REIGNING champions Croft Ambrey consolidated their lead in the third and penultimate race in the Herefordshire Summer Cross Country League.

The latest round was hosted by Wye Valley Runners and held at Queenswood over two laps of a strenuous and challenging course.

Builth RC's reigning individual men's champion Jonny Pugh recorded a hat-trick of victories as he continued to dominate proceedings with another assertive display.

The in-form Matt James (Hereford Couriers) made him work hard for this latest triumph and shadowed Pugh's every move until he broke away on the final lung-bursting steep ascent to claim the win by 10 seconds as James reluctantly conceded.

Croft Ambrey's success was based on the prowess of their leading female contingent in a team competition composed of three male and two female runners.

For the second successive race Katie Ayers pushed hard from the start to leave the opposition in her wake and finished in 31st position overall with another outstanding display of fluent committed running.

Ludlow Runners' Claire Thomas, winner of the first race in the series, was second female home in 38th, and there was a significant contribution from Gemma Mallett (Croft Ambrey) in 41st as she took a break from her prolific Marathon challenges. With Croft's leading runner, Mark Lamonby, having to retire from the race in the early stages with a badly twisted ankle, it fell to the back-up members of the Croft squad to dig deep and respond to the challenge.

Gareth Leek continued his consistent form with seventh place and he was followed home by a determined Will Gore in eighth with Jordan McQueen returning to form and completing the team in 17th place.

This gave the Croft team a 45 point margin of victory over Builth, their nearest rivals while Wye Valley took third place.

Overall Croft Ambrey now hold a sizeable 96 point series lead over Builth, with Wye Valley a further 28 points adrift.

The final race in the series will be held at Shobdon Court on Wednesday, July 24.