FORMER Herefordshire Cross Country series victor Matt James returned to form with a fine victory in men's race at round three of the winter series.

Fellow Hereford Couriers runner Katie Synge-Curtis also took the individual honours in the women's event.

The latest round of the series saw runners compete in the muddy surroundings at Queenswood hosted by Wye Valley Runners.

James, who has been crowned league champion on four occasions with his last success way back in the 2008/09 season, made a welcome return to form with an impressive display of determined running on a hilly and challenging woodland course.

He established a positive lead in the early stages of the race and, despite a couple of falls in the seriously slippery and treacherous muddy sections of the arduous terrain, he maintained a clear lead to cruise to a commanding victory.

James was never able to relax totally, however, as Ludlow Runners' Oliver Perratt was a constant threat in second place and Croft Ambrey RC's Gareth Leek fought hard to gain third.

James also had the pleasure of leading his Couriers' team to their first league triumph for many years. He was well supported by Thomas Synge-Curtis, making his league debut, in 14th place just ahead of a battling Jake Underhill in 15th, with Ross Cameron completing the team in an excellent 18th place.

Builth R.C. still hold a substantial lead in the series ahead of Maldwyn Harriers, with Wye Valley taking over third place from Croft Ambrey RC.

The women ran the same punishing course as the men and Synge-Curtis, also making her league debut, asserted her authority by taking control from the start and dominated the race to romp home by the overwhelming margin of over four minutes with an assertive run that placed her 27th in the overall race.

Builth RC's consistent Jo Rees finished second with MonRoss Trailblazers' hard-working Laura Lelievre completing the top three.

Builth took the women's team honours but a weakened Croft Ambrey, missing their top three runners, illustrated their strength in depth to place second team thanks to team captain Kelly Bowen in sixth, Robyn Gore 10th and Jo Marriott 15th to hold on to a healthy lead in the series.

The fourth race in the five race series will be held at Rotherwas on Sunday, January 12.