NORTH-EAST athletes helped Great Britain and Northern Ireland take second place in the BUPA Edinburgh Cross Country international after a storming last-race performance by Ireland's double European Cross Country champion Fionnuala Britton snatched overall victory for the European team at Holyrood Park.

Great Britain had gone into the final race with a slender eight points lead from the three previous events, but the brilliant Britton, holding off a determined challenge by Great Britain's European under-23 champion Jess Coulson, stormed through to a 16-seconds victory and saw her team-mates finish strongly, with the Netherlands' Adrienne Herzog overhauling a rapidly tiring Coulson to win the team race and take the overall title by 21 points. Durham City's Rosie Smith finished a creditable 14th, while Chester-le-Street's Scottish cross country champion Freya Ross (formerly Murray) was 19th.

The senior men's race saw a superb effort by Great Britain's Tom Humphries, who led a top class field until the final 250 metres when he was overtaken by Spain's Ayad Lamdassem, who in turn lost a sprint finish to last year's runner-up, the USA's Bobby Mack. Great Britain - with Morpeth Harrier Jonathan Taylor a disappointing 16th - lost ground in the team race, finishing third, 18 points adrift of the USA and two points behind the Europeans.

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The European team was given a great start when Croatian Dino Bosnjak won the junior men's race, leaving Great Britain - with Gateshead Harrier Calum Johnson 7th - in third place, but in the next event, the junior women's 4K, Emelia Gorecka led a clean sweep of six British runners to open up a ten points gap at the head of the overall team table.

Selected results - Senior Men (8K): 1 B Mack (USA) 24.27; 2 A Lamdassem (Eur) 24.28; 3 A Vernon (GB) 24.29; 4 T Humphries (GB) 24.32. Other GB: 9 S Vernon 25.02; 16 J Taylor 25.19; 17 A Heyes 25.20; 18 N Hall 25.26; 23 P Martin 25.46.Teams: 1 USA 49; 2 Eur 65; 3 GB 67.

Junior Men (6K): 1 D Bosnjak (Eur) 19.01; 2 I Kimeli (Eur) 19.02; 3 C Nowak (USA) 19.03. GB: 4 J Davies 19.07; 7 C Johnson 19.28; 10 M Fayers 19.36; 13 W Paulson 19.37. Teams: 1 Eur 16; 2 USA 29; 3 GB 34.

Senior Women (6K): 1 F Britton (Eur) 20.40; 2 A Herzog (Eur) 20.56; 3 M Suver (USA) 21.00; 4 J Coulson (GB) 21.05. Other GB: 8 J Bleasdale 21.10; 10 L Howarth 21.12; 13 E Baker 21.22; 14 R Smith 21.30; 15 S Twell 21.32; 19 F Ross 21.39. Teams: 1 Eur 35; 2 GB 64; 3 USA 75.

Junior Women (4K): 1 E Gorecka (GB) 13.46; 2 J Judd (GB) 13.58; 3 R Weston (GB) 14.01. Teams: 1 GB 10; 2 Eur 38; 3 USA 48.

Overall team championship: 1 Europe 154; 2 Great Britain and Northern Ireland 175; 3 USA 201.