The second play-off game is an intriguing one as it is a mirror image of last weekend’s Round 22 game between Exeter and Sale.
Again, the teams will clash at Sandy Park and, again, the result will by no means be an easy one to predict. As Exeter second-row Sam Skinner jogged off the pitch in the 54th minute after being shown a red card by referee Karl Dickson, Sale would have been forgiven for thinking that they had the game wrapped up and they sat comfortably on a 16-point cushion.
However, strangely, being reduced to 14 seemed to spur the bewildered Chiefs into action and they proceeded to show just why they are the defending champions as they mounted a remarkable comeback to prise the game from Sale’s grasp at the death, running out 20-19 winners.
The teams are now level-pegging in terms of results during the regular season with one apiece. The first encounter took place in Round 11 and it was Sale who triumphed on their home turf at the AJ Bell, 25-20.
The Chiefs will take the field without two of their stand-out players this season in flanker Dave Ewers and second-row Sam Skinner, who both received 4-week bans for dangerous tackles in the previous round. Their physical, abrasive presence will be missed this weekend against a powerful Sale pack who gained parity with their opponents last week.
If Round 22 is anything to go by, this will be a cracking encounter. Sale were able to pull away in the early stages with their vigorous energy before Exeter’s red card seemed to suddenly spur them into action. If Sale can start in similar fashion and then maintain some control on the game’s tempo, they may well be in with a shout, especially with the Chiefs down two top players in their pack. However, finals rugby is an unpredictable beast and Exeter will be lacking no motivation on their home turf.