RUGBY LEAGUE:Koloto inspires Widnes revival

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The Independent Online
Widnes are unlikely semi-finalists in the Regal Trophy today, but all the more dangerous for that. A side which, on paper, is a mere shadow of its old self has been struggling in the league, only to find the self-belief and determination which has sustained the club through the hardest of times in knock-out rugby.

To beat Bradford Northern in last week's quarter-final was a surprising achievement. To lead 20-0 within 17 minutes and then to remain firmly in control despite playing at one stage with 10 men beggared all expectations.

There have been a couple of developments which have made Widnes more formidable opponents, in sudden-death rugby at least. One is the return to rampaging form of Emosi Koloto, who tore Bradford apart last Sunday. Another is the switch to stand-off of theclub's outstanding emergent talent, Karle Hammond.

Closer to the fulcrum of play, Hammond's handling skills are prompting comparisons with the playing days of the Widnes coach. "A poor man's Tony Myler," is what they are calling him, and at Naughton Park, that is not faint praise.

The suspension of Paul Hulme following his sending-off against Bradford forces one change, with Tony Singleton coming in at loose forward.

Today's opponents, Warrington, have dropped off the pace in the championship race and admit that they were lucky to snatch victory at Keighley last week. Their captain, Greg Mackey, who has been playing on despite a broken bone in his shoulder, sees thisas a chance to compensate. "Although we did very well in the league last year, we never reached a final, so this would make our season look much better," he said.

Intriguing as this contest is, most people would expect the Trophy winners to come from tomorrow's second semi-final, between Wigan and Castleford.

Wigan will be without the suspended Kelvin Skerrett, whose appeal yesterday against a three-match ban failed, and Shaun Edwards and Va'aiga Tuigamala face late fitness tests.

Castleford have to decide whether to change a side that played superbly at Leeds last week by bringing back Graham Steadman or Richard Goddard.

With Wigan otherwise occupied, Leeds can go to the top of the First Division, albeit with two more games played, if they beat Bradford tomorrow.

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