Newcastle and Exeter but come into the game four points behind Leicester. Sale have won five out of their last six Premiership home games since November with their sole defeat coming against second-placed Saracens.
The Tigers have failed to match expectations this season with their biggest disappointment coming in last week's home defeat to Newcastle. Matt O'Connor's side appeared to be heading for a top-four finish after a run of five successive league wins. But their shock home defeat to Northampton was followed by a critical loss to the Falcons. Their form at Welford Road has surprisingly let them down this season and cost them a place in the semi-finals.
Sale need the win this weekend while Leicester know a losing bonus-point will be enough if the hosts do not score four tries. The Tigers may struggle to lift themselves for a win but should be able to do enough to finish in the top six even if narrowly beaten. Sale have defeated Leicester at home over the last two seasons but both came by less than ten points. It could be worth backing the Sharks to edge to another win which still may not be enough to overhaul their opponents.
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2017/18 Rugby P/L