Early high-titer convalescent plasma prevents 75% of severe COVID-19 in elderly


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 1.39 million deaths worldwide. Many of these deaths have occurred among the elderly, experiencing disproportionate rates of severe illness, hospitalization, and death, especially if they have chronic underlying diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease.

A promising new clinical study published on the preprint server medRxiv* reports that if convalescent plasma with a high titer of antibodies is given early in the course of COVID-19 in elderly patients, the risk of severe illness is reduced by 73%. This could promote the use of this safe, cost-effective prophylactic intervention to prevent hospital overwhelm and save lives in multiple ways.

Few effective drugs have been approved so far against COVID-19. Among those therapies which show some promise is the use of convalescent plasma (CP), which makes use of serum obtained from the blood of individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection, typically in a mild form, and have recovered. Their blood is therefore deemed to be rich in antibodies specifically targeting the virus, preventing its entry into and infection of host cells.

CP has been used earlier to treat a number of diseases, but much depends on the timing of administration and the titer of specific antibodies. Several earlier studies have failed to show convincing evidence of clinical benefit in COVID-19 patients.

Several early studies cast doubt on the role of convalescent plasma (CP) in COVID-19. However, this could well have been due to the late administration of this modality. The current study aimed at testing the ability of CP to prevent the progression of COVID-19 to severe disease if given in the first 72 hours after the onset of symptoms.

The researchers conducted a randomized double-blinded controlled trial between June 4 and October 25, 2020, using CP with a high titer of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in elderly patients within this period after the development of mild symptoms. Their objective was to assess the reduction in severe respiratory disease, as defined by a respiratory rate ≥30 or an oxygen saturation below 93% in room air.

While the original intention was to study 210 patients, there was a steep climb in the number of severe cases in late July, which drained both doctors and hospital capacity from the trial. Coupled with a dramatic fall in the number of patients available for screening towards the latter part of the study, this meant that the original target would have been challenging to meet without unduly prolonging the study period. Thus, the study was prematurely terminated to analyze the data obtained so far.

The study group eventually included 160 patients, all 75 years old or more, or between 65 and 74 years but with one or more comorbid conditions. The mean age was 77 years, and ~63% were female.

All had one symptom at least from each of two categories, for at least 48 hours, when tested for the virus by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR).

The first category included nonspecific symptoms like fever, sweating and chills, while the second included more suspicious symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath, dry cough, sore throat, alterations of taste or smell, and muscle pain. None of the patients had pre-existing severe respiratory disease.

Once diagnosed, the patients were hospitalized and randomly assigned to receive CP with anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike IgG titers of over 1:1,000 or placebo over 1.5 to 2 hours. Thus, 80 received plasma and 80 a placebo. The minimum clinically significant reduction in risk of severe respiratory distress was set at 40%, which meant that the expected risk of 50% in the control group would have to be reduced to 30% in the intervention group for the CP infusion to be seen as effective.

The researchers found that only ~16% of the plasma recipient group had progressive disease vs. ~31% of the placebo group. Thus, the early use of CP reduced the risk by 48%. The time to development of severe disease in the CP group was delayed relative to the control group. In the age group above 75 years, the relative risk was reduced by 65%.

However, when 6 of the participants who developed severe respiratory distress after being randomized but before receiving the CP were excluded from the analysis, the reduction of the risk of severe outcomes in the remaining members of the group was even higher, at 60%, confirming the efficacy of this intervention.

The investigators also found a dose-dependent response to the CP, with the dividing line being at 1:3,200 (the median IgG titer). If the CP that was used contained IgG at high doses above this titer, it produced better responses, reducing the risk of severe outcomes by 73%. For every one patient who recovered without developing severe disease, four patients would have to be infused.

The scientists suggest that fostering local donations from a community drive, and selecting super-donors with IgG titers above 1:12,800, could help each donor to provide CP for over 20 sick patients, each with just 750 mL of donated blood. Repeated donations could be made since IgG levels have been shown to remain high for months. Most of the high-titer CP donors in this study had a history of COVID-19 illness requiring hospitalization.

