Monday 1st September 1997 at Belmore Sports Ground
Penrith 15 – Tries: Beckett (1), Puletua (1); Goals: Girdler (2); Field goals: Girdler (1) | Canterbury 14
With the Panthers playing their first final since their grand final triumph 6 years before, both teams traded penalty conversions within the first 11 minutes to have it at 2-all.
The Bulldogs scored the first try to lead 8-2 before the Panthers struck back in the 25th minute. Running the ball deep inside their half, a backline movement found Ryan Girdler who then broke the line down the left-hand side, before finding Robbie Beckett who then passed it inside to Darren Brown and then performing the wrap around to score under the posts. The conversion from Girdler locked it up again at 8-all.
With only three minutes remaining in the half, Tony Puletua burst on to a pass only metres out to barge over. Another successful conversion from Girdler saw the Panthers further extend the lead to 14-8.
On the stroke of half time, the Panthers won a scrum and with the last remaining play Girdler plotted a field goal from 30 metres out to make it a 15-8 lead at the break.
In wet conditions, the match turned into an arm wrestle riddled with several handling errors.
The Bulldogs chipped away at the seven-point deficit with a penalty conversion early in the second half.
At 15-10 with five minutes remaining, Canterbury ensured a tight finish with an unconverted try to give the Panthers only the barest of leads.
Whilst kept scoreless in the second half, they were able to hold out Canterbury and advance to the second week of the finals.