HEREFORD Couriers' men and Wye Valley Runners' women continued their good form at the third race of the Herefordshire Cross Country League.

Hosted by Hereford Triathlon Club at a new venue by the River Wye in Rotherwas, the runners raced over a flat and fast three-lap course.

A group of five male runners soon broke away and were locked in battle as they disputed the lead over the first lap.

A confident Eliot Taylor, who was crowned league champion three seasons ago, sensed that his challengers were beginning to struggle and took control of the race.

He turned the screw by forcing his rivals to drop off the pace and proceeded to stride way and win by a comfortable margin of 25 seconds.

Builth Running Club filled the next three places, with reigning champion Tim Davies finishing fifth – his first defeat in 10 races.

Taylor also had the satisfaction of leading his Couriers team to a slender win as he was well supported by Charlie Jones in sixth place, Matt James in eighth and stalwart veteran Russell James in 12th.

Builth finished second overall, with Maldwyn Harriers third.

The women ran the same race with an assertive Gemma Mallett, the reigning Summer League champion, running her first race of the winter series and dominating from the start. Mallett's prowess extends from shorter cross country events to ultra distance challenges and she excels at all distances.

Her final winning margin was over a minute as she beat previous race winner Amy Fulford of Ludlow Runners and Wye Valley Runners' Laura Tootell.

Wye Valley had the consolation of recording a significant team triumph, with Tootell's influential run backed by strong runs from Danca Machackova in sixth place and Becki Ansfield in 10th.

Mallett's comprehensive victory was supported by a best ever ninth place for Kelly Bowen and a promising debut from Emma Morris in 12th to give Croft Ambrey second place, just three points adrift of Wye Valley.

Ludlow Runners were third.

Just three points separate these three teams in the overall competition as they battle for the league title.

The penultimate race in the series will be held at Monkhall Farm on Sunday, January 8.