Craig Fitzgibbon's whack for Cronulla Sharks after ugly NRL scenes without Nicho Hynes

Fitzgibbon says there is "no excuse" for his side's poor performance against the Eels

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon has slammed his side for their "flat" display against the Eels on Thursday night. Parramatta were winless in five games heading into the clash with the table-topping Sharks but ran away comfortable 34-22 winners.

The defeat is cause for concern for the Sharks who began the season in top form but have struggled in recent weeks. On the back of being flogged 42-0 by the Panthers last week, they crumbled once against Parramatta, with the loss marking the side's third straight loss.

Post-match Fitzgibbon described the performance as an "uncomfortable watch". "It was uncomfortable... We were just doing everything a bit flat," Fitzgibbon admitted in the post-match press conference. "It was a flat performance. We got jumped on energy."

Craig Fitzgibbon left and Sharks right
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon has slammed his side's "flat" display in their loss to the Eels. Image: Getty

The Sharks were without their leaders Nicho Hynes and Cameron McInnis, with the pair both absent due to Origin duties and the lack of direction without them was clear. But Fitzgibbons refused to blame being without them for the poor performance saying it came down to effort. "I thought they put us on the back foot straight off the bat. And there were a lot of poor defensive lapses," he continued.

"Just really simple stuff. [The players] weren't in position, missing tackles, and falling over each other," he continued. There was a flat energy there. They tried to hang in there for the most part but (the Eels) were in control for most of the game. We can't blame the five-day turnaround. There are no excuses. It is what it is. We need to go back to the drawing board and get ready for next week."

Despite the Sharks scoring the first try through Sione Katoa, Parramatta looked in control of the match from the outset and quickly answered the opening four-pointer with three back-to-back tries. Will Penisini made a mockery of the Sharks' defence for the Eels first try before Maika Sivo scored two soft tries on the left wing.

"It was a training gallop," Andrew Johns said in the broadcast box of how easily the Eels were scoring. "It's a real worry this Sharks defence ... they are going through a bit of a flat period.

The return of Mitchell Moses breathed new life into Parramatta's NRL season as he made a renewed push to return to the Blues fold following Game I. The Eels' talismanic halfback had been absent for the past 10 weeks with a broken foot but looked like he had never been away as he set up two tries.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 16: Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson of the Eels celebrate at full time during the round 20 NRL match between Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans at CommBank Stadium on July 16, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
The return of Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson breathed new life into Parramatta's season.

The win was also underpinned by the return of Eels captain Clint Gutherson, who has been sidelined with a knee issue for the past month. Like Moses, he slotted back in with ease running for 245 metres and looking as bigger threat as ever in attack. And Eels interim coach Trent Barrett said the performance showed just how critical the pair are to the team.

"He's the complete package, Mitchell (Moses), his kicking game is extremely important to us," Barrett said. "He's probably one of the best kickers, if not the best kicker in the competition. The confidence they (Moses and Gutherson) give us ... that's what they bring, and Gutho has come back early from injury, so it's been a huge effort for him."

with AAP