South Sydney Rabbitohs started the Wayne Bennett era with a 26-16 derby win over Sydney Roosters in Cooper Cronk's 350th NRL game and Newcastle Knights got their season under way with a victory over Cronulla Sharks.

Cronk became only the fourth player to rack up 350 NRL appearances, but the Roosters playmaker was unable to celebrate the milestone with a win on coach Trent Robinson's 42nd birthday.

Adam Reynolds was the star of the show, pulling the strings and laying on two tries with grubber kicks as the Rabbitohs bossed the second half to see off their rivals at the SCG on Friday.

The defending champions led 12-10 at the break, Jake Friend and Mitchell Aubusson touching down and Cameron Murray and Sam Burgess scoring for the Bunnies.

Three tries in the space of 20 minutes put Bennett's men in charge, Campbell Graham, Cody Walker and Alex Johnston finishing before Daniel Tupou grabbed a consolation try late on.

Edrick Lee made amends for giving away a late penalty try by crossing for the winner against his former club as the Knights defeated Cronulla 14-8 at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The Sharks were awarded a controversial try for Lee's tackle on Sione Katoa eight minutes from time, but the winger went under the posts after intercepting Chad Townsend's pass to win it a few minutes later.