BATH stalwart John Mallett was able to savour his final league game for the club as their 24-12 victory over Newcastle secured their top-flight status for yet another season.

The 32-year-old prop retires at the end of the season and Saturday's relegation crunch at the Recreation Ground proved a nervous, but grandstand finish for the former Marlborough College teacher.

Bath's victory over the Falcons, and Bristol Shoguns' last-day defeat at London Irish, kept Bath safe in the Premiership on points difference, and consigned their West Country neighbours to an uncertain future.

Bath and Bristol recently revealed they had been having merger talks, spearheaded by respective owners Andrew Brownsword and Malcolm Pearce, and Bristol have also been linked with a move out of the city to Oxford's Kassam Stadium.

Bath and Bristol's players have been left in the dark over the proposed merger, the league's governing body, England Rugby Ltd, have not received formal notification of merger talks, and this uncertainty does leave something of a bitter taste after a thrilling finish to the season.

But for one, Mallett was at least able to sign off his league career in front of the Rec faithful on a happy note.

He said: "We've had a massively disappointing season, but it was good to go out on a high.

"I couldn't concentrate on anything but getting the win while I was out on the pitch.

"It's nice to have the Parker Pen Challenge Cup Final to look forward to now, before finally bowing out."

Mallett, though had mixed emotions after the excitement and euphoria at the final whistle.

The former England A man, a Bath player since 1990, is not in favour of any merger.

And he said: "Bath and Bristol have such good histories and it would be a great shame to see those disappear. Whatever happens now, I hope Bristol can survive, even if it does mean dropping down a league."