A modified applied element model to simulate the behaviour of plain concrete continuum structures including discrete cracking is proposed in this study. In the classical applied element model, Poisson effects are fully ignored. To remediate this issue, diagonal elements are introduced to include the Poisson effect, and the constitutive parameters are rigorously determined using the Cauchy-Born rule and the hyper-elastic theory. The formulation is validated for linear elastic problems and the consistency and convergence behaviour of the numerical approach is shown. Tensile softening formulation using the concept of fracture energy is utilised for the nonlinear range. In this range, the approach is validated using the classical benchmark tests with pure tensile, split-tensile, combined shear-tensile and bending dominated push-over loading. The load-displacement behaviour and crack response were captured successfully, showing the proposed methodology can be used to quantify discrete cracks on large systems, such as dam monoliths, from initiation to significant damage levels.