A prodigal Rabbitoh returned, Mitch Pearce stated his claims for the same at Origin level and the biff was back with four players sin-binned in a wild Newcastle win over South Sydney at ANZ Stadium.

A 20-12 Knights triumph exploded a minute before halftime as Tom Burgess allegedly headbutted opposite number Daniel Saifiti and the pair then traded punches, some landing, others not.

Replays showed Burgess making contact with Saifiti's head using his own to start the melee.

Both big men were sin-binned by referee Grant Atkins, while Newcastle back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Rabbitohs skipper Sam Burgess were also marched for joining the rumble.

"Sam Burgess comes in a dog shots him from behind when no one’s looking, our boys are just breaking it up, so that’s two from them that’s got to go," Pearce remonstrated.

"One’s got to get sent off. If he headbutts him he’s got to go".

In the end all four cooled their heels for 10 as the Knights took a 12-4 advantage into the sheds.

The match review committee may yet take issue with Tom Burgess, after Manly's Corey Waddell just this week was given a two-match striking ban for headbutting Penrith's Liam Martin.

Burgess will have a tripping charge to answer, too, after sticking his leg out as Connor Watson pressed the line with three minutes to go.

Nathan Brown preferred to focus on his pack's "pleasing" effort against their star-studded South Sydney opposites than dissect the brouhaha, while Wayne Bennett said the occasional boilover will always remain in rugby league even with the game's no punching edict.

"Well we're playing a man's game, both sides were involved in it," Bennett said.

"Both sides had players sent to the sin bin. So I accept what happened, it's not what you want to happen. 

"[There was] a bit of frustration [from] both sides, one guy throws a punch, the other guy responds. That's never going to go away.

"I saw Sam come in, I didn't see Sam headbutt [Fitzgibbon]. But I'm sure they'll sort it out before the week's out."

Before the big boys started belting each other, it was Elton John's 'Benny and the Jets' appropriately belting out over the ANZ Stadium PA system to mark James Roberts's first game since reuniting with Bennett.

Whoever was pressing the play button only needed to wait nine minutes, Roberts on the scoresheet with his second involvement of the match.

Sam Burgess is sin-binned.
Sam Burgess is sin-binned. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

But it took Newcastle even less time to successfully target him for points of their own.

It was another ex-Rabbitoh in Hymel Hunt who stole the star attraction's spotlight, barging through the former Bronco for an early 6-0 lead.

Roberts' last trip to the Olympic Stadium five weeks ago doubled as his last outing in first grade, not least the beginning of his end at the Broncos.

He took flight soon enough after Hunt had him backpedalling, a chip kick by Adam Doueihi turning Edrick Lee around with Roberts sneaking through for his first try in red and green since late 2011.

Match: Rabbitohs v Knights

Round 13 -

Full Time
Rabbitohs

Home Team

Rabbitohs

Scored 12 points
Knights

Away Team

Knights

Scored 20 points

Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Match broadcasters:

  • Foxtel
  • LIVE PASS
  • KAYO

Out the other side of a Mason Lino penalty Pearce took charge of the storyline and the contest, in a manner his under fire NSW successor Nathan Cleary is yet to do in the Origin arena.

First a forced drop out to set it up. Then the double pump to put South Sydney's defence in two minds, Lino doing likewise as he piloted Mitch Barnett through a yawning gap after 28 minutes.

For the best part of 10 minutes Newcastle grimly knocked any Rabbitohs' attacking raids on the head.

Then came the headbutts and fists following soon after, plus halftime too, before anything else could be tossed into the mix.

With 11 playing 11 upon the resumption Watson scurried over from dummy-half, stretching the Knights' lead to 18-6.

Souths struggled to get going without their star scrumbase pairing of Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker.

The Knights, too, could have done with Origin stars Kalyn Ponga (rested) and David Klemmer (out for four-to-six weeks with a broken wrist).

Saifiti meanwhile revelled in the rough stuff in Klemmer's absence when he got back out there, while drama continued to follow the Burgess brothers wherever they went.

George's night ended early when his head clashed, accidentally this time, with Saifiti’s, while Sam gave his side just a sniff of an unlikely comeback with five minutes to go, tucking the Steeden in and charging through a tired Knights goal-line defence.

But for all the fisticuffs and familiar faces, the final margin told the most compelling tale.

Newcastle now have a sixth straight win, and a genuine foothold in the top eight for the first time in Nathan Brown's time at the club.