Not bad for a 19-year-old centre, who excelled at almost every sport he played. Making his dream debut all the more remarkable was the fact he had to play against arguably the best player in the world at the time, the Cardiff and Wales centre Gwyn Nicholls.
Spragg had played against the Lions the previous weekend for New South Wales, going down by a point to a drop goal against a try, but he more than gained his revenge seven days later. His try and two conversions were vital in a famous Australian victory.
He played in all four Tests, and six times against the Lions all tolled, yet that win in the opening Tests was the only one he savoured. Not that he wasn't a constant thorn in the side of the tourists.
He scored two tries and converted both in the thirds test, which the Lions won 11-10, and ended the series with 17 of Australia's 23 points. The Lions took the spoils 3-1, but they knew they had been in a fight.
Away from the rugby field Spragg, who played for both New South Wales and Queensland, was a highly competent rower and was captain of North Brisbane cricket club. He died at the age of 24 from complications following an operation into appendicitis.
Here is an extract from his obituary in the Brisbane Courier: "He was regarded as perhaps the finest three quarter back Australia has seen. He was also an interstate oarsman, and a good club cricketer. He was much admired by the public who saw him play, but, like Victor Trumper the great cricketer, his brain was never turned, and he was ever modest and unassuming. He played his football as a sportsman - no roughness, no foul play, no foul words, no "pointing." A teetotaller to boot, he was a fine manly sportsman, whose place it will indeed be hard to fill. He had a great career as a Rugby footballer. He played for New South Wales first in 1898, and next year, when the English footballers were out, was in such fine form that he was one of the first men to be picked to represent Australia. The following season he came to Queensland, and till last summer was employed in the Government Savings Bank. As a Queensland footballer he more than once helped this State to defeat New South Wales by his play, which was always sound and brilliant, while he was a quite remarkable place kick. An injury to his knee in a club football match last season kept him out of the football field, but he was playing cricket as the captain of the North Brisbane Club only three weeks ago."
The Lions may have an impressive overall record against the Qantas Wallabies, but Spragg ensured they lost the first Test they played Down Under. The result was something of a shock given the fact that the Lions had left Australia unbeaten on their first visit and had then won the opening three fixtures on their return trip 11 years later.
Defeat spurred the Lions into life as far as Test-match rugby against the Aussies was concerned as they went on to win the series thanks to convincing triumphs in games two and four and a one-point win in Test number three.The fact that the Lions didn't lose another Test to the Wallabies until 1930, and were only on the wrong side of a result once more prior to the start of the 21st century, makes this particular reverse even more remarkable.
SETTING THE SCENE
The Lions arrived in Australia on the back of three successful southern hemisphere adventures in 1888, 1891 and 1896, with the last two tours of South Africa featuring just a single loss in 41 fixtures.
That solitary defeat came in the last game before the 1899 tour, though, as the Lions lost out to the Springboks 5-0 in the fourth Test in Cape Town to ensure they headed home with a slightly bitter taste in their mouths.Their fourth and final trip of the 19th century was the first which saw Australia as a sole destination and the last for some 90 years.
The 1888 adventure also included New Zealand, while Australia played second fiddle to its trans-Tasman neighbour on the Lions' 1904, 1908, 1930, 1950, 1959, 1966 and 1971 tours before hosting the Lions alone in 1989. The opening Test in Sydney might not have been the first time the Lions had played an international, but it was a Test debut as far as the Australians were concerned.
Representatives from the New South Wales and Queensland Unions combined to form a national team to face the Lions but the side didn't even have an official jersey. Instead the Aussies played in blue for the first Test before wearing maroon in Queensland a month later. Both shirts did carry the Australian coat of arms on their chest, though, even if the nickname the Wallabies remained a further nine years in the making.
The Lions were led by the Reverend Matthew Mullineux, who both captained and managed the tourists, although he nobly stood down as skipper for the final three Tests following defeat in the first.
Mullineux remains the only Lions skipper not to have represented one of the four Home Unions but he was not alone in winning a Lions cap instead of an international one. The majority of the squad hadn't played for their respective countries, although the seven that had ensured they carried more experience than the first visit to Australia 11 years earlier.
A veteran of the 1896 tour to South Africa, Mullineux was the only squad member to have been a Lion previously. The rest of the party was all new to the Lions and none would make the next tour to South Africa four years later.
The star of the tour was Welsh international Gwyn Nicholls, an English-born three quarter viewed as one of the best backs to represent the Lions in their early years. Nicholls created plenty of scores for his team-mates on tour and claimed the solitary try in Sydney but he was powerless to prevent the Aussies over powering the Lions on this occasion.
Australia 13 British & Irish Lions 3
Australia: R McCowan; C White, F Row (captain), S Spragg, W Evans; P Ward, A Gralton; W Tanner, J Carson, W Davis, H Marks, P Carew, C Ellis, A Colton, A Kelly
Scorers: Australia: Tries: A Colton, S Spragg, W Evans; Cons: S Spragg 2
British & Irish Lions: E Martelli (Dublin University); AM Bucher (Edinburgh Academicals / Scotland), EG Nicholls (Cardiff / Wales), CY Adamson (Durham), GP Doran (Landsdowne / Ireland); G Cookson (Manchester), MM Mullineux (Blackheath, captain); FM Stout (Gloucester / England), TMW McGown (North of Ireland / Ireland), JW Jarman (Bristol), JS Francombe (Manchester), HGS Gray (Coventry), FC Belson (Bath), A Ayre-Smith (Guy's Hospital), GR Gibson (Northern / England)
Scorer: Try: EG Nicholls
Here is an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald report from the game:
A DEFEAT FROM AUSTRALIA, SYDNEY, June 24
From start to finish the Australians outmatched their opponents, who played in worse form than on the previous Saturday. The visitors were slow in getting the ball from the scrum, a feat in which the Australians excelled. Right through the game the local men were on the attack, and the first half saw good defence on the part of the Englishmen, but the latter were very lax in the second spell. The Australians scored in the first spell a try off a free kick. The ball went high and wide of the goal, and Martelli over-running the ball, Kelly touched down, but Row failed to register the major points. In the second spell, the Englishmen, by a fine series of short passes, carried the leather close to their opponents' line, where the ball went out from the throw-in. Nicholas got possession, and, by a brilliant dash, secured a try, which Martelli failed to convert. From the kick-off the game was carried into the visitors' territory, when a smart pass from Ward to White, thence to Spragg, resulted in the latter touching down. He took the kick himself, and scored a goal.
Australia 8, Englishmen 3.
Within five minutes Evans scored another try for the local men, and Spragg being again successful, the score stood: Australia 13 points, England 3.
And this was the position of the game when the whistle sounded no-side. Of the local team both White and Ward played brilliantly.