The researchers comment, “Enhancing early symptom awareness in seniors will be vital, now that there is a time-limited effective intervention available. Plasma against COVID-19 is conceptually like health insurance. It should be in-hand when it intuitively seems unnecessary.”

This intervention is simple and cheap, but can be life-saving in the majority of high-risk cases. This would reduce mortality due to COVID-19 while simultaneously preventing healthcare overwhelm, allowing some measure of control until other effective drugs or a vaccine becomes widely available.

*Important Notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.



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RBA warns government: ‘Be careful of removing the stimulus too early’ | Australia news


The Reserve Bank of Australia has a message for the Australian government: don’t pull out too early.

In a speech to Australian Business Economists, the deputy governor of the RBA, Guy Debelle, reiterated the importance of government stimulus to the economic recovery.

Just a day after the RBA released research showing the jobkeeper wage subsidy the jobkeeper wage subsidy – due to end in March – saved 700,000 jobs, Debelle said there were lessons from the global financial crisis which translated to the world’s current economic system. Among them: don’t cut off support too early.

“Be careful of removing the stimulus too early,” he said.

“A number of European countries learned this lesson to their cost after the global financial crisis.”

Australia’s banks and governments were well placed to keep credit and stimulus lines running, Debelle told the group, and that money was crucial to ensuring Australia’s economic recovery as the pandemic response rolled on.

“Banks with strong balance sheets can lend to businesses and households to support the economic recovery, rather than being concerned with restoring balance sheets as has been the case in previous cycles,” Debelle said.

“The strong capital buffers of the banks are there to be used, not preserved.”

The lesson was to “keep the credit flowing”.

Central banks, such as the RBA, had played their role in helping to stabilise government bond markets, and in Australia at least debt was cheap.

“Public sector debt remains low as a share of GDP for the Australian government as well as the states and territories, even after the sizeable stimulus being implemented,” he said.

And without that sizeable stimulus?

“The Australian economy would be much weaker with the consequent economic and social damage,” he said. “This would have materially worsened the fiscal position.

“I don’t see there is a trade-off between fiscal sustainability and fiscal support in the current circumstance. The cost of borrowing is at historically low levels for Australian governments. Borrowing costs are likely to remain very low for quite some time, and almost certainly until the economy is considerably stronger.

“This means that the debt dynamics for the Australian government and the states and territories are absolutely sustainable.”

The RBA’s warning on stimulus follows Treasury’s advice to the government in July to tread carefully in altering the rate of stimulus provided through the unemployment benefit jobseeker and jobkeeper.

Since then, the government has lowered the rate of support in both, with jobkeeper to expire in March, and the Covid supplement for jobseeker to be cut to just $150 a fortnight from January.

Debelle’s speech followed the RBA boss, Philip Lowe, earlier this month confirming a shift in Australia’s monetary policy, moving from a focus on inflation to a focus on full employment.

In Australia, full employment has largely meant a 5% unemployment rate. Debelle said ongoing stimulus, combined with monetary policy stimulus through the RBA’s bond purchases, would not only boost spending in the economy, it would boost employment and “in time, reduce unemployment”.

“A materially lower unemployment rate is clearly desirable in itself, but will also be necessary before we will see sustainably higher wages growth and inflation,” he said.



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Some travellers from South Australia to be allowed out of Tasmanian coronavirus quarantine early


Some travellers who have recently arrived in Tasmania from South Australia will be able to leave self-isolation early, Tasmania’s Public Health Director says.

Mark Veitch said extensive testing in South Australia during the past week had not found any wider COVID-19 transmission in the community in the week before November 16.

“Accordingly, anyone who arrived in Tasmania before 5:30pm on November 16, and who spent time in South Australia in the previous 14 days, will no longer be required to self-isolate — except if they are waiting on a coronavirus test result or are experiencing symptoms,” Dr Veitch said.

There are 27 coronavirus cases associated with South Australia’s Parafield cluster.

Dr Veitch said Tasmanian health authorities were continuing to monitor the outbreak in South Australia.

