Raiders 12 Knights 26

On the charge: WIllie Mason takes on the Raiders defence.

On the charge: WIllie Mason takes on the Raiders defence. Photo: Getty Images

he return of on-field general Jarrod Mullen sparked Newcastle to a confidence-boosting 26-12 victory over the Raiders at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

In his first appearance since tearing his left hamstring at the Auckland Nines on February 16, Mullen replaced former Raiders playmaker Michael Dobson and helped the Knights avenge a 26-20 loss to the Raiders at Hunter Stadium on March 16.

Apart from his overall poise and patience, Mullen threw a cut-out pass to Beau Scott that created a try for Dane Gagai in the 60th minute and extended Newcastle's lead to 24-12 after scores were locked 12-12 at half-time.

It was just the fifth time in 21 games that the Knights had beaten the Raiders in the national capital, and three of those victories have come in the past four meetings.

Newcastle's second win from six matches this season extended Canberra's club-record home losing streak to six as the Knights joined the Raiders on four points.

Mullen's return was confirmed at training on Friday but coach Wayne Bennett kept two other changes to himself until game day, and they all had the desired effect after Newcastle's lacklustre perfomance in a 28-2 loss to North Queensland in Townsville last Monday night.

Interchange forwards Adam Cuthbertson and David Fa'alogo joined Dobson in Newcastle's NSW Cup team, who were beaten 50-30 by Mounties in the main curtain-raiser. In their place, Zane Tetevano and Chris Houston were promoted into the NRL run-on side at the expense of Willie Mason and Robbie Rochow, who came off the bench and maintained momentum in the middle.

Mullen was expected to be sidelined for 12 to 16 weeks but he has been champing at the bit at training in the past fortnight and he gave the Knights the direction they have been crying out for during the first five rounds.

A head knock to Raiders centre Matt Allwood in the sixth minute meant an early call-up for bench utility Josh McCrone and he made an immediate impact, setting up a ninth-minute try for centre Jarrod Croker with an incisive run that kept Newcastle's defenders back-pedalling.

Croker converted his try from a wide angle to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead but the Knights were back on level terms by the 16th minute, converting back-to-back penalties into a James McManus try converted by Tyrone Roberts from the sideline.

Three minutes after replacing skipper Kurt Gidley, promising hooker Adam Clydsdale scored the first try of his NRL career to give Newcastle a 12-6 lead.

Ducking out of dummy-half, Clydsdale dummied to his right but darted left and was too quick for Canberra's marker defenders and reached out to touch down.

Roberts converted to make it 12-6, which was almost the score in Canberra's favour only one minute earlier but video referee Steve Chiddy ruled Croker lost control of the ball as he lunged for the line.

Raiders prop Shannon Boyd crashed over to score in the 37th minute after McManus lost the ball on a kick return two minutes earlier, and Croker converted from in front to level the scores 12-12 at half-time.

An offload by Mason sent McManus into space down the left wing in the 48th minute and from the play-the-ball, the Knights worked the play to the right and Roberts sent Scott across for a try, which Roberts converted for an 18-12 lead.

The Knights doubled their lead in the 60th minute when Scott offloaded for Gagai to score Newcastle's fourth try and Roberts converted for 24-12.

There were eerie scenes in the 63rd minute when Knights prop Kade Snowden was taken from the field in a neck brace.

Snowden was knocked out when he braced to tackle Croker, whose hip appeared to strike the former NSW and Australian prop's head.

Out of the neck brace, Snowden returned to the sideline to sit on the bench to watch the final minutes of the game.

The Newcastle medical staff took all necessary precautions, as is routine with any such head injury, but Snowden's treatment took on extra significance in the wake of the spinal injury Alex McKinnon suffered in Melbourne three weeks ago.

There was another scare two minutes after Snowden left the field when winger Aku Uate was slow to his feet after being tackled and needed treatment for an apparent knee injury, and Gidley left the field midway through the second half to have stitches inserted in a head cut.

Newcastle had to wait until the 73rd minute for their first penalty of the second half and Roberts made the most of it, kicking a goal from in front to give his side an unassailable 26-12 advantage.