Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane was left defending his decision to rest four key players as his side narrowly missed out in an enthralling derby at St Helens.
Two scores for Josh Charnley added to Pat Richards’ try which had the match level with three minutes to go before Saints youngster Joe Greenwood crashed over to clinch it.
Harrison Hansen, Sam Tomkins and Sean O’Loughlin were rested with Michael McIlorum playing just 26 minutes ahead of Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final, but Wane admitted his side should have won.
“They had knocks on their knees and missed a couple of days at the start of the week,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to risk them with such a short turnaround.
“That team could and should have won the game though. It was two tries apiece at half-time and we bombed two tries.
“There were too many errors and we were too ill-disciplined. Saints played out of their skin but we were nowhere near good enough
“It was a major game that I badly wanted to get two points from but it just wasn’t to be.”
St Helens enjoyed the early possession and were rewarded after nine minutes when winger Adam Swift crashed over from a Saints scrum with Warrington loanee Gareth O’Brien kicking the extras.
Swift, returning from a three-month first-team absence, added a second eight minutes later, as the marauding hosts picked their way through Wigan’s overstretched defence.
The Warriors fought back though and Richards – playing in his final regular-season derby – crashed over after a neat pass from Liam Farrell on 26 minutes.
Wigan continued to battle with Charnley capitalising on some poor Saints ball-handling to touch down a minute before the break, reducing the deficit to just four points.
Greenwood came close for the hosts five minutes after the restart but dropped the ball as he dived over the Wigan try-line.
Charnley grabbed his second score of the night two minutes later following a superb, one-handed off-load from Ryan Hampshire before Richards’ kick nudged the Warriors ahead.
Tommy Makinson kicked over a Saints penalty on 56 minutes before Richards smashed over a stunning 45m drop-goal to keep Wigan in front.
Blake Green saw yellow as the visitors were reduced to 12-men on 69 minutes before Jordan Turner took over kicking duties to edge Saints ahead once more.
Matty Smith looked to have levelled things with five minutes to go, kicking over another Wigan drop-goal.
But Greenwood snatched victory for Saints three minutes from time, thanks to a huge solo run from Makinson, ensuring a third defeat in four games for Wigan.
The Warriors sit a point behind Super League-leaders Huddersfield Giants, missing the chance to reclaim the top-spot, but Wane was more concerned about the result than the league standings.
“That doesn’t bother me too much, the thought of losing two points to St Helens does though,” he added.
“It was derby game and they played well and have been recently. We just didn’t give ourselves a chance as we turned too much ball over.
“St Helens went a bit old-school too when Jon Wilkin put water on the ball, kicked off and Dom Crosby dropped it. I can’t believe they got away with it.”
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