Wigan coach Shaun Wane defended his decision to field a weakened side despite suffering a 22-16 derby defeat to St Helens.
The Warriors would have reclaimed top place in the Super League with a victory, but Wane rested Sean O'Loughlin, Sam Tomkins and Harrison Hansen ahead of Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final against London Broncos.
Michael McIlorum was given only 26 minutes on the field, and Wane insisted that all four were nursing minor knee injuries after Wigan slumped to their third defeat in four games.
"They had knocks on their knees and missed a couple of days at the start of the week," Wane said. "I couldn't afford to risk them with such a short turn-around.
"That team could and should have won the game. It was two tries apiece at half-time and we bombed two tries," added Wane, who was impressed with the performance of 18-year-old Ryan Hampshire.
"I thought young Hampshire played really well," Wane said. "There were some good performances and a lot of effort. But we didn't help ourselves by turning so much ball over and giving seven penalties away in the last 20 minutes.
"Saints played out of their skin and we were nowhere near good enough."
Saints' Joe Greenwood dropped the ball going for a try, but he atoned with the match-winning score with four minutes left.
Coach Nathan Brown said: "Joe had an unhappy start to the game and the early part of the second half wasn't great for him. We put him back out there and he rewarded his team-mates for the faith they had in him.
"He's a young kid who has a long way to go but he's definitely a lot of talent.
"I thought our defence was as good as it's been at any stage this year. We hung in there, it was a good result. The boys showed good character.
"After we dropped the ball over the line and they scored, we defended our line for a long period and I suppose that was the difference in the game. It was by far our best performance to date."
Which Super League team enjoyed the best result from round 22?