The Knights side also included Castleford Tigers second-rower Oliver Holmes and Wakefield Trinity forward James Batchelor, who was among the substitutes.
New Featherstone Rovers signings Watson and Ase Boas featured for PNG.
In tropical heat and humidity, Knights led 16-8 at half-time and withstood a fierce rally from the hosts in the second period.
The teams meet again in Port Moresby next weekend and Sutcliffe admitted England will be looking to improve.
“It was a tough game,” he said of the series opener..
“They are a physical side and playing in that heat was an experience.
“There’s a bit to work on, we were a bit sloppy at times, but we are grateful for the win.”
Sutcliffe’s try opened the scoring and he said: “I saw Chris [Atkin] put it through so I thought I’d try and chase it.
“Luckily their winger didn’t really go for the ball so I managed to get on it.”
Knights coach Paul Anderson felt his team “made it hard work for ourselves”.
He said: “Credit to the boys, they found a way to win the game. We were on the back foot for probably 90 per cent of that second half and they found a way to grind themselves out.
“The way we competed and the effort was second to none.
“We missed a lot of opportunities, but there’s some mitigating factors in that. The heat, the humidity, everything that goes around playing in PNG - which is everything we wanted from this.”
Tom Lineham and Tom Davies were Knights’ other try scorers and Dec Patton kicked two goals. Brendon Nima, Moses Meninga and Edwin Ipape scored PNG’s tries, but Watson Boas missed all three conversions.
Papua New Guinea: Mead, Rau, Olam, Macdonald, Nima, Ipape, W Boas, Maki, Butterfield, S Albert, Meninga, Putt, W Albert. Subs A Boas, Brawa, Isaac, Kawage.
England Knights: Evalds, Davies, King, Sutcliffe, Lineham, Atkin, Patton, Mulhern, Powell, Lees, Holmes, Hughes, Hadley. Subs Leeming, Philbin, Batchelor, Fash.