The Raiders scored six tries in the opening 40 minutes to race out to a 34-6 lead, with coach Ricky Stuart using the second half to rest most of his frontline stars and give younger players an opportunity to perform.
New Canberra recruits Aidan Sezer and Elliott Whitehead were strong performers, along with 2015 recruit Joey Leilua.
Newcastle dominated possession after the break and scored all the points in the second term, threatening to steal a shock win but coming up six points short.
New Knights signing Trent Hodkinson was made co-captain for the match with veteran lock Jeremy Smith, in what could be a sign of things to come when the season begins.
Canberra Raiders 34 (Rapana 2, Boyd, Waqa, Papalii, Leilua tries; Croker 5 goals) def. Newcastle Knights 28 (Feeney, Fitzgibbon, Uate, C. Mata'utia, Lamb tries; Hodkinson 3 goals, Lamb 1 goal) at Wade Park, Orange.