“A significant amount of contact tracing and testing is proceeding in South Australia,” he said.

“[Tasmania’s] Public Health Services will continue to review this situation and provide further advice in coming days.”



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First Americans ‘could get vaccine in early December’


Pfizer has applied for emergency authorisation for its vaccine in the US

The first Americans to receive a Covid-19 vaccine could get it as soon as 11 December, according to the head of the US coronavirus vaccine programme.

Dr Moncef Slaoui told US network CNN the plan was to “ship vaccines to the immunisation sites within 24 hours” of a vaccine being approved.

The comments come amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

The US has recorded more than 12m cases and 255,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

These are the highest tolls registered anywhere in the world.

American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its partner BioNTech submitted an application on Friday for emergency authorisation in the US of their Covid-19 vaccine.

Data from an advanced trial showed the vaccine protects 94% of adults over 65.

Pfizer hopes to produce up to 50 million doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. Each person needs two doses.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory committee is set to meet on 10 December to discuss whether to authorise the vaccine.

Dr Slaoui told CNN that the vaccine could be rolled out “maybe on day two after approval, on the 11th or the 12th of December”.

He said the vaccine would be distributed based on each state’s population. States will be responsible for deciding who gets the vaccine first, but it is recommended that priority be given to front-line workers and the elderly.

Dr Slaoui said that by May, the country could achieve “herd immunity” with 70% of the population vaccinated.

US officials earlier granted emergency authorisation for an experimental antibody treatment, developed by Regeneron, given to President Donald Trump after his Covid-19 diagnosis.

Also on Sunday, G20 leaders said they would “spare no effort” to ensure the fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide.

What else is happening with Covid in the US?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that coronavirus cases are “rapidly rising” across the country.

The daily death toll has reached its highest level since May.

Chart showing cases and deaths in the US. Updated 21 Nov.
Chart showing cases and deaths in the US. Updated 21 Nov.

Several states have imposed new mask mandates and restrictions to try to combat the rise, and in Texas the National Guard has been deployed in the city of El Paso to help with morgue operations amid a surge in coronavirus deaths.

California has begun a night-time curfew, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. It reported a total of one million cases last week, making it the second state to do so after Texas.

The new daily curfew, from 22:00 local time on Saturday (06:00 GMT Sunday) until 05:00, will carry on until 21 December, with a possible extension if needed, according to authorities.

Restaurants are able to offer takeout and delivery outside these hours.

Other places, including New York City, are also operating a night-time curfew. Bars, restaurants and gyms are allowed to open until 22:00, but schools have been closed.

The CDC has urged Americans to avoid travelling for the Thanksgiving holiday on 26 November to prevent increased transmissions.

Thanksgiving typically heralds the busiest week for travel in the US. Last year, an estimated 26 million people passed through the country’s airports in the week surrounding the holiday.

President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden have both said they are against imposing a national lockdown, and favour letting states come up with their own rules.

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SA to lift lockdown early after pizza bar lie misled officials


South Australia will lift its hard six-day lockdown early on Saturday night, after it was revealed in an extraordinary press conference that a “selfish” infectious person “deliberately” lied about his work at a pizza bar – but authorities say he can’t be fined or penalised for misleading health officials and sending the entire state into shutdown.

People are allowed to exercise outside their home with other members of their household effective immediately, while caps on gatherings and venues will lift from midnight Saturday and schools will reopen on Monday.

From Saturday night, weddings, funerals and religious gatherings will no longer be banned, but they will have limits on the number of attendees, while gyms can open on the weekend.

State emergency coordinator and SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said restrictions would be returned to how they were in the state before the lockdown was imposed, with a one person per four-square-metre social distancing requirement.

In a bombshell announcement about the lockdown lift late this morning, Premier Steven Marshall said he was “fuming” after being told an infectious person – a kitchenhand who works at the Stamford Hotel – lied to health authorities about working “several shifts” at the Woodville Pizza Bar coronavirus hotspot.

He instead told authorities during contact tracing interviews that he bought a pizza from the shop.

