WYE Valley Runners hosted the penultimate race of the Herefordshire Cross Country League at Monkhall Farm at Callow.

The newly designed course was a true test of the runners' tenacity and stamina because they encountered sections of strength-sapping sticky mud and long uphill hauls.

Maldwyn Harriers' Tim Davies and Croft Ambrey Running Club's Gemma Mallett took the individual honours, while Builth Running Club's men's and Wye Valley Runners' women's teams consolidated their advantage in the quest for the league titles.

A group of five runners soon broke away at the head of the field in the men's race, with three Builth runners plus Andy Salt of Croft Ambrey challenging Davies

The Builth trio ganged up on Davies and took it in turns to surge in a futile attempt to break his resolve.

But the experienced reigning champion held his nerve and finally made a decisive break about half a mile from the finish.

His confidence, as a former British Fell Running champion, allowed him to maintain his ascendancy up the final steep climb to win by just four seconds.

Builth runners filled the next three places and, with their final counting runner finishing 11th, they recorded a comprehensive team victory.

Home club Wye Valley finished second and were led home by Steve Flowers in 9th.

He was well supported by six times former league champion, Mike Fawcett in 12th, Liam Grice (13th) and Dan Lewis (14th).

Hereford Couriers, having won the previous two league races, had to settle for third place on this occasion, with Tom Grady, running his first race of the series, leading the way in sixth, followed by Matt James in 7th, Russell James 21st and Sam Goodchild 26th.

The women's race, over the same demanding course, was again dominated by a purposeful Gemma Mallett.

The Croft Ambrey runner was in a realm of her own scampering over the fatiguing mud to make light work of the gruelling conditions.

She led from start to finish to win her second successive league race by 44 seconds from a battling Danca Machakova of Wye Valley, with Rhayader's Jo Rees in third.

Machackova's significant performance was well backed by another determined run from Laura Tootell in fourth and a spirited run from Becki Ansfield in 11th.

Croft Ambrey's Irina Dale (seventh) and Kelly Bowen (15th) provided solid support for Mallett to register second place, with Ludlow Runners finishing third.

The final race in the winter series will be held at Presteigne on Sunday, February 5.