BY STEFAN FROST
Ollie Claxton says that injury-hit Blackheath are trying to assume positive mindsets ahead of their South London derby match against promotion contenders Rosslyn Park tomorrow.
After losing a closely-fought contest with Taunton Titans two weeks ago, Club are 11th in National League 1 with fewer games to play than every team below them.
As they edge closer to relegation, scrum-half Claxton told the South London Press that the team had frank conversations last week about mentality and performance levels.
“At the start of the season we were expecting to be towards the top of the table but things haven’t gone our way,” said Claxton. “Quite a few players left during the pandemic and so we have a completely new squad this season.
“Every single game has been really close but we just haven’t had the mental edge to finish teams off.
“In some of our recent matches some people have gone into their shells a little bit. We had a frank discussion last week about how we can get into the right frame of mind and adopt a positive mindset.”
Claxton is under no illusion about the size of the task which his side face this weekend when they host promotion favourites Rosslyn Park, who won the reverse fixture 55-14 back in November.
“They are at the top and we’re near the bottom,” said Claxton. “They are head and shoulders above the rest of the league squad wise. They could be a mid-table Championship team with the players they’ve got.
“Morale is high in the camp even though it’s looking like we can get relegated. We just want to put in a good performance. On an individual level every person has to play with no fear.
“It was a good occasion when we played them in November and we’re expecting a good atmosphere again. We all get in the tent after the game and have a few beers. There’s a really good community feel at the club.”
In the eyes of Claxton, Blackheath must put their bodies on the line to challenge the favourites, which is something he thinks they have not done consistently enough this season.
“Every team we’ve played has been quite physical and maybe we haven’t matched them,” he said.
“At this level it’s all about how physical you can be. We’ve got it in us to overcome Rosslyn Park but they are high on confidence and we’re low on confidence.
“Mistakes in crucial moments have also let us down. But we are all committed to turning it around and we’re growing together. It won’t take long to get where we want to be.”
Misfortune has also dented the team considerably with many first-team players missing due to injury. Blackheath had two backs and three props on the bench against Taunton which hampered the team before a ball had been kicked.
The task ahead is a taxing one, with matches against four sides in the top six in the coming weeks.
The pressure is very much on Blackheath to deliver and that high level of stress can often be difficult to manage.
That is why Claxton values being a semi-professional sportsman with a separate weekday profession. He works as a content writer for a digital bank which caters to people in the Middle East.
“If I ever feel like rugby is getting a bit much it’s nice to get back to content writing and vice versa,” he said. “Working from home makes travelling a lot easier as well. I like having that balance of time.”
Claxton intends to keep juggling the two for the foreseeable future and sees no reason that should change, unless recurring back and knee issues prevent him from playing any further.
“I’ll finish my career with Blackheath and go as long as my body allows me,” he said.
PICTURE: CLAIRE JEFFREY
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