In doing so, the man – who contracted the virus from another infectious part-time worker at the pizza bar – sent South Australia into lockdown yesterday, as authorities were concerned they could not find a discernible link between his case and any of the other positive cases in the so-called Parafield cluster.

The lie was revealed during further SA Health contact tracing interviews.

“What those investigations showed was that one of the close contacts linked to the Woodville Pizza Bar deliberately misled our contact tracing team,” Marshall said.

“Their story didn’t add up, we pursued them, we now know that they lied.

“I will not let the disgraceful conduct of a single individual to keep South Australia in these circuit-breaker conditions one day longer than what is necessary, however, this lie still means that our contact tracers need breathing space to contact people – but not for as long.”

Marshall said health authorities were currently trying to locate “thousands of people” who may have had “dangerous” contact at the Woodville Pizza Bar.

He said now that the lie has been revealed, authorities need to find and isolate “a whole new group of associates”.

Had he been truthful to the contact tracing team we would not have gone into a six-day lockdown

The Government will boost its contact tracing resources so that it can find and isolate all new close contacts as soon as possible, before Saturday night.

“To say that I am fuming about the actions of this individual is an absolute understatement,” he said.

“The selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state in a very difficult situation.

“His actions have affected businesses, individuals , family groups and is completely and utterly unacceptable.”

SA Premier Steven Marshall said he been left “fuming”. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP

But police have no powers to charge the man for misleading authorities.

“The Emergency Management Act requires people to provide information on request – there is no penalty for failing to truthfully answer those questions,” Stevens said, describing the man’s actions as having a “devastating impact”.

“There is simply no mechanism for us to actually take further action.”

However, he said the situation and regulations concerned were now being reviewed.

It is also unclear whether the owner of the pizza bar also misled officials by failing to tell them that the man was an employee.

“This is a quickly-moving series of events,” Stevens said.

“My team will be looking at whether there are any mechanisms whatsoever.”

It comes after nine people were fined yesterday for breaching lockdown restrictions, including two people who were spotted at the beach and seven people who attended a party in the Adelaide CBD last night.

Stevens said the Government would review the state’s COVID-19 response and legislation, with penalties for people who mislead authorities to be considered.

He refused to tell reporters today why the man lied to health authorities, but said the rationale would be revealed “an an appropriate time”.

One lie puts the whole state at risk

Asked if he would apologise to the people of South Australia for disrupting their lives by sending them into lockdown, Stevens said government authorities acted according to the health advice at the time.

“To suggest that we owe the community an apology would be suggesting that we did something wrong,” he said.

“We acted in the best interests of the community based on the information that was available to us.

“I think everybody regrets the actions that we’ve had to take – hindsight is a fantastic thing (and) if this person had been honest with us from the outset we would not be where we are today.

“Had he been truthful to the contact tracing team we would not have gone into a six-day lockdown.”

A police unit is sitting outside the pizza bar this afternoon, to discourage vigilante behaviour.

Local resident Ashley Williams said she had bought food there from time to time and described it as a “pretty good business”.

“It just sucks for them – for the whole city,” she said.

“One lie puts the whole state at risk – it sucks.”

Restrictions

Effective immediately, people are allowed to leave their house to exercise alone or with other members of their household.

As of midnight Saturday, South Australia will revert to restrictions similar to those imposed at the beginning of this week.

They include:

  • All premises will be restricted to a density of one person per four-square-metres
  • 100-person cap on hospitality venues
  • Restaurant table bookings limited to 10 people
  • Seated consumption of food and alcohol at hospitality venues
  • 50-person cap for funerals
  • 150-person cap for weddings, but no dancing or stand-up alcohol consumptions
  • 100-person cap for religious ceremonies
  • 50-person cap for private gatherings
  • 10-person cap for gatherings at private homes
  • Personal care providers – hairdressers and beauty therapists – required to wear masks, with patrons encouraged to wear masks
  • Gyms can reopen
  • People encouraged to wear face masks until the Government is confident that it has dealt with the Parafield cluster
  • Schools returning on Monday morning, however Mawson Lakes School and Preschool and Roma Mitchell Secondary College will not reopen until at least November 30, after students attended the schools last week while infectious.

