Wigan couldn’t complete their mini-tour of Australia with a victory as they went down to Souths in front of a bumper crowd of 18,721 at ANZ Stadium.
Two Tom Davies tries had given them hope in an encouraging, if error-ridden, opening half, which they trailed 12-8.
But they faded after the break and never looked capable of beating the Rabbitohs, who secured the win through Adam Doueihi’s late try.
Earlier, Hull FC had been edged out 24-18 by St George Illawarra. And although the international double-header featured two exhibition games, the results meant all three Super League sides in Australia lost to NRL opposition over the weekend, following Leeds’ 38-4 defeat in the World Club Challenge the previous day.
However, this loss will do little to take the shine off the Warriors’ ground-breaking trip Down Under.
They beat Hull FC in the first Super League game staged outside of Europe, made new friends and caught up with old ones, gave their players, staff and fans some great experiences - and generated income and opened up some more revenue streams.
Shaun Wane started with a strong line-up but, mindful of their Super League game at Warrington in six days, limited their involvement and gave his fringe players chances.
Joe Burgess replaced Liam Marshall on the wing which meant, in a rare sight, the line-up from kick-off featured all of the ‘starting’ squad numbers.
John Bateman made his first first appearance of the year following finger surgery from an extended, 13-man bench featuring all the tourists except Frank-Paul Nuuausala.
Wigan made a strong start and took a sixth-minute lead when Sean O’Loughlin’s shallow kick took a fortuitous bounce, which Davies did well to ground just before crashing over the deadball line.
Davies had another great chance minutes later as the game ebbed and flowed, and in the 12th minute big Tom Burgess locked the scores when he powered through the tackles of Dan Sarginson - guilty of a couple early errors - and Ben Flower.
Sam Tomkins did well to cut down a breakaway Hymel Hunt, but winger Campbell Graham was in support to touch down and make it 8-4.
Tomkins blotted his copybook moments later, dropping a regulation high kick, but Wigan survived the scare. Wane rolled the changes and one of those replacements, Liam Marshall, pulled off a desperate try-saving tackle on Alex Johnston - only to be sinbinned for disrupting the play-the-ball.
Souths capitalised on the extra-man, crisply sweeping the ball to their right edge for Richard Kennar to finish in the corner on the half-hour mark. Their failure to convert any of their three tries kept the Rabbitohs within touching distance.
Joel Tomkins and Frenchman Romain Navarrete were industrious down the middle but unforced errors continued to restrict the Warriors’ chances. Eventually, though, their persistence paid off.
Wigan’s left edge had been their most potent side in their first two games, but they were having far better fortune down their right, and quick-hands allowed Davies to go over for an effort which received the green-light from the bunker.
Sam Tomkins was again off-target from the sideline, cutting the margin to four-points by the break.
The Rabbitohs dominated most of the second-half, forcing four repeat sets, which their opponents defended tigerishly. When Wigan did get possession, Morgan Escare provided the few bright moments, though they never troubled the Rabbitohs’ line.
And with four minutes to go, the Warriors’ defence finally creaked, as Doueihi collected an off-load to cross and converted his own try - the first goal of the match - to seal the win.
Both Wigan and FC fly out of Sydney tomorrow to prepare for next weekend’s Super League games - Wane takes his side to Warrington on Friday night.
Wigan: S Tomkins; Davies, Sarginson, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Powell; Clubb, Leuluai, Flower, J Tomkins, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Bateman, Sutton, Nuuausala, Tautai, Isa, Escaré, Marshall, Ganson, Shorrocks, Navarrete, Field, Hamlin, Mullen, Paisley.
South Sydney: Johnston; Kennar, Hunt, Jennings, Graham; Doueihi, Farah; T Burgess, Cook, Nicholls, Fuimaono, Britt, Clark. Subs: Tracey, Ta’avale, G Burgess, Tatola, Hiroti, Burns, Gagan, Talakai, Brittain.