Newcastle Knights down South Sydney Rabbitohs in fiery NRL clash

Newcastle captain Mitchell Pearce accused South Sydney skipper Sam Burgess of a "dog shot" before the red-hot Knights put the depleted Rabbitohs to the sword in an explosive NRL showdown at ANZ Stadium.

Four players were sin-binned after Friday night's match erupted a minute before halftime.

But it was Pearce who had the last laugh after the former NSW State of Origin half piloted the Knights to six straight wins in 2019.

Newcastle's stirring 20-12 triumph elevated the Knights into outright fourth spot and consigned Wayne Bennett's second-placed but injury-hit Rabbitohs to successive defeats for the first time this season.

But it was the wild old-fashioned brawl that will provide all the talking points and leave the NRL match review committee with a busy weekend.

Souths prop Tom Burgess and his Newcastle opposite Damien Saifiti sparked the melee.

Taking exception to Saifiti throwing the first punch at his younger brother, Sam Burgess joined the action, with a furious Pearce claiming both Burgess brothers were guilty of head butts - Sam on Knights second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Tom on Saifiti.

"Sam Burgess comes in from behind and dog shots him when no one's looking," Pearce pleaded with referee Grant Atkins.

"Our boys are just breaking it up. So that's two from them that have got to go. One's got to get sent off.

"He (Tom Burgess) head-butted him (Saifiti) first and our guy's reacted. How's that not our penalty?"

Atkins disagreed, enabling stand-in five-eighth Mason Lino to drag Souths back to within a converted try, trailing 12-6 at the break.

But that was as close as Souths got, with Sam Burgess's solo try five minutes from time merely a consolation effort.

Burgess engaged in a running verbal battle with Atkins throughout the second half that he was never going to win.

Rounding out a miserable night for the siblings, Tom was placed on report for allegedly tripping Knights hooker Connor Watson and his twin George was forced off the field early in the second stanza for a HIA after coming off second-best in a head clash with Saifiti.

While Pearce, coming off five straight man-of-the-match displays for the resurgent Knights again impressed, the Rabbitohs were rudderless without star halves Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds, while James Roberts had a mixed homecoming following his mid-season defection from Brisbane.

Roberts barely got a hand on Hymel Hunt when his centre counterpart crossed for Newcastle's opening try in the fourth minute.

But "Jimmy the Jet" showed he hadn't lost any speed during his time in reserve grade in Brisbane over the past month when he won the race to Adam Doueihi's chip kick to score shortly after.

But the writing was on the wall for Souths when Pearce and Lino combined to put Mitch Barnett over and then Watson scored in the 45th minute to extend Newcastle's lead to 20-6 as the clock wound down.