The Government is aiming to return to the level of restrictions that were in place last Friday by December.

New cases

There were three new COVID-19 cases reported today – all of which are linked to the Parafield cluster and were already in quarantine when tested positive.

Two of the cases were family members of one of the Peppers medi-hotel security guards who tested positive last weekend, while the third works at the AnglicareSA Brompton residential aged care home.

The number of positive cases linked to the aged care facility is now at four.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” SA chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said.

“We still have a significant number of close contacts and contacts of close contacts – because we are doing that double ring-fencing or sandbagging around everybody who is a case.”

SA Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier says the state is not out of the woods yet. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP

Spurrier warned that health authorities were expecting the number of positive coronavirus cases in South Australia to rise over the next couple of days.

“Because we got so early in the beginning of this cluster and had people put in quarantine, when we first tested them they hadn’t actually become positive.

“We will be expecting that to happen now over the next couple of days.”

There are now 25 cases linked to the Parafield cluster, but only two in hospital after one of the 80-year-old cases was discharged overnight.

There are a further 44 “suspected cases” of people who came in close contact with positive cases but have returned initial negative tests.

There are almost 4500 close contacts or contacts of close contacts in 14-day quarantine.

In total, South Australia has 37 active cases and 553 cases since the start of the pandemic.

SA Health initially reported 23 cases linked to the cluster yesterday, but it revised that figure down to 22 late in the afternoon after one person, who initially tested positive for coronavirus one week ago, was reclassed as a negative case.

Victoria today reported no new coronavirus cases, one day after it imposed a hard border closure with South Australia.

It comes after Victorian authorities detected fragments of COVID-19 in wastewater in the regional towns of Benalla and Portland, which are along freight corridors.

SA business owners “let down”

In a statement released after this morning’s press conference, Business SA CEO Martin Haese said the pizza shop worker’s lie had brought the state’s economy “to its knees”.

“This is a cluster thud,” he said.

“A three-day shutdown of the entire State will cost businesses many millions of dollars.”

The lobby group is calling on the State Government to bring forward pre-cluster restrictions “as soon as possible”, to get the economy back on track.

It also wants a compensation package for businesses who have suffered measurable financial loss during the three-day shutdown, such as food wastage

“South Australian business owners have been let down,” their statement said.

But SA Property Council executive director Daniel Gannon said the lockdown was “tough by necessary”.

“Today’s development will obviously give rise to debate about whether the lockdown announced on Wednesday was an over-reaction given its economic and social impact,” he said.

“While the lockdown has caused disruption to our business and personal lives, authorities were acting on what they considered to be the best information available to them.”

Locations on alert

SA Health added two new locations to its list of alerts late this afternoon – Coles, Churchill Shopping Centre at Kilburn on Saturday November 14 from 10.00am to 10.20am and Woolworths Findon on Friday November 13 from 8.50pm to 9.00pm.

If you visited those locations during the listed times, you do not need to self-quarantine but you should monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if symptoms appear.

Testing

Health workers at the Victoria Park drive-through testing site yesterday. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP

There were 14,459 tests conducted yesterday.

Wait times at testing clinics have reduced significantly this morning following hours-long queues earlier in the week.

SA Health reported this morning that there was no line up at the Victoria Park drive-through testing site, which is open until midnight tonight.

The site will open again from 8am to 6pm tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a new testing clinic has opened at Gawler Sport and Community Centre in Nixon Terrace.

That site will be open every day from 10am to 6pm. No bookings or referrals are needed.

Additional reporting by Tom Richardson

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Foxtel mulling early strike to extend broadcast deal with AFL


It is unclear whether AFL boss Gillon McLachlan will agree to bring forward the broadcast talks or wait until late next year to increase competitive tension. Foxtel may be willing to pay a large sum of money upfront to knock back rivals but Mr McLachlan could wait to see whether streaming services like Amazon Prime or Stan Sport enter talks late next year.

Outgoing Nine boss Hugh Marks did not rule out entering discussions with other sports as Nine grows its offering. Mr Delany said at a conference earlier this year that Foxtel would focus on securing more rights to large sports such as the AFL and NRL, which are appealing to advertiser and subscribers.

“We are now quite fearless of losing a sport,” Mr Delany said at a sports conference in September. “If a sport is asking too much money and we can’t make it work, and someone else can, well good luck to them.

“I want more of the NRL. Our relationship with the AFL is really fabulous. I want more AFL. The motorsports are going well for us, and we like cricket. But they are really the tier one sports and the rest are going to have to adjust.”

Foxtel’s main point of differentiation is its coverage of local and international sport and that focus led to the launch of its streaming service Kayo Sports. But competition from local and international players has put pressure on Foxtel, which has a large pile of debt. The financial challenges were exacerbated by the pandemic due to the suspension of sport and the closure of pubs and clubs affected its subscriber base. Foxtel was forced to stand down more than 200 staff and axed more than 300 jobs earlier in the year.

The company reported a revenue fall of US$18 million to $US496 million for Foxtel in the first quarter despite an increase in the number of subscribers. Foxtel’s total paying subscribers increased by 7 per cent to 3.29 million as of September 30. Subscribers for Kayo and Binge climbed 67 per cent. Kayo has 681,000 subscribers (644,000 paying) while Binge has 321,000 users (290,000 paying). The amount of revenue per user increased by 1 per cent to just $US56 ($77).

News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said earlier this month he did not see a need to inject the pay TV operator with more cash.

“We foresee no need to bolster Foxtel with with extra investment, which shows that the business is on a particularly positive trajectory,” Mr Thomson said.

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Shoppers are stocking up early on Covid Christmas essentials


Shoppers are stocking up on festive groceries earlier than ever, with Asda yesterday reporting a surge in frozen turkeys and “lockdown-proof” items alongside a slowdown in quarterly sales.

The supermarket chain said that sales of Christmas trees had increased by 83 per cent, festive lights by 57 per cent, Christmas puddings by 71 per cent and mince pies by 44 per cent, compared with the third quarter of last year.

In a sign that families are preparing for smaller gatherings as social distancing restrictions may remain in place, sales of frozen turkey crowns, which serve three to four people rather than larger families, have increased by 230 per cent.

“After a rollercoaster year, it’s clear our customers are already planning for a very different Christmas,” Roger Burnley, 54, chief executive of Asda, said. “We have already seen a marked shift in buying patterns, with customers stocking up their freezers and cupboards with festive essentials earlier than ever before, which suggests they are getting used to expecting the unexpected but preparing to enjoy themselves as much as possible.”

Asda, with 631 stores employing 165,000 people, has a 14.4 per cent share of the UK grocery market. The chain was recently sold by Walmart in a £6.8 billion deal to the billionaire Issa brothers and TDR Capital, who together also own EG Group, a petrol forecourt business that is one of Britain’s biggest private companies.

Asda recorded a 2.7 per cent increase in third-quarter like-for-like sales for the period from July 1 to September 30, down on the 3.8 per cent rise in the previous quarter. It continues to have the slowest supermarket growth of the “Big Four” grocers, with recent figures from Kantar showing that its 5 per cent sales growth over the past 12 weeks was less than half that of Morrisons, its smaller rival, which has increased its sales by 11.4 per cent.

Under its new ownership Asda is focusing on its online and convenience business and has launched a trial of three stores on EG Group’s forecourts. It has reacted to a surge in demand for online deliveries by expanding its capacity from 450,000 slots in March to 765,000. It also has increased its delivery charge for Christmas slots to up to £7, having previously been free for minimum orders of £40. Tesco and Sainsbury’s have raised their delivery charges and Ocado has increased its minimum order spend to £90.





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NSW Blues down and out after early James Tedesco exit proves knockout blow


The HIA wasn’t required. We all knew he wasn’t coming back.

The look on Tedesco’s face suggested he knew it. So, too, the greyness that swept over Blues coach Brad Fittler on the sidelines.

Queensland celebrate winning the unwinnable series at Suncorp Stadium.Credit:Getty

The scores were locked at 6-6 but the loss of the Blues’ best player, and their stand-in captain, was a hammer blow from which Brad Fittler’s side never recovered …

Until they did.

In a heart-stopping final few minutes, in which Maroons fullback Corey Allan was sin-binned for taking out winger Josh Addo-Carr, the Blues fell agonisingly short.

The 20-14 victory means a Queensland team coached by Wayne Bennett, with Mal Meninga as his assistant, missing Michael Morgan and Kalyn Ponga because of injury, that blooded no less than 14 players across three matches, that started rank outsiders with the bookies across three matches, just won the series — in the middle of November.

Edrick Lee puts the Maroons ahead.

Edrick Lee puts the Maroons ahead.Credit:NRL Photos

Sounds very, very 2020 to me.

If anyone had presented this scenario even a few months ago, you’d have taken a leaf out of Bennett’s book and suggested a drug test.

In the strangest of strange seasons, however, the Maroons’ shock series win probably makes sense, although none of it will line up for the Blues.

While questions will be asked of NSW and their inability to get the job done in the decider, and the platitudes will be laid on with a trowel for the Maroons in the days to come, this match will always be remembered for Tedesco’s early and sudden departure.

Brad Fittler consoles James Tedesco as he comes from the field with concussion.

Brad Fittler consoles James Tedesco as he comes from the field with concussion.Credit:Getty Images

It forced a hasty backline reshuffle with Clint Gutherson moved to fullback with back-rower Isaah Yeo replacing Gutherson at right centre.

Straight away, Munster twirled his moustached, licked his lips.

He’d been dominant enough as it was down that left side, setting up the opening try for Valentine Holmes after a handful of minutes.

With four minutes remaining in the first half, he found more space down the left edge, kicked for himself, regathered, kicked again, found the ball in his hands once more, then saw more space on the right, hooking a third kick across the field for debutant winger Edrick Lee to score, giving the Maroons a 12-6 lead.

Get all that? NSW didn’t.

The most telling part of that frantic sequence was that Munster’s second kick was fumbled by NSW winger Daniel Tupou, who had scrambled across in a desperate attempt to snuff out the play.

Normally, it would’ve been Tedesco. For all his trickery in attack, it’s easy to forget the Roosters superstar’s importance in defence.

In the second half, NSW missed him in other ways, mostly his searching runs through the middle of the ruck on play two after hooker Damien Cook had made his trademark early run out of dummy half.

With no momentum behind then, the Blues instead spent most of the half grimly defending their try line.

‘Of all the fake news this series, the hardest to swallow has been the claim this is the weakest Maroons side in 40 years of Origin.’

Nothing went right. The kismet they enjoyed in Sydney last week had dried up. Knock-ons, accidental offside, penalties off the busy whistle of referee Gerard Sutton that could’ve swung either way went against them.

Then there was Maroons rookie Harry Grant to contend with as he initially turned the Blues around out of dummy half before shifting to lock to work in tortuous tandem with Munster.

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They were, indeed, ugly scenes. A Holmes penalty goal in the 57th minute extended the lead to 14-6 but the advantage should’ve been far more.

When Grant reached out in a tackle out in the 63rd minute to score, the deal should’ve been sealed.

A try to Tupou in the 65th minute edged the Blues closer. A Nathan Cleary penalty in the 70th brought them back to within six, setting up the obligatory grandstand finish.

Of all the fake news generated throughout this series, the hardest to swallow has been the claim this is the weakest Maroons side in 40 years of Origin football.

It was a view shared by few, said publicly by even fewer, but the storyline grew like wild vine, as they tend to do in Origin.

There is no dispute, though, that Bennett’s side lacked firepower and strike in comparison to NSW.

That glow you can see on the horizon is the angry mob coming for Fittler after losing the apparently unlosable series.

The cross-examination will be brutal as it always is but, like 1995, maybe there’s no other answer than the fact they were playing Queensland.

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